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Friday, August 29, 2008

Tunnel Walk, Vol. II, Issue I. The Western Michigan Files

If you woulda told Tunnel Walk 364 days ago...
...Tom Osborne would be serving as Athletic Director;
...Tunnel Walk's head coach would have a 2007 National Championship ring;
...Tunnel Walk would have such strong negative feelings for a fellow North Platte native with a last name rhyming with Smederson;
...NU's 2008 starting quarterback would have 3 starts, 15 TD passes, and have a 500-yard game under his belt;
...Ron Brown would be back on the sidelines;
...Kansas would be unamimously picked to finish ahead of NU in preseason polls;
...former players would be praising the coach;
...Tom Shatel would do an interview with Heavy Soul;
...you woulda been socked squarely in the kisser.

Big XII North Idol
Athletes want to be musicians and musicians want to be athletes. That's why the Rock 'n' Jock series and MTV Sports in general went the way of the triple-option. Regardless, here are the musicians that best represent the teams of the Big XII North.

Nebraska as Bruce Springsteen. Not only does The Boss have a classic album named after the state (which Tunnel Walk has no doubt he was inspired to write after watching the Huskers' crushing 15-22 loss to Clemson in the 1982 Orange Bowl. Much like the game, the album Nebraska is very bleak. You know who was on that team? Irving Fryar and Mike Rozier. Guess where they're from. New Jersey. Think about it.), but he also hangs out with Nebraskan Conor Oberst from time to time. Bruce writes about hard-working, blue-collar characters who face a challenge or turning point in their lives. He may as well be writing the story of the 2008 Huskers.

Kansas as John Mayer. Much like this year's Jayhawk squad, John Mayer is sneakily talented. Mostly known for puff ballads and banging hot celebs, Mayer actually is one helluva guitarist. Kansas, on the other hand, is mostly known for being a creampuff and banging the boards. Last year's 12-1 season is comparable to Mayer getting a torso full of tattoos and having relations with Jennifer Aniston. Sure, Jessica Simpson is a nice score, but Aniston is big-time. (Ed. note: The Lady in Black has informed TW that Aniston and Mayer may not be together at press time.) Regardless of Oscar Mayer's relationship status he, like Lawrence itself, will always prey on suburbanite sorority sisters.

Colorado as Phish. You don't seriously need Tunnel Walk to explain this, do you?

Iowa State as Trace Adkins. Trace Adkins once wrote a song about Ames. It's called Honky Tonk Badonkadonk. He played football at Louisiana Tech. He lost his left pinky while working on an oil rig. He's done voice-overs for KFC and authored the book, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Free-Thinking Roughneck. Tunnel Walk believes that's the dream bio of any ISU grad.

Kansas State as Toby Keith. Had some wins a couple of years back and hasn't really been heard of since. Keith once played defensive end for the USFL farm team, the Oklahoma City Drillers. It could be argued that K-State's existence in the Big XII North is similar. The Toby Keith hairstyle is also quite popular in the Little Apple. Take one-part REO Speedwagon home perm and add to one-part Miami Vice 8 o'clock shadow. Add bolo tie or sleeveless camo shirt for garnish.

Missouri as Sting. Why in the name of Joe Strummer was Elvis Costello opening for Sting? Why, because Sting was back with The Police and they popped out some hits in the 80's. So for now, Sting can be the headliner and Elvis Costello will just politely keep his thoughts to himself. But soon, Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner will go back to his tantric escapades and the likes of Elvis Costello will return to the top billing on the marquee. Lest we forget that it was a just a few short years ago when Sting dropped the steaming pile known as "Desert Rose" on our doorsteps. Your uppance will come.

Top 5 under 175
1. Frank Solich, 5-8, 162. First Nebraska player to rush for 200+ yards. Also did some coaching.
2. Dana Brinson, 5-9, 170. He had the ability to run very fast in a non-linear fashion with a football in his hands. Purportedly named after Hall of Fame Nebraska coach Dana X. Bible.
3. Barron Miles, 5-8, 160. Kick blocker extraordinaire, blocking 7 in two years. Not an actual baron. Held UCLA All-American J.J. Stokes scoreless in 1993, despite being 8 1/2 inches shorter. Practiced at QB when both Tommie Frazier and Brook Berringer were injured.
4. Mickey Joseph, 5-10, 170. Broke his leg at Oklahoma when tackled into a metal bench. Was significantly faster before that happened.
5. Johnny Rodgers, 5-10, 171 in 1971; 5-9, 173 in 1972. First Nebraska Heisman Trophy winner. Also won the Walter Camp Award the year after he helped NU to its first set of back-to-back national championships. Hails from Omaha Tech High. Once robbed a guy. Or a convenience store. Once rocked a sports bar and grill on Farnam in Omaha. Smooth dresser dating back to his playing days.

Where Are You Now, Adam Julch?
He's in The Economist, yo. Apparently he works for Werner Enterprises in Omaha. Congratulations on the face time, Number 69. Despite his possible gigantism, he received a lot of grief from a certain portion of the student section during his playing days. Some fans thought that he purposely fell face down on the FieldTurf, as if to avoid oncoming defenders that he was assigned to block. Some students even began a "Heeeeeyyyyy there Julchie, how'd ya like to bite my ass?" chant that became the blueprint for classics such as "Heeeeeyyyyy there Swinney, how'd ya like to bite my ass?" and "Heeeeeyyyyy there Shanle, how'd ya like to bite my ass? Those students were bad fans and were too hard on Mr. Julch. We mean, the guy was a team captain alongside Mike and Ralph Brown. But that is no excuse for buying a Honda Civic. Accords (at least the Maroon 1988 Lxi 4dr edition) are small enough.

The Recruit Files
Already Committed: Cole Pensick, DT. 6-2, 250. Lincoln (Northeast), NE. Cole Pensick has the honor of being the first recruit of Bo Pelini's first full recruiting class at Nebraska. The offer to Pensick isn't too surprising, considering the emphasis from this regime on kids who will fit into the system despite their ratings by Rivals or Scout. Rivals has him listed as a 3 star DT, ranking him #80 at his position. Scout, on the other hand, has him listed as the No. 3 center in all of the land. Based on this staff's willingness to move recruits to either side of the ball, Pensick could end up on offense or defense. Tunnel Walk thinks offense, but who knows.

