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The Truth, Mainly - 10/22/2007

Athletic confession time

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 them.

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 either.

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 renaissance.

I just hope he doesn't wear his Ak-Sar-Ben King regalia on game days.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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