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The best worst parts of Steve Pederson’s Lost in Ambition

Steve Pederson, yes, the same Steve Pederson who crashed the proud legacy of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football program into the side of the proverbial mountain, quietly released his debut novel, Lost in Ambition.

Spanning a brisk 197 pages and a stupefying 38 chapters, Lost in Ambition is a first person story of a football coach at a crossroads in both his life and career.  We’re taken on a journey from his humble beginnings as a high school football player in small town Ohio to the sideline where he’s coaching a major college football team in the National Championship game.

When a writer tries to squeeze several decades into fewer than 200 pages, the end result is that there really isn’t much room for character development, story, or any sense of nuance that makes reading a novel an enjoyable endeavor.

To put it another way, Lost in Ambition is a pile of smoldering garbage.

Somehow, someway, Steve Pederson has managed to produce an end product that is worse than the wreckage he left behind as Nebraska’s athletic director.

I’m normally not one to take a big steaming dump on someone’s art but if a person has the delusional audacity to publish a novel that would get them laughed out of a Learning Annex class AND they happen to be the guy responsible for setting the Nebraska Cornhuskers back a solid decade, then the gloves come off. Reading this turd took three hours off my life and I’m going to get every minute back.

What follows is every best worst passage from Lost in Ambition.

Enjoy!

This is how the story begins. Captivating isn’t it?

As the clock ticks closer to kickoff, our coach isn’t worried about the big game but the drunks in the stands. But there isn’t time to dwell because we have to go on a 190 page flashback.

It doesn’t take long for the swipes at Nebraska to begin. Nine games? That’s certainly not a random number. Turns out our fictitious (and unnamed) coach was a college quarterback himself and won nine games in each of his three years at a starter. In his mind, winning nine games is the pinnacle of mediocrity.

A few pages later, our anonymous coach is back to ranting about nine games.

The first profound quote. At least we know Bill Callahan wasn’t cheating.

IS THAT AN HOMAGE TO CARL PELINI!?! Within a few confusing paragraphs, our protagonist has gone from small time graduate assistant to becoming the running backs coach at “Birmingham State.”

It’s not long before our hero discovers the seedy underworld of ‘crootin’.

This is like the whip cream bikini scene in Varsity Blues if it were reenacted by Maude and Ned Flanders. (WARNING: Wherever you are, turn up your A/C because things are going to get even steamier.)

Our second profound quote. Considering it was bad coaching by Billy C. that got Stevie P. fired so I’m not sure how this computes. At this point in the story, three seasons breeze by and our still unnamed coach takes a leap to the Power 11 Conference to become the running game coordinator at “McNally University,” located somewhere in the frozen tundra of Michigan. 

Illicit blow jobs from boosters’ wives are a McNally University specialty.

Actually, I didn’t remember, Steve. When you take a stab at writing your next novel, try to include more details that will make your characters memorable.

#SidePieceSunday is in full effect at McNally University.

Even the head coach is DTF at McNally University!

Ladies and gentlemen, the most dramatic moment in Lost in Ambition!

I think this might be another thinly veiled swipe at Nebraska.

This is the summary of McNally State’s entire regular season but a big twist is lurking in the bushes as the team heads into the Rose Bowl.

Our still unnamed coach is getting an interview to be the head coach at “Florida A&I.” We never find out what the A&I stand for.

After a clandestine first interview in an airplane hangar, our hero sneaks back to the football offices to continue prepping for the Rose Bowl and discovers his head coach is DTF anytime, anywhere.

ABC… Always Be Crootin’. That is how you win a natty.

Mansions and money. What is this? Dynasty?

It’s official! Our mystery coach is now running a program of his own.

And the first order of business is getting the local media on your side.

Vodka with cranberries? WTF? I have a feeling this reporter is a mashup of Steven M. Sipple and Lee Barfknecht.

And the second order of business is meeting your future sidepiece.

It’s about to go down! (If you haven’t noticed, Steve Pederson loves using exclamation points!)

See! He really does!