Wishlister: David Oku, RB. 5-10, 186. Midwest City (Carl Albert), OK. Rated with 4 stars as Rivals' No. 1 all-purpose back. Scout has given Oku 5 stars and ranked him as their No. 6 RB. Oku has scheduled an official visit to NU during the VaTech weekend. It is between NU, Tennessee, Florida State, and Louisville. NU already has a big back in Tray Robinson and a fullback in C.J. Zimmerer, so Oku would be a very nice complement to those two. Oku has said he will decide in October. He reports to have a 2.4 core GPA and a 15 on the ACT which he retook in June, so qualifying may be an issue.

"I'm hoping to grow about two more inches. If I keep taking my vitamins and stuff, I think it'll happen. I'm also trying to get faster and work on my quickness. I'm always trying to get better and in the off-season I've just focused on running and hitting the weights."

Captains Profile: Western Michigan
Joe Ganz, QB. Tunnel Walk will file this one under O for obvious choice. Ganz has been a captain in training for about five years. Says the right things and more importantly does the right things. Tunnel Walk hopes that doing the right thing now excludes throwing picks.
Matt Slauson, OG. Another selection that was pretty easy to see coming. Slauson has started since his freshman year. Gives amusing quotes, typical of an offensive lineman.
Barry Turner, DE. Tunnel Walk would have thought Zach Potter would have been the first DE to be selected as a team captain. TW isn't sure if this is indicative of Turner's camp leadership thus far, but here's to hoping. A motivated Barry Turner is a good Barry Turner.
Dan Titchener, P. Cheyenne, Wyoming's own! You know what else is from Cheyenne? Taco John's, the best West-Mex around (just 0.68 miles down the road from MIB. He suggests the unheralded Taco Burger.). Coming Soon: Titchener for Heisman.

Top 5 Signs Football Season is Here

1. Nothing is different in Iowa

2. Brent Musberger is unfrozen

3. Jim Rose's voice begins to shatter mirrors and windows in the KFAB studios (The Tunnel Walk is clearly not ready to stop making fun of Jim Rose yet)

4. Ron Prince and Josh Freeman begin their daily doses of LSD

5. Mark May ascends to throne

Locks of the Week

Ohio-Wyoming Under 49.5
MIZZOU -8.5 over Illinois
Idaho (featuring North Platte native Nathan Enderle at QB) +27 over ASU.

Stadium Wars
The Tunnel Walk has sat in every corner that is Memorial Stadium, from our season tickets high above Salt Creek in the North Stadium, to posh seats on the 50-yard-line that we snuck down to at the end of the 1997 Oklahoma blowout. Therefore, we are cognizant of the jumbled-together nature that comprises our cement masterpiece (?).

From the student section to the club level, North to South, East to West, no seat is the same, but each seat is exactly the same. It is with this in mind that The Tunnel Walk presents you with Stadium Wars.


East Stadium vs. West Stadium

East Stadium—This stadium is mostly known for old people telling The Tunnel Walk to sit down, being drowned out by the band, and a ridiculous balcony that inhibits scoreboard viewing. On the positive, the view is great, the sunshine warm, the team close, and the vendors plentiful. We recommend getting balcony seats sometime as well, to view all of Lincoln.

West Stadium—If you own a business or are an orthopedic surgeon, welcome home! The people in this section are so rich they don’t even serve Valentino’s Pizza, they serve raw shellfish platters. And that’s not even at the club level, where Ted DiBiase, The Million Dollar Man, is your personal serf. If you have the means, though, you are in for a treat. It never gets too hot or two cold, bathrooms seem to be newer than anywhere else in the joint, and the selections of concessions is outlandish. You can get University of Nebraska ice cream in the Northwest corner. Plus, come early to see REALLY rich people and the ghost of Steve Pederson make their way up to the suites.

Winner: West stadium

North Stadium vs. South Stadium

North Stadium—In a nod to Nebraska’s ranching tradition, getting to a seat in the North End Zone requires forcing 30,000 people through three 8 x 8 tunnels. In addition, the bathrooms are right in front of the tunnels to absolute the clusterfuck. Then you realize that you cannot see the scoreboard despite being able to touch it, but you sure as hell can hear it. The one positive is that the hearty North Stadium fans are really into it, and are true-die hards. Everything else, though, sucks.

South Stadium—Feel that breeze in November, because it’s strong and it’s cold, although admittedly not as much as it used to be with the new scoreboard. The Tunnel Walk enjoys the South Stadium: the sun is at your back, the crowd boisterous, the view of the scoreboard and the ample bathroom and concessions below. The one downside: it seems to be more cramped than the north, which is a small price to pay for being able to get to your seat in less than 30 minutes.

Winner: South Stadium


South Stadium vs. West Stadium

Who are we kidding; there isn’t a soul alive that wouldn’t rather be on the west side than the south side. Therefore, The Tunnel Walk declares that you get to these sections based on whatever financial status you can. For example:

Warren Buffett: Skybox
Kirk Cameron: West Stadium
Ted DiBiase: Waiter, Club Level
The Tunnel Walk: North Stadium

This Week’s Dorothy Lynchcapade
The taco salad. The meat, the cheese, the taco shell, the tomato, the lettuce, the Dorothy Lynch.

The Tunnel Walk says, “Recognize!” The only acceptable dressing on taco salads is Dorothy Lynch. Please keep in mind that salsa is still perfectly acceptable. If you are taking that crispy mother the salad dressing route, though, Dorothy Lynch. Go ahead, ask Don and Millie’s. If you must take it the ranch route, you must be at Amigos. And drunk. And if that is the case, then you should be ordering Cheesy’s.

"You know who you look like..."
ESPN's Doug Gottlieb versus It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Glenn Howerton. Glenn as "Dennis Reynolds" does have some experience with basketball.

Prediction Time!

