Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Blackshirt Distribution Becomes a Rorschach Test For Some

When word came out that 20 defensive players were wearing Blackshirts at practice, the inevitable second-guessing of the coaching staff began from some. Is there an argument that 20 Blackshirts is too many?  Absolutely.  But it's not quite as cut-and-dried of an argument as you might think.  Certainly Bo Pelini does a lot more situational substitutions than his predecessors, so it would be hard to limit it to just eleven.  But certainly some of the recipients raise eyebrows:  Eric Martin?  Justin Blatchford? Terrence Moore?  P.J. Smith? Lance Thorell? Thad Randle?

It's kind of hard to group those players in with the every down players like Lavonte David, Baker Steinkuhler, or Alfonzo Dennard. Does this water down the meaning of the Blackshirt tradition, like Jason Peter tweeted earlier today?  I do tend to agree with Peter, but by that same token, I think the Blackshirt tradition has more meaning now that it's not enough to just start on defense. A Blackshirt defense means something.  The 2007 Nebraska defense wore black practice jerseys, but could in no way could be compared to the great Nebraska defenses that proudly wore the Blackshirt. The defense has to play at a certain level, and if the defense plays at that certain level, everybody who's part of it gets a Blackshirt.

I get it, I understand it.  It is a different way of implementing the tradition, to be sure.  And some people can disagree with it.  That's fine.

What I don't understand is the allegation that Bo Pelini doesn't care about Nebraska tradition - or the fans. Bo Pelini has made it clear that he cares more about the people inside the program than the people outside of the program. Guess what:  I have no problem with that.  He's going to stick up for his players first and foremost. When he sticks his neck out of them, they turn around and stick their neck out for him. If there is a former player who disliked playing for Bo Pelini, they haven't made their presence known.

But does Bo "hate" the fans?  I don't see it.  Does he love the fans?  No, but show me a coach that really does? In the end, any coach's popularity is based primarily on his results.  If he wins games, he'll be loved.  If he loses games, he'll be hated. How you win sometimes doesn't matter; just ask Ohio State fans about Jim Tressel.

Definitive Proof that Bo Pelini
hates Husker fans.
The whole idea that Bo Pelini didn't hand out Blackshirts because he hates Nebraska fans is easily debunked once you realize how important the Blackshirts are to the players.  Will Compton called it a "damn good day" when he saw his Blackshirt in his locker. It's almost like the Blackshirts are a giant Rorschach test where some people try to infer meaning out of ink blots.  Frankly, it's silly.

If you want to disagree with awarding Blackshirts to nine part-time role players or key substitutes, that's fine. If you want to disagree with holding them back until the defense actually accomplishes something, as opposed to awarding them in August, that's valid criticism as well.  But to turn this into something with a greater meaning is simply psychobabble.

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