Yesterday morning, the cross country team that I have coached for five years, four as the assistant and now my first one as head coach, experienced tremendous success in competition for the first time since I got there. We medaled three runners, had nine PR’s — bringing the number of lifetime PR’s on our team this week to a whopping twenty, and we scored a 78 which was good enough for a third place finish in the boys’ race. In my time with the team, we’d never previously scored under 100 as a team, and we’d never finished a race better than sixth. It felt great, and the kids, their parents, and the assistant coaches were all excited right along with me.
Afterwards, I returned home, took a short nap, mowed the lawn, and joined my family to watch the Husker football game — the first of the season due to last week’s cancellation. The poetry was perfect. Scott Frost, the prodigal son, returns home to the state where he grew up to coach the team he played for and won a National Championship with. The first game of the year was now against Colorado, our long-time rival in the Big 12 Conference before we left for the Big 10 and they went to the PAC 10. I couldn’t have been more excited. With my kids in their Husker jerseys and my parents and wife all present, we prepared to hover around the television for the next four hours.
If you care about football then you know what happened, and if you don’t then you don’t need the play-by-play from me. The Cliff’s Notes version is that we were up for most of the game, but never by much, and lost in the fourth quarter. A slightly more nuanced explanation would include our turnover difficulties, being down by two scores early on, a couple of dropped passes late in the game, and an injury to our starting quarterback. Yet what truly needs to be known about the game, in my opinion, can be found in few of the quantifiables. What I want people to know about Scott’s first game is that, for the first time in maybe a decade, we looked good. The boys looked strong if rusty, the linemen looked like trees, as linemen should. We converted on third and long a few times, and we ran the ball at will. We appeared poised and never tired. And we were in the game from start to finish. I turned the TV off disappointed, but very proud of my team, very proud to be a Husker.
Proud though I was, I was still displeased with the result of the game, and I had a little poetry of my own in mind. So on the day that the Colorado Buffalos defeated my beloved Huskers, I grilled buffalo burgers for the family for dinner. And I think perhaps most significantly, I paired them with the same wine I would have opened were we celebrating.
The Ledson Petite Sirah, this one from 2011, is a terrific wine. I decanted it for about twenty minutes or so, gave it a swirl, and poured it for everyone. Packed with black fruits — blackberry and black cherry, it has an undercurrent of coffee and earthy flavors, and is silky smooth upon the palate. Formidable structure and great balance add both an elegance and an age worthiness to this excellent wine, while the oft-whined about vintage has clearly done nothing to detract. This Petite Sirah paired terrifically with the lean buffalo meat, and would also drink very nicely on its own. Steve Noble Ledson, who Sonja and I feel very fortunate to know, is a self-taught winemaker who does absolutely extraordinary things with grapes. I highly recommend trying his wines if you haven’t yet.
Things take time. My Cross Country team experienced a little bit of success yesterday, and it felt great, but we have a long way to go and it will take a lot more time to get there. The same is true for Husker football. Our team looked better than we have in years yesterday, and yet we still lost at home to an unranked opponent. I’m ok with that, and I hope that all of Husker Nation can be as well. Scott’s contract is for ten years, and if that’s how long it takes him to right the ship, then that’s how long we need to give him. I don’t expect to get fired from my position as head coach if I don’t take the team to state this year — though I will do my damnedest to get that done, and Scott deserves to feel equally if not more secure in the knowledge that he has undertaken a very difficult task, and that we trust him to get it done. The terrific bottle of Petite Sirah we paired poetically with the meat of our opponents last night took seven years to get to where it was, and sometimes things take even longer. Things take time. As I age, I am learning to be patient.
Cheers to patience, and to the fruit that it can yield,