Derek Johnson Muses

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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Beating A Want-to-Be Rival was Fitting Way to Close Out the Devaney

A note on these post: as I announced on Twitter this past Monday, I will now be contributing to the website HuskerMax.com. It’s been a bit of a drought between the end of Husker Locker and joining Husker Max, and I’m grateful to David Max and Joe Hudson for the opportunity.

I’ve decided to continue to post Husker content here, because I can use my photos here. But I would appreciate it if all of you here click over and read my work on Husker Max, as I am paid by pageviews for my work on that site. Thanks to all for continued readership and support.

Tim Miles watches over his team.

Tim Miles watches over his team.

Last Saturday, I went to the Nebraska-Iowa game at the Devaney Center on a bit of a whim. It was the third Nebraska basketball game I’ve been to this year, and in all cases, I have wanted to care about going to Nebraska basketball more than I actually wanted to go to the games themselves. And even after the game, I felt like I didn’t learn anything towards whether or not Tim Miles will be the right coach long-term, only that he’ll have one nice conference win on his resume for next year.

Fittingly, the opponent was a team that I wanted cared more about beating than I actually did care. I want to rout against the Iowa Hawkeyes, want them to be Nebraska’s blood rival. But, for whatever reason, they haven’t seemed to be that, in football or otherwise, maybe because beating them has come easy. When I stopped for a quick lunch at Runza, there were numerous Iowa fans there, and as I made my way into the arena, the generous number of black-and-gold clad fans made me upset. But given the product that Nebraska’s put on the court of the last year, it wasn’t like I had a right to be mad at my fellow fans.

There were plenty of Iowa fans up in the rafters and throughout the arena, although not close to the Nebraska-at-Northwestern ratio in football this past year. But it was embarrassing in terms of how much noise was made in the first half. As a whole, it was nowhere close to the sellout it was said to be with were blocks of empty cushioned seats across the arena, the apathy the Bob has become known for. Given the abrupt change in date from Thursday to Saturday, there were bound to be some no-shows.

In typical Devaney Center fashion, I didn’t pay attention early in the game. It was obvious Iowa’s rooster, while not vastly superior, was better. All of their players were thicker, and were looking to step out and shoot. Nebraska’s roster is full of tightly muscled guys who wish to do nothing more than cut to the basket, except none of them are good enough to do it consistently. While Nebraska got behind by the number of free throws they missed, I worked on my to-do list for the upcoming week and took a few pictures. With Iowa leading by 18 at halftime, I went out to the concourse, sat writing in a corner, and didn’t realize that the second half started until they were two minutes in.

I went back to my seat, wondering when Husker fans would start exiting the building. (Answer: the first did so around the ten minute mark). Eventually, the Huskers made a run and got the game back to about ten points, and I thought, Okay, this will be a nice memory of the last time the Bob kind of rocked.

Except that Miles’ crew didn’t stop with just getting the game back to about ten. They got it to seven, and at that point, people started getting out of their seats when Iowa brought the ball to the other end of the court on offense. As the duel carried on, I never expected Nebraska to come back, but I didn’t think that they were not able to come back either. Turns out, they got the better of Iowa, and the nothing-but-net three ball to give Nebraska was a fitting great moment.

I grew up when Nebrasketball was a viable team every year. Not great, but at least they were making the postseason every year in the 1990’s and had shots at the NCAA’s. Success in college basketball at Nebraska wouldn’t be as meaningful as the football success, but given how college basketball has been watered down, it is success that is seen in a different light. Leaving the Bob last Saturday with the silenced Iowa fans, it was nice moment, but it will be a while until any Nebraska fans know if it was the start of anything. I’m not even going to judge how good of a coach Miles is off this year, because of his history suggests he takes more overlooked, great plains players. But early signs suggest it’s not a disaster.

As far as the rivalry with Iowa, I don’t know if it’s going to get chippy just because some Iowa fans from Omaha got disappointed for driving an hour to see their team loose on

Gallegos before attempted the free throw to put Nebraska up for. Curb your enthusiasm, please.

Gallegos before attempted the free throw to put Nebraska up for. Curb your enthusiasm, please.

the road on a Saturday afternoon. Yes, Nebraska’s dominating Iowa in all sports, but I think Nebraska fans assumed this. (As someone who occasionally has to stand Des Moines sports radio, I know whose standards are higher.) I don’t know what’s going to have to change to make this a better rivalry or make me care more about it, but then again, maybe nothing needs to change. Maybe it just needs to give us final minutes like on Saturday.

