Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nebraska's Black Uniforms: A Jaded Sellout Or Merely an Evolving Tradition?

When adidas unveiled the new TechFit uniforms that the Huskers will wear against UCLA in September, the reactions were predictable.  At each extreme, the reactions were strong:  they're awful, or they're unbelievably cool.  Some people embrace change, some people resist change. But that's cliched for the most part because I think most people actually are in the middle in this discussion.

Courtesy adidas
My take:  these uniforms are OK.  I wouldn't call them great, though I can see why players like them. The pictures that adidas released on Twitter don't do these justice.  When you look at them closely, the fabric has a subtle pattern that is cool.  But nobody watching in Memorial Stadium will be able to notice...neither will most people watching on ABC, except during close ups.

And the most important thing about these uniforms is that the players like them. After all, they are wearing them.  It's not about the fans.  It's not about the alumni.  And these uniforms are fine.  I can read the numbers on both the front and the back, and the jersey features a unique font.  So I don't have the issues that I had with the 2012 "version 0.1" of the "Unrivaled" uniform.  Those were ridiculed as "pajama-like" for good reason... many people found them ugly, but most importantly, the small jersey numbers on the front were illegible.  Even the players commented after the game that this style didn't work.

Those were bad alternate uniforms.  These are good alternate uniforms.  Alternate uniforms aren't inherently good or bad.  And it's not an adidas-is-bad, Nike-is-good situation either.  Nike dominates most lists of ugly uniforms, and adidas has released some decent uniforms as well. 

On the other hand, a lot of the criticism of these uniforms is that they are black, and Nebraska is known as the "Big Red".  Well, all white uniforms (hideous as they may be) never stopped a Husker fan from unleashing a GBR cheer.  Black won't either.

But it's breaking tradition, they claim.

Courtesy N'Sider Blog
Sorry, but uniforms are constantly changing and evolving.  In the early 90's, a patch was added to the side of the uniform and stripes were removed from the legs.  In the 80's, the N on the sleeve was removed and stripes were added.  The facemask went from grey to red.  In the 70's, jerseys were cut off with players sporting bare midriffs.  That's not a good look on football players.

And let's be honest. Black has become an official Nebraska football team color over the years with the the "Blackshirt" tradition.  School color?  Maybe not.  But the color is definitely a part of Nebraska football.

Last year's pajamas were actually based on 100 year old uniform styles when players wore the "N" on the front of the uniform...that was back before someone decided helmets were a good idea.  So even those are traditional.

For most fans, I think it comes down to taste.  Some people like rap music.  Some people like rock.  Some people like country.  Some people like classical.

Some people like these uniforms.  Some don't.  Welcome to America, where we all have the freedom to love or hate these uniforms...and tell everybody about it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Charging Kindgergarteners For Tap Water: More Family Fun From the Omaha Storm Chasers

I admit it that I'm not a fan of the Omaha area's minor league baseball team, mostly because I"m not a fan of the Kansas City Royals.  I've only been to one game in the last ten years or so, and frankly that wasn't exactly a positive experience.  So no, I haven't been to a game out at the Trailer Park.

But my wife was there last year on a work outing, and yesterday, my daughter went to "Kids Day" as part of her summer school program.  We had hoped to send an empty bottle for her to fill with water, but that apparently isn't allowed.  ("Send $10 with your child" was the recommendation we received.)  I tried to call the team offices Tuesday evening for clarification on their policy, but apparently nobody at Werner Park answers the phone during a game.

Image Courtesy Millard Public Schools Foundation
So we sent the money with our daughter this morning, after dealing with her displeasure at having to wear shorts with a pocket for the money. (As parents of any kindergartener knows, practicality is generally not a factor in a child's clothing choices...)  Along with an empty bottle, just in case.  We told her to be sure to buy a bottle of water if she couldn't take her empty bottle in to get filled

Well, the bottle wasn't allowed.  We kind of expected it, even though we've never had an issue at any other sporting event.  And my daughter had a great time, and more importantly, came back with the change.  She kept track of the money, and bought cotton candy and a medium cup of water.