People are fired up for the Pelini Era. The Tunnel Walk shares this excitement. Western Michigan is a legitimate team with some seasoning on both sides of the ball. If what we're hearing is true, though, Nebraska should be able to push them around on offense and run the damn football. Look for Marlon Lucky, Roy Helu Jr., and Quentin Castille to blow up. Matt Slauson should have fun running into people. Look for Nebraska to score more football points and ultimately win the football game, but Western Michigan will make it interesting. The NCAA's new clock rules may come into play as well.

Nebraska 41, WMU 27

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Heavy Soul Interview: Tom Shatel (Part II)

As promised, today we will be posting the second part of Tom Shatel's interview with Heavy Soul. As we mentioned yesterday, Part II will get into some talk about the 2008 Husker season, and some more personal questions for Tom.

Part I clearly generated a lot of interest--thanks to Matt Perrault on "The Big Show" on Big Sports 590 AM, Huskerpedia, and several message boards for the readership.

Let's start the show...

Heavy Soul: We saw on Joe Posnanski's blog--he's a Heavy Soul favorite--that you left a comment of congratulations for him on the recent news that he's being picked up by SI.com. Is Joe a personal friend or someone you've gotten to know by way of geography and the industry? And would you consider him one of the best baseball writers in the country as we do?

Tom Shatel: I grew up in KC and worked for the Star for 10 years after I got out of Mizzou. The Star is near and dear to my heart. I actually looked into the job when Joe was hired in 1996. They made a very good hire. I didn't know him then. But when he was hired I made it a point to introduce myself, explain my background and offer any help or advice about KC. I did the same with Jason Whitlock when he was hired in 1994. Joe and I hit it off, we see each other at events, occasional Nebraska-MU/KU/KSU game and we keep threatening to get our families together, but it's hard. I admire his blog. That's a pure love for writing, plain and simple, because he's got kids to raise and a wife to see, too. In this day and age of blog hit men, it's nice to see pure writing has a place as well.

HS: It's fairly well-documented that you are a Mizzou alum. That said, do you consider yourself--at this point in your life--a Nebraskan?

I do. Funny, but I lived in KC from 1970 to 1989 and I'm approaching that number of years here (1991-2008). I did not come to Omaha planning to stay. I thought I would hang out a few years, bang out a few columns, make a name for myself and skidaddle. But I fell in love with everything: Omaha and its old-school values, traditions, corner bars, friendliness, etc. Small town Nebraska. I love driving around Nebraska. When I was single, I would look for stories in the small towns during the summer and I loved just stopping to eat or have a drink in a random town. I just love the rustic feel of small town Nebraska. It's absolutely priceless. And don't even get me started on the Sand Hills. The dateline out there should be God's Country, USA. My wife is from Valley, her family from Alliance. One of my favorite things to do is to drive to Alliance, taking the highways through Wahoo and St. Paul and Broken Bow (old hotel diner, I think it's the Arrow, is a classic) and onto rancher country. My wife's uncle and aunt have a farm. We go to the farm, grill a steak, drink at the Legion club. Simply awesome. My favorite story came a couple years ago, when we had finished dinner, another 20-once t-bone with all the trimmings, and for some reason Chimney Rock came up. I said I had no idea what that was. Uncle Larry popped up off the couch and said, "Well, let's go.'' Apparently it was an hour south of there. We got in his car and he started driving down a dirt road, then a gravel road, then he turned left, then right, then left, and kept turning and kicking up gravel and rocks for almost an hour, without one road sign or direction, until finally he said, "There it is,'' And sure enough, there it was, Chimney Rock. That drive was the most amazing thing I've been through in my life. After that drive, yes, I felt like a Nebraskan.

HS: A couple of Omaha-specific questions: What's your favorite restaurant in town? Favorite bar?

I've had two lives here. When I was single, it was M's Pub or Jam's. Now that I'm married, we like Millard Road House. We go there every Sunday after church. We have our own booth. The waitresses play with the kids while we eat. I also like Hector's, a Mexican joint with a baja flavor that takes me back to San Diego, where I grew up as a kid and still retreat to every summer. It doesn't hurt that Hector has pictures of my San Diego Chargers on the wall. Killer margaritas and enchiladas. Hector, who is from San Diego, is usually hanging out at the bar and eager to tell you how bad Norv Turner is.

(Ed. Note: Get the #19 at Hector's with shredded chicken. Trust us.)

My taste in bars has changed, too. When I was single, it was anywhere in the Old Market. I met my wife at Pauli's, the CWS and Cubs bar in midtown. I"ll always have a sentimental place for Pauli's. But it's too far to drive. I had a DWI six years [ago], the night my first daughter was born. I figured it was God's way of saying, slow down, now. You're a dad. Act like one. These days, my bar is my front porch after the kids are in bed. Once in a while, I'll sneak out to Tanner's (my favorite sports neighborhood bar in KC) or Caddy Shack, a couple of great neighborhood joints where everyone knows your name and it's a quick drive home.

HS: Where is your favorite place to travel for work (of the places you go on a semi-regular basis)? What was your favorite travel assignment of your career?

I like all of the old Big Eight towns, because I have so many great memories there. St. Louis for Valley hoops is a new favorite. KC for Big 12 hoops. And my sleeper favorite, maybe all-time favorite, is Oklahoma City for Big Eight/12 baseball. That's a wonderful event that nobody knows about. Lot of great memories in OKC in the spring, none of which I willl share because I'm certain this is a family web site.

HS: Indeed it is. You seem to be the only sports writer left that does not seem entirely jaded by being a sports writer. In fact, you seem like you're still legitmately a fan. Do you write with that intentionally in your head? Or do you still watch and follow sports the same way you did when you first discovered how much you liked them?

It's funny. I never get to sit in the stands and be a fan, wear the colors, tailgate, cheer during a game, etc. But, yes, I consider myself a fan of sports and the games and people. And I would say this: I have changed the way I cover and view the games in recent years. I used to get all caught up in winning, losing, fire the coach, he's a bum, etc. Now, I find myself more into the experience of a college football game and a college football season, savoring the relationships and the people, the players, the stories, the color, etc. Why do we always have to fire the coach? Today's world is so mean and reactionary. I say we miss a lot of stories falling into that trap. Sometime you just have to get to Jack Trice Field or Folsom Field early, climb up to the top row, sit back, put your feet up and look down onto the empty field, hours before a game, and try and imagine all the history, all the times you've been there before, the games you've seen, the people you've met. I do that on every road trip now. It's my way of stopping to smell the roses.

