Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Your 2008 Husker Football Television Schedule

That sound you hear is anger from Husker Nation over how broadcast companies could possibly take a pass over putting on games featuring Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State against a team that finished last season 5-7 and has a brand new coaching staff. Although I am wondering why Spike-TV doesn't at least try to throw it's hat in the ring for some of these games. And yes, we realize that neither Paulie Walnuts or that lazy eyed guy in that picture with him will have anything to do with calling a Nebraska Football game this fall, but you have to think one of those "Denny's" commercials with Paulie will air during a game or two. Plus google "Nebraska Football Television" and find a better picture to lead off with. Just try it.

As of now, the first three games of the Pelini era will not be televised, and if they are, those games will be pay-per-view. Husker fan is literally pissed off at the fact that only one game (the final game, against Colorado) is set for national broadcast. It is only June, and nobody knows anything until Mid-September. Television dictates terms, meaning that if a surprise team like Kansas up and decides to play well, they can get national exposure. Other than Notre Dame (who got into bed with NBC to the point that they can't carry any other college games), no other school has a firm TV schedule for their games, yet. But we say bet the house on watching these games away from Memorial Stadium, which is a better way to go anyway:

  • 08/30 Western Michigan: As Matthew McConaughey would say, no worries, no worries. This game will be picked up by somebody. Yes, it might have to be an 11am kickoff (on August 30th, which would irk TO but the television revenue would be too much to turn away from). But count on this one somewhere, just not in HD.

  • 09/06 San Jose St. and 09/13 New Mexico St.: The hunch is not a chance in hell. Sure, somebody could come up with some pay-per-view plan for one of them (and it would go over big because Nebraska's following), but no broadcast or cable network is going near either one of these blowouts. And by blowouts we're going out on a limb and thinking NU will be 3-0 at the end of the New Mexico State game. You know, because somebody with the last name of COSGROVE won't be allowed anywhere near Memorial Stadium, even with a ticket.

  • 09/27 Virginia Tech: Already decided it's going to be a nationally televised game, and the whispers of the ABC Prime Time Game are growing all the more louder. We've heard reports of both ESPN Gameday and ESPN Radio folk setting up in Lincoln for this one. Expect to find Brent Musburger walking to the game with an open can of Coors Light (or just regular Coors if the mood should strike him) and talk of "Looking live at Memorial Stadium" for kick-off.

  • 10/04 Missouri: The big question would be whether ABC/ESPN would want to have 2-weeks in a row from Lincoln (they can't take that sort of risk and have Musburger dealing with two open container tickets on their dime). But if both teams are undefeated for this one, it'd be hard to pass up. Which is exactly why there's no word on TV coverage yet. Because nobody knows anything. Certainly, unless Chase Daniel turns a knee and Missouri's season goes to shit and Nebraska is embarrassed by VA Tech, count on big-time national coverage. Either a 2:30pm CST kick-off or another prime-time affair.

  • 10/11 @ Texas Tech: The first road game of the season (after five home games, which is just unreal) will be televised. Guessing Fox Sports Net or Versus. Just hope Pelini goes with the all-white look for road games. Or if he really wanted to put a stamp on things, go all-red and see what happens. Nobody at Tech will even notice.

  • 10/18 @ Iowa State: Depends how well (or in Iowa State's case, bad, but we're hearing good things coming out of Ames) the teams are doing. At worst you're looking at Pay-Per-View, unless NU is 3-3 going into this game, and then some might be calling for Billy C to come storming back into town.

  • 10/25 Baylor: Right now, who the hell knows? We were alerted to an interesting tidbit: If the World series is over by then, Fox and ESPN will be full-tilt College Football on Saturdays. The smart thinking says Nebraska may only have two losses at this point, which means somebody will make room for this gem.

  • 11/01 @ Oklahoma: Put it in bold-face print everywhere. A 2:30pm national game on ABC. Unless somehow both teams are unbeaten, which then will turn ESPN into an overhype machine that'll make this game bigger than the 2006 Ohio State/Michigan and the 1971 NU/OU games combined. Beano Cook's head will explode while he tries to enjoy his chicken noodle soup during his weekly segment on ESPN Radio, and Musburger will openly drink Johnnie Walker Blue during the prime time telecast. And you'll see at least one clip of Johnny Rodgers "Man, Woman & Child" punt return. But probably just one.