This is how long our coach with no name dwells on cheating on his wife. Why is he doing it? We never find out. He never answers his own question.

Zeke Bradshaw (one of the better character names if you can believe it) is going to be the arm that will put Florida A&I over the top!

At page 140, our big discovery is finding out that our still nameless coach is only 33-years-old.

If only Hugh Freeze could have read this book…

Zeke’s big campus visit was successful in more ways than one.

But things are rocky on the home front. Someone is one Harley ride away from ruining it all.

Uh oh. Here comes the Lawrence Phillips character to ruin a dream season.

At least some details were changed. At first, Alonzo gets kicked off the team but is hurried back onto the field after Florida A&I loses two games in a row.

But all that drama turns out to be a moot point because a few short pages later, it’s a new season and Alonzo has cleaned up his act and he and Heisman Trophy winner Zeke have led Florida A&I into the National Championship game against Stanford.

This is the most unbelievable part of the entire book.

At this point were 196 pages deep into a 197 page book. Everything has been building towards the National Championship game and these two sparse paragraphs are all we get.


Then one page later comes the most shocking twist of all in the very last sentence. Coach Tim Greene (way to steal the Mr. Big reveal from the Sex and the City series finale) is calling it a career with no remorse, except for the part where he spent the entire book telling us how remorseful he is about all the bad things he’s done as he’s worked his way up the coaching ladder.

And that, friends, is everything you didn’t want to know about Lost in Ambition.


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View from the Boneyard: BYU

I’m always so amazed how waking up on a Husker game day at 8am is almost effortless, especially considering how difficult it is for me to roll out of bed to get to my 12:30 classes half of the time.

Our casual group of five arrived at the stadium just before 11am (after eating copious amounts of french toast made by yours truly), but five soon grew to over 15 as we realized how many seats we needed to save in the front of East Stadium.

After so many years of going to the games early, you start to recognize the reoccurring people who arrive hours before kickoff. Walking up to East Stadium, you’re greeted by students in fun costumes, students playing catch with a football, and The Iron N’s football sport directors telling you to “do the Westerstache.”

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The Iron N football sport directors (minus Allison Redwine) telling fans to “do the Westerstache.”

Hours of waiting outside of the doors in the unbearable heat were made easier thanks to Zesto’s bringing ice cream for everyone. Seriously—you’re the real MVP.

The cries of “3, 2, 1” echoed outside as students in South Stadium got ready to “walk” up the ramps to their seats. Ever since my freshman year, students have been threatened by security to walk—not run—to their section since students kept running into the large concrete pillars in the past. Personally, I say let natural selection take its course, but that’s just me.

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Not even Abraham Lincoln could persuade the powers that be to open the East Stadium doors just a little early. 

There are few things on game day more frustrating than waiting to be let in to East Stadium after South has already been let in, especially since watching the chaos of getting to the front row is one of my favorite parts of game day.

It’s a lot like watching the Hunger Games, honestly. Every man (or woman) for themselves as people push, yell, and weave through other students in the bloodbath to get down to the front rows. May the odds be ever in your favor.

This year was the first year that I hadn’t been worried about getting to our spot in time. It’s kind of comforting knowing that roughly 15 people waiting in line with you are all trying to save spots for the same group.

Hayley Archer Boneyard
Front row seats secured!

The Boneyard was entertained before the game by its new official DJ Phipp Phippa, who was able to get students to go down to the field to dance, as well as get everyone involved in some new Husker chants.

Despite having the DJ, two and a half hours of waiting inside of the stadium can start to drag on. Students passed the time by meeting new students, reuniting with old friends, and even getting Sam Foltz’s attention with a “Foltz 4 Heisman” poster.

The real excitement kicked in once the pregame festivities began. This year was the first year that I was actually a part of the Go Big Red banner in East Stadium. No one warned me how easy it is to get completely engulfed in it as it comes back down, though. Rookie mistake.

tifoStudents in South Stadium bring the Boneyard tifo to life.

Everyone in the section seemed to be showing off the goosebumps as the Tunnel Walk happened, and I stood there shaking like one of those little lap dogs that had just been asked if they wanted to go for a walk.