HS: Along those lines, who is your favorite writer--sports or otherwise?

Jim Murray, Dave Kindred, Mark Whicker, Joe Pos, Mark Kiszla, Edwin Pope, Bill Lyon and John Schulian. Murray was my all-time favorite. Out of sports, that's easy. Mike Royko, the greatest columnist ever. These days, I read Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald.

HS: Favorite sportscaster?

Vin Scully with Keith Jackson a very, very close second.

HS: ESPN: Good or evil?

Good. Look behind the hype and gaudiness and they still put out a lot of information and they are one of the few media groups left who do serious investigative work.

HS: Last season was obviously a tumultuous one. However, the story never really changed: the defense was terrible, there was seemingly little-to-no passion with the players, and the coaching staff seemed oblivious to everything. That said, how hard was it for you to do your columns every week? In other words, was it difficult coming up with a different "angle" for columns when in reality it was essentially the same story week to week?

The hardest part was finding something new to say. But, with the Pederson firing happening in October, and a new low on the field every other week, it truthfully wasn't that hard.

As a kind of follow-up to that question, is your job easier or more challenging when the team you are covering is bad? Good? Historically bad? Average?

TS: I used to think it was easier, or more fun, when it was bad. But 10 years of MU, KU and K-State football, in the 80's, changed my mind. So did covering Nebraska in the 90's. It's more fun when your team is on national TV, the national media is always around and you're covering big, meaningful end-of-the-world games.

HS: Moving on to the upcoming Husker season...What are Coach Bo Pelini's practices like? What's the intensity level like?

Don't know. We're not allowed to watch. I hear there's some hitting going on.

HS: Who are your players to watch? Freshmen to watch?

I think any of the running backs will be fun to watch, just to see if any of them emerge as a big-time threat with more emphasis. As for freshmen, I want to watch Will Compton. My feeling is Pelini will play freshmen if they can play, and this is a linebacker with terrific skills and instincts. If he can play his first year, that's a good sign for the future.

Who, besides Ganz, do you think that NU simply cannot afford to lose this season?

TS: Matt Slauson, Phillip Dillard or one of the safeties.

HS: We're pretty sure we know the answer to this from reading your columns, but what letter grade would you give Tom Osborne, the Athletic Director?

TS: I give him a B-plus for handling this thing with class and dignity and bringing back a lot of the old way. The overall grade is still incomplete--it's tied to the performance of his head coach.

HS: Do you see anything happening this season that is really going to surprise Husker fans?

TS: I don't think the defense will be anywhere near what people think. There's no magic wand. And the talent isn't near as good as it was when Pelini was around in 2003. There will be some busts, some bad plays. Pelini won't be perfect this year.

There you have it. Once again, on the behalf of everyone that contributes to Heavy Soul, a HUGE thanks goes out to Tom Shatel. We were thrilled that he even e-mailed us back, let alone took so much time to answer an obnoxious amount of questions.

Hopefully we will have more interviews like this one down the road with other local media personalities.

Untill then...2 days 'till kickoff!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Remember Me?

I'll be in town on Friday night.... put on a helmet.

That is all.


The Heavy Soul Interview: Tom Shatel (Part I)

**NOTE: You can read the second part to this interview here.

With the Huskers' season opener this Saturday, we wanted to step up our output and content here on the ol' Heavy Soul. To go along with The Tunnel Walk, MIB has gone to town with his "Reasons to get excited/be worried" pieces, along with the mascots and punters--and it is evident that people out there appreciate the efforts.

Another way we wanted to enhance the content was kind of a random thought that we had--we thought it would be cool if we interviewed someone that was somehow involved with sports in The Good Life, particularly Nebraska Football. Naturally, the first person we thought of was Tom Osborne. Unfortunately, he was not available.

However, the second person we had in mind not only was available, but provided us with such a great interview that we had to split it into two parts (the second running tomorrow).

Tom Shatel, the lead sports columnist for the Omaha World-Herald (and author: you can buy his book Red Zone: The Greatest Victories in the History of Nebraska Football here), has been observing and offering unique insight of Nebraska sports since 1991. Originally hailing from San Diego, Shatel attended Missouri and has worked with the Dallas Morning News, the St. Louis Sun, and the Kansas City Star. Shatel also served as the President of United States Basketball Writers Association (Andy Katz is the current president, if that gives you an idea of the prestige of that position).

Shatel's columns have become a "must-read" Sundays after Husker games (especially last year), and holds the extremely high honor of being labeled as Heavy Soul's "Favorite Sports Columnist."

Tom was gracious enough to take on over 30 questions as posed by contributors of Heavy Soul, and answered ALL of them. Today's topics will cover questions involving Nebraska Football past and other sports topics. Tomorrow will focus on the 2008 Football Huskers, as well as questions pertaining personally to Shatel. So without further ado, let's get on with the interview.

Heavy Soul: From the standpoint of you being a member of the media, what are some of the initial differences you see in covering the Huskers (i.e., the Pederson/Callahan regime vs. Osborne/Pelini)? Any big differences for you personally?

Tom Shatel: It's more genuine, open, honest. You don't feel like there's an agenda. Callahan really didn't have time for small talk, although he and I had a good relationship. There just wasn't much conversation and Bill could be hard to find. Bo is your next door neighbor. You feel like you could invite him over to the driveway for a beer and talk about how the kids are doing in soccer.

HS: When you walk around the Athletic Department offices at NU, do you see any tangible differences since Tom Osborne came back around?

TS: I didn't walk around the offices much before and I don't now. When I've been up there, people are happier, smiling, looser. So, to answer your question, it's night and day.

HS: When Steve Pederson was hired, did you ever hear things "off the record" that would have led you to believe he was arrogant as he turned out to be? On the other hand, do you think that he just had a personality that came off as arrogant, but in reality he was a decent guy (we're trying to leave you an out here, if you can't tell)?

TS: Nobody had a clue this was coming. Nobody. We were all geniuses who thought it was a brilliant hire because of the Nebraska ties. Nobody knew SP had changed, somewhere since leaving Nebraska, and was trying to change the image of the program.

