Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How Does Omaha #KerrieOn?

(Disclaimer: Not sports related.)

Twenty years ago, I was working at Mutual of Omaha when Omaha police officer Jimmy Wilson, Jr. was shot and killed. The funeral procession came up Farnam Street, so I joined hundreds of my co-workers that day to pay our respects to Wilson and his family that day. It was the least we could do, and it was incredibly moving. To this day, I remember his grief-stricken father waving and repeatedly saying "thank you" to the community.  (In all honesty, it was us that should have been saying "thank you." We merely lost some of our lunch hour; he lost his son.)

Now, I work at Union Pacific, and once again, I joined my co-workers in another sad tribute for another Omaha police officer who was killed while on-duty: Officer Kerrie Orozco. I suspect that nearly everyone gathered along Douglas Street in downtown Omaha, or Broadway in Council Bluffs had never heard of Kerrie Orzco one week ago.

We'll never forget her now. Her selfless volunteering with inner-city youth sports programs makes her a wonderful role model. And the story of her plans to bring her prematurely born daughter home from the hospital the next day didn't just break our hearts, it shattered them into a gazillion pieces.
No doubt in my mind that her family will carry on. The outpouring of support from this community will ensure that the family's financial needs should be taken care of. What can't be replaced, however, is her. In ten or fifteen years, she'll watch the videos from the past week and get a better idea who her mother was.  A mother that she never knew.

Some people will point to the outpouring of support and wear it with pride as to how great our community is. And it is great.

But this is also the community that was described last year as the "most dangerous city in America to be black." Maybe the numbers were interpreted wrong and maybe Omaha isn't the "most dangerous"...but it doesn't change the fact that Omaha has a problem. And it's a problem that I quite honestly don't understand.  And I'm not going to pretend that I understand either.

I'm torn on this.  I frankly don't know what to think about the problem. I certainly want to #SupportBlue. But I'm also not going to ignore State Senator Ernie Chambers when he said that "my ISIS is the police." Quite a few blowhards tried to make political hay at the time on it, but subsequent incidents in Charleston and Baltimore where police officers were charged with murder make it clear that Chambers' perspective has some validity. It's not an either-or problem; it's a community problem.

It doesn't really matter who's right or wrong. We're losing too many people.  Pointing fingers isn't going to help.  Last week, a little baby lost her mother, a mother who was doing everything in her power to make a difference.  How does Omaha #KerrieOn without her?

That's the question that needs an answer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

With No More Husker Coverage, Time to Remove KFAB from the Car Stereo

I admit it. I'm a bit of a dinosaur who still mostly listens to AM and FM radio in the car. Our cars do have satellite radio, but they pretty much don't work while driving downtown. (So why would I spend $10 a month for it?) I'm not interested in wasting bandwidth by streaming internet radio either.  Besides, I don't want to cause a wreck by messing around with my phone while I'm driving.

And since I usually prefer listening about the sports I like (Huskers, Mavs and Cubs), I'm frequently listening to AM radio on the way to and from work. Thank goodness for Gary Sharp and Damon Benning's outstanding morning show on KOZN-1620 AM. More and more, I find myself listening to Nick Handley and Joe Quinn on KXSP-590 AM more and more, as opposed to 1620's afternoon train wreck of a show in the post-Kevin Kugler/Mike'l Severe era. It used to be that I'd listen to KFAB for traffic reports and an occasional Husker update, but that's no longer the case.

With the radio rights for Husker athletics moving to KXSP next season, KFAB is now out of the business of covering Husker sports. And with that move, there isn't any reason to tune into the hate talk that KFAB now embraces. Between Jim Rose and Chris Baker, the misinformation coming out of Dundee is truly astounding. So this weekend, I reprogrammed my car radio and removed KFAB from the presets, now that Husker baseball season is over.

So long KFAB. Somewhere in heaven, Lyell Bremser is shedding a tear.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

UNO Hockey Approaches Sellout with Only 160 Tickets Available

After just over three weeks of public sales, UNO only has 160 tickets remaining for hockey at the new arena. Depending on which side of the argument you lie on, it's good news.  People who love the idea of UNO having their own arena point out that it's an endorsement of the plan.  People against moving to the smaller arena can point out the fact that UNO could have sold more tickets, if the arena had been sized appropriately.  (#oohAhhSmallerThanLastYearsCrowd)

There's no turning the clock back on what I've called "the mistake"; it's nearing completion, right or wrong.  It doesn't even look like expansion was even considered when the building was designed, based on the drawings and images I've seen thus far.  So Maverick fans are going to live with a 7500 seat arena. Will that mean more people show up for an exhibition game during the holidays, because that might be the only chance people have to get in?  Maybe.  The bigger impact is going to be dampening the crowds that show up in January and February, which historically tend to be bigger (and quite a bit so) than the arena's capacity. That'll fuel a secondary ticket market, which will be good for season ticket holders who can't make it to every game.  It'll also enable North Dakota fans to continue to bring a thousand fans down I-29 to Omaha in February.  (What, you thought that building a smaller arena would keep the green hordes out?  Bahhaha...)