BYU’s team ran out on the field and was soon greeted by a chorus of boo’s from the South Stadium students. East Stadium was quick to call out the freshmen and sophomores on their etiquette, though. If we’re going to take Minnesota’s motto and make it our own by saying “Nebraska nice,” we better live up to that. Granted, I went the entire week saying “more like BY-Eww am I right?” but I’m pretty sure the only offensive part of that statement is how horribly stupid it is. Much like most of my jokes.

BYUfield
After months of waiting, the Huskers are moments away from return to action.

Can You Feel It blasted through the stadium as The Iron N’s newest project was displayed. I can say from experience that a lot of hard work was put in to that project, especially after spending countless hours painting and trying to tell as many people there about this exact article that I’m writing. So yeah, hey guys. (I told them I’d give them a shout out to get them to read this.) (Editor’s note: This is a brilliant move, always.)

The game began and everything seemed right again in Husker Nation. Shoes were raised during the kick off and I managed to only almost fall off of the bench while dancing twice, so there was definitely progress from previous years. Seriously, those benches are narrow.

It was weird though to be at my first Husker game without my partner-in-crime, my former roommate and now Husker marketing intern best friend. Thankfully that void was filled during the second quarter when she was finally done working.

With the first touchdown of the season scored by Westerkamp (#DoTheWesterstache),  everyone was relieved to finally be able to release their red balloons into the sky without having to worry about accidentally releasing it prematurely and facing the judgement of their peers.
Memorial Stadium Balloons
Balloons were let loose following Jordan Westerkamp’s jaw dropping touchdown catch. What a way to start the season.

There seemed to be a serious disinterest from many fans during the second quarter, in which the Huskers were unable to put any points on the board while BYU got two touchdowns and a field goal.

The attitude changed with an injury to Sam Foltz, causing fans to jump out of their seats screaming at officials. With that occurring during the only time that I had left the student section, I realized that I had probably jinxed everything and that I should never leave the Boneyard during a game again.

The new energy seemed to fuel the Huskers as they kept BYU scoreless in the third, especially after an interception by Nate Gerry. Some of the energy was lost in transition to the fourth quarter, where most people blamed the oddly quiet pump up music being played over the sound system.

Honestly, I was thinking about how the Huskers had the game in the bag during last few minutes of play. But when 15 seconds started ticking down, you could see the looks of fear in Husker fans as the clock stopped with one second remaining. The dreaded one second.

Soon after students were greeted by a celebrating BYU coach making his victory lap around the field. No one left the section for multiple minutes after the end of the game from pure shock. I guess this is how Northwestern felt not too long ago.

In my opinion, we probably jinxed ourselves by not keeping up with the greatest Husker tradition of all time: Valentino’s Slice of Life. But that’s just me.

But as the random passerby said after the game, “if we can make it through Callahan, we can make it through anything.”

Hayley Archer is a senior Broadcasting major at UNL. Follow her on Twitter at @Harchinator.

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Rickey Thenarse Arrested on Burglary Charges (Again)

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that former Husker safety Rickey Thenarse has been arrested on burglary charges.

RICKEY-THENARSE-MUGSHOT
Rickey Thenarse via Mugshots.com

A recruit of Bill Callahan, Thenarse was briefly a member of the Seattle Seahawks  and apparently a grad assistant at Nevada before spiraling into a descent of poorly thought out petty theft.

Thenarse’s most recent arrest stems from an incident on January 14 in which a computer and several DVDs were reported stolen. (This is not to be confused with another bumbled burglary on January 24. )

WTF, who still even has DVDs? And who thinks they’d be a valuable commodity on the black market in 2015?

We know the answer to the second question would be Rickey Thenarse.

At least he didn’t waste valuable time rummaging through old shoe boxes on a quest to find a hidden collection of Cassingles buried like it was the Ark of the Covenant.

Then again, those would probably be worth more on eBay than DVDs at a Pawn Shop.