I missed it the first time my daughter told me about it.  But over supper, we talked about it again, and how much she spent.  The cotton candy was $4, she said, and the water was $2 for a small, $3 for a medium, and $5 for a large cup.  And then she said "cup" again.

And suddenly I grasped what had happened.  My daughter had been charged $3 for a cup of tap water.  (Well, and ice.)  I expected that she'd probably have to pay for a bottle of water.  But that's not what she got.

She got Tap water.

Really?  $3 for a cup of water?

It was a 90 degree day out there, so it's not like she had a choice in the matter.  She even mentioned that she couldn't find a drinking fountain anywhere.  So I'm proud of my daughter for knowing what she spent and recognizing that she needed to make sure to have something to drink versus some other trinket.

It's not the money, it's really the principle of the situation.  Charging up to $5 (large) for a cup of the Metropolitan Utilities District's finest tap water?  Not allowing you to bring in an empty bottle, like the Nebraska athletic department or, even worse, those evil money grubbing bastards at MECA?

That's a business and a team I want to support. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Minneapolis Columnist Says "Cold Omaha" Not an Insult Anymore

Hubert Humphrey is credited with having said the Twin Cities would become "a cold Omaha'' without the presence of major league sports. The origin of this is alleged to have been in 1976, as the debate over a new home for the Vikings and the Twins was heating up.
Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune gave a nice accounting of the Omaha sports scene in Saturday's paper.  Yes, we don't have professional sports.  But Omaha does have a nice selection of college sports.  UNO hockey and basketball.  Creighton basketball.  If you want to drive an hour southwest, Nebraska football, basketball, and baseball.  And, of course, the College World Series.

Like most outsiders, he gets a few details wrong.  TD Ameritrade Park doesn't hold 35,000 fans, though I bet that on a nice weekend day, Omaha could sell 35,000 tickets. The Trailer Park isn't exactly the "right size" for Triple-A baseball when it's the second smallest stadium in either the Pacific Coast League or International League.  But those are minor details. It's a very positive article.
...Guess what? "Cold Omaha'' doesn't exactly work as a source of ridicule these days.

Monday, June 17, 2013

From a Development Perspective, Two Omaha Stadiums are Less than One

Friday's Omaha World-Herald featured a Henry Cordes' article discussing the growth around TD Ameritrade Park and how it's slowed recently.  Some of it is a pause, now that the Blatt and 9ines projects have been completed. Others express concern about the ability of the ballpark to generate traffic after the Fourth of July.  In past years, the stadium hosted the Red Sky Festival and the Omaha Nighthawks...but both are gone.  Nothing is scheduled between the annual fireworks display and next season's Creighton baseball games.

Certainly that'll bring up claims of "white elephant" and "Fahey's folly"...but the College World Series justifies the development of the stadium.  I don't believe that the NCAA would have signed up for a long term contract at Rosenblatt Stadium without a major investment, and frankly, by all accounts, keeping the Series in Omaha pays the freight. (Just looking at the number of LSU fans downtown yesterday hammered that point home.)

This isn't second-guessing the decision to build a stadium downtown. It's asking whether it could have been done better.  And for that, everybody shares in that. Start with the NCAA who rejected portable seating plans.  Nevermind that portable seating is used when the NCAA baskeball tournament is played in domes.  But the biggest blame in my mind goes toward the Omaha Royals and Sarpy County for pushing the second stadium idea. If the stadium were in use through Labor Day, nobody would be arguing that the ballpark was sitting idle. And the more regular foot traffic would lead property owners to invest in bricks for buildings instead of canvas for tents. Those bricks would hold businesses that would stay open and drive more people to the area, even when events weren't scheduled.

