Nebraska Basketball: A Love Letter To Cornhuskers Fan Jean Peck

Walter Pitchford

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If you’re a Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball fan, there’s a good chance you know who Jean Peck is. For those of you not familiar, allow me to introduce you two. Ms. Peck was miffed — no, distraught seems the more appropriate term — at Nebrasketball’s attempt to create a hostile environment at the Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Vault was tacky, if you will.

She wrote to the Lincoln Journal Star:

I enjoy the pep band and the student Red Zone and the enthusiasm they bring to the games, but I have been disappointed at the last two home games concerning a new practice by the Red Zone. I refer to the loud cheering of “HUSKER POWER” during the introduction of the visiting team.

This seems rude and unsportsmanlike on our part. If other Big Ten teams do this sort of thing, then shame on them.

Nebraska fans have a reputation for being good fans. I would hope that the reputation would not be tarnished.

Oh Jean, you rascal. I appreciate sportsmanship. I truly do. However, I wasn’t chastised for yelling on first, second or third down in Memorial Stadium as a wee tot.

The sort of success that Nebraska achieved on that fateful “No Sit Sunday” against the Wisconsin Badgers wasn’t due to poor sportsmanship, madam. For a shootyhoops team to have a proper home-court advantage, its audience must rattle the opposition from the get-go, hence the chant you don’t care for.

Ms. Peck has been mocked relentlessly following this late February commentary. “Turn up, Jean!” has become just as common as “Go Big Red!” when it comes to scarlet and cream roundball. I have just one thing to say to Jean Peck: thank you.

This has truly been a magical season for a men’s basketball program wallowing in agony. Yes, Tim Miles and his team had contributed to an extent, but there’s also the fans, The Vault and you, Jean. Nebraska will play in the NCAA Tournament, something that couldn’t be said for 16 years. Regardless of if they win or fall to the Baylor Bears, you will always be part of this remarkable year.

You’ve become Nebraska’s lucky rabbit’s foot, its four-leaf clover, its stray eyelash. You realize, of course, you’ll be needed next season and the one after that and so on. Ms. Peck, you aren’t fond of “Husker Power”. So be it.

Here’s the glorious irony: the fans have embraced you as well.

Brandon Cavanaugh is a Big 10 writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @eightlaces, like his Facebook page and add him to your Google+ network.

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  • http://www.ajharaldson.com/ Andy Haraldson

    No, Brandon Cavanaugh, I don’t think you appreciate sportsmanship at all: not if you’d defend home teams’ fans’ abandonment of sportsmanship in favor of winning.

    Home-field advantages don’t derive from home teams’ fans’ poor sportsmanship. Home-field advantages derive from home teams playing in familiar settings.

    What fan wants his or her team–or any team–to win due to poor sportsmanship, rather than due to superior play? Winning due to poor sportsmanship amounts to cheating. Who wants to see his or her favorite team, or any team, win that way?

    Yes, I know: lots of fans do, and that’s the problem, especially in college sports; lots of teams “win” by giving themselves unfair advantages before they even take the field. That’s not “winning.” That’s rigging the game. It’s cheating.

    I’ll admit, it’s easy to take Vince Lombardi’s famous quote, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” out of context and believe that anything done to win is fair.

    But Lombardi was wrong, and his famous words aren’t true: especially in college sports, which are extra-curricular academic activities intended to teach youngsters the meanings of discipline, teamwork, cooperation and, yes, good sportsmanship.

    (College teams that “win” get a lot of money. Thus, the desire to “win” has been monetized, and good sportsmanship has become a financial matter. That’s why we have to remove, from college sports, the financial reward for “winning.”)

    In other words, especially in college sports, winning is neither “everything,” nor “the only thing.” It’s more important to teach people how to be decent citizens who work hard, cooperate, follow the rules, and respect one another and their opponents.

    But if, instead, we’re going to show young people that it’s okay to be a jerk, and to cheat, just to win, then we shouldn’t complain if we have a nation of jerks who believe it’s okay to do anything to win. We shouldn’t complain if the behavior and beliefs of the very worst among us become the behavior and beliefs of all of us.

    Poor sportsmanship is wrong, Mr. Cavanaugh: not some of the time, but all of the time. It’s not okay to abandon good sportsmanship to win a game. In fact, any game won via poor sportsmanship isn’t a win at all. It’s a loss for the team, for its school, and for its fans.
    It’s a loss for all of us, as we become a nation of jerks willing to do anything, and break any rule, just to get what we want.

    Mature, rational adults know this. It’s ironic that it’s taken a little kid to remind us. But at least in this case, it’s nonetheless true: little Jean Peck is right, and you and all of the Husker fans who demonstrate poor sportsmanship are wrong.

    I’ll admit that, when I was younger, I enjoyed seeing my favorite team win by any means. But now that I’ve matured somewhat, I’ve a greater understand of the value of fair play in sports and in life, and I’d much rather see my favorite team and its fans–and all teams, and all fans–demonstrate good sportsmanship and lose than see them demonstrate poor sportsmanship just to win a lousy game.

    But I’ll also admit that it’s not so simple when broadcasters and bowl organizations are standing by to reward poor sportsmanship, tantamount to cheating, with multi-million-dollar payoffs. That’s why I say, again, that we have to remove from college sports the financial rewards for cheating and poor sportsmanship because, as nearly as I can tell, those teams that collect those rewards rarely do so via fair play. They collect financial reward by rigging the games in their favor before they even take the field.

    In sports, and in life in general, we have to stop rewarding the worst among us.