How About Not Ever Doing It Again?

Nebraska backed up the sideline talk, scoring the final 20 points in a 30-27 win, riding a wave of momentum created by Martinez’s playmaking skills, a run-stuffing front seven and towel-waving Memorial Stadium crowd. The No. 20 Huskers tied the second-biggest comeback in school history.

via Nebraskas big rally beats Wisconsin – Omaha.com.

“We knew we had done it before,” quarterback Taylor Martinez told The Omaha World-Herald, referring to the Huskers’ coming back from a big deficit.

That, in a nutshell, is Nebraska’s college football program.

While it was a little shocking and very disappointing to watch a fairly one-dimensional Wisconsin team — with perhaps the only quarterback in the so-called Big Ten with more suspect passing ability than Mr. Martinez — jump out to a 14-0 lead, it should not have been a surprise.

The Huskers are a club with only middling prospects. The defense is devoid of stars, the offense of consistency. The team’s chief recommendation as a contender for the conference title is not that it is particularly good, it is that its rivals are particularly average. But not-good Nebraska is not so poorly coached that it can be demoralized by twice falling behind an opponent by 17 points.

Of course, that is a sort of good-news,-bad-news proposition: Good for you that you didn’t quit, but why did you get in so much trouble in the first place?

Wisconsin, meanwhile, is not the toughest team on Nebraskas schedule. …this Wisconsin team is not very good. It is a team that champions should beat.

via Wisconsin vs. Nebraska: Huskers Resiliency Saves Chance at Special Season | Bleacher Report.

On Saturday, Nebraska looked a little ragged and confused, which is baffling for a homecoming game. Coach Bo Pelini uses a system, on both offense and defense, that relies heavily on substitutions, and several times the defense was nearly caught unawares. With a club made up of solely of players Mr. Pelini recruited, that kind of poor execution is not exactly an endorsement of his management.

But at halftime, Mr. Pelini gamely consulted his encyclopedia of cliches, and found time to make a few on-field adjustments, too. “It’s a 60-minute game,” Mr. Pelini said afterward.

The defense held Wisconsin to 90 yards in the second half, seeming to tire the Badgers out as the game wore on. “There’s momentum swings,” Mr Pelini said. On offense, Nebraska stuck to its strength in the face of the deficit, racking up 259 rushing yards. “You gotta play every play and try and outlast it,” Mr. Pelini said. The success on the ground gave the ungainly passer in Mr. Martinez breathing room, and he threw for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns. “It’s a fistfight,” Mr. Pelini said.

Over all, it was not the sort of performance you’d expect from a club that had lost respect for its coach. And, in the end, it ought to have been good enough.

“Contrary to what you guys think,” Mr. Pelini said after the game, “I haven’t forgotten how to coach defense and how to stop the run.”

Possibly, Mr. Pelini is not the problem. Probably, Nebraska’s fans are. They do not seem to have noticed that the club is no longer the powerhouse it was for four or five seasons in the 1990s.

It is hard to blame them when some sportswriters seem to be similarly confused. The World-Herald’s Tom Shatel watched Saturday’s game and asked himself, “Just think what this offense could do if it would get out of its own way.”

Of course, the only thing more annoying than the red-golf-shirted Dad, screaming on his couch, is the preening apologist who deludes himself that he is the rational one.

As it stands now, the haters will have to be quiet for at least another week. They’ll have to glumly admit that “Martinez played well, but…”, that Pelini’s defense “came through when it mattered, but…”

via Huskers Martinez, Pelini Silence the Haters… For Now | Husker Beat.

The Huskers aren’t worthy of your hate. But neither are they worthy of much praise. There were, as The Lincoln Journal-Star’s Steve Sipple said, “too many breakdowns to count — that’s not an exaggeration.”

For one thing, just consider the idea of a “record comeback.” For most of my life, I do not recall ever reading that phrase in reference to the Huskers. Now, in the past two seasons, twice wags have added new victories to the record comeback list.