Heard a good story once, from someone close to SP, someone in the department. He said that Pederson grew up in North Platte with a small town Nebraska chip on his shoulder. Didn't like the hard work Nebraska image, the farms, the corn, all the way down to the walk-on program. This person said Steve had stars in his eyes, thought Nebraska should be big time and more like California or New York. That made a lot of sense to me, after the way things went.

(Editor's Note: We have heard the same thing, and it breaks our little North Platte hearts.)

HS: Is there anything more to the story of the now-infamous Frank Solich decision to start Bobby Newcombe over Eric Crouch? We all know that Crouch went back home, and Solich essentially recruited him back to NU. Anything else left out of that story?

TS: Eric basically grew up without a dad. Millard North coach Fred Petito became like a father to him, that male figure he could talk to. I think when Eric thought he should be starting over Bobby, he snapped, went for a drive and found the person who he could open up to. That was Coach Petito. I think it may have crossed his mind to leave. I think it was more he just needed some time to get away and figure it out. Eric would be the first to admit he's made some mistakes, grown up, would do some things different. I don't think it was more than the scenario I described, I really don't.

HS: What do you think is the most controversial event that has taken place during your time covering Nebraska sports?

TS: Lawrence Phillips and nothing else is close. That divided Husker Nation more than anything that has happened in my 17 years here.

HS: What do you think is the best quality of the Husker Fan? Worst?

Passion. That stadium will never be empty. If someone doesn't win, he'll be fired. That's a fire that never, ever goes out.

HS: How likely do you think it is that Nebraska will get a basketball practice facility? And how likely do you think it is that Lincoln will build an arena in the Haymarket?

TS: There will be a basketball facility but it will wait until after the city of Lincoln figures out if it's going to build a new arena, which will come up next spring. I have no idea on the likelihood of the arena passing. I would guess it's pretty good because of the overall entertainment value and, like Omaha with the Civic, the options available are old. We'll see.

HS: Here's a tough one, and one we know that you've discussed from time to time in your column, but here it goes: Do you really think it is OK for people who wear their Scarlet and Cream during the fall to switch over to that ridiculous royal blue in the winter? Most of the contributors here are from North Platte, and none of us understand this phenomenon. We feel that you pick your team, and you stick with your team. Obviously, there are many people in Omaha that do not. Do you think it is because Creighton games have become an event being in the Qwest Center? Or is it legitimate?

TS: I don't care if they switch over, and I understand why it happens, but don't tell me it's a real rivalry. You wouldn't see anyone in Alabama who is a Bama football fan and an Auburn basketball fan. My feeling is, there are 8-10,000 Creighton hardcores, win or lose. Once Doc Sadler gets it going, and going good, a lot of that blue will turn back into red.

HS: More basketball: How much fun is it to interact with Doc Sadler?

TS: He's been awesome. It's like working with a family member. Too easy. Don't tell my boss.

HS: Follow-up: who is the funniest person you've ever covered?

I can't think of a lot of comics but I would probably say Johnny Orr or Billy Tubbs when I was covering Big Eight hoops in KC. They would literally say something funny every interview.

HS: Do you think Omaha could support an NBA team?

TS: No. Season tickets at $60 each, $10 parking, $10 beers, you name it. We're too cheap. And we're a college/big event town.

(Ed. Note: He's right, dammit. I'd give anything for that not to be the case, though.)

HS: 1997 Cornhuskers vs. 1997 Wolverines: Who wins?

TS: I think it's a very good game, closer than either side wants to admit. My tiebreaker, as a bitter Charger fan, has always been this: Nebraska beat the heck out of Peyton Manning and the 1998 national champion Vols; Michigan barely beat Ryan "Cryin''' Leaf. End of story.

HS: Designated hitter vs. having the pitcher bat?

TS: I'm a National League guy.

HS: Do you like the Cubs' chances to win it all this year?

TS: No. Like my friend Chicago Bob says, talk to me after the last out of the World Series. There is something different about this Cubs team, though. I won't try to explain.

HS: Who is the greatest athlete of the past 25 years: Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods?

TS: MJ but only because Tiger's body of work isn't near done.

HS: Who would win in a drink-off: Coach Devaney or Coach Pelini?

TS: Devaney, by 10 shots and a pitcher.

That wraps up Part I of the interview. Come back tomorrow, where we'll have his responses to Part II, with topics ranging from what he thinks will surprise Husker fans this season (hint: it's not good), his favorite Omaha resturaunts, and the moment Tom officially felt like a Nebraskan.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Had enough yet pete?

I just thought I would point out how awesome/frustrating the mid-season race for the american league central has been. I am pretty sure that the twins and sox have been duking it out within 2 games of each other since before the allstar break. Neither team has put together a terribly long string of wins or losses, and any consecutive outcomes have almost always been matched by the other team. There have been tons of extra-inning games, lots of one run wins and a nice spread of blow-outs mixed in as well. It might be easy to say that neither team "wants it" enough, but I honestly don't think that is the case with this one. Both teams are playing some damn scrappy baseball. I just wish the sox were playing better against contending teams.

Hey Pete, here's to scoreboard watching everyday. And may the scrappiest team win.

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Depth Chart Update

The Athletic Department released an updated depth chart today.

Some interesting changes.