With ten minutes to go, I moved down to some of the cushioned seats that were a few rows up from the exits. Even with the late game drama, there were still fans who made their way to the exits right after Dylan Talley made the go-ahead three, and left as soon as Ray Gallegos made the free-throw to put them up four with 2.3 seconds to go. I hope that tradition of leaving early ends with the move to Pinnacle Bank Arena.

How I Bought a House

My uncle and aunt moved from Portland, Oregon to Sacramento, California in 2005, when my aunt took a new job. They sold their house of an eleven years in Portland, but didn’t buy a place in Sacramento, mainly because they were in their fifties and weren’t going to get the same value buying a house in the inflated California market from the equity they had accumulated in their Oregon house. When the real estate crash hit a few years later, they were spared a massive loss and ended up moving to the Bay area five years later.

Scott and Karen’s principles were in the back of my mind when I began looking at houses at the end of January. Countering those were Warren Buffet’s stock purchasing philosophy: the best buys are traditionally strong companies who are down on their luck, but have the pieces in places to resurface. I’m not sure if that describes the home-buying market, now that many of my peers are burying themselves in work, too busy and too wary of the responsibilities of home buying. So I had that going for me.

This past September, I rented an apartment, and moved my bed over there, but on the inside, I knew I wanted something than the four walls, and college student and other odd people for neighbors. I kept thinking I needed a part-time, four days a month job to get myself through the slow periods when I didn’t have a lot of work with the company. Then I thought: what if I had a fixer-upper? I could work on that when work was slow, and I could always leave it when I needed to.

So I started looking. The cheapest house in Seward is priced at $30,000 and need at least $15,000 in renovation before one could live there. The next house I saw was livable, but you could go in on day one and get rid of both the carpet and the kitchen floor. After I compared it to likely priced houses, it made no sense. The next two houses I looked at had good prices, but poor locations.

The house I eventually offered on was a block from the highway, close enough to be convenient, but far enough away not to have noise issues. It was a two bedroom that the prior owners had spent a lot to remodel in a “shabby sheek” fashion as my realtor Stacy put it. The ceilings were high, and the windows, of which there were many, poured in light. It wasn’t perfect-it didn’t have a garage and you had to go outside to get to the basement, which felt obtrusive. But the kitchen had new cabinets and dazzled me. Upon sleeping on it and figuring out what I’d spend on it per month, I decided to make an offer.

The offer itself was complicated. I had to get pre-approved for a loan, plus fill out a lot of other paperwork. The house had just come on the market, and it had been shown four or five times. Stacy advised me to make an offer that had a twenty-four hour window, to avoid ending up in a multiple offer situation. We finalized it Friday afternoon, deadline at five on Saturday, on the advice of my realtor. I was prepared to end up in a multiple offer situation. Instead, they accepted my offer.

I was a bit shocked at the ultimate ease of the project. The first house I’d purchased, and I did it on the first offer. The ease was concerning, but I had prayed about and felt it was God’s plan that I buy the house. I texted a few people that night, and put it up on Facebook, and got some good feedback.

So on Tuesday (not Monday due to President’s Day), I went about securing my loan and having my rate locked, which turned out to be lower than many agents ever thought it would fall. The low rate convinces me I’m doing the right thing. Still haven’t selected an insurance provider, but I’m getting estimates. We’re starting to go through the whole process of inspections, so I’m going to have a long list of stuff I want to fix soon.

This whole process has felt weird at times, because it’s gone against my who-cares-about-life kind of nature. But I’ve come to realize that’s overrated. I’ve lived in the same town for over seven years now, and I don’t want to go to the work of moving. I don’t want unlimited freedom. I want to give stuff up and sacrifice, because that’s where I find myself in life. Thanks be to God.

Pastor Morris and Newtown: An LCMS Fair Fight?

The controversy over Pastor Rob Morris’ participation in a syncretistic worship service for the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting revealed a lot about the character of the LCMS. Steadfast Lutherans had a huge week of posts, and Gerald Kieschnick and David Behnke came out of the woodwork, along with their “once-in-a-lifetime” service exception. If you have belonged to the LCMS for a long time, you’ve seen stuff like this, and the fact it occurred again isn’t surprising.

