Only Seat in the
Christopher Dean Heine
Osborne is Nebraska
(Yeah, whatever fathead)
Osborne became the US representative for Nebraska's
3rd district last month.
A no-nonsense wildlife conservationist overseeing
congressional policy for a region that has more
worth in piping plovers, whooping cranes and world-class
fossil beds than it does bloated industry seems,
the old coach, they say is more than a mere natural
fit. They say he is Nebraska.
coach has ever personified an entire state the way
Tom Osborne has. Tom Osborne is Nebraska.
journalists have said or written this many a time
since the tall redhead became a national hero because
he went for two instead of the tie against Miami
back in '83. They mention his aw-shucks Jimmy Stewart
personality as being highly Nebraskan, and yes,
now Mr. Two-point Conversion goes to Washington
to defend his state against the pass (this time
of coffers) again. I didn't pay a lot of attention
to Tom's swearing into office last month, but I'm
sure Cornhusker State sports talk radio goof balls
and perhaps a Omaha World-Herald Midlands columnist
or two used that little smarty-pants chop, that
No football coach has ever personified an entire
state the way Tom Osborne has.
By the way, did you know that PBS anchorman Jim
Lehrer has written 11 novels? And that he has been
on the NY Times best-seller list for his works of
fiction? How fucking good can "White Window" be?
(Gee whiz, Honey, I wonder if it's as good as "Tuesdays
With Morrie"?) Lehrer is a top-notch PBS suit, but
he's a dye-in-the-wool square - not someone who
should be publishing creative work.
And yes, he and his journalistic brethren and sisters
shouldn't ever say that Tom Osborne is Nebraska.
It's a damn cheap paean, and erroneous.
I used to think that the slogan was true enough
to lick off a spoon. I was born with Johnny the
Jet and baptized with Jarvis Redwine. Hell ya! Tom
Osborne is Nebraska.
But then I thought about it, shortly after I had
heard he was elected to office.
Yes, actually I thought, he reminds me of my late
Grandpa Heine, who was a stoic Nebraska man. Grandpa
would rather sit on an old tractor all summer for
free (he saw a break-even market or two) than, let's
say, sit in front of a movie camera for all the
loots of Hollywood. Grandpa didn't like to talk
much. Tom was the same way. Tom's halftime and post-game
TV interviews were so anxious and uncomfortable
that you trembled with him. And like Grandpa and
farming, the ex pro wide out probably would've often
ended up coaching his beloved football for free
had he followed his original vocational plan of
becoming a Methodist minister. No headset, but there
he'd be calling a fullback dive after Sunday School
during fall time.
Instead, he became a man who would personify
an entire state.
No, not even the memory of Grandpa sowing oats
and wearing his funny African safari sun hat can
make me go home to that. Not anymore.
Tom is a perfectionist. He ran a college football
program that is almost inarguably the most significant
since the amateur sport entered its modern era during
the late 60s - when the sport switched from double-platoon
strategy to single-platoon (where players specialize
in just offense or just defense). Since then, Nebraska
has won more games and national championships than
any other college team. And there are more stifling
statistics that showcase this aged period of excellence
- most notably the Cornhuskers 33-year streak of
nine or more wins. Not to mention that the Big Red
Machine's weight-training program has been revolutionary
- some serious trend-setting here - in making tall,
skinny boys into 300-pound monsters. Everyone, including
the pro ranks, has adapted Nebraska's bulk-building
methods. And Tom has been at the helm for all but
about six years of this historical run that may
end up rivaling the Ming Dynasty for long-term dominance
if current Head Husker Frank Solich
turns out to be NOT insane.
So Nebraska, what the hell have you and I done to
enable ourselves to believe that Tom Osborne
Our best public university is third tier. This is
due to the fact that Nebraska taxpayers hate liberal
(or progressive) education, the very foundation
of the university setting. If there isn't anything
new to learn, if progress is viewed as toxin rather
than fruit, than that says we should all sit on
our porches drinking whiskey and rye rather than
pay higher tuition fees. Doesn't sound bad to me,
but I am a poor example when it comes to whiskey
and rye. Nonetheless, Nebraska is a Republican state
by and large . . . penny-pinching social conservatives.
The people there are happy UNL is merely an education
mall because they are afraid of reputable universities.
Good schools are usually more Democrat, more liberal,
so Nebraskans are fine and dandy sending their kids
off to those safe lunch lines of average-ness rather
than weather any threat of liberalness. Me? I am
not a Democrat or a Republican. I'm a conversational
daredevil, a debater, an empty mode. But no matter
your political stance, let's just all face it: Nebraska
needs a better, more progressive state university
if it wants to live up to the image of Tom, who
as a football figurehead - his only real public
measure stick so far - has been known to side with
the progressive. His fumblerooski, bouncerooski
and boomerooski trick plays wouldn't have made it
out of a conservative think tank. (Creighton, for
those of you in the Omaha peanut gallery, although
I am Catholic, is for smiling jack-asses.)
Nebraska culture is not even close to being the
juggernaut Tom's football teams were. Typically,
the state's men are dumbed-down and the women are
faceless -- if often beautiful.
Infrastructures barely exist in the state for anything
but single pallets of lawyers, doctors, telemarketers,
factory workers, mechanics and plumbers. Sprinkle
in a few engineering foot-in-the-doors and entrepreneurial
business leaps (if you consider bank loan centers
to be societal infrastructures) and there you basically
have it. Creative employment in journalism, graphic
design, video/film work, music, etc. is so scarce
that employers are able to underpay good minds.
The Brain Drain is real. The organization of our
culture in these respects has been nothing but mindless,
and now the state pays its toll. Ha, giggle-giggle,
ha! You don't dare give me any of that Henry Fonda,
Marlon Brando, Johnny Carson, Matthew Sweet (ugh)
and 311 (puke) pride! They had to leave to have
any fun. And don't harp on the small population
base -- Tom has made Nebraska football a stallion
in spite of the scant marketplace for athletic talent.
"I wouldn't dare to bring out such awful bliss,"
says Guided By Voices, chiming in the background
at this very second.
Actually, now that indie rock has come into all
of this, let me cred the organizational skills of
Saddle Creek Records and its rising penguin of a
star Conor Oberst, and Bernie McGinn of Caulfield
Records, and the strident romanticism of Simon Joyner
and the sadly long-gone 13 Nightmares. Now these
folks have made nice inroads towards making Nebraska
a more interesting joint to hang out in. But it's
all still kind of minimal compared to Tom and his
record. Outside of Tom and his real-life chums stock
mogul Warren Buffet and the successful pol Bob Kerrey,
Nebraska is about mediocrity. Is it any surprise
they call each other friends?
the mediocrity kick is fine. Seriously. I ain't
no gone-Yankee prude for fuck's sake. Just don't
tell me Tom Osborne is Nebraska. Tom is a
wooly mammoth - indigenous, huge and most unusual
for my homeland. He's a freak of nature and suited
for a congressional district that includes a place
called the Sand Hills. How else can you explain
a skinny vegetarian getting elected by The Beef
State and its obese army?
Beef . . . it's what's for dinner. Tom Osborne is
Yeah, whatever fathead.