Coach's Corner

Outlined

against a blue-gray October sky...." Oh, yeah, that line has been used before. And the Thanksgiving weekend did indeed replicate the nasty weather conditions Grantland Rice described so nicely 60 years ago. To normal people, cold, rainy, gray conditions might signal the onset of severe depression, a change for the worse, indisposition at least.

For me, a glorious autumn weekend can trigger acute, guilt-driven melancholia. I should be outside -- walking, riding, playing -- but I wish to stay indoors. Late autumn, I believe, is a time reserved by God himself for televised sports. This divine order can be and too often is disturbed by extenuating circumstances. Children can present a problem -- demanding creatures that they are, wanting rides to the mall, lunch, and, most vexing, complete control of the heart of my home: the remote control. A sleeping companion, no matter how understanding, demands attention some time.

Last weekend I was repaid for all my good deeds of the past year. The kids were with mom. The girlfriend traveled home. It was cold. It was raining. Dallas/Washington, UT/A&M, Colorado/Nebraska. To gorge myself further, a Texas/Nebraska volleyball tiff and golf on Saturday and Sunday. To think that I once thought getting drunk on Friday night was fun. It's nice to be so damn mature. It's a good life.

Thanksgiving Day, 6:43am: Snugly nestled between 150 lbs. of dog -- how quickly old habits return -- I don't know how many times the phone rang. It's my daughter. We -- the dogs, a small child, and a well-known essayist -- planned to run in the Thundercloud TurkeyTrot. Drip-drip-drip goes the cold rain. I don't want to go. The daughter does. I tell her, I'm certain the essayist would never take her child out in these conditions. We should stay home. Seconds later, the essayist calls. She wants to know what time the race starts. Hours later, two drenched adults, a sullen teenager, a desperately crying child, and two mud-covered dogs pile into a tiny pickup truck. The rest of the afternoon is pleasantly spent in a dark, warm room, watching football.

Friday, 9am: I stagger into the pressbox -- with a grandé eggnog latté -- bloated from Thanksgiving. Mid-morning is a ridiculous time for a football game. The Aggies opened the season with a new passing offense, complete with a poster-boy quarterback Brandon Stewart. Stewart has been savagely flagellated by the Aggie faithful as the cause for a lousy season. From my seat, the case against Stewart is inconclusive. A passing offense requires a coach who believes in what he's doing. R.C. Slocum knows as much about passing as Bevo does about trigonometry. A&M's receivers can't catch, a problem in a passing attack. Their first reception of the game came with 42 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Already forgotten are the two dropped bombs. Also overlooked, a long season of drops. Making matters worse, they run sloppy, time-consuming routes, causing Stewart to hold the ball forever and to get smashed into the turf, after his line, again, fails to protect him. An astoundingly lethargic Aggie performance led to the 51-15 Farmer slaughter. A new coach might be a good idea.

The Horns have a legit, puncher's chance against Nebraska. A few early Cornhusker turnovers and some UT big plays... anything can happen. Don't count on it, though.

Frank Erwin Center, 6:25pm: It's a different experience, a big-mouthed know-it-all sportsfan -- me -- going to an event where even the most elementary fundamentals of the game are foreign. Do they play halves, quarters, or what? Timeouts? Players on a team? I got handed a stat sheet, normally an insider's guide to the game. It's as foreign to me as the Dead Sea Scrolls. I'm not sure how many points it takes to win.

But I know enough. I know Nebraska (The Razorbacks of the Plains) and UT are ranked in the Top 10. I very much want to see the Cornhuskers eat leather. (A proper volleyball expression?) You see, I don't like Nebraska. Indeed, as an old love can be rekindled, so can an ancient hatred burn anew. I went to college, long ago, in the
Big 8. A hundred thousand students at seven large universities hated Nebraska. Why? Because then, as now, they beat the shit out of everyone every fall Saturday.

We'll soon be wondering (beginning Saturday), as students long have marveled in Ames, Stillwater, and Columbia, how a nice girl from Honolulu, like Nebraska's captain Fiona Nepo, or a street-wise halfback from Los Angeles would willingly agree to spend four years in the frigid garbage scow that is Lincoln, Nebraska.

So, though referee's decisions are as obtuse to me as an encroachment call might be to a rice farmer from the Mekong Delta, I knew enough to hate, thus I knew enough to enjoy. I need another team to root against. Cowboy-hating is causing too many migraines. Unfortunately, after the Huskers' efficient annihilation of a good Texas team, the forecast is for many more Husker red headaches.

Mark my words: In a few years, you'll be fondly reminiscing about the maroon-clad agrarians from the east and the gentle, jovial sand-tillers from Norman. Our relationship with Nebraska will not be warm.

Write me: Coach36@aol.com

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