But in reading the blogs and news stories, I came to a realization: LCMS is in conflict because it is unwilling to allow conflict. Non-confrontationalism is an essential part of our denomination’s character, and until we are willing to accept the fact we have divisions, we’re not going to be able to work through them.

No place was this more clear than in President Harrison’s first blog post after the service, where the lone embolden words were “I accept his apology”. The whole tenor of Harrison’s first post on the was, “Yes, Pastor Morris should not have participated in this service, and he knows it. Let’s stop fighting about it.” After the news outlets and blogs cycled through stories, President Harrison felt the need to write another post apologizing for the reaction that was outside of his control, and that this was so terrible that this became a national story.

But really, who cares? The liberal media is picking on a small, infighting church body? That’s not news. In fact, Jesus said things like this would happen.

Lutherans, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but there are several types of congregations in our synod. First, there are psuedo-ELCA congregations, who use the green hymnal and say that women serving as elders and communion assistants are just a different expression of the gospel. Then there’s the full blown contemporary, praise band congregations who embrace mega-church trends. There are the churches who embrace the full liturgy and who call mostly from Fort Wayne. And then there are the moderates, who borrow a little from everyone. That makes four very different.. If this is your church body (and how we all ended up in the same church body, I have no idea), you are going to drop the gloves and go at once in a while.

And that isn’t a bad thing. As modern relationship studies have taught us, the couples who never fight are the ones who end up getting divorced, or who are unhappy in their marriage. The couples who learn how to “fight fair” are the ones who survive and thrive. So the question becomes, is the Newtown situation one where the LCMS fought fair?

On that count, I’m not as sure. I don’t know that this caused people to do anything more than to come to their various platforms and reiterate their own beliefs, for their own sake as much as those of their fellow believers. I’m not privy to Synod politics, but there doesn’t really seem to be two fighting factions, as there was in the Behnke-Yankee Stadium controversy, where Kieschnick, the synod’s president at the time, and Behnke, were fighting conservatives on various boards. Pastor Morris apologized (some pastors said he should have “confessed sin”; semantics, in my opinion), and likely would not have participated in the service had he known what people would have said about it afterward. I don’t think this event will result in CTCR studies; the greater damage is that, when a big problem comes up, the LCMS behaves like a good family who lives behind a white picket fence and goes into denial when their youngest son gets arrested for drug use. They make statements and deny that such a thing could even happen.

Just one big, always-at-each-other's throats, family

Just one big, always-at-each-other’s throats, family

Judges 21: Stealing Wives & Israel’s Leadership Void

At St. John in Seward, the Heritage Room Study recently completed a series on the book of Judges. Yes, that’s right, we dug into the Old Testament. (Jerry Pfabe said he’d kept the notes around for thirty plus years.) Last Sunday, we had an interesting discussion on the end of the book

When I was a kid, I always thought the ending of Judges was odd. The Benjamites couldn’t marry their fellow Israelites because of their injustices, so they went off and stole wives from a foreign country. The main thing I remember was the last verse. ” In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25 ESV) The Benjamites kidnapping the daughters of Shiloh didn’t really sound  that bad, but of course, a lot of things don’t sound as bad after you read about Israel annihilating the Benjamite women, children, and livestock. So when Dr. Pfabe compared what the Israelites did to human trafficking, I reconsidered the story in those different terms.

“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Kind of sounds like the modern slogan of whatever is true for you is true. But one thing that comes through in the whole story is no one is leading Israel in the campaign against Benjamin. You can’t always fault people for not having great leadership in front of them, although it doesn’t absolve the from personal responsibility either. Israel may have had the Moses and the books of the law, but they didn’t listen to them.

That’s probably why I don’t fault the Benjamites that much for stealing daughters away from Shiloh, and taking them away from their families. May be if Israel had good king or judge, that leader would have gone around Israel and taken up a national offering to pay the dowries for the Benjamites to marry wives from another neighbor. But instead, they took the more expedient route.

Still, their world was much different than ours is today. Remember, Lot’s daughters slept with their father to continue their line (and so created two of Israel’s worst enemies, Genesis 19). Letting the Benjaminites die off and loosing a tribe of Israel was so heartbreaking to the rest of the nation, they compromised their own plan. Keeping the family together is important, even at the expanse of breaking up someone else’s family.

But at least the men who wrote the Old Testament were honest enough to include Israel’s flaws. Prof. Moulds noted this at one of St. John’s studies on Leviticus, that while Israel’s neighbors were writing long books with nothing but praise for their kings, Israel’s priests and prophets constantly condemned their own people, which undoubtedly (aside from divine inspiration) helped the Scriptures endure down to our day.

