Photo by Pat Radigan
By Pat Radigan
So a few things happened yesterday, in case you didn’t hear.
So a few things happened yesterday, in case you didn’t hear.
And while I did not ever envision the timing working out the way it did, we’re now fully engrossed in this new world where every Husker fan with a computer or a radio station to call into is an expert on athletic director searches.
Or they have some sort of hot take about what really got Eichorst fired, and all sorts of similar nonsense. But what no one is saying, is that all these takes, ‘memories’ and reflections are really just ways to say: “Look at me!”
Look at me: I remember a time where Shawn Eichorst was a good guy, so listen to a story I’m mostly making up and sensationalizing.
Look at me: This one time, I brought in sandwiches for a catering gig, and he didn’t shake my hand the same way as Tom Osborne. Square peg, round hole.
Look at me: Eichorst was mean to me as a reporter, never told me stories about his wife and kids and didn’t answer my questions, so he clearly was not a good person and I was right all along that he’d get fired.
They all seem like ways to personalize or a story, or to add “context” to the narrative, but it all comes back to individuals who just want to make every story and development about their experience and perspective.
But how about some real news before I get too carried away?
What’s Going On
9/2/17 | 2:30 p.m.
9/1/17 | 7:05 p.m.
No. 7 Penn State
9/24/17 | 1:05 p.m.
No. 14 Nebraska vs.
No. 2 Penn State
9/22/17 | 7 p.m.
University Park, PA
No. 14 Nebraska vs.
9/23/17 | 6 p.m.
9/22/17 | 3:30 p.m.
9/24/17 | 1 & 3 p.m.
About Penn State
No, this has nothing to do with how the Nittany Lions rebuilt their program. This is not a message board.
This is about the type of competitive success that chancellor Ronnie Green was talking about in yesterday’s news conference: Penn State is one of three programs who has a top 10 volleyball and women’s soccer program. And Nebraska plays them in both this weekend.
It starts when No. 14 Nebraska visits No. 2 Penn State to kick off the opening weekend of Big Ten volleyball action, with the Huskers hosting the soccer portion of the festivities when No. 7 Penn State visits Hibner Stadium on Sunday.
Now would also be a good time to mention that Penn State is also ranked No. 4 for football. And while that program is just now responding, it was the elite women’s teams that carried the torch during tough times in State College. Picking up what I’m laying down yet?
Regardless of Penn State’s path, though, it’s going to be a crucial weekend for both NU programs set to battle the Nittany Lions. And at a time where the performance of all Husker squads has been called into question, it could be a significant moment for Nebraska to show that NU is already working toward competitive excellence.
We already wrote this year about how significant it was for Nebraska soccer to find its way back into the national rankings, and as I write this the streamers from the volleyball team’s national championship win hang from the wall behind me, so there are definitely signs of progress. But yesterday’s move made it clear that those in charge of the Big Red want to keep their foot on the gas.
No matter what happens this weekend for volleyball, the Huskers still have a solid claim as being the top program in the country, but this weekend, and its timing, could have huge repercussions for the future of the program. Nebraska is the fourth team listed as a receiving votes in this week’s poll, and will face an Ohio State team that is also receiving votes before Sunday’s top 10 showdown with Penn State.
Maybe I’m just drinking the sunshine-laced Koolaid, but there’d be something quite fitting about Nebraska being one of a handful of teams ranked in volleyball and soccer after this week.
Always In Season
Speaking of redefining competitive excellence, it’s that time of fall again where Husker softball starts its grind with the fall portion of practice and exhibition play.
And it only took a few questions of Husker coach Rhonda Revelle and senior-to-be Kaylan Jablonski to make it clear that Nebraska is looking to re-establish itself on the national scene, and this was before any of this week’s development.
Nebraska went 24-29 a year ago, and saw its season end in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Sure, there were injuries and roster holes to fill, but Revelle and the squad were the first to tell you that’s softball, you still have to deliver. And while the results and record may look rough, there are still some signs of progress.
