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Thursday, February 20, 2014

A funny thing happened on the way to spring training.

Growing up in Nebraska provides an incentive to become a college football fan.  The Cornhuskers are normally pretty good, and win enough to keep most people happy.  It provides a certain herd like solidarity, and makes for good conversation.  However, at some point, the details are foggy with the passing time, college basketball became my favorite sport.

Basketball games are frenetic, passionate, fluid affairs.  They are an art form unique to sports were height and strength are rewarded, but so are quickness, speed and elusiveness.  Each game is a drama, complete with heroes (your team), villains (the other team) and corrupt, indifferent administrators (the referees).  That was just a joke, the referees do a fine job, when my team wins.  Each season is a chase to end, teams trying to win enough games to get a good spot in the conference tournament, and a chance to play for the National Championship in the NCAA tourney.

The NCAA tournament is a season of it's own.  A single elimination meat grinder that chews up dreams and leaves them on basketball courts in places like Dayton, Lexington, Palo Alto, or Syracuse.  Out of 68 one will go home champions and the rest will take their place in the shadows.  It is the pinnacle of sports entertainment, it is my fantastic.

But, as a Nebraska fan it was more a show of support to watch a game, maybe a little punishment that you took with a good natured smile as you thought "well, at least we were only down by eight at halftime."  Even though we got trounced.  But, they were Huskers, so you loved them.

Then something strange happened, Nebraska hired this guy to coach the team.  He was exuberant, and charming, and he had such a youthful appearance and enthusiasm that it seemed like they may have picked the biggest smile from the student section and made him the coach.  But, there was something about him, something promising, it came through during interviews, and in the way he carried himself.  Even my wife said he was going to do good things.

Last year, Coach Miles had a rough year, his players were mostly recruits from the previous staff, and he did well, and never lost his composure.  His exuberance was contagious, and his charm was undeniable, and he looked like he enjoyed what he was doing, and he seemed to love the players.  He always seemed to say the right thing, in a way that made you like him more.

This year, his teams started winning, beating teams named Indiana, Ohio State, even Michigan State, in East Lansing, and when they play it is with a manic, wonderful joy, that is fun to watch, because it looks like they are having fun on the court.  They jump into passing lanes, and back again with a quickness that is alarming, they shoot, and rebound, and move, and win.  And, through the winning Coach Miles is as pleasant and charming.

He has recruits who are winning now, and there are some, waiting on the bench, and will be on the court next year, and his team is only going to get better.  Tonight Penn State comes to Lincoln and I will be watching on the Big Ten Network, and Nebraska will try to avenge a loss from earlier this year.  My advice to all right minded people out there, start watching, and cheering, and enjoying the show, order your Nebrasketball shirts, and hats, it is going to get better.  Bob Dylan said it best.

"Come along with me, babe, I wish you would,
You know what I'm saying, it's all good."

Dylan wouldn't lie.

Thank you, Coach Miles, it is nice to be able to say Go Big Red in February.