Why the antagonism? Why the anger? Why air it in that forum? Why air it at that time? Whatever happened to “Acc-sen-tu-ate the positive, ee-lim-in-ate the negative?”
What I am about to do is fight a losing battle with what I believe are many of you. But like the head coach who is celebrated by those many of you for sticking to his guns, backing his players and shouting down the media, I never shied away from a battle where I didn’t think I was right. Consequences be damned.
The Omaha World Herald’s Dirk Chatelain does not need me to fight his battles and I am not going to. But what happened Saturday speaks to larger issues and ones that can be detrimental to Bo Pelini, the media, the fans and the program.
As I spelled out in the postgame Sunday School, I don’t believe Saturday night was the right time to continue a feud with a reporter who wrote something Pelini didn’t agree with. You had just won an historic first Big Ten home game against a legendary program in historic fashion. The postgame should have been one Big Red love-in. Heck, I wouldn’t have minded a little “I told you so” from the head coach regarding the play of his quarterback. Perhaps something like “this is why I stuck with Taylor Martinez, because I believe in him, his teammates believe in him and he’s a great player.” It gets the same point across that Pelini’s blunt force dress-down of Chatelain does only it…..cue the music….
Why go about it this way rather than Bo’s way? Easy. Did anyone see the highlights package from ESPN? At least half of it was dedicated to the postgame scolding rather than the greatest comeback in Nebraska football history. That’s the message that went to the rest of the nation.
You might think that’s great. It shows how intensely Pelini backs his kids. What recruit wouldn’t want to come play for a coach like that?
Yes, you will endear yourself to some recruits that way. But you run the risk of turning off others or at least their parents who perhaps see Pelini’s acts as bullying or intimidating. Remember, moms like to send their boys to coaches who will take care of them, nurture them, and help them grow. Moms don’t always like to see their little boys browbeat. It’s all in the interpretation. My suggestion would have still sent a similar message without looking so mad. A lot of dispassionate observers probably were wondering how can anyone be mad after a game like that?!?
Then there is the conflicting message Pelini sent. On Thursday, when asked about a “media onslaught” of Martinez, Pelini said, “I don’t think Taylor or anyone else on our football team cares what you guys write or say.”
So if you aren’t reading it, why react to it? Of course, Pelini did read what Chatelain wrote and referred to that in the Saturday postgame session.
Then there is the article in question. Was it really that bad? Was it so far out of bounds that it warranted an angry response? The point of the article, how I read it, was if the pattern of mistakes made by Martinez in games against quality opposition continues then Pelini needs to make a change. It was the “play the 2nd string quarterback” argument. It’s a column that could have been written in Minneapolis (change out Martinez & Pelini for Donovan McNabb & Leslie Frazier) or in any other locale in America with a big time football team. It’s a column that is written every single year. It’s been written here, too. Remember Eric Crouch vs. Bobby Newcombe?
You may be worried that this antagonism will one day chase the talented Pelini away from Husker Nation. Perhaps. But where is it going to chase him to? It will be another locale with a hungry fan base that breeds a hungry press, with an appetite for winning and information and access. Pelini is fond of delivering the winning. It’s the information and access that drives him crazy. But it’s part of the game for any head coach at this or any high level of sports.
Finally, to the subject of the hungry press. It only exists here because many of you demand it. You may say “I don’t need all that information. Just give me wins and I’m happy.” While that may be true for a few, I dare say it’s not true for most. Would the World Herald lose subscriptions if they only wrote an article about the game in the Sunday paper? Would Kevin Kugler and Mike’L Severe have the top rated afternoon radio show in Omaha if they just talked Creighton basketball and the Omaha Nighthawks? Would there be a need for a Husker Max.com?
The Chatelain column came out on Friday, but the discussion of replacing Martinez started five days earlier – on the message boards, powered by the fans. The fans initiated the conversation not the media. Chatelain didn’t “make the story”, as critics have argued, fans did.
Before the internet, the fans usually reacted to what the media fed them. Now it is more of a two-way street and that is a good thing. We can know more you want to read and hear. You can steer the conversation and in the case of last week, the conversation was steered towards a quarterback controversy. It was a conversation that Bo Pelini was not interested in having and he made it known. It was pointed at one newspaper writer, but it might have been meant for many more ears.
Maybe that’s why it came out Saturday like it did.