At some point back in the late 1980s, a couple of Ohio State Buckeye football players — one of them a free safety named Bo Pelini — visited my parents’ house to make cookies. I don’t recall the specifics, but one of the players was, uh, interested in one of Erin’s sorority sisters, who was helping with the baking that day.
Everything went fine, until my sister pulled one of the sheets out of the oven and discovered that the cookies were a little too brown on the bottom. That’s when Pelini, an intense guy even then, grabbed the pan, spiked it on the kitchen floor and started screaming about “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU BURNED THE $!%&@(&@*&#& COOKIES.”
Disclosure: While the above story is true, the part about the burned cookies is not. I honestly don’t know whether Erin actually burned any cookies, and both players were complete gentlemen while sitting in our kitchen.
Pelini is in more serious trouble this week because of his mouth, and he’s scrambling to make amends with fans of his Nebraska Cornhuskers football team because of it. After getting in a spat with Tommie Frazier, the legendary Huskers QB who just happened to win two national titles at Nebraska — an ill-advised move for a head coach who has yet to win a conference championship or take his team to a BCS bowl — a tape of a post-game rant in which Pelini MFs a couple of local reporters and pretty much the entire Cornhuskers fan base surfaced on Deadspin.
Background: The tape was recorded just a few minutes after the completion of the 2011 Ohio State-Nebraska game in Lincoln, the one in which the Huskers came back from a three-touchdown deficit to beat my Buckeyes. But rather than enjoying the comeback, Pelini spent more than a minute ranting at the co-host of his radio show about everyone in language that would make a drill sergeant proud.
Want to hear for yourself? If you don’t mind plenty of F-bombs, the audio can be found here, courtesy of our friends at Deadspin.
The reaction? Predictable. Fans who weren’t happy about the Huskers’ collapse against UCLA on Saturday are even less happy now. The university has issued terse statements about the two year old tape. And it seems like Pelini spent the entire day apologizing.
I get why people are upset. But I think what we’re seeing is largely an overraction. Here are a couple things that should be obvious at this point:
Football coaches curse. Nebraska fans, if you haven’t seen been able to lip-read your head coach dropping bombs on the sidelines, you’re watching games with your eyes closed. He curses, a lot, and you guys already knew that. He’s not the only one, either. Next time Notre Dame is on TV, watch Brian Kelly let go after a bad offensive play. Trust me, you won’t have to watch very long to see it. I think we can all agree that kids don’t need to hear that kind of language (at least until an age that as a non-parent I’m not qualified to decide); I think we can also agree that grownups — some more than others — use that kind of language. And maybe it’s time that we stop being shocked when we hear a fuck or a shit out in the wild.
Every coach feels like Pelini does. Football coaches have tough jobs. They’re under constant pressure. And if their teams don’t perform, they hear about it, from the thousands of people in the stands, from the media at the news conferences they have to attend all week and from the endless stream of yahoos on sports talk radio. I guarantee this: Deep down, every single college coach in the country understood completely when Pelini complained about fair-weather fans and pain-in-the-ass reporters. I see it every football Saturday in Columbus — “fans” who do nothing but gripe about the team, the coaches, the band, the other fans. I’m never understand why they bother spending the not-insignificant amount of money to attend a game in person and then spend that expensive afternoon being completely, utterly miserable. And if I were a coach, boys and girls, it would be all the more frustrating.
So in those two respects, I’m willing to give Pelini a pass. He did, however, make one very large mistake. Coach, I understand that you were frustrated with fans leaving that game early, but the only time you can express that frustration — especially in those terms — is at home. Period. You don’t do it in the locker room, and you certainly don’t do it when you’re in a room with the guy from the university’s radio network and a whole bunch of microphones. I don’t blame you for your frustration, but making those comments in the presence of anyone but your wife is monumentally stupid.
I have an idea, coach. Next time, limit that kind of stuff to your kitchen.
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