At the time the game was played, Nebraska played 21 ranked teams last year. That included eight of the first 11 games, and the three teams that weren’t ranked all received votes. Injuries also forced young players into more prominent roles, and the Huskers will get those injured players back, as well as nationally touted reinforcements in the form of freshman and the top JUCO pitcher.
But the Huskers aren’t just hoping that’s enough. Both Revelle and Jablonski talked about ways Nebraska is changing their approach and refocusing. Maybe it’s just me, but when a coach with over 900 wins 25 years of experience talks about reinvention, I think it’s worth listening.
If that’s not enough, though, consider this quote from Jablonski. No one is hiding from last year, or making excuses. They’re simply eager to get back on the field for the fall season and work toward the same goal as every year: A trip to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series.
“It’s not like, ‘Hey we’re going to brush it under the rug and it doesn’t matter.’ This is going to fuel us,” she said. “Even those that weren’t here, we made it known that that is never going to happen again… That’s not our goal. We have one goal as a team.”
Your Featured Presentation…
Sports and Me: A Cautionary Tale
Or: The little boy who cried hashtag GBR.
And now back to the nonsense.
I feel I made my point above, but there is one example I wanted to bring up to show you what I mean. This is far from the only example, and I’m going to spend more time on this with a column next week, but I think it’s vitally important for all Husker fans to understand how complicated things get when subtle, attention-seeking tactics meet real drama and feelings.
In case you are one of the lucky few that has avoided Twitter, there’s been a bit of a “discussion” going on since news broke yesterday. On one side are mainstream Husker fans, most of the recently graduated football players and anyone that reads the Omaha World-Herald. The other side consists of most of the recently graduated athletes from the other sports and Husker fans that don’t typically have the bloodlust and attention span issues that define sports radio consumers.
And as things heated up, both sides kept offering up examples and ‘reasons’ why they were right. That’s what brought us to this tweet.
A personal memory of Shawn Eichorst in Lincoln pic.twitter.com/9f0ZGsG2A7
— Kevin Sjuts (@kevinsjuts) September 22, 2017
Seems thoughtful and innocent enough, right? Well, until you get to this reply.
This cross country athlete may or may not have been a men’s golfer. https://t.co/mKZB7jkwyf
— Nate Wong (@alliseeisgolf) September 22, 2017
That’s former Husker Nate Wong, the one who was in the accident, in case you didn’t catch up. He also revealed the text he got from Eichorst during that time. When I first saw this, I laughed at the honest slip up by Sjuts, but the more I think about it the more it troubles me.
Kevin is a good guy, and I’ve seen over years that he is much more respectable than most of his peers, but in this moment he chose to try and provide his perspective, via a touching moment, even when he wasn’t sure what he was talking about. After Nate replied and corrected the story, there was no follow up tweet or reply about the mistake, it was just left as is.
That’s twisted to me. I’m used to hot takes being based in bullshit, but this concept that “Hey, I don’t have to actually think about the truth or other people if I’m offering up a positive memory” is almost just as troubling.
After that story and that interaction, other Huskers fans found their way to Wong’s Twitter account. He had to deal with fans calling Eichorst a snake, and strangers belittling the gesture of the hospital visit just because they were mad about football. Wong tweeted about how Eichorst’s leadership brought cost of living scholarships to all student-athletes, and mentioned the computers that were bought for them and the creation of a program that paid for student-athletes to get experience in the ‘real world.’
And then he had to argue with strangers about all of it, just because his story was thrust into the spotlight for the sake of RTs and attention.
It’s easy to feel tough on Twitter, and to be so hellbent on making a point that you forget the people and stories we post are about real people, with real emotions and feelings. But what isn’t so easy is realizing that maybe this quest for “Hey, look at me and my experiences” has a cost.
If Nebraska fans don’t figure that out soon enough, it’ll become painfully obvious in the years to come.