I make ’em, then I break ’em. But if it’s January, then I’ve got New Sports Year resolutions. As always, I make these with the best of intentions:
1. Follow Shawn Eichorst around at a Nebraska football game.
I happened to look down at the Husker sideline during the Music City Bowl and there was the NU athletic director. But Eichorst wasn’t just on the sideline, a la Jerry Jones, he was in the middle of the bench area, standing behind the Husker coaching staff.
Not even Jerry has thought of that.
Apparently Eichorst has done this before and I hadn’t noticed. Shame on me for missing a good story. In 40 years of covering college football, this is the most unusual thing I’ve seen since Woody Widenhofer.
I don’t remember ever seeing an A.D. on a football bench area, on a basketball bench or in a baseball dugout during a game — unless Barry Alvarez was actually coaching Wisconsin. At times Eichorst was high-fiving players and offering support. What do the Husker coaches think about this? I don’t recall seeing Eichorst on Bo Pelini’s bench.
I’m going to keep an eye on this. If I could get to hang out with the A.D. on the bench, that would be Pulitzer stuff.
2. Get myself to the gym more often — that is, the Creighton Championship Center and the Hendricks Training Complex to watch basketball practice. Note to self: Make sure you leave before they start doing wind sprints.
3. Give the Nebraska quarterback — whoever it is — a break next fall. Whether it’s wily Tulane veteran Tanner Lee or newbie Patrick O’Brien, there’s going to be some rust. It’s not going to be perfect.
4. Remember to give all college and high school athletes a break. They’re not professionals.
5. Take in a UNO men’s basketball game and talk Omaha Racers days with Steve Idelman.
6. Don’t complain about how long it takes to play the College World Series. After all, I’m not paying for two weeks in a hotel.
7. Do not razz or hound the officials during my daughters’ sporting events. They’re only human. Man, how do you veterans of kids sports do it?
8. Find a new NFL team to root for if the Chargers leave for L.A. and “rebrand” or change their name.
9. Cover an NCAA tourney Sweet 16 game or a Rose Bowl game. These are the best resolutions. They aren’t up to me.
10. Take my daughters to a baseball game and sit in the bleachers. Or, it can be soccer, basketball or volleyball, etc. It’s the experience that counts. And the ice cream.
» Here’s the best part about Husker Hoops’ 2-0 start: When you win at Indiana and Maryland, there’s no team or barn left on the schedule that should intimidate you. Where can’t they win? Who can’t they beat? For those analytics keeping score at home, NU is up to 49 in the RPI. There are five Big Ten teams higher: Minnesota (11), Illinois (26), Maryland (29), Michigan State (34) and Northwestern (47). What that says is that the Big Ten is down this year. Also, timing is everything for Tim Miles.
» This is a really tough week for Greg McDermott’s bunch. Coming off the hyped ’Nova game and hitting the early January road, where St. John’s is hot and Providence is always a tough out. These are games you win if you’re a league contender. Something tells me CU’s perimeter defense, with Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster, is going to be big.
» In the name of journalistic research, I made my way into some of Nashville’s Honky Tonks on Broadway Street last week. What I found was a time warp. None of the old music bars, including Legend’s Corner with all the great album covers on a wall, had a TV set. I found myself looking for a game to watch and none available. I mean, you had to actually talk to someone or listen to music. I had forgotten it was possible.
» Because it’s never too early to ask: Who’s the favorite in the Big Ten West in 2017?
I can see Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and the you-know-who in the mix. A lot of new quarterbacks in there. The schedules don’t necessarily favor anyone. Northwestern, which returns a lot, including quarterback Clayton Thorson, will get a lot of preseason love. But it’s going to be hard not to go with Wisconsin. This year it had key injuries, played Ohio State and Michigan and still won it.
» Another week, another defending national champ visits our lovely burg. The green people are back.
North Dakota hockey makes its annual appearance at Baxter Arena, and thanks to the NCHC for designating this a rival game. Rivalries, when forced, don’t usually pan out. But this one has so much potential, with all of the green jerseys infiltrating Aksarben Village. The passion, the North Central Conference history, the “friendly” back-and-forth between fans. It’s nearly perfect.
What the series needs is some UNO wins. The Mavs, who are 5-1-2 in their last eight games, got one last year up north, but it would help the cause if they could get one this weekend. Two, even better.
» The Music City Bowl meeting with World-Herald readers was fantastic last week in Nashville. One of the questions: If you could have Nebraska football do one thing, what would it be?
This was easy: I’d make them the Pittsburgh Steelers.
No, not the uniforms. That one’s taken.
I’m referring to the Steelers’ historic identity as the roughest, toughest crew in the NFL. They play ferocious football. They are relentless at being ferocious. That’s how they hire coaches. That’s how they draft. That’s who they are.
The blue-collar, hard-working, hard-hitting, hard-playing thing works well in Nebraska. It fits the fan base. It’s a comfort food for those years when the five-star well is dry.
Now, Pittsburgh does not play in the Super Bowl every year. But the Steelers are a regular in the playoffs, and they make a Super Bowl once in a while. In the meantime, Steeler fans like the look back in the mirror.
You can have your drop-back quarterback in this style, because you’re going to have your big back and offensive line, too. And nasty linebackers and safeties who are like dentists, they loosen teeth for a living.
If Nebraska’s going to go 9-4, do it this way, the blue-collar way, with a good share of Nebraska kids. Do it well enough and you’ll get in that Big Ten game once in a while and win it when the skill level is up.
» It’s really tempting for a bandwagon guy like me to pick the Packers to make the Super Bowl. I mean, who’s hotter than Aaron Rodgers? Unless it’s the New York Football Giants.
There will be a lot money on Green Bay vs. New England, or Dallas-New England. I don’t think the Cowboys are going to make it. The NFC champ might be whoever leaves Green Bay this weekend. I’ll stick with my preseason pick of Seattle vs. K.C. I know the Chiefs always find a way to lose in January. I know there’s Andy Reid. But they’ve gotten so many breaks and plays this year. They’re on a magical run. That game in New England will be a doozy.
» One more and I’m outta here: Every once in a while in this job, you get an adventure.
In 1988, I went from the Big Apple to the Little Apple in 24 hours, covering Missouri-Syracuse in the preseason NIT title game at Madison Square Garden on a Friday night, flying home to Kansas City the next morning and then driving to Manhattan, Kansas, for the K-State vs. Purdue game that opened Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday night.
That was fun.
Last weekend reminded me of that. On Friday afternoon, I covered Nebraska in the Music City Bowl at 2:30 p.m. Filed my column by 9:30 p.m. Went back to the hotel with the World-Herald crew to watch the Orange Bowl.
Then, up at 4 a.m. to head to the airport for a 6:45 flight to St. Louis and then connecting to Omaha. Home by 10:30 a.m., and took my limo to the CenturyLink Center.
Kidding. I don’t have a limo. But I drive a taxi for my daughters.
The Creighton-Villanova game ended around 2 p.m., or less than 24 hours from the bowl game kickoff.
One full day, two big events and an amazing rush. At 58, and nearly 40 years in this business, I still get it. I still love what I do. Why not? I’ve never worked a day in my life.
Let’s keep that a secret from my boss, though.
Journalism happens. And then you sleep — through a New Year’s Eve party. People kept talking about Mariah Carey. Maybe I’ll catch her at the Grammys.