And this is all speculation, but our official Big Red Fury Magic 8-Ball says all signs point to Thenarse not being enough of a criminal mastermind to wipe the victim’s computer before attempting to exchange it for some valuable loot.

It’s not hard to imagine how that one played out.

“Hi, is this (anonymous victim)?”

“OK, great. This is Bill down at Capital City Pawn. Some big guy just returned your computer to us for some reason. We’re open till 6 if you want to pick it up tonight. Otherwise, we’ll reopen tomorrow at 9.”

Here’s the deal, Rickey. You’ve been rung up three times in four months dating back to November’s petty theft charge. (Btdubs, good job not getting arrested over the holidays.)

In all seriousness, don’t you think it might be time for a change of course? A new plan of action?

I’m not exactly a career counselor or a life coach but I did stand in line behind Tony Robbins at a Coffee Bean once so I feel I’m qualified to suggest that instead of strong arm robbing people of their Zoolander DVDs, why don’t you try gently knocking on the door of the next house you think about robbing?

Then, when it opens, say “Hi, I’m former Husker Rickey Thenarse. Maybe you remember me doing this on Tom Osborne Field?” (This is where you’d throw the bones for added flair.) “I’m a little hard up for cash right now and was wondering if you’d have any Husker items you’d like me to sign. Or, if I’m interrupting dinner, maybe I could join you and tell you some stories?  Heck, I’ll even wash the dishes when we’re done.”

Yes, Rickey. I know that sounds embarrassing but it can’t be any worse than what you’ve already done.

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Guest Post: Nick Allen’s Husker Coaching Staff Wish List

Here’s our first ever guest post courtesy of Omaha based stand up comic and huge Husker fan Nick Allen. If you’re in the Big O over the holidays, you can catch Nick at The Funny Bone December 26th – 28th.

Take it away Nick Allen…

As Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley puts his staff together, here’s a breakdown where we’re at so far and what we’d like to see. And by we, I mean me, because this is my coaching dream team.

We’ll begin with the confirmed hires:

Defensive Assistant Mark Banker
Has never surrendered 56 unanswered points to Wisconsin.
Trusted confidant of new Head Coach Mike Riley (just typing Mike Riley again to get used to it).
Has never given up 70 points to Wisconsin.
Mark Banker
Editor’s note:  Let’s not forget he held Wisconsin to 35 yards rushing in 2012. And that wasn’t just on a single play but the ENTIRE game.
Editor’s note: Dude looks like Mark Harmon!
Editor’s note: Never forget that Mark Harmon beat the Huskers.

LB Coach Trent Bray
Tough to take a guy named Trent seriously but let’s give Riley the benefit of the doubt.
Probably got laid pretty easily in Corvallis (OSU hero), but left that behind for the uncharted waters of Lincoln.
Has never been a golf coach.
Trent Bray

OL Coach Mike Cavanaugh
Gnarly old/slightly overweight white dude.
More rock of the earth than salt of the earth.
Swears repeatedly on OSU promoted coaching clip.

QB Whisperer Mike Riley
Track record of sending QB’s that no one can name to the NFL.
An actual QB coach.
An actual QB coach.
Mike Riley

Secondary Coach Charlton Warren
Only confirmed retention of Pelini’s staff.
Good recruiter.
Hated Pelini’s fake cat.
Could probably land the team jet in case the crew gets sick from the in-flight meal.
Captain Charlton Warren

Special Teams Coordinator Bruce Reed
Currently building his own office.
Already has a huge man crush on De’Mornay Pierson-El.
Hopefully has the stones to block a kick or two.
BRUCEREAD-OSU

Filling out the rest of the staff:

Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst says resources are not an issue. This list assumes that is true.

Defensive Coordinator Mike Ditka
Leader of the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Politics aren’t as bad as Ron Brown‘s
Proves that while you may need a pill to get your dick up, if you have a legit mustache you’re never a pussy.
Mike Ditka

Defensive Line Coach Ndamukong Suh
Single-handedly cost Colt McCoy the Heisman Trophy.