No matter how stirring a rally is, it still represents a failure. And that is all you need to know.

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It’s Time to Crack the Coconuts

Somebody has to win the Big Ten this season.

via Shatel: Statement season starts with Wisconsin – Omaha.com.

Just because it happened to be on TV yesterday, I will mention the film “Pagan Love Song” (MGM, 1950).

I could not avoid catching a few moments of this forgettable musical before I left for work, and my first thought was that it must be one of Hollywood’s most subtly racist movies — the movie is fairly overrun by mumbling natives, and the protagonist Hazard Endicott (played with broad-grinning, G-rated sex appeal by Howard Keel) confuses Mimi Bennett (Esther Williams!) (I know!) for a Tahitian native throughout a series of “Three’s Company”-esque meetings.

My second thought was to ruminate on Mr. Endicott’s oft-stated wish in the film: “I just want to rest,” he said, Todd Rundgen-like, while sitting in the sun.

Mr. Endicott didn’t want to work. Anyway, his native servants told him his native neighbors would do that for him. Ironically, that sloth is part of what propels him toward the wow-is-she-pretty Ms. Bennett.

It is — and as stretches go, this is not so bad — not unlike the forces at work right now in college football, nudging Nebraska toward a championship in the so-called Big Ten — or so we are led to believe. The Huskers won’t have to do any of the work; their neighbors will do it for them.

“Somebody has to win the Big Ten this season,” The Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel writes.

He will never be more right.

We have observed in this space the inexplicable rebound in optimism about the Huskers’ prospects, and followed its roots to the poor competition among their conference peers. Mr. Shatel sees it more clearly than most.

“To make history in their second Big Ten go-around,” he writes with unacknowledged ostentation of the Huskers, “they simply must get out of their own way.”

Go back to the porch, in other words, and wait for a dozen sarong-wrapped extras to render your coconuts for you.

Tonight’s game against Wisconsin is the first opportunity for Nebraska to embrace its own sloth. But as Mr. Shatel himself notes, “It’s not a very compelling formula.”

No, it’s not; not in “Pagan Love Song,” either.

Mr. Endicott’s final misstep before beginning to properly woo the nubile and dazzling Ms. Bennett is to show up at a party in native dress. As he sheepishly allows himself, showing not a little bit of leg, to be introduced to linen-suited party guests, one of his native servants arrives — hilarious! — wearing a suit.

As parties go, it is not unlike the game against Wisconsin. Each team will be wearing alternative uniforms. Nebraska’s is like something out of a Judge Dredd comic; players will have a giant N stamped on their chest. Mr. Shatel refers to the crass, transparent attempt to sell jerseys as “an Andy Warhol fashion show.”

So that is where Nebraska is left, perched on the beginning of a semi-memorable run to mediocrity. If only it can keep from depantsing itself.

How Wrong We Are on How Mad They Are

 

It is true that Innocence of Muslims is a risibly crude, bigoted diatribe against Islam. But the idea that this obscure film that barely anyone had seen till this month is the source of worldwide violence is equally risible. As in the Rushdie affair, what we are seeing is a political power struggle cloaked in religious garb.

via THE MYTHS OF MUSLIM RAGE « Pandaemonium.

These calls reflect a paranoid worldview that is widespread among Muslims that their religion is under some kind of global assault. If so—because Islam is spreading faster than almost any other religion, with the possible exception of Mormonism—its an odd kind of siege. In reality, Islam is thriving in its countries of origin and spreading quickly into the West.

via Lebanon news – NOW Lebanon -Blasphemy: an indispensable human right.

 

Word of the Week: Obdurate

 

So, avuncular (unclelike), saturnine (sluggish), sybaritic (pleasure-loving), antediluvian (primitive), concomitant (accompanying), uxorious (fawning), lucubrate (laborious studying), vulpine (foxlike), fissiparous (fractious), skeuomorph (look it up yourself) and how about …obdurate?

