It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We cover the Senior Open, Colin Kaepernick vs. Matt Schaub, Husker schedules and, of course, naked Gary Player. But first, Alfonzo Dennard.
That’s the word I heard over and over Thursday describing Dennard — ESPN linked his character concerns to Aaron Hernandez’s. How, after everything you’ve been through the past 18 months, can Dennard get behind the wheel drunk? So many people must be disappointed (or furious) with Dennard, including Bill Belichick. But I thought immediately of Bo Pelini, who was in Chicago Thursday throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field.
This is what Bo said last spring regarding Dennard:
“That isn’t who he is, that’s never been who he is, and that’s not going to be who he is in the future. And I put my reputation, and I put everything I stand for as a football coach behind that young man.
“He is a tremendous young man, and one who you want not only representing you as a football player, but the type of kid you want in your community, the type of kid you want representing your organization.
“For four years, I didn’t have a problem with that young man in any way. He did things exactly how we asked him to do them here, and the way we handle our kids, we don’t make it easy on the kids in our program. We hold them to high standards every single day.”
How much of that would Pelini like to have back? I don’t begrudge Bo one bit for defending Dennard, who WAS a good citizen as a Husker. But it’s perhaps a lesson for the coach, too, because as close as he feels to a player, Bo doesn’t have any control of these guys after they leave NU.
Will an NFL executive trust Pelini next time he has a player in Dennard’s position? I don’t know. The more interesting question is, will Bo trust the player?
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>> Ron Jaworski puts Robert Griffin III 13th, Russell Wilson 12th and Colin Kaepernick 11th in his NFL quarterback rankings. I love Jaws and I love the feature. But those seem too low. I recognize you need to show consistency. But I’d put them all in the top 10. Wouldn’t you? Judging by who Jaws hasn’t featured yet, he has the following guys in his top 10:
Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees
(So far, so good, right?)
Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan
(Getting into “iffy” territory)
Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub
Jaworski is gonna rank Matt Schaub ahead of first-year starters RG3, Wilson and Kaepernick? Seriously? To be honest, I don’t buy Big Ben ahead of that trio, either. We’ll see this season. But I don’t expect much of a sophomore slump. Even if RG3, Wilson and Kaepernick come close to last season’s production (especially in the second half), I think they’re all top-8 QBs.
>> No Michigan on the Nebraska football schedule until 2018?!? Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it. Well, it was inevitable. After skipping Ohio State and Michigan in 2014-15, the Big Ten wasn’t going to give NU both in 2016-17. Which meant there was going to be a four-year gap with one of the big dogs.
Yes, it’s a downside to the new divisional structure, but would you rather see a four-year gap with Wisconsin? (No). Perhaps the Huskers and Wolverines can get together in Indy one of those years.
>> I’m on record saying Nebraska needs to occasionally sacrifice a seventh home game to get a high-profile, non-conference game. So the question is, should it keep its 2016 game at Soldier Field against Northern Illinois? Or keep all its non-con home games, Tennessee, Wyoming and Fresno State? The Huskers have to eliminate one because of the nine-game Big Ten schedule, which gives them only four home games in ’16.
My preference would be to cut Wyoming or Fresno. But if Shawn Eichorst says no to Northern Illinois, I would understand. That’s not a game that will draw attention nationally.
>> By the way, we have a new contender for worst home schedule in Husker history. You thought ’14 was bad (Florida Atlantic, McNeese State, Miami, Illinois, Rutgers, Purdue and Minnesota).
How ‘bout 2016: Fresno State, Tennessee, Wyoming, Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Maryland. Ouch. Is it too late to get out of this Rutgers/Maryland deal?
>> Were Nick Saban and Bret Bielema right? Do hurry-up offenses really increase injury risk for defenders?
>> I’m no Dodgers fan. My All-Star Game experience won’t be ruined by Yasiel Puig’s omission — I’ll watch a few innings, as I usually do. But there’s something else at work in baseball now. A Puig backlash. Yahoo columnist Tim Brown says it’s premature.
>> My thoughts on Day One at the Senior Open, starting with the guy who hits it 40 yards shorter than his competitors.
>> How ‘bout an out-of-town perspective on Tom Watson this morning? New Kansas City columnist Vahe Gregorian says Watson sees himself sliding toward retirement. For the record, Colin Montgomerie said Watson still has the game to compete at Muirfield next week. Watson’s response: “He’s being kind.”
>> Sean McDonough, who’s anchoring the Senior Open coverage on ESPN2 today, has always been one of my favorite broadcasters. Fantastic voice. Great sense of humor. Always good in exciting moments. Never says too much. McDonough had many kind words Thursday for Omaha during the broadcast, including this:
“Having been here about 15 times for the College World Series and more than that for a number of Nebraska football games, this is — Omaha and Lincoln — one of the most underappreciated areas of the country. It’s just a wonderful place to visit and I’m sure it’s a great place to live. Everybody who lives here seems to love it, that’s for sure.”
>> Gary Player appeared on the cover of ESPN the Magazine this week. (Note to editors: Please promise you’ll never show me a naked 77-year-old man again.) I don’t want to look at Player’s body, but his words were probably right on. Chew on this quote (while you’re chewing on your morning cookie):
“America is maybe the most unhealthy nation in the world because they live on crap,” Player said. “They’ve got the best food in the world, the best farmers and the best food but they live on crap. When [British chef] Jamie Oliver went to America he went to areas where children never had cabbage or broccoli or spinach or vegetables in their life. People giving their children a soft drink and a doughnut to go to school. No wonder academically they’re affected.
“55 percent of the greatest country in the world is obese? How can you compete against the Chinese? You haven’t got a chance! People that are lean and mean and working hard and producing maybe 100 engineers to every two or three that you produce. Kids that are learning like crazy at school and spending hours learning. You go to Korea and those kids finish school at 7 o’clock at night because there’s no sense of entitlement. It frustrates me because I happen to have 15 American grandchildren. I love America but I get so upset at the way I see the obesity. I just don’t see how the healthcare system can work. I pray it does but I just don’t see how it can work with this tsunami of obesity.”
>> I spent a few days in the North Carolina Outer Banks early this week. Wednesday afternoon, I rushed to the Norfolk “International” Airport in Virginia to catch a flight, so I could get home and cover the Senior Open. Trouble was, there were thunderstorms in Atlanta. Not only was I connecting in the ATL, my first plane was coming from there.
The delay started at 40 minutes. The man at the Delta counter — Julius, according to his name tag — was fielding all sorts of questions, mostly from a single businessman, who’d had a bad day, he said. He’d been issued more tickets than he could count. And he still wasn’t going to get to Green Bay at 8 a.m. the next morning. How can he make it, he asked. Julius took him through the options. Detroit. Atlanta. Boston. Minneapolis. Etc. Nothing got him there before 9.
I was already upset about my leaving my family halfway through a vacation — my 3-year-old had learned to swim in the pool with a life jacket (with no help from Dad)! Had I known about the delay, I could’ve stayed longer. Instead, I was behind a guy who took longer to choose a flight than Dwight Howard takes picking an NBA team.
They went through the options again. And again. Finally, the man made a decision. Detroit. When I finally got to the counter, I made a crack about the businessman and asked Julius a few quick questions about my connection to Omaha. He punctuated each answer with “Boss.”
I grabbed a seat near a woman whose one-hour phone conversation about the drama of class reunion planning was broadcast to the whole terminal. Seriously, Adele would kill for this woman’s pipes. And she didn’t notice (several) subtle hints suggesting she shut up.
Meanwhile, our departure time got bumped from 7:54 to 9:18, eventually all the way to 10:15. Dangit.
I kept watching the Delta attendant, who was checking his phone every few minutes. When I went back to the counter to check again on my connection, I said the night must be getting long for him, too. That’s when Julius opened up.
He said his babysitter had been calling wondering when he’d be home. How many kids, I said. Just one. He’s a single dad with a 9-month-old baby.
I wondered why. Divorce? I didn’t ask.
He was still looking at his computer screen when he said why. His wife had died during childbirth.
I didn’t know what to say.
Boy or girl, I asked.
Boy. Kyle, the name she picked.
He gave me another update on the Atlanta connection — “You have a 50/50 chance, Boss” — and I sat down.
Almost an hour later, the flight from Atlanta landed in Norfolk. And with it, two new attendants arrived. Julius walked away from Gate B23, down a long hallway. Is he coming back, I asked the new attendant. No, she said.
I boarded my plane for Atlanta, landed and discovered my connection to Omaha had been canceled. I spent another hour in lines, hoping for a hotel room, eventually boarding a shuttle bus to a motel, where I waited through another line, hoping to get one of the last smoking rooms. I did.
At 1:30 a.m., in a room with no phone, ripped carpet and dents in the fridge, I leveraged a chair against the door, pulled a shirt out of my bag and put it over the pillow case.
I thought of a 3-year-old boy in a life jacket. I wondered if, back in Norfolk, Julius was rocking a baby to sleep.