Stomped on the opposing coach’s kid while rumbling for a touchdown.

The Blackshirts need an attitude.
He’s a free agent at the end of the season.

Offensive Coordinator Bill Callahan
Head Coach of a Super Bowl team. Granted, it was a game mired in controversy but you live and learn, right?
Called Oklahoma fans “fucking hillbillies.”
Message boards would explode.
Bill Callahan

Wide Receivers Coach Terrell Owens (T.O. 2.0)
Great receiver.
Needs the money.
Makes Mike Riley less boring.
Could probably still play the college level.
Terrell Owens

Running Backs Coach Christian Okoye
The Nigerian Nightmare looks good in red.
Won a collegiate hammer throwing title.
Brings serious Tecmo Bowl clout.

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As Christmas Approaches, are Husker Fans Seeing Ghosts of Seasons Past?

If you’ve had a nagging sense of deja vu over the last few weeks, our friend, Tony, has a theory as to why.

Consider the following uncanny similarities between the end of the season in 2003 and the end of 2014:

On November 30th, Nebraska fires a coach that just finished a 9-3 season, dividing Husker fan loyalties. (At least until a secret recording was made public.) The head coach of Arkansas obfuscates the coaching search for personal gain. A coach from the West Coast with a good recruiting acumen and an NFL pedigree is hired and many wonder if he’s good enough for Nebraska. The former coach returns to his home state of Ohio to coach a lesser conference/division school.

Spooky, isn’t it?

But what does it mean? Is Husker Nation trapped inside of some kind of time loop with the only way out being our ability to repeat our actions in an exact synchronized ballet?

If we fail to break the cycle, does that mean Mike Riley is the second coming of — DEAR GOD! BILL CALLAHAN?!?!?!

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We sincerely hope not.

Before we all throw the panic switch, we should also acknowledge the many differences so far displayed between the events of 2003 and 2014.

First and foremost, the number of days Shawn Eichorst spent searching for the new “most important man in Nebraska” was FIVE.

The number of days it took Steve Pederson to pin down Bill Callahan was FORTY ONE.

Eichorst clearly had a contingency for replacing a relatively successful, if frustratingly plateaued, head coach. Pederson, not so much.

NCAA head coaching experience.

While both Riley and Callahan had brief stints as NFL head coaches, only Riley has had extensive time coaching a Division 1 football team before landing at Nebraska. Riley clearly knows what it takes to run a college program and he will not try to force an NFL template over it — as Callahan did. Respect for long-held traditions such as the vaunted walk-on system should stay intact under Riley. Whereas under Callahan, the walk-ons were encouraged to keep on walking, right out of the program.

No square pegs for round holes.

Does anybody remember October 9, 2004? If that date doesn’t jog your memory, maybe it’s because you, as a Husker fan, have repressed that date as a natural defense trigger. There’s nothing wrong if you do. That’s just the PTSD doing its thing.

October 9, 2004 happens to be the day that the Bill Callahan era of Husker football made its conference road trip debut. In Lubbock, Texas.

Ringing a bell now? Yep, this was the 10 – 70  loss to the Red Raiders that started those first few whispers in Lincoln. The same voices that would grow into a cacophony of discontent by mid-season 2007. The voices saying:

“What the fuck have we gotten ourselves into!”

But, while that embarrassing score looks horrific on paper (it’s still the largest margin of loss in the post Osborne era, despite so many other blowout debacles), what some people forget is that this game was far from looking like a blow out mid-way through the third quarter.

Trailing 21-3 at half time, Nebraska opened the third quarter with a 74-yard touchdown pass from Joe Dailey to Mark LeFlore. Down by less than two touchdowns, Nebraska’s defense gave the Huskers a chance to get back into the game by holding Tech scoreless on their next two possessions.

Everything looked in place for a respectable performance (if not a win) against a formidable conference opponent at their house.

So what happened? How did the following 19 minutes produce a 60-point final deficit? Callahan pulled Joe Dailey from the game as punishment for not being able to master his West Coast offense in half a season. Dailey was 14 of 34 in passing for 187 yards with one interception. Not bad for a kid who’d been recruited to run the option. But not good enough for Callahan.