If you need three tickets, you are in luck because their are 19 sets of three tickets still available.  There are only two sets of four tickets still available, and just eight pairs.  There are still several groups of 5-10 tickets that could be split up into pairs or other groupings.  It'll be interesting to see how much longer most of the remaining tickets last; I suspect that by September, there will only be a handful of single tickets available - which would be a virtual sellout in my mind.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fundraiser for Sheila Leahy, Wife of UNO Color Commentator Terry Leahy

One of the most important members of the UNO hockey community didn't get to experience all of the excitement of UNO's historic run to the NCAA Frozen Four.  Days after St. Cloud State knocked UNO out of the NCHC playoffs, Sheila Leahy, the wife of radio color commentator Terry Leahy, was diagnosed with cancer. And the news is sad and grim.  UNO associate athletic director Mike Kemp sent the following message to ticket holders on Tuesday:

On March 16, Sheila Leahy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Single Cell Carcinoma. This is not curable and the doctors are currently working to keep her comfortable. Sheila is the wife of long-time UNO Hockey color commentator, Terry Leahy. For Maverick fans, Terry has been the man explaining the hockey games for us since the first Maverick Hockey game on October 17, 1997. We have relied on his insight and knowledge of the game for years. 
Now Terry and his family are looking to us for support. To that end, the committee is holding a Fundraiser for Sheila at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1502 South 48th St., this Friday, May 15, from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. Terry’s broadcast schedule at the radio station has been significantly reduced, and the medical bills are piling up. Support from friends is critical at this time. At Friday’s event, there will be food, a silent auction, entertainment and dancing. Please make an effort to bring family and friends to Holy Cross to support this family which has been such a visible part of Maverick Athletics for so many years. If you can’t attend the event, you can still support the family by donating to the “Go Fund Me” site that the committee has established for the Leahy Family. Just go to to make your donation. Whatever you can donate will be appreciated. But most of all, keep Sheila, Terry and their family in your prayers. Thank you for your moral, emotional and financial support.
Sad, sad story. Please join me in making a contribution to the Leahy family in their time of need.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nebraska Got Off Easy With Bo Pelini's Buyout

Prominent coaches make a lot of money. I mean, a LOT of money. And certainly too much money, when you compare it to teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters. That's not the coaches fault, for the most part. Like corporate CEO's and entertainers, coaches get what the market demands. Football makes too much money for coaches to not share in the spoils.

So when Bo Pelini signed his $3 million contract, it's what the market for a coach with Pelini's resume would bear. There's a strong case to be made that Pelini was underpaid, compared to, say, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. And when Nebraska decided to part ways with Pelini, Nebraska was still obligated to pay Pelini under the terms of his contract. There was no clause in Pelini's contract that would allow for the payout to be reduced for his ensuing comments to his players, and even if there were terms like that, that clause might be difficult to enforce for comments made in private.  (And really, would Nebraska like to keep reopening that whole can of worms through additional legal maneuvers?  No.)

Pelini has since signed a new contract with Youngstown State that pays Pelini the same salary that Eric Wolford made last year coaching the Penguins. Some people scoff that Pelini is taking a 93% pay cut, but they miss the point.  Pretty much no matter what job Bo Pelini took, barring a top-ten job nationally, Pelini was going to make the same amount for the next five years, which is what Nebraska's buyout clause specified. Anything Pelini makes will offset the NU buyout, so if Pelini would have pursued the South Carolina defensive coordinator job, as was rumored, NU would still likely owe Pelini around $1 million a year.

Many people scoffed when Pelini took the Youngstown State job, but they conveniently ignore that the move wasn't about money. The money was going to be the same no matter where he ended up.  It became a question of where he wants to be for the next five years, and for Bo Pelini, heading home to Youngstown, Ohio, made the most sense for him.  Primarily because it's what makes the most sense for his wife and children.

And let's be honest, by accepting the salary that Youngstown State paid their last coach, Pelini let Nebraska off easy. He easily could have signed a contract that paid him $50,000 a year or less. It wouldn't have mattered to him; Nebraska would have made up the difference. But it would have freed up resources at Youngstown for other purposes: paying assistants, improving facilities, etc. And if Pelini was really feeling vindictive, it would have increased the pain to Nebraska.

But he didn't. He took it easy on Nebraska and himself. Just signed a simple deal with Youngstown and moved on.

Don't like it?  Well, either tilt at the windmill of the excessive salaries that corporate CEO's and entertainers make in our market economy (you're going to lose on that battle), or keep belaboring how awful Bo Pelini is (if that's somehow going to make anything better).  Or better yet, just move along.