We don’t know hat happened to those girls. Personally, I hope that many of them went on to lead, long happy lives, and become good wives and mothers. Of course, I’m being really optimistic, but that’s just my hope, that even though these guys treated them poorly at first, they repented, and treated them better.

Land Without Football: Think on the Good

So football ended a couple of weeks ago, and I hear a lot of people saying how much they miss it. I do miss football too, but not that much. Don’t get me wrong, Husker football is still great rush, but part of what makes football great for me is that it runs its course from late August through January, and when it’s over, I love spending my Sunday afternoons with books or catching up with shows on Netflix. And this year, I’m bringing a new focus to my football-less season.

Football is just a game. It’s a way to get your juices going, and bond with your friends. In the fiction I’m now writing, whenever I can’t figure out what to write, I just have the characters start talking about their favorite team. But even when it’s on and I miss a game that I wanted to see, I have ways of keeping up with it. In 2011, I missed the dramatic Wisconsin-Michigan State game as we were driving back from the Nebraska-Minnesota game. I kicked myself, but I caught the replay in a bar three months later. Just the other day, I found a fifteen minute video highlight package of this past year’s Clemson at Florida State duel, just as dramatic and capturing the whole spirit of the game. This summer, I’ll probably catch this past year’s Penn State-Wisconsin game or Ohio State-Indiana shotout while I’m out on the couch at a Super 8 in small Wisconsin town X. So here’s my new focus.

When Ron Brown said it would be an honor to be fired because of his faith, I was reminded of how difficult it is to maintain a Christian worldview these days. It’s challenging for me to write about my faith, because I want to be liked so much, and sharing your Christian convictions in this culture can lead people to dislike you, even if you speak the truth in love. But I’ve been reading books and listening to programs on the natural family, and I want to write about it.

So I have made a renewed commitment to cut back on the ESPN radio and spend more time listening to Issues, Etc. I’ve rediscovered Focus on the Family, a program I used to listen to much more in my youth. As someone who enjoys writing about relationships, I don’t know why I haven’t turned back to Focus sooner. I read GetReligion.org and SteadfastLutherans.org, to stay politically and socially informed. Don’t worry, dear readers, you’ll still get sports insight, but they’ll just be some other stuff coming too.

My goal in all this to write good pieces, some about politics, some about religion in public life, some just about culture. These may appear controversial, but through watching way too much television, I believe there is great truth to be communicate, and I don’t think anyone in society benefits when beliefs get put on the shelves and resentment builds up. Our society has lost the ability to have civil debate, and I want to be a part of bringing some of that back.

So like me or hate me, I just ask that you read me. Besides, it’s still six months until football returns, so what else will you do?

Making and Using Pork Marinade-With Apple Wine!

I frequently use my crockpot, because I like doing large roasts. But rarely am I industrious enough to create a marinade to soak my meat in. Marinade’s take time, and I usually don’t think far enough ahead, until a few week, when I googled “how to make marinade.” Per usual, I took the base ideas and played with them a little bit. I put in 3/4 cup oil and 1 cup barbeque (Holen-in-One Farms, a local Nebraska sauce), and mixed it with a few seasonings.

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Oil and barbeque

Then to play with it some more, I added about 1/4 cup apple wine I’d bought in Michigan. It’s not the world’s greatest wine, but for this purpose, it makes for a great complement.

Wine from the Round Barn

Wine from the Round Barn

I took the pork roast out of the freezer, and let it thaw out for about an hour, enough time to poke holes in it with a fork. Then I poured the marinade on it, gradually soaking each side, and then putting it in the refrigerator. I let it soak for four hours, taking out each hour to turn it over and bathe it in the marinade, which helped the pork absorb most of it.

Roast Pre-Crock Pot

Roast Pre-Crock Pot

I cooked the pork roast in the crock pot for four hours, rotating it over. The result was a well-flavored meat, hinted just right by the apple wine. For once, thinking ahead paid off for me.

Finished product

Finished product

Why FCS Teams Are Really Being Scheduled by College Football’s Big Boys

The other day, Barry Alvarez told a sports radio station what college football pundits’ ears were itching to hear: the Big 10 would quit scheduling FCS teams. Amid the rejoicing over this news, journalist have forgotten to ask a couple critical questions: one, how is the Big 10 going to enforce this, and two, if the Big 10 isn’t going to schedule FCS teams, who exactly are they going to schedule?