After a few weeks in the tall grass of Internet dictionaries, I propose a return to the comforting hearth-smoke of Webster’s Fourth and my sturdy, handwritten cards of vocabulary words. Obdurate (AHB-der-itt), an adjective, from the Latin obduratus (to harden), is defined as “not easily moved to pity or sympathy; hardhearted.” It is snug in the pages of my dictionary between obcordate, an adjective for leaf-loving botanists that means “heart-shaped and joined to the stem at the apex,” and O.B.E., an abbreviation for Order of the British Empire.

The adverb, naturally, is obdurately, and some wags think you can swing a verb out of the deal, especially if you draw out the last syllable into an “ate.” (Mitt Romney’s bumbling political style has obdurated me against him forever.) But Webster’s Fourth does not agree, and I think you end up sounding like a member of the O.B.E. For the noun form, go with obduracy over obdurateness or obduration or anything else.

Anyway, that is fun, right? Such a useful word. So many applications, probably some of them sitting not too far from you in the office.

Really, though, I picked this word because of its delicious versatility. The succeeding alternative definitions are “2, hardened and unrepenting; impenitent,” and “3, not giving in readily; stubborn; obstinate; inflexible.” Obstinate! Impenitent! Like the opposite of Indiana Jones’s penitent man. (Chop!)

Now. To be honest, I had a mind to pick callipygian, an adjective, meaning “having shapely buttocks,” partly in response to the choice of uxorious that was imposed on me some weeks ago. But I obdurately stuck to my guns. (Get it?)

Anyway, a Google search for callipygian is a M.N.S.F.W. misadventure in Kim Kardashian articles. Obdurate is far more durable. Observe:

  • From The Daily News! “More than 75 percent of MPs are in favor of parliament functioning normally but the BJP is being ‘obdurate and stubborn’ in holding up proceedings over the coal blocks allocation, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said Monday.”
  • The Financial Times! “Egregious recent examples of bad corporate governance suggest that some very old governance chestnuts remain as obdurate as ever.”
  • The Irish Post! “We’ve seen his side take commanding leads in both games but, obdurate as ever, Kilkenny have always charged back at them.”

 

On Optimists Who May Need Optometrists

…The Huskers preseason more or less boiled down to beating UCLA, and the defense simply failed to show up on the road. While their loss looks a tiny bit more excusable based on the entire conferences struggles out west…

via Grading the B1G in the Non-Con – Off Tackle Empire.

The blogger MNWildcat, in a blog post evaluating the state of the so-called Big Ten so far, justifies a better-than-average rating for Nebraska by apparently grading on the curve — his own disclaimer that the grades are “based on performance and expectations” notwithstanding.

Read that through again.

Nebraska had one thing to accomplish in its nonconference schedule, and failed to accomplish it. For that failure, the Huskers are stamped with a your-parents-won’t-be-disappointed B. Never mind that the club’s presumed chief asset, its defense, has already had to chunk a good part of its playbook.

Mr. MNWildcat’s assessment is representative of an inexplicable rebound in expectations for the Huskers that seems to be rooted in the apparent weakness of the Big Ten at large. And it is not just the enthusiastic near-amateurs of the blogosphere; professional sportswriters have readmitted Nebraska to the Top 25.

None of it is understandable; expectations were never that high around here. Certainly, Nebraska does not lag its rivals by the margin that was evident last season in listless losses to Wisconsin and Michigan. But I fail to see how that translates into better performances — unless football games themselves are scored on a curve.

This leads me to a slightly mean-spirited observation. Bleacher Report’s J. P. Scott displayed an inadvertent insightfulness in his analysis of the Huskers’ conference schedule: “The Big Ten,” Mr. Scott writes, “has had much more parody than the Big 12 or even the Big 8 had during the final years.”

He means parity, of course, (the italics were mine) but a fan could be forgiven for reading right over the mistake. The Big Ten has been something of a parody of a major conference this season. Wisconsin and both Michigans, like Nebraska, each already have a loss. Northwestern, which last year beat the Huskers, and Minnesota are undefeated.

