Last Wednesday, Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini, addressing a graduation luncheon for the 2011 Leadership York class, spoke candidly about doing the right thing.
As speakers go, he is not highly polished. He used no notes, no outlines. He didn’t need to because it was crystal clear that Pelini’s words came from his heart.
He doesn’t need an entourage of handlers micromanaging every word, telling him what to say and how to say it. I, one who is used to listening to political speeches, found it candidly refreshing.
If there is any doubt about it, take Pelini’s opening remark, “I really believe I was not hired to win football games.” Imagine saying that to a room filled with more than 200 Husker fans. Following that remark he spent the next 30 minutes talking about his role as a leader in preparing his student athletes for the next step in their lives.
For Bo Pelini, that means doing the right thing and making the right decisions. Pelini told the audience when making decisions he does what is best for his student athletes, the Nebraska football team and the university, not necessarily what is right for Bo, and that making the right decisions on and off the field will lead to winning.
No stinking teleprompters needed for this man. Bo Pelini believes what he says. One look into those eyes, permanently set on “glare,” and you can see the conviction. This got me thinking how novel it would be if our politicians were required to spend a couple weeks in a Bo Pelini camp.
It would begin like this: Coach Bo, standing erect in the front of the room, gnashing on a piece of chewing gum and glaring at this group of egocentric, self-serving elected representatives. He would begin by saying, “Check your egos at the door. You are now part of something bigger than you. We have explained the rules to you and if you make a bad decision, I will tell you right now the discussion will be brief and we’ll show you the door.”
The coach leads his political class onto the practice field.
“Senator Reid? Harry, I believe they call you. From Nevada, right? Get your scrawny butt out here and get down in a three-point stance.
“Speaker Boehner, front and center. Get down and face Reid. On three, I want you to come out fast and strong, stay low and push Reid clear back to the Nevada line! Reid, don’t let that cigarette-smoking speaker push you back one inch. Ready, hut! “Come on gentlemen.
Where’s your conviction, your determination? Boehner, you couldn’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag! Reid, you couldn’t break an egg if I taped it to your helmet! Now let’s do this again and again until you understand a country filled with screaming voters won’t stand for a performance like that.
“Nelson, slide in here at the guard position. On two, pull out and sweep right. Nelson! I said right, you went left! What did you say? Did I hear you say you only pull right during election years? That won’t fool anyone. Take a seat on the bench!”
“Arnold! Schwarzenegger! Get over here! I understand you had a little altercation off the field. Wait, let me kill two birds with one stone. Edwards! John Edwards, front and center. Stand next to Arnold. Seems like you two are having a little problem with your zippers.
Would your moms be proud of you? We are disappointed to say the least. We gave you every opportunity here at the U. Your future was in your hands, along with some other things I’ve heard. You have tainted yourselves, your states, your families and now your teammates. Clean out your lockers and apologize to the team on your way out the back door.
“Obama? Where is that kid? Get over here. Barack, we had high hopes for you. You made us believe when we first met. What happened?
I’ll tell you what happened. You didn’t listen. You think you know it all when in reality you haven’t a clue. You’re indecisive, you can’t lead and you’re slow to react. You talk a big game then fold under pressure. Join up with Arnold and John and head to the showers.”
Two short blasts on the whistle signal the end to practice. Pelini orders his political campers to take a knee. “What we did here today shows each and every one of you what we expect.
Make the right decisions today, tonight and tomorrow, and for the rest of your lives. You represent all of us. You are here because people believe in you. They made sacrifices so you could have this opportunity. Show them you deserve to be here.”
As the sun sets over the skyboxes, Pelini, alone on the field, gathers up his clipboard and heads to the locker room, shaking his head as he walks. You could see it in his eyes … this is going to be a long season.