I’m not saying that the Big 10 and all conferences shouldn’t try to get FCS teams off their schedules, but just judging by last year, it isn’t likely that all major conference teams will be able to go without games against FBS teams. The real culprits aren’t the major conference teams, but the lesser FBS teams who insist on playing major conference teams at their home stadiums, even though they hardly deserve it.

To understand this problem, let’s answer the question of where a school’s non-conference schedule comes from. The Big 5 Conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC; sorry Big East) played 218 non-conference games, and 54 of those were against FCS teams, roughly one in four. Here’s the conference breakdown:

SEC: 15 FCS opponents (Texas A&M had two)

Big 12: 9 (everyone but Texas)

Big 10: 8 (everyone but Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State)

ACC: 13 (Florida State had two)

Pac 12: 9 (everyone but Stanford, USC, and UCLA)

Ironically, the Big 10 did better than any other conference in keeping FCS teams off the schedule, considering they played four non-conference games and all their schools but Michigan and Indiana played seven home games. Nine conference games (what the Big 10 say it will go to) didn’t even keep FCS out of Big 12 or Pac 12 schedules

Fifty-two of sixty Big 5  programs played an FCS opponent, so not even a full conference could have gotten rid of such match-ups. In their defense, some of these match-ups resulted because of conference realignment. Texas A&M had to scramble to ad an extra game when they moved from the Big 12 to SEC, and Florida State had West Virginia cancel on their meeting with only seven month’s notice when the Mountaineers had to trim a game to move to the Big 12. With Savanna State, they got the worst possible matchup When I saw on Twitter that the third quarter of the FSU-Savanna State game was going to played with a running clock, I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t.

It’s games like that (and Nebraska’s 73-7 scrimmage against Idaho State) that have the Big 10 proclaiming, “No more FCS teams!” With the conference realignment dust settling, AD’s won’t be scrambling, and will have more time to setting their schedules for the long-term (Nebraska has its schedule set through 2016.)

But non-conference games have to come from someplace. Take the Big 10 last year. 22 of its 48 non-conference games were single home games, with no return to the opposing team. Again, eight of these were against FCS schools. However, it should be noted that, of the other 26 non-conference games, only 14 were against major conference schools, including the regular series games by Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue against Notre Dame, and Iowa’s regular game with Iowa State. Twelve other games were part of some home-and-home series with programs from mid-level conferences, which I would argue are the real reason we’ve seen AD’s of major programs resulting to schedule FCS.

There were sixty-five programs outside of the Big 5 Conferences last year, including the Big East. The majority of these programs are now making one single game, road trip a year, as many big boys are playing at the likes of ULM and Tulane. All of the lower conference commissioners want to reduce the number of single-game road trips their members take. The mom-and-pops of the FBS hold out on major conference programs for return games, even when they’d make more money making the trip. The prime example being Southern Miss selling a home game of a 2-for-1 series to Nebraska to buyout their coach, receiving $2.1 million. Golden Eagles got $300,000 for this year’s game in Lincoln, and if they receive at least the same amount for their 2015 visit, they’ll pocket $900,000 for three visits to Lincoln, only $100,000 below the $1 million less-heralded Arkansas State made on a single game visit to Lincoln this fall. (It was only three years ago that Idaho received $800,000 for a single game in 2010.)

It is because major conference AD’s are bowing to these MAC, Conference USA, and Sun Belt teams that fans are winding up having to pay full ticket prices for games against FCS teams. Michigan State, who didn’t have any single-game visitors this year, has received three home games from Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Central Michigan for making a road trip to each school. (In-state relationships undoubtedly are the cause of this, as they are in many of these non-competitive matchups, like Northern Iowa and the two FBS Iowa programs.)  But when teams who are easily among the worst in the FBS are receiving road games, including Wyoming (Nebraska), UNLV (from Wisconsin two years ago, Minnesota this year) and UMass (Indiana), something has to change. In addition, Purdue has had home-and-homes with Rice and Marshall. In future years, Illinois will be completing a two game series at Western Michigan, and worst of all, Minnesota will be playing a home-and-home series with New Mexico State, who can’t even get into a major conference. Don’t be shocked if Jerry Kill soon schedules a welding school.