  • 11/08 Kansas: The thinking here is that KU falls and falls back big time. But television loves them some Mangino, and he and Pelini on the same field would make for great theater. Fox Sports Net or Versus for sure.

  • 11/15 @ Kansas State: A "homecoming" of sorts for NU Linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, but even his hype won't reach a national crescendo. But LAST year's KSU/NU game got national coverage. And both teams were coming a part at the seams. The good thing going for NU on TV this week is that it's an off-week for a number of big name schools, so this game will have to fill that void.

  • 11/28 Colorado: Already determined, 2:30pm CST kick-off on ABC. And two weeks of talk (at least in Nebraska) about how Colorado isn't the Husker's real "rival".

  • Two to three games won't make it to television, tops. But the really great news about all of this is that if you have to resort to the radio for your only live Husker coverage, you won't have Jim Rose to screech at you to cause all of those incurable inner ear infections.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    DL Yankee Stadium Stop (Special Tornado Free Edition): Jose Guillen Will Not Be Satisfied Until He Is Deemed King

    I'm sure nobody is aware of this quite yet, but the mainstream media will very soon let everyone in on the little secret that this is the final season for the (hated) Yankees at Yankee Stadium. They've got themselves a brand new space, right next to the current one, which will be all set for Opening Day, 2009. But of course, it won't BE Yankee Stadium, even if that's what some will attempt to call it. The chance to finally see my beloved Royals in person at the old ballpark was something that couldn't be missed, even though I firmly believed I would be the only one amongst the fans openly rooting for the Royals. Which would make Yankee fans Mike Scossia, and me Jose Guillen in this relationship. I was already starting to feel that Guillen was a misunderstood baseball star, and confused that Yankee fan would possibly find that odd.

    Sitting close to the field on Friday night, I felt the disconnect immediately. Amongst the legions of beautiful women who were there wanting to hand Derek Jeter their hotel room keys (more on him later) and the intense Yankee faithful who couldn't justify how New York could even play the Royals close, I got the early suspicion that I definitely could have been the only person in that building happy the Royals were winning, unless Kyle Davis had his family sitting up in the cheap seats, and if that were the case, one of them would have been thrown down to the field by the time Davies came out to pitch the 6th inning. A Yankee fan who had been a season ticket holder for years -- but is officially resigning that status when the Yanks move to their new digs next year -- had no problem with fans of the visiting team visiting the old ballpark. There was just one rule. "Don't come in here and try to take over the building and act like it's your own," he said. "You know, like Boston does." In other words, don't fuck with them, they won't fuck with you.

    I understood that completely. In fact, I even said out loud, "Ahh, you mean like HUSKER fan." How Husker fan travels to almost every road football game, and tries to be like Red Sox fan at Yankee Stadium. No wonder Notre Dame was so pissed when the "Sea of Red" hit South Bend in 2000. No wonder Missouri and Kansas thought they won National Titles just by destroying the Red when they'd beat them in their home stadiums. And the other key factor that differs from, say, Memorial Stadium: Don't expect the Yankee faithful to offer some polite applause should the Yankees win big. Winning's expected, and if your team somehow wins, for crying out loud, don't poke the bear.

    As I've always maintained, even through the multiple losing skids, this is a different Royals team. The roll-over and accept it Mike Sweeney days are in the rear view mirror. This team is at least going to show signs of at least trying. And the Royals during the Sweeney "Milk & Cookies" era were especially dreadful at Yankee Stadium (How bad? How about 6-33 going back to 1998). This was especially disappointing to me considering the fact that my all-time greatest sports moment happened at Yankee Stadium. Game 3 of the 1980 American League Championship Series, when George Brett hit that first-pitch, towering shot in the upper-deck to finally get the Royals past the Yanks and win their first pennant. And things started well on Friday as KC led 2-0 going into the 7th, witch the aforementioned Kyle Davies still in the game. The Yanks would scrap another run to chase Davies, but with the white hot Joakim Soria fresh, unfazed and ready to nail down an important win, I wasn't the least bit worried.

