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NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Walking Into The Eye Of A National Storm

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Brett Baker
What would you say?
What would you say to a few dozen young men who are heading into something they can't even begin to fathom?
What would you say to the men you've selected to assist you in your endeavor to mold men and win football games?
If you were Bo Pelini, what would you say?
When young men decide they want to don the Scarlet and Cream to play for the University of Nebraska, they know there will come a time when they will be in the spotlight. When the focus of the college football world will be upon them as it most certainly will be on this weekend, this Saturday is different.
This is a limelight that nobody could have ever imagined. It is one not of their making. The glare that will fall on State College, Pennsylvania on Saturday morning has nothing to do a team scrambling to find its footing in the Leaders Division taking on the team atop the Legends Division. No, this is a social firestorm involving unspeakable acts and unimaginable neglect.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have known controversy in Beaver Stadium before (See: Penn State tight end Mike McCloskey and a certain reception in 1982), but that was nothing like what they are walking into this weekend. That was pure. It was about the game.
The chaos they are walking into is as impure and vile as it gets in our society. These players don't live in a bubble so secure that they are unaware of the awful allegations and charges made against a former Penn State coach. They watch ESPN, they're on Twitter, they read the news. They know.
So what does Bo Pelini tell his Nebraska Cornhuskers as they prepare for what is a very crucial game in their quest for a conference championship?
It's easy to say “Tune it out, focus on the task at hand, what you can control, and on the game.” Tackling subjects like this are never that easy. Perhaps there's a player on the Huskers’ roster who has been personally affected by the kind of crimes that Jerry Sandusky is charged with. Telling him to ignore those emotions would be both insensitive and simply wrong.
From a myopic standpoint, it would be counterproductive to what Bo Pelini and the Huskers want to accomplish. If you tell someone he’s not allowed to feel what he's feeling and he will rebel. He will tune you out.
Yes, these young men are football players, but that's not all they are. They are free-thinkers with beliefs and ideas of their own. Some will be more affected by the nature of the alleged crimes than others. Those are the ones that Pelini needs to reach.
Not from a coaching standpoint, but from a place of compassion. Where he can help them channel their emotions into a positive force, one that they can channel on the field and can cope with. Pelini needs to provide an energy that allows them to turn a negative situation into a positive result.
Nationally, the game will be a side story. Some will turn it into a referendum on what's wrong with sports, society, America and our values.
Others will suggest the game shouldn't be played out of respect to the alleged victims or as a punishment for Penn State. None of those suggestions are right. However, none are wrong. They're just thoughts. If I was in Bo's shoes, that's where I would come from.
What would I say to those players with the block N on the side of their helmets?
“Make this game about whatever you need to make it about. If you want to see Joe Paterno punished, punish him on the field.
If you want to get justice for the kids that were allegedly harmed by Jerry Sandusky, then dispense justice on the field.
If you care nothing about the media storm and only about winning, then play like the Big Ten championship is on the line, because it is.
Prepare better than ever before. Execute better than you ever have. Play better than anyone expects. Not because of the storm, but in spite of it.”
That's what I would say.
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