While 2-for-1’s insure overall quality and ease long-term scheduling headaches, they keep fans from seeing multiple non-conference games against BCS competition. 2007 was the last year that Nebraska played two BCS conference foes in the same year, and since 2004, the Huskers have only twice played two BCS conference foes in the same season, in 2005 and 2007. In the Big 10, only Michigan and Northwestern played more than one BCS team in their non-conference schedule.

With all these obstacles, eliminating FCS teams from Big 10 schedules can only be done with incremental change. Nine conference games is a good start, but it would take financial penalties to get AD’s to stop scheduling the FCS teams, because FCS teams cost 50%-60% of what FBS teams cost. An official agreement with some of the lesser conferences could help the Big 10 accomplish that. And really, who cares if Indiana, Minnesota, and eventually Maryland, keep FCS schools on their schedules?

And even if such an agreement comes to fruition, there are still going to be situations where a coach and/or athletic directors get fired, and new ones come in and redo schedules, like Bill Synder did when he returned to Kansas State in 2009 and canceled tough series Ron Prince set-up. (Ironically, he swept the one series he couldn’t get rid of against Miami.) And some schools will renege on their verbal commitments to games, which is how Nebraska ended up playing Idaho State last year. What is a school suppose to do when it needs a game in a pinch? It goes back to the main problem of Barry Alvarez’s brash statement: a conference doesn’t have power over its members non-conference schedule. The schools do.

The only way for this to change is if heavy fines ($400,000-$500,000) are leveled against schools who do schedule an FCS program. Don’t be surprised if a scheduling agreement between the MAC and the Big 10 eventually comes into play. With how heavily involved ESPN and other TV networks are involved with college football (the Big 10 owns its own network), it’s no surprise people are talking about eliminating FCS cupcakes. If they can.

Yes, Run Away from the FCS Opponent…

Busy, Busy

These past couple of weeks have been some of the craziest of my life, between chairing the February Focus Exhibit at Noyes, to working on a new piece of fiction, to moving my lab stuff into new office space, to looking at houses to buy (seriously!?!), to keeping up with my regular blogging and studying topics online.

It’s been a wild couple of weeks. I don’t how I got this busy, other than to say I started finding place where I am of use and who’ve had a use for me.

Four years ago, I was adverse to making lists; now, if I have to make a list in the morning if I’m going to be productive. There are too many things to remember, and my cranium doesn’t have enough space. I used to go to the grocery to store whenever I needed something, usually every other day. Now, forty-five minutes of my day is much more valuable, so I have to go once a week with a list for the week. Freshmen year at Concordia, I remember being bored by a presentation on time management; now, I wish I would have learned those skills then, so they would come more naturally now. I’m stumbling along, but I still have time to learn each day. I’m just glad that I’ve been challenged at work.

Through all this, it’s been giving me a renewed focus of what’s important in life, and where I want to be five to ten years from now. Just the other day, I saw an article about a guy who was debt-ridden at age 40, but was now retiring at 60 with plenty to live on. It reminded me how much I need to be striving for.
When I graduated college, I didn’t have a lot goals and priorities. Now, I always ask myself, how is this thing I’m about to do going to add to my career.

The one thing I’ve realized over this past busy month is that it’s possible to find yourself in your work. In fact, working hard will give you more of an identity in the long run than just wandering of into a field, waiting for lightning to strike. Another I’m learning every day while I write my new piece of fiction is that you have to write what you know, what you hear every day. Which is why my new book sounds a lot like sports talk radio, and whenever I get lost, I have the characters start talking about sports.

A couple of months ago, I read the recent book The Flip Side of Feminism by Suzanne Venker. Reading it wasn’t any type of watershed moment, but it help to believe what I wanted to believe for so long about life: that my life as a male has value. Ms. Venker writes a lot about how narcissistic and self-centered our culture has become, about how the twenty-somethings who are “finding themselves” are really just watching TV every night and abdicated adult responsibility. Many of them choose to find themselves in pleasure rather than in work and sacrifice. I’m beginning to understand that a little better now as my life swirls around me.

Railroad to Staplehurst

Railroad to Staplehurst

A Husker Recruiting Thought, & Will Huskers 2012-2013 Seasons Resemble 2001-2002?

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Will they keep it going?

Have to be honest-I don’t really follow college football recruiting as closely as I used to. I know this year was a better year for the expert, and I know that part of why Nebraska hasn’t done as well the last two years is that their top recruits have left the program early (Cody Green, Todd Peat, Tyler Moore, Aaron Green, etc, etc). The success or failure of a recruiting class will depend on how many of the top recruits max out.