Wise old Bill took out Joe and put in Beau Davis, a freshman who knew even less about running the West Coast offense than Daily. Davis finished the game with four completions. Three of which went to Red Raiders.

With three consecutive picks setting up three easy touchdowns, the Husker defense folded and let Tech (now up 42-10 going into the fourth) pound in four more touchdowns in the final period.

If Bill Callahan had not tried to force an option team to learn his uber-complicated West Coast Offense right out of the gate, the 5-6 2004 Huskers probably would have finished with a respectable eight or nine win season. The schedule that year was certainly no beast (Oklahoma was the only ranked team they faced). Callahan could have eased those players into his system while recruiting specifically to foster his chosen style. But, instead, he wailed a square peg through a round hole, causing the first Husker squad in forty years to sit home for the bowl season. The shame of it left a few seniors crying after the final loss — in Lincoln vs. Colorado — with one player wishing that fans would just forget about the 2004 team.

Already, Mike Riley has said things which should allay fears that this kind of bullshit will never happen again. He will customize his strategies around the strength of the team. Always. Hallelujah!

So, for those of you with an itchy sense that history is repeating itself, just relax. This bout of deja vu is but an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. The specter of Bill Callahan is no more real than a ghost of seasons past. Try not to think about it, otherwise…

nightmares

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Bye Week: Basking in the Doom and Gloom of Other Fans

You know what’s awesome?

I just did a Google Image search for sad Michigan State fans and the Google machine spit back of a treasure trove of sad Michigan fans. Apparently, sad Michigan State fans are nowhere to be found on the internet.

This photo though is priceless.

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Was this poor Wolverine’s left eye already bloody or has the pepper spray caused him to cry tears of blood?

With the Huskers enjoying an unprecedented second bye week, today is a great day to sit back, relax and enjoy watching other fans’ seasons come to a screeching and catastrophic halt.

With  our local Husker watch site also being home to an Ohio State alumni group, I’m very tempted to go watch their big showdown with the Spartans just so I can watch a dear Ohio friend possibly have a meltdown. I know it’s not exactly “classy,” but you can rest easy knowing she’d do the same for me.

While Los Angeles is far, far away from being a college football town, all of us idiots who moved here have helped turn every sports bar into a United Nations of college football. Walk into any place on a Saturday afternoon and you’ll see groups of fans from at least a dozen different schools huddled around their respective TVs. It really makes for a great scene.

And like Survivor, unexpected allegiances will form.

When Michigan lost their season opener Appalachian State at home way back in 2007, everyone in the bar who wasn’t maize and blue stopped what they were doing to watch Michigan’s last second field goal attempt get blocked.

Never has there been such joy in the anguish of others.

Then again, 2007 was such a dark time for Husker Nation that fans actually stopped watching games in public. On that day against Nevada, there were exactly four of us in red squinting at a 12 inch TV bolted to the ceiling at an bad angle. When your team is Bill Callahan bad, you get banished to the little TV.

By 2009, our in-public attendance had improved but we were still dwarfed by the highly organized LA chapter of the Texas Exes during the Mack wants another second put back on the clock game. Our numbers were bolstered late in the game by Alabama fans who stayed around after their game ended just to help root against fucking Texas.

The all-time best though was the Huskers’ comeback against Wisconsin in 2012. Early in the second half, a dozen or so Ohio State fans sauntered upstairs to our “private” room at our watch site. Without even acknowledging the odd looks they were getting, they grabbed seats wherever they could. A trio sat down at our table and promptly ordered shots of Fireball Whiskey for the table.

“Hi, we’re here to cheer for you guys just so you’ll be ranked higher when we beat you next week. ”

And that was that. For the rest of the game, they cheered on Huskers and marveled at the “Go Big Red” chant.

To their drunken ears, it sounded like Sloth yelling “Heeeey Yooouuu Guuuys” which is exactly what they shouted when a Go Big Red faded out.

Gotta love college football.

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