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Mailbag: Things to Do, Husker Games to Watch While Social Distancing

March 18, 2020

We’re in unprecedented times right now amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no sports, which means a lot of uncertainty. It also means a lot of us are at home practicing “social distancing” from one another. It’s no surprise this week’s Mailbag took a focus on how to make the best of this time, so the Hail Varsity staff did its best to answer.

But don’t worry. There are some other questions—football and basketball, anyone?—if you need a little break from it all.

Give me the best itinerary for a day of social distancing where you provide the maximum fun, if anything were possible. (@huskernationfa1)  

Mike Babcock: I’m probably going to exclude sports here. And this assumes no HV stuff to engulf me. Email friends. Take a walk in the neighborhood with my wife, distancing is easy around here. Watch “Dateline,” always fascinates us. Do crossword puzzles; I’m addicted and have puzzle books. The TV is background. Read. We have lots and lots of books acquired over the years. 

Erin Sorensen: I’m going to give you the best itinerary I can for myself assuming I’m limiting any unnecessary trips from my house. First, I’d wake up around 7 a.m., make some coffee and watch the Today Show. From there, I’d take my dogs on a walk and spend some time reading a book. I always watch Gilmore Girls when I’m home in the afternoon (it starts at 3 p.m. on UP TV) and I never get tired of it. In the evening, I’d probably play some video games. I even have a couple of arcade games in the basement (Golden Tee is one of them, and that’s a lot of fun). After that, I might spend some time watching live videos on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. I don’t know if anyone caught some of those on Monday, but Keith Urban and Coldplay (plus a number of others) spent their evenings playing virtual concerts. I really enjoyed that. And throughout the day, I know I’d talk with my HV people on Slack. I think the biggest part to a great itinerary though this is staying connected as much as you can. That and picking up curbside Block 16 or having Muchachos deliver dinner. Both are great additions to a maximum fun day of social distancing.

Brandon Vogel: As someone who works from home the vast majority of the time, it’s been shocking to really realize how much time I already spent social distancing. So, my 9-to-5 probably remains mostly the same. Given that sports news is a little less frequent now, I’ll probably be taking more midday breaks to get a loaf of bread started (I enjoy making bread). Have to get a walk in there somewhere and there’s plenty of greenspace around where I live so no concerns there. Then I’m finally going to read all those books I’ve been meaning to but rarely did because I’d get sucked in to whatever live game was on TV. 

Greg Smith: So much of my routine right now is really the same as what I think of as our “football offseason hours.” I’ve been trying to listen to as much music as possible. I never get tired of watching Fast and Furious so I rotate through those too. When I need fun or a break, I work out, read or play video games. I’ll be starting up a new Charlotte Hornets dynasty here soon on 2K. The Lakers aren’t as fun to play with now they I can’t rebuild them and that’s my favorite thing to do in the game. 

What are your top sports related videos to watch in quarantine? (@jjstark8)  

MB: First choice is my DVD of the 1978 Nebraska-Oklahoma football game. Also, the 1959 Nebraska-Oklahoma football game. I’m old. I have a bunch of videotapes of Husker athletics, not just football. I need to start sorting through them, seeing what’s still good (I have a player). Also, I have some pro wrestling DVDs (and videotapes). Dick the Bruiser and Bret Hart are my favorites. 

JP: I’ve been tuning in to some of the old games the various ESPN and other sports networks have been showing. On Tuesday, I watched an old Celtics vs. Lakers game featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. On Tuesday night, ESPNU played a few of LeBron James’ high school games, which were pretty cool to see. That kind of stuff is how I’m going to be getting my sports fix, at least for the near future. 

BV: A couple of years ago I put together a list of the best Husker games available on YouTube. That’s a solid starting point and I have plans to expand that in the near future as people might burn through those games pretty quickly now. Personally, I’ll probably spend some time looking for more off-the-radar college football games, including some not-so-classic Nebraska games. I might rewatch ESPN’s O.J. Simpson documentary. Also in the ESPN department, it has been releasing teaser clips of its upcoming Michael Jordan documentary. I have a feeling they might release it early and if that happens it’s a clear-my-schedule moment. 

GS: At some point soon my plan is to go back through old NBA games from teams I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have. So those Sonics teams with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp is a great example. I also plan to see which 30 for 30s I didn’t see and check those out. Yesterday I ended up down a wormhole of WWE content and ended up watching The Rock vs Hogan at Wrestlemania.  

With the quarantine and no sports, what books, movies, and podcasts about sports are the Hail Varsity staff’s recommendations to stay sane right now? (@JEREIH)  

MB: I’m a voracious reader, off and on. I’ll recommend some non-sports books: A Man Called Ove, Beartown, All the Light We Cannot See, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Librarian of Auschwitz (though it’s really depressing, so maybe not right now), 11-22-63 (by Stephen King). 

JP: I would recommend “Dream Like a Champion” by Brandon Vogel and John Cook. If you like baseball, Hurrdat Films’ documentary “50 Summers” about Minor League Baseball and the Omaha Stormchasers, is available on iTunes. You can catch the Hail Varsity Radio show in podcast form if you can't listen live. 

