24 September 2006

Body Count

In 1991, Colorado State came to Lincoln to play the Huskers. My brother and I were both in school at UNL at the time and we, of course, had season tickets. This was before they shoved the students into the south stadium and we had great seats in section 3 about 20 rows up. The game wasn't pretty for the Rams; the Huskers were exceptionally conditioned and superbly talented. There were numerous official time outs for on-field injuries--for the Rams players. I took note. At the end of the game there were 4-6 players hobbling off the field with crutches--Colorado State players, that is. The Huskers suffered possibly only bruises during the 71-14 victory and certainly didn't have any injury time-outs.

The Body Count was born.

After that game I kept a tally of the body count--a measurement of how we were better conditioned than the teams we played. If I had the kinds of electronic tools at my disposal at that time, I would have recorded the body count for each game and now could chart it to show the decline in our conditioning. Instead, you'll have to take my word for it. During the Solich years we frequently lost the body count and shortly after Boyd Eppley (considered the father of modern football conditioning) was demoted. I gave up counting once Callahan showed up--the official end of Power Football at Nebraska.

19 September 2006


This morning, I was sitting at the mechanics drinking a tiny Styrofoam cup of coffee listening to techno music on the intercom (wondering why Toyota would be playing that type of music at 7 a.m.) and waiting for the shuttle to depart and take me to work. Following my rule to never leave home without something to read, I was flipping through my new issue of Psychology Today when I came across a brief article about "interactional synchrony." As I was reading this article, I thought, "this is what it is about athletics that I love so much" (and can never fully explain to non-sports fans). This article explains this phenom that makes people in pairs (or en masse) "exhibit balletic coordination;" It's what happens when a group of individuals motivate toward a single goal. Surely, you've seen film of the graceful maneuvers of a herd of hoofed animals move as if they are one motion, this is the phenomenon that explains that. For example, when a crowd of 80,000 Husker fans start screaming for the defense to "kick ass!" or when they organize themselves into "the wave;" this is interactional synchrony. This article explains how this coordinated group experience can be pleasurable and exhilarating. I think it also goes back to mirror neurons which I believe are the key to efficiency--they (psychologists from the U of CT Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action) found that subjects who were asked to NOT swing their leg in synchronous movement to another individual sitting next to them found it exhausting to do so. Perhaps this explains the strange pleasure people get out of watching ice skating at the Olympics... an act I've never understood as an adult. Maybe the synchronous movements of the skaters is pleasurable to some; if "they" looked closer they would probably find a release of dopamine of epinephrine in the brain when people are witnessing, and participating, in these synchronous events. Personally, I get annoyed that an Olympic sport is at the mercy of a judge--I think Olympics should be limited to athletic ability; who can run faster, jump the highest, swim the fastest, etc. But that's a topic for another time.

While I was reflecting on this fascinating discovery, I realized that the song playing on the intercom was Synchronicity II by the Police.

Talk about synchronicity!!

17 September 2006

The Wily Weed

My mother's grandmother used to recite this poem.

I have walked in summer meadow
When the sunbeams flashed and broke.
But I never saw the cattle
Nor the sheep or horses smoke

I have watched the world with wonder
When the grass with dew is wet
But I never saw a robin
Puffing at a cigarette.

I have fished in many a river
When the Jenny crop was ripe
But I never saw a sucker
Puffing on a pipe

Man's the only living creature
That parades this vale of tears
Like a sorting tractor engine
Spouting smoke from nose to ears.

If Dame Nature had intended
When she first invented Man
That he'd smoke--she would have
Built him on a vastly different plan.

She'd have fixed him with a damper
And a stove pipe and a grate
With a built-in smoke consumer
That was strickly up to date!

Nostrils would have pointed upward
So to make it easy be
For the snorting snuff consumer
Just to drop it in you see.

It can be found in the following publications:
higley, luther h., rev. and theodore f. frech. the brown god and his white imps, or, the evils of tobacco and cigarettes, the higley printing co., butler, indiana, 1916.
ketcheson, w.g.; gems of truth, faith economy printing concern, inc., berne, indiana, no date.