    Which brings us back to Jeter. A great part of sitting right behind the Yanks on-deck circle (other than the satisfying visions of being able to pelt Johnny Damon with flashlight batteries if I chose to, and actually hit him), was to witness the magnitude of one Derek Jeter. The rest of the Yankee lineup spends their time in the on-deck circle doing what you'd expect. A few practice swings, trying to time a swing and step with the opposing pitcher. If you're Jason Giambi, you intently study the bat, all the time smiling at the fact that even though your pants are ripped and having to stay clear of any sort of pharmaceutical help as your game has somewhat suffered, you have peace of mind in knowing that nine-figure contract you signed in 2000 is guaranteed. But if you're the Shortstop Yankee Captain who everyone associates with the glory of winning four World Titles, well you veer through the crowd to see how many pretty girls you can make eye contact with. I got the sense that Jeter was the lead singer of a rock band, finding 5-7 women he shared a look with, and had a member of the road crew give them his card to hook up later at some private party. As Soria was mowing down the Yanks in the 9th, Jeter would have come up to win the game had Damon reached base to extend the game. But Derek only had eyes for a group Vince Vaughn would call, "Beautiful Babies". I'm sure Jeter would have figured he'd have another one of hid patented Yankee moments if he'd of had a chance. Not I. The way Soria was dealing, this was the Royals night.

    This was confirmed as everyone filtered out of the game (with two full cold bottles of Budweiser no less, walking out with those in hand was no problem, and considering they were $9 a piece, nobody seemed to mind). First of all, instead of playing the usual Liza Minielli version of "New York, New York", which is traditionally what they do whenever the Yankees lose, the public address system played the SINATRA version instead. TWICE. It's established they only play Frank when they win. So this was a puzzler.

    And outside, finally, Royals fans, in Royals gear, who couldn't have been more pleased to find one of their own, wondering who else would either make the trek from the Midwest in early June, or if a transplanted New Yorker could still keep bleeding Royal Blue. We were all so delighted, we hit a few Bronx Bars, toasting a multitude of shots that would carry through the wee hours in Manhattan. We Royal brethren stick together, and this was the sort of night where there weren't enough shots of booze to toast to. Trying to convert a German Lesbian even seemed to be in order.

    By the way, the most hated man in baseball (and really, he wouldn't have it any other way) Jose Guillen went 2-4 (in the game, not at some Irish bar with German Lesbians later), with a double (he might have gone to 2nd base with a Royals fan who bore an uncanny resemblance to Katie Holmes for all I know -- yes, there was such a woman outside Yankee Stadium) and run scored. This was just a taste of what was to become an incredible weekend for Guillen.

    Getting to Yankee Stadium required extra effort, which is what getting to bed at 6am THAT morning will do to you. Even if we would have been told before hand it would be perhaps the greatest baseball game one could ever hope to witness in person, making it for Andy Pettitte's first pitch was going to be a challenge. Former Husker Alex Gordon, who made some nice defensive plays on Friday night, got the day off because he was mired in a slump at the plate and it was around 97 degrees, which nobody in New York expected for early June. Newest Royal star Guillen was going to all but propel KC to an improbable win all by himself, and I felt like Babe Ruth as I called his game changing grand slam in the 7th inning.

    The big highlight to come out of the game was that phony Johnny Damon becoming the first Yankee to ever collect 6 hits in one game at Yankee Stadium, including the game winner off of the previous unbeatable Soria. But the 7th inning for Kansas City was Guillen's coming out party (or again, maybe it was for some other German woman who liked what she saw from the previous night). Actually, Guillen had already hit a 2-run homer off of Pettitte in the first inning, and had an RBI single in the 3rd. I have no earthly idea what Pettitte, who had giving up the tying run earlier in inning, was still even DOING in the game to face Guillen. Pettite intentionally walked Mike "Seriously, I'm not going to have to pay to get into the Stadium to watch the game?" Aviles, hoping to get Mark Teahan to hit into a double play. Pettitte got the next best thing (getting Teahan, who frankly spends way too much time in that head of his, to strike out), but there was still the rather large problem of the batshit crazy Jose Guillen walking up to the plate with determination to plant one in the left field seats. It was one of those moments you could just feel happening. For one, Guillen just missed the grand slam, fouling one just a little left of the LF foul pole. And no way Pettitte would walk the lead run.

    (No WAY Torre would have had Pettitte pitch to the Right Handed Guillen, who we've already established doesn't let anything get in the way of pissing off Yankee faithful with a killer grand slam. And wouldn't that moment, two-outs in the 7th, bases loaded with a power right handed bat at the plate, been a great time to bring in a stellar reliever? One who sparks insane levels of excitement in that building? One who would have clearly thrown his glove into the air, Jonathan Paplebon/Jesse Orosco style, if he would have struck Guillen out? Somebody like, oh, I don't know...JOBA???)

