I think I’m going to sympathize with Bo Pelini, at least somewhat.
Not with what the Nebraska football coach said, mind you, and you know which comments I mean. His vast array of venomous F-bombs about Omaha media and Nebraska fans that went to someone’s tape recorder two years ago — after a big victory! — isn’t anything to condone, obviously. If nothing else, whatever happened to having a vocabulary? Profanity, it has been said in many ways by many people, is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
But whomever released that tape is almost certainly a snake, someone with a heck of a vendetta against Pelini. If the coach had previously threatened or badly mistreated the informant in some way, then I’ll soften my stance. But if those comments were worth releasing to the public Monday, they were worth sharing the night they were uttered.
The comments were made between Pelini’s postgame press conference and his interview on the Husker Sports Network after Nebraska’s 34-27 win over Ohio State in Lincoln in October 2011. It lasted a minute and 41 seconds, and there would seem to be no way Pelini thought he was being recorded when he said them.
In the audio, Pelini calls a sports writer a piece of you-know-what, calls the fans who left the Cornhuskers’ 2011 home game against Ohio State at halftime a bunch of fair-weather you-know-what, and so it went. It’s totally unpleasant, and paints a portrait of someone who is vindictive and paranoid. He sounds every bit as mean and angry as he often looks during games.
But who among us haven’t said things among people we thought were confidants that wasn’t off-color or harsh, that certainly wasn’t something we’d willingly offer for public consumption and isn’t necessarily even what we really believe? Human beings often blow off steam with their mouths, usually away from the people who they think have caused them to build up that steam. But 99.9999 percent of us don’t live in fear of someone taping and distributing our comments to a public forum that will then use them to cause us extreme embarrassment and perhaps get us fired.
OK, it’s a lot more than 0.0001 percent of us who are vulnerable. Maybe we all are. No matter.
The Lincoln Journal Star reported that Deadspin said it received the tape after “our tipster was particularly exercised by Nebraska’s flameout against UCLA on Saturday.” Is that how it works now? We get so bummed out about a football defeat that if we can damage or destroy the coach by any means necessary, so be it?
There probably are coaches who might privately respond “Why not, you chip away at us all the time, anyway?” But criticism, from seemingly every direction sometimes, is a known part of the territory they have chosen to enter. Just like seven-figure salaries and private jets. However, criticism is way different than this.
By the way, there’s a lot more contempt for fans from coaches than you might guess. (Media people are under no illusions about how coaches and athletic directors feel about them. At least we shouldn’t be.) But whether college or pro coaches are big-winners or not, they really do know more about their sports and coaching than we do. That doesn’t make them right all the time, and it certainly doesn’t give them license to be boors or mad dogs. At least not publicly.
All people who work in the public eye get tested to a degree. Bartenders and flight-attendants and police officers and anyone else who deals with the public probably have more contempt for it than they show. I know I grit my teeth and mutter after every time someone stops me on the street to tell me how I should be conjugating verbs. But I don’t unleash 39 F-bombs. I mean, come on, you’ve got to be more imaginative than that.