--The emergence of Mike Smith at LT has allowed Coach Cotton to put Lydon Murtha back at RT. Smith was recruited as a DE and is widely considered the most athletic of all the lineman. Jaivorio Burkes was also switched to LT. I think he is probably the long-term answer at RT and has experience there, so I'm not sure of the significance of his move to LT. I know he has experience there from high school. Marcel Jones also seemed to emerge at the RT position while Burkes was out with high blood pressure issues. It definitely seems as though one of these tackles (Smith, Burkes, Jones) may be left out of the mix.
--Elsewhere on the line, no mention of Ricky Henry. I think that is great news for Mike Huff, Keith Williams, and D.J. Jones...for now. I'm sure it has to do with learning blocking schemes in three weeks. Matt Slauson, when asked if Henry had the "controlled" aggression reminiscent of the Pipelines of the Championship Era said, "I wouldn't call it controlled." Maybe Ricky "Wild Thing" Henry just needs a couple of more weeks to digest the playbook and gain some focus.
--Our starting I-Back is now the three-headed dog Cerberus. Lucky, Helu Jr., and Castille all have an "OR" by their names. Does that mean Mendoza can consider himself a second-stringer or a fourth-stringer?
--Dreu Young rises to No. 2 TE behind Mike McNeill. It could be a repeat performance from last year's season opener. Haymaker Pride. Also from the Cozad Alumni Newsletter: Jared Crick is listed as the No. 2 DT.
--Anthony West wins his starting CB position back. I was very encouraged by Prince Amukamura taking over the position, as I think he has the most athletic ability of our young corners. But this proves to me that West has a little fight in him. Or that Amukamura maybe thought he had it in the bag. Either way, they'll both see a ton of time.
--Freshmen emerge at LB. As suspected, Will Compton (MIKE) and Sean Fisher (BUCK) have filled the top reserve positions as true freshmen. Exciting and a bit scary. Getting them heavy game reps can only help shore up the green linebacker situation.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Big 12 vs. Big 10 Mascots

Your brother Pete and I had a good convo one day a couple of weeks back about college mascots while spending some quality time together coaching up current undersized Michigan State Spartan freshman defensive tackle Kevin Pickelman in his senior season on NCAA 09. The question of which conference has the best mascot lineup from top to bottom arose. Let us help you with your research.


North Division:

Missouri Tigers.
tiger. –noun, plural -gers, (esp. collectively for 1, 2, 5) -ger. 1. a large, carnivorous, tawny-colored and black-striped feline, Panthera tigris, of Asia, ranging in several races from India and the Malay Peninsula to Siberia: the entire species is endangered, with some races thought to be extinct.
2. the cougar, jaguar, thylacine, or other animal resembling the tiger.
3. a person resembling a tiger in fierceness, courage, etc.
4. an additional cheer (often the word tiger) at the end of a round of cheering.
5. any of several strong, voracious fishes, as a sand shark.
6. any of numerous animals with stripes similar to a tiger's.

A tiger sounds mean and good at journalism. At the time of the adoption of the tiger as Mizzou's mascot, I'm sure it sounded exotic and noble. Now there are no less than 28 other institutions of higher learning that are repping the Tiger. Seems about as unique as say...the Wildcat. Which brings us to...

Kansas State Wildcats. wild·cat. noun, plural -cats, (especially collectively) -cat for 1–4, adjective, verb, -cat·ted, -cat·ting.
–noun 1. any of several North American felines of the genus Lynx. Compare lynx.
2. a yellowish-gray, black-striped feline, Felis sylvestris, of Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, resembling and closely related to the domestic cat, with which it interbreeds freely.
3. a closely related feline, Felis sylvestris libyca, of northern Africa, believed to be the ancestor of the domestic cat.
4. any of several other of the smaller felines, as the serval or ocelot.
5. a domestic cat that has become feral.
6. a quick-tempered or savage person.
7. Railroads. a single locomotive operating without a train, as one switching cars.
8. an exploratory well drilled in an effort to discover deposits of oil or gas; a prospect well.
9. a reckless or unsound enterprise, business, etc.
10. Informal. wildcatter (def. 2).
11. Nautical. a shaped drum on a windlass, engaging with the links of an anchor chain.
12. Informal. wildcat strike.
–adjective 13. characterized by or proceeding from reckless or unsafe business methods: wildcat companies; wildcat stocks.
14. of or pertaining to an illicit enterprise or product.
15. running without control or regulation, as a locomotive, or apart from the regular schedule, as a train.
–verb (used without object) 16. to search an area of unknown or doubtful productivity for oil, ore, or the like, esp. as an independent prospector.
17. Slang. to engage in a wildcat strike.
–verb (used with object) 18. to search (an area of unknown or doubtful productivity) for oil, ore, or the like.

Based on the definition #2, a wildcat is just a domestic cat's poor, country trash cousin that it inbreeds when it drinks too much at the family reunion. If you've ever visited Manhattan, KS, the previous sentence may be interpreted as complimentary, which would be incorrect. I thought this number would be higher, but K-State is one of 16 colleges or universities using the Wildcat moniker.

Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawk is a cross between two common birds -- the noisy blue jay and the quiet sparrow hawk. The term came to prominence just before the Civil War, in Bleeding Kansas, where it was adopted by militant abolitionist groups known as Jayhawkers. With the admission of Kansas as a free state in 1861, Jayhawker became synonymous with the people of Kansas. The Jayhawk appears in several Kansas cheers, most notably, the "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" chant in unison before and during games. Well done, KU. Well done. You are the lone purveyor of the Jayhawk mascot. It looks cool. It sounds cool. It's won you a couple of titles in college baskeball. This is why more teams should simply make up mascot names, like the Colorado State Zeds or the SMU Webolos. The Jayhawks are also a good band from Minnesota. KU and NU have the 3rd longest uninterrupted series, dating back to 1892. Until the Callahan Era, NU won every game.

Colorado Buffaloes. buf·fa·lo. noun, plural -loes, -los, (especially collectively) -lo, verb, -loed, -lo·ing.
–noun 1. any of several large wild oxen of the family Bovidae. Compare bison, Cape buffalo, water buffalo.
2. buffalo robe.
3. a buffalofish.
4. a shuffling tap-dance step.
–verb (used with object) Informal. 5. to puzzle or baffle; confuse; mystify: He was buffaloed by the problem.
6. to impress or intimidate by a display of power, importance, etc.: The older boys buffaloed him.

Once there were a lot of buffaloes on the great plains, but not so many in the world of college athletics. Only four other Buffaloes exist in that world. Almost endangered. Looking like a Native American has always made me feel at one with the mighty buffalo, or Tatanka, as I call them. And lest I forget Ralphie XIX, or whichever incarnation it is. Pretty awesome to see him/her run the field in person. Colorado definitely brings something to the table with this mascot.

