Photo by Pat Radigan
By Pat Radigan
Being “close” isn’t always good enough.
And I don’t just mean when it comes to the scoreboard and you are playing a mid-major school in a sport Nebraska is usually pretty good at. That lesson was made brutally clear this weekend.
I’m talking about the dangers of being close, or even just feeling like you’re close, to feeling like what’s happening on the field is as simple as having a hot take. And that includes members of the media, any sort of “expert analyst” and all the way down to the Twitter famous “run the ball guy.”
What if I were to tell you it’s not just harmless banter? That this ecosystem of flaming hot takes and message board experts is a deliberate part of how the sports media makes its money, would that catch your attention?
Well, feast your appetite on a couple of our own hot takes, and then we’ll explain. You see, that’s how this whole thing works…
We’ve waited this long, and finally football and volleyball are back in Lincoln. What else is there to say?
What’s Going On
Nebraska – 17
Arkansas State – 21
Recap | Photos
No. 10 Nebraska – 3
Kansas St. – 0
Recap | Stats
No. 10 Nebraska – 1
N. Iowa – 3
Recap | Stats
No. 10 Nebraska – 3
Omaha – 0
Recap | Stats
A Bold New World
Nebraska volleyball lost to an unranked, non-conference opponent this weekend.
Are we still here? Is this real life? Did I really just type those words and mean them?
Yeah, I get it. You may not be freaking out the same way, but this truly is rarified air.
Since taking over the Nebraska program, Husker coach John Cook has accomplished a lot, but there are two things he hasn’t done much of: Losing to unranked opponents, and losing to teams outside of the major conferences.
In his 18 seasons in charge, Cook hast lost to unranked opponents 13 times, and has only lost to a mid-major program four times. And two of those losses to mid-majors came to No. 8 Long Beach State in 2001 at a tournament, and a loss on the home court of No. 15 Colorado State in 2011.
That means that Saturday was just the second time in his entire tenure that Cook has seen his Husker squad go down to an unranked, non-conference team. And I don’t mean this to be negative or a sign that the sky is falling, it’s just somewhat fascinating to examine just how dominant NU has been.
After beating Nebraska, Northern Iowa moved into the AVCA poll this week for the first time in five years. When Florida A&M beat Nebraska, they didn’t immediately move into the rankings, but made it into the top 25 by the end of the 2004 season. As far as I can tell from the program’s available stats, it’s the only time Florida A&M has ever been ranked.
The flipside of that upset is pretty remarkable too: After falling to Florida A&M that year at the Coliseum, Nebraska ran the table on the rest of the regular season. In fact, the only losses the Huskers had during the two years following that loss came to USC in the Elite Eight in 2004, and a loss to Washington in the national championship match in 2005.
It wouldn’t be until Nov. 11, 2006 that the Huskers lost again, when unranked Colorado upset No. 1 Nebraska in what would be NU’s only loss that season. After that loss, the Huskers ran the table again and won a national championship.
So yeah, it’s rare for Nebraska volleyball to lose to an unranked non-conference foe, but what happens next is usually pretty significant.
Paying attention to sports not named football or basketball is what we do best, but last week was something I can’t remember seeing in eight years of covering Nebraska athletics.
The Nebraska soccer team’s game against Iowa was postponed because multiple Huskers were ill during the week. Inside sources confirmed that there was a doctor involved in signing off on the postponement, but it’s still something I can’t remember seeing–especially in Big Ten play.
OK, so maybe the sources were the Husker sports information staff, and shockingly the doctors weren’t willing to violate the privacy of the student athletes and disclose medical information, but it was still a head-scratcher for all parties on the outside.
All that’s in the past, though, as Nebraska hosts a pair of the Big Ten’s best for a trial by fire to open conference play. So with or without a surgical mask, I’d recommend you make your way to Hibner Stadium this weekend to see how the Huskers look after a week off.
Your Featured Presentation…
Pumping the Brakes
Finding a happy medium between
truth and bullshit
It’s Wednesday, and the sun has come out each day since Saturday. You made it Lincoln, you survived the ‘end of the world.’
Or something like that. That’s at least how things felt after Nebraska fell to Northern Illinois and the collective media swarmed Shawn Eichorst like he was Burt Reynolds.
And while anyone with a Twitter account and access to a keyboard fired off a hot take about how significant Eichorst’s appearance was, the more significant part is that most of the gathered media didn’t even realize what was going on until the rest of the camera wielding “reporters” surrounded Nebraska’s athletic director. They caught up just in time to get a second interview in a group setting after Eichorst went 1-on-1 with Lee Barfknecht in his first round. Eichorst even had time for a round 3 in the form of an “exclusive 1-on-1” with a local TV station where he was asked the same questions he’d just fielded in a 300-style media shield.
Seems like the perfect environment to ask and answer meaningful questions, not just an all out media frenzy… right?.
But as I read the prevailing quotes, takes and columns, it hit me just how little your typical fan understands how much guesswork goes into this whole sports prognosticating.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not holier-than-thou enough to say “don’t have an opinion” if you work in sports media. What bothers me is how much the collective personalities and reporters know they are spewing speculation, but they buy into it because they know it makes Twitter, message boards and aging male Husker fans go nuts.
Your outrage and disagreement are part of their business model, a concept touched upon by former NFL punter and overall societal savior Chris Kluwe. As part of an academic conference at the University of Wisconsin, during a panel discussion on ethics and sports media, Kluwe talked about how much he loathes ESPN’s “First Take” and blamed in on what he called the “golden means fallacy.”
In Kluwe’s eyes, the decision to sensationalize takes is paramount to the model of ‘sports entertainment shows’ and radio. It’s all about representing two viewpoints, “one of which is true, and one of which is bullshit,” but then falling back on the safety net that “somehow the truth must be somewhere in the middle.”
It’s like rattling off a whole list of things someone has “done” and then including “allegedly” as the last word, like it makes it any less condemning.
Sure it’s great for clicks, and seeing those notifications on Twitter is a weird endorphin release I can’t quite explain, but there are side effects to having a culture caught up in this sort of ‘Golden Mean Garbage.’
I’ll take a closer look at this later in the fall in a “Minding the Media Circus,” but just something to think about as we deal with the continual state of the ‘sky falling’ in the world of many Husker fans, and a handful of opportunistic media personalities.