Is it time to order flowers, make a casserole and pass the Kleenex?
We are ending an era in Nebraska football, and it’s time to mourn.
With Bo Pelini out as coach, the future for one of the most popular parody accounts on Twitter is in question.
But the creator of the sweater-wearing, cat-holding, all-caps-ranting @FauxPelini said it’s not quite time to bury him yet.
Fans have urged him to keep the caricature going in the wake of the real coach’s demise, said Faux’s creator, a former Omahan we’ll refer to by his middle name, “Michael.”
When Pelini was fired Sunday, Michael was in his hometown, getting ready to load up the family SUV for a drive back to Chicago. The long holiday weekend had been filled with family, food and football. Michael had tweeted away as Faux during the Husker-Hawkeye game Friday. He savored the overtime win, with jubilant tweets:
FOOTBALL IS THE GREATEST THING SOMETIMES— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 28, 2014
And after what he then believed was a job-saving win for Pelini:
I LIVE— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 28, 2014
Even on Saturday, he exulted:
I LOVE SPORTS— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 28, 2014
So Michael was caught off-guard when, during Sunday morning packing, he checked Twitter and saw Pelini had been fired. He immediately switched to Faux-mode and began punching in his own stunned response:
WAIT WHAT— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 30, 2014
Michael later said that might have been the truest tweet he’d ever sent.
“Like a lot of people, I thought he was OK after Friday,” he said of Pelini. “I figured he was in the clear for another season. I didn’t see it coming. Didn’t even have it on my radar screen.”
Then he sent a succession of tweets that show a progression through the stages of grief.
THAT'S IT I QUIT— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 30, 2014
Then Faux’s forte, anger:
CAN I GO BACK INTO THE STADIUM AND SAY GOODBYE ONE LAST TIME ALSO WHERE IS MY BLOWTORCH— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 30, 2014
Next is bargaining:
I HEREBY OFFER TO COACH NEBRASKA IN THE BOWL GAME I CAN DO IT VIA TWITTER HOW HARD CAN IT BE— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 30, 2014
AT THE END OF THE DAY THIS PRESS CONFERENCE BLOWS— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 30, 2014
Tweeting as Faux delayed his family’s departure by an hour. And for the first leg of the trip, Michael’s wife took the wheel so he could absorb and consume the Pelini news and respond as Faux. His tweets were favorited and forwarded thousands of times. He heard a lot of support from followers. And he considered his sudden change in fortune.
By Monday, Michael had arrived at that final stage of grief: acceptance.
“It’s so surreal that ‘sad’ isn’t exactly the right word,” he said.
Michael said he’s not sure what the future holds for Faux.
Will Michael keep Faux going as some sort of ghost of Nebraska football? Maybe.
Will he follow him to another coaching job? Probably not. Michael isn’t too keen on devoting football Saturdays to another college team and learning their fans, their system.
Will he create another fake Nebraska coach account? Not likely. Parodies need strong characters and Michael said anyone but Pelini would be a real departure.
Michael launched the parody account four years ago and has seen @FauxPelini explode, particularly in the last year. When Bo Pelini finally — and publicly — acknowledged the existence of the fake account by reaching out to Faux in January, the Twitterverse loved it.
“I want my cat back,” the real coach tweeted at the fake one.
It was one of many tweeted interactions between real athletes and entities and the fake Husker coach. He talked punting with Michigan State’s Mike Sadler. He talked Nebraska’s loss with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department.
Often these back-and-forths attracted media attention, giving the fake persona an elevated platform. Michael, speaking as Faux, went on talk radio. He has served as a contributor for sbnation.com, a sports website.
His followers have more than doubled since last year. And his appeal has grown well beyond Nebraska. As of last count, just 37 percent of @FauxPelini’s followers lived in Nebraska. Other top followers’ states included Kansas, Iowa and Texas. About 7 percent of followers live in other countries.
Michael hasn’t made much money off Faux. But that hasn’t been the point. He started the account in 2010 to have fun and scratch a comic itch. He said he knew it couldn’t last forever — and if Pelini had remained at Nebraska for 20 years, well, Faux wouldn’t have been religiously tweeting that whole time. The fake voice, Michael said, could start sounding contrived.
“There are only so many ways you can flip out over a touchdown pass,” he said.
“There had to be a break point,” Michael said. “Sometimes the break point chooses you. Sometimes you choose the break point.”
Will this be it? Certainly, with Bo gone from Husker football, Faux won’t be the same. It was a fun four-year run.
To quote Faux, HOORAY FOR THAT.
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Faux Pelini on The Bottom Line in August