Scott Frost said something very significant at his post-game press conference last Saturday after the humiliating loss to Purdue. It didn’t resonate with many. The vast majority of fans and media chose to focus on his remarks about shaking up the depth chart.
It occurred about five minutes in when a visibly upset Frost was discussing the Huskers’ mistakes and his face turned sort of a purplish-green-mauve-chartreuse color and he kind of resembled the Incredible Hulk with veins popping and he was shaking while cutting up a Blackshirt with a scissors and there was steam coming out of his nostrils and small pieces of fire and smoldering ash from his ears and he looked like he was about to ram a huge hole into the wall with his head. Which would’ve been awful since they just finished patching all 73 holes in the athletic dept. walls put there during the Pelini era.
It came right after Frost discussed how his team was basically about as disciplined as a drunken goose. And how you normally see this much discipline from ferrets in heat or U.S. senators during judiciary committee hearings.
It occurred right after Frost said that the Huskers need to stop doing dumb, undisciplined stuff to nullify big plays. Stuff like tackling BTN sideline reporters and tossing the opposing school’s chancellor into the stands and egging the Purdue pep band. You know, the little things.
The moment I’m referencing came shortly after the game referees had passed by with their seeing eye dogs and their copies of “Refereeing for Dummies,” braille edition, tucked under their arms, singing the Purdue fight song while dry humping the Boilermaker mascot.
Here’s what Frost said. It appeared to be completely extemporaneous and totally unrehearsed. He looked up, squinted and uttered a superlative, “It comes down to caring enough to do it right” and then, the money quote, Frost said it was about “...the way you treat the people who serve you food in the lunch line.”
Boom! Bingo! My appreciation of Frost shot up after I heard this pearl of wisdom.
This is a quote that should go down in the annals with “Win one for the Gipper.”
He’s exactly right. It’s not just about winning. Oh, sure, that’s very important. But you don’t want to be one of those teams that has a bunch of loutish goons either.
When I was a student at the University of Nebraska I lived in the Abel Hall dormitory my first two years which is where they stuck a lot of football players probably because it mostly wasn’t coed then. Actually I’m sure that’s why. If there had been a monastery near campus the scholarship players would have been housed there. The only problem with housing the players at Abel is that Abel Hall made the fraternity in “Animal House” look like a senior citizens tea dance in comparison. But that’s another column.
So I interacted with quite a few players. Some of the guys behaved like mature gentlemen and others were complete jerks. Do you know what? Almost to a man the jerks never amounted to much at Nebraska. Some dropped out of school for academic reasons and others rode the bench throughout their careers. On the other hand several of the good guys, the people who treated the food servers and dishwashers and bus drivers and their classmates with respect and showed some grace, humility and intelligence went quite far and made All-Big Eight or even All-American.
Good football isn’t just about X’s and O’s. It’s not just about “buying in.” It’s not just about knocking the head off the guy carrying the ball. It’s often also about character.
I know what you’re thinking. What about all the great NFL players who’ve been in trouble for drugs, public drunkenness, not paying child support, randomly firing canons at small aircraft, bank robbery, siphoning gasoline from church vans carrying orphans, stealing zoo animals and mugging Salvation Army holiday bell ringers? What about those guys, Brad?
Sure, there are plenty of exceptions. I’m talking in generalities here. Of course jerks climb to the top of every profession. More jerks probably ascend to the top of football because it’s a job that demands aggression.
Some gigs just attract a certain type of person. I used to work in television where the percentage of A-holes to good people is higher than any occupation with the exception of human resource coordinator.
Frost hit the nail on the head. By and large you can tell a lot about folks by the way they treat the people they don’t have to impress. Watch someone interact with a parking valet or a cashier when they don’t think anyone they know is around. It can be quite revelatory.
I’ve been more cynical about the Frost hire than most. Recruiting to a cold weather state isn’t easy. Speed is so important in the game today and fast kids usually prefer schools in warmer climates. Schools like UCF. But when Frost said what he said on Saturday I could see moms and dads all across the country going, “That guy! That’s who I want my son to play for in college. Not the coach with the new Corvette for my kid parked out front.” (Or, for SEC players, the new dump truck.)
A coach who actually takes note of, and cares about how his players treat the people who serve them food is more impressive to me than a win over Ohio State...well, it’s more impressive than a win over Minnesota. Let’s not get crazy here.
With that single off-the-cuff comment Frost revealed himself to be two things. 1). Probably a good guy and 2)., A very smart guy. And that would seem to bode well.
The game of football matters a lot to Nebraskans. (I’m defining “a lot” as “more important than finding a new kidney for Grandma.”) So they should be happy with what Frost said for a number of reasons. Frost doesn’t just want good character guys because they represent the state well, although that’s part of it. He was saying he wants ‘em because they will probably become better, smarter players and they’re easier to coach. At this level, the non-pro level, when you’re struggling to win games, good character guys will get you there faster.
Frost realizes that high character guys are less likely to level an opposing running back when the RB is eight yards out of bounds. The high character guys are less likely to hit a quarterback five seconds after he releases the ball.
This is about laying groundwork and that’s easier when you have intelligent players with a moral compass to build around.
I’m not sure how many games Nebraska will win this year. I’m guessing about two. (That’s still bowl eligible, right?) But if you put a lot of young, good character guys on the field who are kind to the food servers it seems to me you’ve set the table to win games down the road. Regardless, it’ll be a team we can be proud of no matter what.