Nebraska Cornhuskers. corn·husk·er. –noun 1. a person or thing that husks corn.
2. (initial capital letter) a Nebraskan (used as a nickname). Origin: 1840–50, Americanism; corn1 + husk + -er1]

Without bias, it can be established that this is the greatest mascot in all of the Big XII, wait Christendom. Though Iowa claimed it first, we decided we liked it and beat it from their possession. Nebraska is named the Cornhusker State. The word cornhusker refers to a Nebraskan. No other school, not even a high school, dares use the revered Cornhusker title. Not even Kansas can claim that. It's like naming your kid Jesus Christ Smith. Just shouldn't happen. Rare is the mascot that completely symbolizes its followers. Cornhusker does. The old Herbie is great. And being of the human nature (in most cases) means that a Cornhusker has probably killed at least one of any other existing mascot.

Iowa State Cyclones. cy·clone. –noun 1. a large-scale, atmospheric wind-and-pressure system characterized by low pressure at its center and by circular wind motion, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Compare anticyclone, extratropical cyclone, tropical cyclone.
2. (not in technical use) tornado.
3. Also called cyclone collector, cyclone separator. Machinery. a device for removing small or powdered solids from air, water, or other gases or liquids by centrifugal force.

Topical? Yes, cyclones happen in central Iowa. Scary? Yep. Good choice, Iowa State. Weather is scary and apparently looks like a cardinal. I can't say I blame you, a cyclone would be a difficult mascot suit to make. I don't even know where I would begin. Next, let's work on keep the logo consistent for at least one of your graduating classes. Well, you've got enough on your plates. Do what you need to with the logo. (Pete objects to this one: "Cyclone? No one actually says that shit instead of tornado, but people on the coasts have either seen the Wizard of Oz or, god forbid, Twister, and say that or cylone. Tornado.")

South Division

Oklahoma Sooners. soon·er. –noun 1. a person who settles on government land before it is legally opened to settlers in order to gain the choice of location.
2. a person who gains an unfair advantage by getting ahead of others.

[Origin: 1885–90, Americanism; soon + -er1]

What assholes. A person who gains an unfair advantage by getting ahead of others?!? Rhett Bomar was a real sooner. Probably could've chosen something better from a PR standpoint, but it is better than the Oklahoma Cheaters. Once again, no other college has chosen to use the Sooner as its mascot, and after studying the definition of the word I cannot blame them. Apparently Injun Killers was taken.

Texas Longhorns. Long·horn. –noun 1. (lowercase) Texas longhorn.
2. Slang. a Texan.
3. (lowercase) long-horned beetle.
4. one of a nearly extinct English breed of beef cattle having long horns.

This is pretty self-explanatory. It is a breed of cattle specific to the state of Texas. I get it. Like the Baltimore Orioles or the University of Missouri Kansas City Kangaroos. It pulls the geographic strings. 0.00 other colleges have the Longhorn as their mascot. Very recognizable mascot.

Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Masked Rider is the oldest of Texas Tech's remaining mascots, tracing its origins to 1936. It became the official mascot in 1954. Beginning with the 1971 football season, the Southwest Conference created a rule restricting the use of live animal mascots. Since this rule applied to the horse ridden by the Masked Rider, Raider Red was created as an alternative.
If I had never seen a Texas Tech athlete and all I had to go on was the name Red Raider, I could successfully reason deductively that their uniforms included the color red. But their mascot looks like a Lone Ranger knock-off.

Texas A&M Aggies. ag·gie. –noun (sometimes initial capital letter) Informal. 1. an agriculture college.
2. a student at an agricultural college.

Considering that the "A" in A&M stands for agriculture along with the second definition, Aggie seems like an apt choice for A&M's mascot. Great job, but don't go patting yourselves on the back just yet. Eight other colleges decided that Aggie was awesome too. And what the hell is an Aggie? From what I've seen, it's a collie. Or, if you're from New Mexico State, it's a cowboy. I think Utah State's Aggie is just a picture of Mitt Romney's dad.

Oklahoma State Cowboys. cow·boy. –noun 1. a man who herds and tends cattle on a ranch, esp. in the western U.S., and who traditionally goes about most of his work on horseback.
2. a man who exhibits the skills attributed to such cowboys, esp. in rodeos.
3. Chiefly Northeastern U.S. a reckless or speedy automobile driver.
4. Informal. a reckless or irresponsible person, esp. a show-off or one who undertakes a dangerous or sensitive task heedlessly: They put foreign policy in the hands of cowboys.
5. (during the American Revolution) a member of a pro-British guerrilla band that operated between the American and British lines near New York City.
–verb (used without object) 6. to work as a cowboy.

Stillwater, Oklahoma is safely located in the western U.S., so I'm cool with Oklahoma State's choice. Despite being known locally as the cowpokes, I thought the name Cowboy seemed pretty common. I am stupid for thinking that. Only McNeese State and Wyoming share the name with Oklahoma State. So there. Loses points for having anything in common with the Dallas Cowboys, and therefore PacMan Jones.

Baylor Bears. bear. noun, plural bears, (especially collectively) bear, adjective, verb, beared, bear·ing.
–noun 1. any of the plantigrade, carnivorous or omnivorous mammals of the family Ursidae, having massive bodies, coarse heavy fur, relatively short limbs, and almost rudimentary tails.
2. any of various animals resembling the bear, as the ant bear.
3. a gruff, burly, clumsy, bad-mannered, or rude person.
4. a person who believes that market prices, esp. of stocks, will decline (opposed to bull).
5. Informal. a person who shows great ability, enthusiasm, stamina, etc.: a bear for physics.
6. (initial capital letter) Astronomy. either of two constellations, Ursa Major or Ursa Minor.
7. Informal. a player at cards who rarely bluffs.
8. (initial capital letter) Russia.

The Baylor Rarely Bluffing Card Players. The Baylor Russians. The Baylor Burlies. Baylor Bears is better. But not original. 24 other schools have chosen Bears as their mascot, including the Coast Guard. Really? The Coast Guard chooses a large land mammal as it's mascot? ReallY? Do the Merchant Marines have a mascot and if so is it the Moose?

Big Ten

Ohio State Buckeyes. buck·eye. –noun, plural -eyes. 1. any of various trees or shrubs of the genus Aesculus, as A. glabra (Ohio buckeye), having palmate leaves, gray, scaly bark, and bell-shaped greenish-yellow flowers in upright clusters: the state tree of Ohio.
2. the brown nut of any of these trees.
3. (initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of Ohio (used as a nickname).
4. a butterfly, Precis lavinia, having dark-brown wings with purple or red eyespots.

