I can’t say that I was rooting for South Carolina, but by the fourth quarter I was glad that Nebraska was going to lose their bowl game, which they certainly didn’t deserve to win. The coach has become an embarrassment, and as the coach goes, so goes the team. One cannot ultimately be a winner without self-control. If you can goad your opponent into losing his cool, your chances of success increase dramatically.
Over the last few years I have watched Bo Pelini, coach of the football Huskers, with increasing distress. As he stalks and fumes along the sidelines, he demonstrates week after week that he is a man with little self-control. And he has passed this gift on to his players. One thing you can count on with the Huskers of the last few years is that when the going gets tough, the pressure will get to them and they will melt down with penalties and turnovers. That’s a problem of self-control.
This fundamental flaw was even more pronounced as I watched the contrast between Pelini and Steve Spurrier, coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. I haven’t followed his career closely, but from what I have seen, he appears to be a class act. Both teams received some bad calls, and while Pelini went nuclear on the officiating staff and then pouted the rest of the game, Spurrier seemed to understand it’s part of the game – human officials that make human mistakes.
I became an ardent fan of Husker football back in the day when Coach Osborne produced young men who were for the most part good citizens, good sportsmen, and as a result, good winners and honorable losers, when they did lose. I became an ardent fan when I realized that Husker fans were of the same stock as Coach Osborne and his student athletes. Pelini, on the other hand, has every appearance of being the caricature of a jock: full of himself, and no patience (complete with a little temper tantrum) when he doesn’t get his own way. I have watched with increasing distress the childish antics of a selfish and seemingly out-of-control coach. I’ve watched as he has taught his players to act in much the same way.
I hope Tom Osborne, the Athletic Director, was watching with the same alarm. And I sincerely hope that the Huskers can find a coach who is an honorable man. Whether that comes about through a conversion of character with Bo Pelini or a new coach who actually respects sportsmanship, it doesn’t matter. Until then, I will continue to watch with muted and embarrassed support.