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CURRENT ARTICLE
12/09/2018 - From The Press Box: How the Nebraska-Creighton Rivalry Leaves Me In A Unique Spot

From The Press Box


I'll admit it, Nebraska put the hammer down on Creighton Saturday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

They played like a Top 25 men's basketball team should.

I'll also admit (if you don't know already) that I support Creighton basketball and the athletic department.  Believe it or not, for many years prior to my brother, Jimmy, playing basketball for the Bluejays, I was a fan of the "Hilltoppers." 

But not huge like I have been since 2000, when Jimmy committed to play at Creighton when he was a senior at Lincoln Northeast.

The Nebraska-Creighton rivalry, especially in basketball, has been a big game in my family the past 18 years.  Once Jimmy committed, the allegiance for most of our family members switched to blue and white.

Some relatives were torn, others stayed supporting Big Red through thick and thin, some became "Jayskers", the rest didn't care either way but simply wanted to respect and support Jimmy's decision.

For some of my friends and colleagues, it's somewhat different.

One of my good friends from my junior high and high school years that I keep in contact with questioned why I still aligned myself with Creighton.

"He (Jimmy) doesn't play there anymore," my friend said in a text message several years back.

On Saturday night, I get a group text from him saying "GBR F**k Creighton."

To me, the initial message was rubbing it in.  I thought, "Should I send something back using explicit language and to start trash talking?"  But I felt I shouldn't and why add fuel to the fire.  Just simply take your lumps.  Turns out, it was friendly banter.

Nebraska fans were hungry for a win over the Jays.  Six straight wins in the rivalry and Husker coach Tim Miles had not beaten his long time friend Greg McDermott in 14 tries.  There was no question the Cornhuskers were head and shoulders above the younger and slightly inexperienced Bluejays.

For Miles' sake, though, the season is far from over and his team needs to keep playing that style of basketball.  This is the year they must achieve their ultimate goal, making and winning an NCAA Tournament game.  The win over Creighton is huge, but the Big Ten is full of heavy duty teams.  The conference season could get interesting.  If Nebraska proves to be successful (as they should with the heavy hitters on their team), they have made the right step.

How do I deal with this rivalry from a professional standpoint?

When you work at a station that covers Nebraska athletics daily, someone like myself has to cater to what the audience wants.  I've reported on Husker sports for the better part of my 21-year broadcasting career.  In no way shape or form have I ever openly snubbed Nebraska, unless I've predicted against them in the weekly score predictions for football.

So what's it like to live in Lincoln and "fly the Bluejay flag?"  Sometimes weird looks, otherwise no one says anything.

At the station, I'll occasionally wear a Creighton T-shirt, sweatshirt or cap.  Yes, I've received my share of grief from some co-workers (ones who are Big Red all the way).  But it's been low-key for the most part. 

In general, it's been nothing. 

Remember, my job as a sports director is to cater to what your audience would be interested in.  Most of my sportscasts are centered around Husker athletics, with Nebraska Wesleyan and high school sports added in and, occasionally, some Creighton and UNO stuff, depending on my inventory.

Usually, if a Lincoln kid plays at Creighton, UNO or some other Division I schools and they do something outstanding I'll report it.  Try to localize it anyway possible.

I suppose, in most parts of the country where a certain sport or team is the most talked about thing daily, there are some journalists or broadcasters that are fans but know they must remain objective.  In today's sports culture, that's a lost art form for some folks in our profession.

There are journalists and broadcasters who are diehard fans of the teams they cover, but how they write and express themselves is done tastefully.  In this day of social media and trying to bond with listeners, readers and viewers, the other part of the equation makes others in our business to be vocal, armchair and have the "either you're with us or against us" mentality.  This applies to all teams at the college and pro level.  Nebraska and Creighton are just as guilty.

Maybe I'm a traditionalist. 

Maybe I'm out of touch with how people want to get their information to form an opinion on a certain subject.

Or am I overthinking this too much? 

In the end, though, I know where I stand as a fan.  I know what I need to do for my job and what's important to my listeners and readers. 

Simply put.......being objective.

Rotellas Italian Bakery    

 

LUTHERAN OFF TO IMPRESSIVE START

Lincoln Lutheran's boys basketball team came away with a 58-54 win at pre-season Class C1 ranked Lincoln Christian on Friday night.   

The Warriors also came away with a 62-54 win over Milford Saturday night, to improve to 4-0.  Seeing the Lutheran/Christian game, it was a great contest between two solid teams.  Josh Puelz, Isaac McCoy, Luke Volin, Ethan Zager and Grant Donovan are solid, while 6-8 senior post Ryan Hlavaty provides solid defense and Tice Jenkins comes off the bench to provide quality minutes for the Warriors.

Christian, meanwhile, is in the middle now of a four-game losing skid after falling 74-60 at Sutton on Saturday.  I still believe the Crusaders will bounce back and regroup.  Justin Bubak is a solid player, Caleb Canfield is an outside threat, Ashton Carlson can provide help wherever needed on the floor and Creighton Kuszak can provide some scoring balance. 

CONGRATS TO COACH RITCHIE!

First-year Lincoln Northeast boys basketball coach Monte Ritchie got his first head coaching victory on Friday night, as the Rockets won 53-52 over North Platte to snap a 27-game losing streak (the first one in school history).

From my inside sources, Coach Ritchie has his team buying into what they want to accomplish and had several kids working extra hard in off-season conditioning sessions.  It's a good first step in the right direction.

Northeast (1-3) returns home to host Lincoln High on Thursday night, then plays at Lincoln Pius X on Saturday.

EAST HIGH 4-0, SOUTHEAST 3-1

Seems as if Lincoln East has found a grove to an early 4-0 start.  The Spartans, who lost a majority of their scoring and rebounding from last year's 24-2 state tournament team, seem to be doing well with veteran guard Connor Riekenberg and 6-6 transfer Wes Dreamer.

They've also received help from Carter Glenn, who helped score 12 points in an overtime win against Kearney on Friday night. 

East hosts Grand Island Friday night before they play at 4-0 Omaha Westside on Saturday.  That's a match up of two hot programs that hasn't been seen since Dean Thompson and Westside beat Alex Stivrins and East for the 1980 Class A championship.

Lincoln Southeast improved to 3-1 with a 64-57 come from behind win and upset of Bellevue West Saturday night at the Prasch Activities Center. 

The Knights relied on 22 points from sophomore Ajantae Hogan and 16 points from senior Michael Anderson to help in the rally, despite 23 points from Bellevue West star Chucky Hepburn.

On Friday night, Southeast suffered a 71-47 drubbing to Class B No. 2 Lincoln Pius X, who improved to 3-1. 

Lincoln High is off to a 2-2 start, while pre-season ranked teams Southwest, is 2-3, and North Star is 1-3.  Northeast is also 1-3.

Next week, we should know the pairings to the Heartland Athletic Conference tournament, which will feature 11-teams, after the addition of Pius X, Kearney and Norfolk to the conference.


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