I’m a little surprised that Nebraska as a state doesn’t have more than one signable player for Bo Pelini. I know it’s not 1985, and that you have to import players, but it goes back to what I raised in January: does Pelini have the mentality to develop blue collar players from small high schools and get the most out of them? You don’t have to be an elite athlete to start at linebacker in the Big 10. Go out to Tecumseh and find someone who can dominate on special teams, an area where you really lagged behind in 2012.

While Nebraska football has suffered more than its share of bad losses over the last ten years, 2001 Colorado and 2012 Wisconsin both have similarity in that, both the 2001 and 2012 teams overachieved due to favorable schedules: namely, hardest games at home (Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Texas Tech in 2001; Wisconsin, Michigan, and Penn State in 2012), traditionally good opponents having done years (Kansas State in 2001, Michigan State and Iowa this year). So, after a devastating loss to end the year, Husker fans should wonder if 2013 will feature results similar to 2002.

Record-wise, I don’t think Nebraska will have a year like 2002 in 2013, mainly because that team lost the talent and leadership of Eric Crouch, which covered up a lot of Frank Solich’s flaws. That year also featured a tougher schedule early, tougher than this team will face with five home games to start the year (thanks, Southern Miss). But the issue of complacency remains, and for all the work that Taylor Martinez has set about improving his game, his attitude has never said, “I lead from the front.” Also, this team’s best leader, Rex Burkhead, is sadly moving on.

So, will 2013 be a let down? My personal prediction is that Nebraska will be no worse than 9-3 after they play Iowa, barring major injury of course. But should fans expect 11-1? Even if Penn State falls off the face of the earth by next November, Michigan State and Iowa will improve, and UCLA has been revitalized under Jim Mora. It’s not going to be easy.

What will determine the Huskers success in 2013 is how hungry they are in spring practice. Watch the video below for a few examples of where the Huskers may be lacking.

Writing Lessons

Since I finished writing an embarrasing manuscript almost four years ago, I’ve been trying to kick start writing another work of fiction. I have numerous attempts and failures at starting a new narrative, but in the last month, I’m happy to report that I have sustained a fiction story for 25,000 words now (38 single spaced word document pages). I learned a lot from that first failed attempt of a novel.

First of all, I know better than to put things into it that I won’t be too proud to show others later. Second, I have taken to write what I know well: Huskers and college football, travel, and a case of boy meets girl. Early in the process, I did feel that what I was doing than stuff I’ve read, so I’m happy on that front. I also have a defined structure that my narrative will take place in, so that keeps me on track.

Writing turns me into a miserable person. I don’t want to go out or talk to anyone else when I write. I take a schneid attitude toward my work. I can’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything until I’ve written. I download lots of music I’ll eventually hate. I’m this close to discontinuing showering, and if I had a girlfriend right now, I’m pretty sure she’d dump me.

But I’m happy doing this. I’m happy to be back to pursuing my long-term goal of being a novelist. I’m doing this to silence my own self-doubt. The manuscript I wrote four years ago, while good, was ultimately a work I wasn’t proud of and had to put in a drawer. This time around, I’ve told myself not to invest the time in writing it unless I’ve got a plan for releasing it. I’ll submit it to agents, but if no publisher takes it, I’ll self-publish it to e-books, perhaps with a few hard copies as well

I have two go-to staples in this project: I know I’m good at writing dialogue, so when all else fails, I turn to two characters speaking to each other. Like a lot of guys, whenever I get into trouble and don’t know what to write, I just write dialogue. While I haven’t plotted everything out, I do write guidelines before I jump into write scenes. I have arcs that I want my characters to go on. In my concordance, I have written down what each character’s relationship is to the other characters in the work. From watching a lot of spy shows, I’ve devised a principal: good conflict is created when Character A has loyalty split between Character B and Character C (or Characters D and E, if you’re really ambitious). I also keep in my mind that Character A not only process his/her relationship with Character B, but when Character C enters, Characters A must simultaneously process his relationships with both Characters B and C, but also the relationship between Characters B and C. (Got that insight in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.)

As far as the plot of this novel, it is set around a Nebraska football game in recent memory. That’s all I’m saying for now.

But as of right now, my goal is to have a full draft done by February 28. I am selling out to this, and I will be proud to make it my future, thanks be to God.

Waiting....

Waiting….

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