    After calmly suggesting to the section we were in that Guillen was certainly going to plant one way over the left field fence, I got the sense many of them were feeling the same thing, and oddly enough not as upset about it as Yankee fan would normally be. (I blame the heat for this odd calmness from them. Also: Hank Steinbrenner, who everyone was clearly concerned about with this whole Joba experiment; a Grand Slam here and the "Joba would have been nice" cries would have been out in full force.) Because Jose takes delight in crushing baseballs and being able to cause hatred and vigor in as many people as possible, he did come through with the grand slam, giving the Royals a 10-6 lead and an excuse for some to get out of the heat (SOME, not many, Yankee fans understand the importance of staying for the entire game). Guillen had tied a club record with 7 RBI, and then went to Manager Trey Hillman and said, "I've done my part. Fuck this heat, I'm going to pick up some German Lesbians". Actually, Guillen had been shaken up by taking a ball off of his shin in the sixth, and was said to leave the game early to avoid further aggravation. I wouldn't be surprised if he just left the stadium without telling anybody, right after that Grand Slam.

    What could have been a small two-game winning streak for the Royals (at Yankee Stadium no less) would turn into a game they'd give back to the Yankees three times, despite FINALLY getting to Mariano Rivera. A-Rod, Mr. June, would hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, and 666 -- I mean Mr. 6-for-6 Johnny Damon would tie it in the 8th with a 2-run single.

    We finally got to see one of the most famous reliever entrances in baseball history. We've had to suffer Joe Buck talking about what an amazing moment it is when Mariano Rivera casually walks out from the bullpen to Metallica's "Enter Sandman" on television for 10 years now. You understand the moment more in person, as the Jumbo-Tron follows Rivera right from the dugout, Rivera walks in perfect step with the music, and it's a moment which allows the 50,000+ crazed Yankee fans to get as loud as the student section of a college football game when the home teams scores a touchdown. But for me of course, I didn't find the moment amazing. I was downright concerned, because the Royals have NEVER hit Rivera. They notoriously swing at his first pitches, and he usually gets through an inning maybe throwing 9 pitches and wouldn't even break a sweat in this 97 degree heat.

    David DeJesus, who speaks with an infliction that suggests he'd like to audition for a job as an evening news anchor in some medium sized market in Iowa, led things off. I was expecting the usual, DeJesus swinging at the first pitch, getting fooled on a Rivera cutter and grounding out softly to Jeter. And then sending his resume to a news director in Ames, IA. He swung at Rivera's first offering, as is always the case, and promptly homered to right field. The Royals had finally broken through against Rivera, unbelievably had the lead back, and were ready to bring in the next Rivera, Joakim Soria, in to nail down another win.

    Rivera would breeze through the next three batters, throwing a total of 10 pitches. Then the unflappable Soria would pitch the bottom of the ninth. I was a bit stunned to hear the PA play both "Paper Bag" by Fiona Apple and "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder for Soria's entrance into the game, but he did walk very slow to the mound. Even more surprising was that the version of "My Cherie Amour" they played was the one Eddie Murphy and Stevie did back on Saturday Night Live in the early 1980's. People really seemed to like it though.

    Soria wound up blowing his first save of the year, allowing "Hip Hip Jor-Hey" to homer and tie the game (Yankee fans are a little too in love with that nickname and chant, I will go to my grave thinking that Jorge really pronounces his name "GEORGE" and this is his way to fuck with everyone), and then Damon got hit number six to bring in the winning run. Yanks 12, Guillen/Royals 11. The Royals win that game, which they had in the bag three times, and they would have taken 3 of 4 at the Bronx. And Hank Steinbrenner would, how can we say this, been rather unhappy.

    And that was the final game we went to of the four-game series, and frankly after getting to see the Royals win and get all we could out of the Saturday game, nothing could have topped either of those two games. Husker Fan couldn't believe we missed the Joba start on Sunday, but again, we didn't roll in until 6am (Saturday) and another member of the group decided to stay out that late AGAIN (Saturday night, going through Sunday morning). Plus it would top 100 Sunday, and for some reason the seats at Yankee Stadium aren't air conditioned. Although we hear some of the new ones at the new place definitely will be.

