The Curious Case of Bo-jamin’s Buttons (And The Refs That Push Them)

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I grew up watching Tom Osborne on the sidelines.  I grew up watching a man with dignity, gravitas, and a steely, quiet confidence put the finishing touches on his own Sistine Chapel of a dynasty.  I grew up believing that the football coaches at Nebraska cared more (save one William Callahan) about getting their players to succeed in their everyday lives than their success on the field and seeing coaches and teams that achieved greatness both on and off the turf of Memorial Stadium.

Bo Pelini is no Tom Osborne.  But, then again, we knew that coming in.  We welcomed Bo Pelini, our one-time fiery defensive coordinator fresh off helping to coach LSU to a national title, with open arms.  We welcomed him with patented Husker fervor and, therefore, welcomed his explosive, at-times-wild sideline demeanor.  We wanted it all.  As long as it came with more “W”s than “L”s. 

There have been speed bumps, minor detours, but all in all the program has seemed to grow with Pelini.  However, last Saturday, in the throes of a miserable 9-6 loss to a surging Texas A&M team, Pelini seemed to pull an Ndamukong Suh, swerving wildly across the road we seemed to so surely be following, and nearly crashed.

Here are some things I noticed during the game, and today during Bo’s weekly press conference.

The Penalties

Obviously the penalties were bad against A&M.  The Aggies got slapped on the wrist twice.  Nebraska got pimp-slapped across our grills with a massive, Mickey Mouse sized hand for 16 penalties.  Some of these calls were indisputable.  Some were irreconcilable.  We false-started, got multiple illegal formation penalties, and committed more offenses than Cell Block D at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.

We were undisciplined, disorganized and, as much as it pains me to say it, a good deal of this falls on the coaches.  Bo seemed so pre-occupied with constantly heckling the referees that perhaps he forgot to pull aside his team and get them in synch with one another.

Whether you subscribe to the “All Big XII officials are out to get us for leaving the conference,” theory or whether you realized, as I did, that having a screaming Italian, fire-bombing your ears with F-Bombs, would make you not want to do him any favors it, was a terrible disparity. 

There was a roughing that passer call that was out-and-out ludicrous, that left me swearing in my hotel’s TV room and a few penalties on Eric Martin on kickoffs that the geniuses at ABC simply didn’t replay, despite the well-known idea that almost all penalties are worth a second look in slow-motion.

The refs didn’t help us.  Neither did Bo’s near-aneurysm-inducing rants at every official he could get within earshot of.  Whatever the problem was, the discipline was lacking yet again in a big game.  I’m all for Bo Pelini and his passion, when he remembers to harness it, and in letting the refs know if they made a horrendous call.  But something had to give on Saturday.  And it seemed like it was the Huskers’ concentration.

Bo and Taylor Martinez

The moment that has been sports talk radio fodder, that was replayed a few times on national T.V., and that has everyone in our fair state buzzing, was when Pelini approached Taylor Martinez, jabbed his finger into Martinez’s chest and proceeded to verbally flog him.  It was like watching the whipping scene in “Roots” on replay over and over again.

I’m not sure what Martinez did to deserve such a verbal ass-kicking.  Allegedly he called his father, or texted him, or sent him smoke signals.  The rumors have been varied, with the majority of them focusing on Martinez’s contacting his father in some way.  Here’s what I believe the text would have looked like:

“OMG 😦 My Ankl hrts. Dnt wrry tho Dad. We r rotfling @ Watson’s play calls. TTYL. -Tmagic”

I’m personally hoping that Bo’s insane attack on Taylor was at least somehow justifiable.  Bo claimed in today’s presser that he and Taylor were “fine.”  It was not Bo’s finest moment, and I can only wonder what the high-profile recruits we’re after were thinking, watching Bo’s mouth spew the F-word and his face turn “Exorcist” colors.

Ben Cotton’s Mule Kick

I was shocked when Ben Cotton racked up two 15-yard penalties on one play.  He was buried in a pile after an early game fumble and, all that I saw was him kicking blindly behind him at some Aggies.  However, after watching the replay, I can only say that I wish he would’ve landed the kick.

Upon watching the slow-motion Youtube clip showing the pile-up it became abundantly clear to me that Cotton was in the right.  Here’s a link.  Check out the Aggie D-Lineman doing his best imitation of “The Nutcracker Ballet” on the field.  He was jackhammering his hand over and over again into Cotton’s junk.  Cup be damned, that’s a cardinal sin.  I’m not sure what the football version of Capitol Punishment is, but we need to sentence this reprobate, this junk-punching-pansy to it pronto.

It hurts if you sit down too hard on those bad boys and so, in this instance, I think Cotton deserves no demerits.

The Aftermath

We’re still alive and kicking in the Big XII North.  We still have a shot to achieve the goal that players and coaches have been talking about since the start of the season: winning the Big XII on our way out the door.  Harvey Pearlman, who issued a statement saying he was embarrassed of the sideline antics, and Bo are back on the same page.  Pelini was contrite, apologetic, and gave what appeared to be his best press conference to date today as he sought to douse the wildfire he lit down in Texas.

I still want Bo as our coach.  But, by your third year in, there needs to be less learning and more leading.  There needs to be less cussing and more stern-talking-to.  Bo is an emotional man.  That’s what we love about him, but it’s also what we hate about him.  It’s that conflicting emotion that makes criticizing him so difficult for me to do.

His ongoing truculence and general lack of respect for media, officials and, at times, Husker Nation have now stretched beyond growing pains and have become simple immaturity from a man looked upon to give that attribute to 18-24 year old kids that follow his lead.  He knows better.  The N on the helmet deserves better.

However, he needs go no further than his own athletic office to find guidance; to find leadership, experience and quiet fortitude.  After all, Osborne’s only a few offices away.  Here’s to hoping he takes a walk over there and sits down on Dr. Osborne’s couch.


  1. Sue Tolles says:

    I love Bo too, the fire and the passion. But…….. if hr expects his players to be in control on the field, no more personal fouls, late hits, he needs to in control of his emotions. He is a horrible example for his team. I actually enjoy watching him stand up for his guys. I ask myself how many colors of red can his face get? But, he hurt the team Saturday night and that is too far. Even his brother Carl was reluctant to intervene. I’m sure T.O. and he have already had a chat.

  2. madhat says:

    I think you said it all. Can you send a copy of this to Bo?

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