Nothing can be done, of course. For Nebraska, I mean; Mr. Scott can be forgiven for his homophonic confusion.

On Charity and Mitt Romney

Giving away almost a third of your annual income sounds laudable, but for someone of Mitt Romney’s wealth, charity should be assessed by net worth, not income. The Romneys’ net worth is currently estimated at $250 million. $4 million is just 1.6% of that net worth.

via How generous is Mitt Romney? | Ben Walsh.

Not for nothing, but…

…one of the five pillars of Islam is something called Zakat, which is basically a guide for knowing how much you should give away to charity. It is something that is expected of every Muslim who has the means; the Koran mentions it over and over.

This is not as simple as the medieval Christian tithe. There is a fairly complex system for assessing a person’s Zakat; different kinds of wealth are treated differently. (You can figure your own here.) But at the risk of oversimplifying it, the Zakat works out to about 2.5 percent of your net worth.

I dunno what Mormons are supposed to do.

Sickening, and Then Nauseating

 

Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments.

via The drugs dont work: a modern medical scandal | Ben Goldacre | Business | The Guardian.

Instead, redistricting today has become the most insidious practice in American politics—a way, as the opportunistic machinations following the 2010 census make evident, for our elected leaders to entrench themselves in 435 impregnable garrisons from which they can maintain political power while avoiding demographic realities.

via The League of Dangerous Mapmakers – Robert Draper – The Atlantic.

 

No Ambulance Needed

 

The game got out of hand early. The Cornhuskers 3-1 led 35-0 after the first quarter and 45-0 at half. Their 73 points were the most since they hung the same number on Kansas State in 2007.

via No. 25 Nebraska rolls to 73-7 win over Idaho St – Yahoo! Sports.

The Huskers have a coach who may or may not have one foot in the grave, and they are a team that plays its best only when not pressured by a competent opponent. But at least they have not forgotten how to run up the score.

Barry Switzer used to spur his charges with the inelegant proposal that they “hang up half a hundred and party all night,” but that of course understates the great beatdowns in college football history. It used to be that such blowouts were a reliable marker of the pure genes of a good team. Nowadays, it is a sign that blood money was paid to an overmatched opponent. It is a sign, too, that college football’s heart is twisted.

But whatever.

The important thing here is Coach Bo Pelini did not need medical assistance, the Huskers themselves performed at least as well as they do at practice, and the star running back Rex Burkhead made a soft landing onto the playing field after a three-game absence with a never-specified injury.

In other words, things are about as they were before the game. It was a lot like the day itself, bright, pleasing and breezy. In the bargain, myopic Nebraska fans were able to recall the days when half-a-hundred victory margins were depressing de rigueur.

The tell-all stat: Fans were doing the wave 19 minutes into the game.

via Huskers dominate overmatched Idaho State : Latest Husker News.

Wags were quick to harrumph that there was nothing to see here; that is the point of view we are choosing to adopt.

But it is worth noting that enthusiasm has returned to a preseason pitch. David McGee of Corn Nation, not long after saying as much, nudged the Huskers improbably to the top of his Big Ten rankings. “Call me a homer,” he notes apologetically.

Lost in the Huskers’ fumblings this season are those of their conference peers. Last season, it was the disparity between the struggling Huskers and the Big Ten’s better-than-average elite that was most noticeable; this season, the leading programs have seemingly regressed to the bean fields where Nebraska was quietly drinking a six-pack.

But does it merit such a lofty promotion? “They’ll get a chance to prove it over the next two games,” Mr. McGee writes.

The Huskers led 45-0 at halftime. They played 90 guys. They outgained the Bengals 569-210, notched eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss, had six scoring plays of 25 yards or longer and kicked eight touchbacks.

via Huskers race past Bengals and into Big Ten play – Omaha.com.