A tree or its brown nut. Not exactly blood-curdling on paper. Much like Kansas, Nebraska, or Texas, Buckeye defines the state and thus an apt mascot for a university in Ohio. Susceptible to many diseases and deforestation. I don't believe the buckeye nut is edible, so they have that going for them. THE Ohio State oddly enough shares this mascot with two of its affiliate locations in Mansfield and Marion, Ohio. More like THE Ohio State Univeristy--the one in Columbus. Oh, and if you show us a good tree mascot, it will be the first.

Wisconsin Badgers. badg·er. –noun 1. any of various burrowing, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae, as Taxidea taxus, of North America, and Meles meles, of Europe and Asia.
2. the fur of this mammal.
3. Australian. a. a wombat.
b. bandicoot (def. 2).

4. (initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of Wisconsin (the Badger State) (used as a nickname).
5. a swablike device for cleaning excess mortar from the interiors of newly laid tile drains.

Yes to everything listed above including 5. Badgers are the meanest animal I've ever encountered. I once saw one attack a moving truck I was in. Nuts. These guys could potentially win the pound-for-pound title at the 2009 animal fights.

Illinois Fighting Illini. The Illiniwek (also known as the Illini, Illinois Confederacy) were a group of six Native American tribes in the upper Mississippi River valley of North America. The tribes were the Kaskaskia, the Cahokia, the Peoria, the Tamaroa, Moingwena, Michigamea, Albiui, Amonokoa, Chepoussa, Chinkoa, "Coiracoentanon," Espeminkia, Maroa, Matchinkoa, Michibousa, Negawichi and Tapouara. The name "Iliniwek" is an old Ojibwe word borrowed into French as "Illinois." The modern Ojibwe word is ininiweg, from /inin/ meaning "regular, ordinary, plain," /we/ meaning "to speak," joined with a connector vowel /i/, and an animate plural suffix /g/, which when combined means "those who speak in the ordinary way, regular way."
Thanks Wikipedia. Ol' Chief Illiniwek made his last performance in February 2007. I actually think that the Illinois mascot was one of the few Native mascots that wasn't overtly offensive. Of course, not being a Native American myself, it doesn't matter what the hell I think. Completely original any way you look at it. 4 stars.

Penn State Nittany Lions. The Nittany Lion is essentially an ordinary mountain lion (also known as a cougar, puma, or panther), a creature that roamed central Pennsylvania until the 1880s (although unconfirmed sightings continued long after that time). By attaching the prefix "Nittany" to this beast, Mason gave Penn State a unique symbol that no other college or university could claim.
So really, you avoided calling yourselves the Cougars by attaching the name of a local "mountain" to it. That's sublime. Paired with some of the best unis in the biz and you've got one helluva combo. One of a kind.

Michigan Wolverines. wol·ver·ine. –noun 1. Also called carcajou. a stocky, carnivorous North American mammal, Gulo luscus, of the weasel family, having blackish, shaggy hair with white markings.
2. (initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of Michigan (the Wolverine State) (used as a nickname).

Allow me to add that wolverines have no natural fear of humans. Most recognizable helmets in the world. The best fight song in the country (that includes you, Notre Dame). The only thing that could make it better would be a live mascot roaming the sidelines. Especially if it got loose and went after the Badger, that would be better than the actual boring Big 10 game.

Michigan State Spartans. Spar·tan. –adjective 1. Also, Spar·tan·ic [spahr-tan-ik] of or pertaining to Sparta or its people.
2. suggestive of the ancient Spartans; sternly disciplined and rigorously simple, frugal, or austere.
3. brave; undaunted.
–noun 4. a native or inhabitant of Sparta.
5. a person of Spartan characteristics.

Watch the film 300.

Iowa Hawkeyes. Hawk·eye. –noun, plural -eyes. a native or inhabitant of Iowa (used as a nickname). The term "Hawkeye" originally appeared in the book, The Last of the Mohicans, and was later used in its plural form to describe the people of Iowa. Soon thereafter, the University of Iowa borrowed this nickname for its athletic teams. The nickname was granted a symbol in 1948 when a mascot named Herky was created.[3] Herky, along with all of Iowa's athletic teams, is attired in the school's colors, black and gold.[4]
The Last of the Mohicans is a badass movie which comes from a badass novel and if Hawkeye comes from that, then right on. A for originality, but I don't get the ink blot logo. And I never watched M*A*S*H* or read comic books.

Purdue Boilermakers. boil·er·mak·er. –noun 1. a person employed to make and repair boilers or other heavy metal items.
2. whiskey with beer as a chaser.

The 2nd greatest mascot of all time? I remember thinking as a boy that a boilermaker was just the cartoon version of Gene Keady. (Pete asks: what the hell is the best mascot of all time? This is it for me.)

Indiana Hoosiers. Hoo·sier. –noun 1. a native or inhabitant of Indiana (used as a nickname).
2. (usually lowercase) any awkward, unsophisticated person, esp. a rustic.

I'm guessing Indiana University is going with the former and not the latter. Unfair advantage due to Gene Hackman's awesome acting chops.

Minnesota Golden Gophers. Goldy Gopher is the mascot for the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus and the associated sports teams. The Gopher mascot is a tradition as old as the state. Minnesota was tabbed the “Gopher State” in 1857 after a political cartoon ridiculing the $5 million Railroad Loan which helped open up the West. The cartoon portrayed shifty railroad barons as striped gophers pulling a railroad car carrying the Territorial Legislature toward the "Slough of Despond". Later, the university picked up the nickname, as the first U of M yearbook bearing the name "Gopher Annual" appeared in 1887.
Original. Comical. Adorable. Not exactly characteristics that translate into successful football as evidenced by the years 1887-

Northwestern Wildcats. (see State, Kansas). What is it with Wildcats and the color purple? You would think a school with this many smart people would come up with something a little more creative. And amazingly, Bulldogs is still available for either the Big 10 or the Big 12. So is Webolos...

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