I sense a statewide sigh of relief.
You know why. Cornhusker fans are coming out of the funk
of a football season in which, at the time I'm writing this, Nebraska
has already lost three games. Fans couldn't stop singing "Where have
you gone, Tommy Osborne O, the whole state turns its lonely eyes to
you, hey, hey, hey."
(Sorry about that, Simon and Garfunkel. Couldn't help myself.)
Then the rebirth happened: Cornhusker Athletic Director
Steve Pederson got canned and replaced by Dr. Tom Osborne.
It was largely seen as a Second Coming.
Bill Callahan, at least as I write, is still the football
coach. But Husker fans who had just watched Oklahoma State clobber
our boys 45-14 were quoted saying all sorts of unfriendly things about
the coach. My delicate sensibilities prevent me from quoting most of
Here's one of the more friendly ones: An "older woman"
yelled "Fire Callahan! You're a loser, Callahan!"
And so on.
I've got a confession: I can't get myself all bent out of
shape just because the Huskers aren't very good. I have a pretty
rotten athletic background my own damn self.
I went out for football, basketball, and track when I was
in high school. Mainly because I'd be ridiculed if I didn't.
But I got ridiculed anyway.
When I was a sophomore, we were playing Meade, our
arch-rival, and they had a great football player. He was a fullback
and he weighed 195 pounds, all muscle. He would later put on another
40 pounds as a lineman for the University of Kansas, then go on to be
a professional player for the San Francisco Forty-Niners.
He was scary as hell.
I weighed 140 pounds and I was a defensive end. Our coach
didn't expect me to make many tackles but he told me to take out the
interference when a run came around my side of the line. I'd try to
look menacing until the blocker was about to throw himself at me.
Then I'd lie down in front of him and we'd both be on the ground, both
of us happy, he because he'd just knocked down the defensive end, I
because I'd just taken out the interference so our more muscular
linebacker could make the tackle.
But that wouldn't work with this Meade guy, the scariest
player west of Wichita. He liked to run over people. I didn't like
being run over.
So in the third quarter the big fullback pretended to hand
off the football to a back not much bigger than me. Our coach was
yelling "Fake reverse! Fake reverse!" but I got out of the way of the
big fullback and chased the considerably smaller halfback who was
going around the other end and who I knew didn't have the football.
The Truth, Mainly
We won the game, but I took no pleasure in it. I knew what
I knew. And so did the coach. I wished I'd broken my collarbone.
I was also on the track team. My father had been a very
fast track man back in the 1920s when he was a student at Bethany
College. He held the school record for the 440 for 30-some years.
So I figured I surely had my father's running genes, but I
think now that I must have had my mother's. My father told me there
was just one thing wrong with my running style: "You run too long in
the same place."
So my coach told me I should run the mile, and I did, sort
of. I never won a race but I prided myself for never finishing last
But then I ran on a track that horses also ran on and I was
coming down the home stretch in my usual next-to-last place, about ten
yards ahead of the last place kid, when I saw a finish line for the
horses and thought it was the finish line for people, so I stopped and
the last-place guy went around me and didn't stop until he crossed the
finish line for humans.
I played basketball too, and once made a basket for the
wrong team. It was the beginning of the second half and I forgot we
changed baskets then. I was watching the other team's cheerleaders
when the two tall guys had the jump ball to begin the second half.
The ball came to me and I dribbled all the way to the wrong basket and
made a perfect lay-up.
The cheerleaders on the other team laughed and laughed. My
coach rolled his eyes. My dad looked at the ceiling.
So I don't make fun of jocks who fail. Been there, done
that. But despite all that, I take interest in UN-L athletic events
and look forward to Tom Osborne's effort to bring about a jockstrap
I just hope he doesn't wear his Ak-Sar-Ben King regalia on
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail