Oct. 8, 2011, the night that won’t go away. For Bo Pelini and for me.
I intended to write a bunch of thoughts on one of the weirdest Mondays in Husker history. Sometime in the last 18 hours, especially after reading columns by Lee Barfknecht, Tom Shatel, Mitch Sherman and others, I realized nothing I say will add anything to the discussion. So I’ll just correct one misperception, which I hear all the time:
I don’t hate Bo Pelini. I don’t think Bo Pelini hates me. We have a healthy, professional, cordial relationship. Seriously, we do. I frequently shoot the breeze with him before and after press conferences — at Big Ten media days, I joked with him about interview fatigue. Two weeks ago, I asked him about his golf game — his best round of the summer was 80 at Firethorn, he said. And just last week after practice, on a day he didn’t speak to the media, I asked if Bo had a minute to talk about the Nick Pasquale situation at UCLA. A year ago in fall camp, during a time when he was prohibiting media access, he gave me approval to talk to Daimion Stafford for a previously scheduled Sunday feature. This is typical.
We have worked in the same rooms the past five years. In emotionally charged moments, especially after big losses, my job is to represent fans and ask tough questions. His job is to answer them. Occasionally there’s a flare-up, none bigger than post-Ohio State 2011. Twenty years ago, before press conferences were televised and streamed online, that episode wouldn’t have been a big deal. Now it is, even two years later.
Pelini may still harbor ill will from that night — I wasn’t surprised at all by his comments directed at me or Tom Shatel. It’s not the first time we’ve disagreed. But I firmly believe he respects the job I do — and The World-Herald. Anybody who regularly attends press conferences would tell you that when I ask a question – and I ask a bunch — Pelini doesn’t dodge them. He rarely settles for coach-speak. He recognizes that I’m seeking more than a sound bite and makes a genuine effort to accommodate me. (That’s also true of his assistants, who are as media-friendly as any Husker staff since I started in 2002).
In other words, win or lose the rest of the season, I’ll be standing where I always stand at the postgame press conferences, asking Pelini the two or three questions I find most relevant to my assignment. If history is any guide, he’ll answer with sincerity.