    The Royals split the four game series. My new favorite player Guillen would personally see to that on Monday, hitting the game winning homer off of -- who else -- Rivera to give the Royals a 3-2 win. Over the long weekend, Guillen went 9 for 16 with 4 homers, 10 RBI and 6 runs scored, and probably hooked up with that Katie Holmes lookalike of a Royals fan who alluded my grasp on Friday night. In my defense, I was stunned that somebody in a Royals shirt could look that good; there was also a chance that she really WAS Katie Holmes, and the idea of having a brain washed Katie trying to explain to me the joys of Scientology over a wonderful but hot weekend in New York scared the living shit out of me. None of that would have fazed Jose Guillen, and he would have surely tapped that shit.

    Thursday, June 05, 2008

    Everything Comes To An End

    This is very disappointing, but in the interest of full disclosure, it's important to offer thanks to one Will Leitch. Actually, he's quite responsible not only for this blog, but all the incredible amounts of work time we've been allowed to waste. And now, he's moving on to bigger and better things. So it's worth noting that almost two years and one former Husker Head Football coach ago, this blog has been all his fault.

    It was August, 2006. To borrow a line from Don Henley (who frankly gave this silly blog it's title), another summer's promise was almost gone. But more importantly, year three of the Bill Callahan era was about to begin, and ironically enough, it was to be his most successful year. I started to write an email to Mackenzie about how pissed I was about really all of the local media giving Callahan a pass. There were all of these rumors coming out of Memorial Stadium about Billy C and Stevie Peterson, but nobody, at THAT time, dare to speak a discouraging word about the Husker program. Mainly it was the whole Harrison Beck fallout that had me concerned. Beck was touted as the next big thing the second Callahan laid eyes on him, only to bolt the team that August.

    So I started to write the email, then thought, "Really, does Mackenzie give a shit? He thinks the same thing. Who cares?" So on a boring afternoon, I found a blogger name (and really, couldn't come up with anything for a name, but since I was pissed at the media, naming it after the very song that lambasts all things of that sort seemed to fit), and basically cut and pasted the email I was about to send to Mackenzie and wrote the very first post here.

    I'd known about Deadspin for a little over a month, and was starting to go to it daily. For no reason other than the fact that I wanted to, I emailed the blog to tips@deadspin.com. And that was it. Until about five hours later, I learned the power of Deadspin.

    My email in-box had already been set to filter out any and every piece of junk email, so anything that came through was somewhat legitimate. I had over thirty new emails, all people I've never heard of, some named "Anonymous", attacking me about the Bill Callahan blog I had just written, the one that was just some email I was going to give Mac. I later went to Deadspin and saw that Will lead off that day's Blogdome edition, subtitled "Clueless Cornhusker?" with my piece. And this little blog was flooded with eyeballs, most of them who were so amped up they frankly wanted me dead. People wound up writing to Will himself, asking how would dare link to such a blog. It was like having your debut song become some small unexpected hit that wound up cracking the top 100. So we had something. There was no way we'd ever be able to break Husker Football news (Huskerpedia.com was doing that better than everyone then, and still do now). But we'd be a voice that could openly criticize and say whatever the hell we wanted about the football program. Or at least go out further on the limb than say Tom Shatel.

    We've still had occasional posts linked to Deadspin's blogdome, and even had two posts featured (the "Casting Moneyball Movie" and Mackenzie's "Midget Basketball" pieces). In fact, Will emailed regarding both of those blogs, saying how much he enjoyed reading them. And that was nice.

    Of course about a year after that first blog debuted, everyone was clawing at Billy C and company. And now everyone is drinking the Pelini Kool-Aid (we're even guilty of that to an extent, but just wait until the Virginia Tech game...), almost like they did when Callahan first rode into town and promised big things. And now Will Leitch is moving on to bigger and better things. Which isn't surprising because he's an extremely talented writer, and has a very good gig awaiting him at New York magazine, all the more impressive when you consider Will is only 32 years old.

    I don't think Deadspin will change once Will officially leaves as editor (hell, he's still going to do the occasional posting there). But anyone and everyone who knows about this place does so because of Will, because of Deadspin. Almost one-year ago, "The Sopranos" officially stopped making new episodes. We always knew that would happen, and always knew Will would move on too. But if you ever kill time reading our stuff here, just remember it's all some contributing editor of New York magazine's fault.