Sarpy County stepped out and offered the Royals their own stadium in an effort to keep the Royals in the Omaha area...even though Warren Buffett and Walter Scott's ownership was meant to keep the Royals in the area. Buffett and Scott sold their interests in the Royals last year, now that the team is locked into Sarpy County for another 23 years.  Their investment was no longer necessary, because Sarpy County did that.

The hope of Sarpy County is that the new stadium would drive growth in the far outskirts of the metro area.  That isn't happening at the area I like to call "BFE".  Plans have been discussed, but nothing is happening.  The "Trailer Park" is still surrounded by empty fields and "For Sale" signs. Clearly, minor league baseball isn't a driver of growth by itself.

But if the Omaha area had consolidated minor league baseball and the CWS downtown, would that have generated more growth?  I'd argue yes.  In this situation, the two stadiums are less than one.  I don't believe the Royals were leaving Omaha with the ownership by Buffett and Scott, but I do think that at some point, the CWS would have, if the NCAA's needs weren't taken care of. 

It's somewhat crying over spilled milk at this point, as the situation is what it is now.  But I still can't help but wonder about the opportunity that was lost when the Royals decided to leave Omaha.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

MECA Says Outdoor Hockey at TD Ameritrade Park Was a "Hit"

In a story about downtown development, I caught the following little note about February's outdoor hockey game between UNO and North Dakota:

The authority that operates TD Ameritrade is constantly looking for new events, with some success, said CEO Roger Dixon. Outdoor ice hockey in February was a financial hit for both the stadium and local businesses.
In the wake of the February "Battles on Ice", there were a lot of third-hand claims that the event lost money, but apparently that wasn't the case. From my perspective, the UNO outdoor game was a good idea that could be done even better.  Don't try a doubleheader (in case the ice conditions have an issue).  Have the rink available for use for at least a week or two before the game, and actually encourage local teams to use the rink, if only to help season the ice.  Make it a community resource, and even have some public skating times.

It's good to know that the stadium made money on the event.  Certainly the local businesses made a profit. North Dakota fans certainly filled Omaha's hotels, and that's great for the city.

I suspect many of my fellow UNO fans don't want another outdoor game. Some prefer the climate-controlled environment of an indoor environment.  Others simply want it to be an experience reserved for UNO season ticketholders.  And some are still smarting over North Dakota's three-goal outburst that opened the game. Me, I'd love to see UNO back outside at TD Ameritrade Park in a few years. Wisconsin has talked about playing outdoors every four years so that each player who puts on a Badger jersey gets the outdoor experience.  That seems like a decent model.

I wouldn't want to play hockey outdoors every season.  But every four years or so?  That seems like the right balance, and frankly, I'd be looking forward to it.  Outdoor hockey games are simply too cool...

Monday, June 10, 2013

How did the Huskers Poach an Assistant Basketball Coach from Georgetown?

This morning's news that Tim Miles had hired Georgetown assistant basketball coach Kenya Hunter brought a sense of shock and awe to the college basketball world.  Says Gary Parrish of

Simply put, this is not your grandfather's Nebraska.
Or your father's Nebraska.
Or even your older brother's Nebraska.
The Big Ten school opened a new $20 million basketball practice facility in October 2011, will open a new $179 million basketball arena this season, and is paying second-year coach Tim Miles a salary that'll eventually exceed $2 million annually, which brings me to Hunter and his salary. A source told that it'll be $230,000 a year, and that all three Huskers assistants now make at least $200,000 a year. So while Nebraska is still quite obviously a "football" school, the administration has made it clear it thinks there's no reason basketball can't operate at a high level, too.
But (and there's always a but) there is a reason Miles was able to pull this off. According to SB Nation's Casual Hoya last week, Hunter was already headed out in a staff shakeup.

As of now, the coaching staff consists of Kevin Broadus, Kenya Hunter, Tavaras Hardy and Kevin Sutton as assistants, with assistant Director of Basketball Operations Othella Harrington also in the mix as the potential new Director of Basketball Operations. However, today's hires seem to indicate that one of either Hunter or Harrington may be on the move or have to accept some other position on the bench. Unless Sutton is being brought on as DOBO or as a "special assistant", Georgetown now has four very capable assistant coaches for three spots. Given that it would be logical for Harrington to take the next step into the DOBO spot (unless he's fine with spending another year as the assistant DOBO), it would seem that Hunter, JT3's longest tenured assistant, might be on his way out.
And now Hunter is, in fact, out... out to Lincoln as a new Husker basketball coach.

Let's make one thing clear: This isn't a bad hire. In fact, it's a great slam-dunk, grand-slam-home-run hire for Nebrasketball.  The situation at Georgetown doesn't hurt Hunter's resume one bit. He has all of the coaching experience (and then some) that Miles wanted and needed on his staff, and then some.

The only thing the Georgetown situation did was make Hunter receptive to an offer to join the Nebraska basketball staff. Hunter has great experience with big time basketball:  four years at NC State, three at Xavier, and six at Georgetown. It's a great hire, and props to Tim Miles for pulling the trigger on this.

I've been skeptical of Miles' hires previously.  Hunter's addition to the Nebrasketball staff addresses my main concern of the lack of big-time basketball coaching experience on his staff.  It's truly a great move for Nebraska basketball, and a reason to be excited.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Mike'l Severe Admits to Blocking @Huskers on Twitter

Driving home Friday evening, I caught the tail end of Unsportsmanlike Conduct on KOZN-1620 AM.  After discussing the Belmont Stakes, John Bishop turned the discussion back towards Twitter and why in the world Mike'l Severe blocked @Huskers on Twitter.  (And mentioned me as well, in the conversation...)

Bishop: How could the Huskers official Huskers do anything to offend you?
Severe: I also blocked Brandi Peterson.
Severe: Remember that? I blocked her that one time..
Bishop: You did, you did.
Severe:  Husker Mike, Steve Sipple...

(About 9:30 minutes into this podcast...)

Bishop: You're just a blocking fool...

Severe blocked me during the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl when he started tweeting about Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell's play, even though Maxwell had already been benched.  Turns out the Severe was watching the game on his DVR, and was a quarter behind.  He was confusing people on Twitter, and I suggested that he shouldn't be tweeting about the game if he wasn't watching the same thing as everybody else.
And, he didn't like that one bit.
Or maybe it was really this...
When I was checking out the @CornNation Twitter feed on Friday, another Severe tweet came up again. Seems that Severe is still as hot-headed as ever before.
Kind of sad what Unsportsmanlike Conduct has degraded to...

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

TV Ratings Belie Notion that Hockey is a "Niche" Sport

I'm a football and hockey fan, as regular readers of my blog probably should realize. I like baseball and college basketball as well, but those typically rate behind football and hockey on my interest scale. And sometimes that gets thrown back in my face by making the comment that hockey is just a "niche" sport, and that I'm an outlier in the sports community.

Is that true?  Well, maybe not as much as others might have presumed.

I've been pleasantly surprised by NBC's decision to televise the Stanley Cup Playoffs in primetime on broadcast television the last two Saturday nights.  Was it a reach for NBC?  Turns out no, because NBC actually won the network TV ratings battle with game one of the Boston/Pittsburgh series.  That's something that NBC probably hasn't done since the end of football season.

It even beat Fox's coverage of Major League Baseball.  And it wasn't a fluke...because NBC did the exact same thing the week before, with hockey topping baseball in the ratings.

Disclaimer:  the ratings for the NBA more than doubled the NHL TV ratings on Saturday night.  Not really surprising with the star power of LeBron James, but the NBA stopped being interesting to me over 20 years ago.  And frankly, when the biggest story of the NBA last night turned out to be Justin Bieber and the manager of some rapper named "Flo Rida", well, I'm not coming back to see what I'm might have missed... Because I didn't miss a damn thing, according to my Twitter feed last night.
Bottom line... hockey isn't a niche sport.  Football is #1 in this country without a doubt.  But save the niche label for sports like soccer.