ES: I second Jacob’s recommendation of “Dream Like a Champion.” In addition to the Hail Varsity Radio Show podcast, Jay Moore’s Moore To It Podcast is now on iTunes and worth a listen. New episodes every Monday (and they’re VERY good). For other recommendations, Little Fires Everywhere just dropped on Hulu last night. The book is great and the show (I’m one episode in) seems to be doing it justice and then some. I have also been enjoying Carson Vaughn’s Zoo Nebraska. If your local library is closed, Libby (who works with most libraries for audio book checkouts) is not and I’ve been listening to several books including Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened. Speaking of Clinton, her new documentary on Hulu is also very good. I also have been working on putting a list together of women-run podcasts and will hopefully have that to share soon if that’s your jam. 

BV: Been thinking about putting together a list of college football books, maybe even an online book club if anyone was interested in that and I can come up with solutions to some logistical questions on that. But, in short form, here are some college football books I really love: “Tribal,” “The Courting of Marcus Dupree,” “Study Hall: College Football, It’s Stats and Stories,” “The Perfect Pass” and “Blood, Sweat and Chalk.” I’ve also started putting movie/book/whatever recommendations in Hot Reads for the time being.  

Completely serious question: How many Basketball games were played after Nebrasketball’s game against Indiana? Can we claim we were in the last game, final four, elite eight? I know the jay’s had part of a game the next day, but it doesn’t count, since it was unfinished. (@TheHuskerGnome)  

JP: I believe there were at least 10 games that tipped off after Nebraska-Indiana on Wednesday night. Colorado vs. Washington State was the last game of the night from what I can tell. 

You have the ability to go back in time to your childhood. What 2 or 3 toys are you bringing back to the present to actually play with during the quarantine and social distancing? (@Corn_Huskers)  

MB: Negamco Baseball, for sure. It was a statistically based table-top game with all the big league teams. Also Strat-O-Matic Baseball. Before those, I created my own baseball game using dice or a spinner, can’t recall which. I painted a field in the basement furnace room, on which I put rubber baseball players—blue and yellow—that were included in some sort of cereal. I created teams, kept stats and so forth. That was a summer during which I had to stay home and inactive after suffering the effects of a relapse from the measles. I still have Negamco and Strat-O-Matic Baseball games stashed away somewhere, by the way. 

JP: It’s been years since I’ve played video games, but depending on how long this pandemic lasts I might have to dig out my Nintendo 64 or PS2. I’m not sure either of them even work anymore or where they’re at, so if I can go back in time and grab them with all my games and memory cards in working order, that would be much easier. 

GS: I wish I had my 3-in-1 pool , air hockey and ping pong table right now. That would be clutch. Maybe the original Gameboy to fire up some Tetris too.  

BV: If I had the pop-a-shot we had in our basement growing up I would be doing extensive research right now on the limits of a human being’s ability to make baskets in a finite time span. With an N64, I would lose hours to NBA Jam. 

Which Husker athletic team do you expect to surprise next year? (@dmhusker1)  

MB: I’m wait-and-see in every case. Right now, I don’t expect surprises, depending on how that’s defined. Football, for instance, I expect a bowl game if that’s a surprise. It shouldn’t be. Rather, it should be expected. And men’s basketball can’t do any worse, right? Baseball, not sure where that was headed this season, probably not quite where I expected. Volleyball? We know it’s going to be nationally relevant. Women’s basketball? About the same as this season, maybe a bit better. I don’t see significant surprises. 

BV: I honestly thought football was a good candidate—ducks—but there’s now so much to be sorted out there that I think the season ahead could be extremely chaotic on a national scale if we’re looking at practice schedules and recruiting that were disrupted. 

Any chance (at all) of getting Chucky Hepburn to change his commitment from Wisconsin to Nebraska? (@brian_noonan)  

MB: I’d like to see Nebraska get as many in-state players as it can, but Hepburn might not be a great fit in what Hoiberg wants to do. Jacob can address this better. Regardless, I’d be more excited about getting him to change than about a transfer from Western Illinois. That’s just me. 

JP: I would guess not. He’s pretty rock-solid with Wisconsin, and I don’t believe he was all that high on Nebraska’s recruiting board to begin with. The Huskers aren’t trying to flip him and he’s not looking to keep his recruitment process going. 

Where do y'all think Fidone is leaning? (@InDaWilderness)  

JP: I haven’ talked to him, and at this point he might not be leaning in any direction. But I believe he played 7-on-7 for Warren Academy in Omaha and has become friends with a lot of Nebraska kids, some of whom are current and future Huskers. That certainly can’t hurt as Nebraska continues to recruit him. 

GS: Leaning towards Nebraska but it’s not a slam-dunk he picks the Huskers. Any time every major program that produces NFL tight ends is involved things are subject to change. The wild card here is if he will delay his original intent to commit before his next football season. He was going to take visits to Michigan and Notre Dame this month. As it stands now the only schools in his top six (Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame and LSU) that he has visited are Nebraska and Iowa.  

With it being Mr. Frost’s 3rd year, is the depth in key positions starting to develop? The OL, DB, and QB seem to be on their way but how deep is the Front 7 and will we see major production from pass rushers or TE this year? If so, who do you see making a name for themselves? (@EhrenWhite)  

MB: I’m not as well-versed as others who will answer this, but I think depth, developed depth not potential, is a concern going into Frost’s third year. There’s potential. The offensive line, for example, has all five starters returning. It needs to identify at least (with the emphasis on that) one guard and one tackle who can rotate and keep people fresh. Typically, the center doesn’t rotate. The front seven is definitely a concern from a depth standpoint, as well as simply identifying the best to start. 

JP: I certainly hope we’ll see the tight ends become a bigger part of the offense this year. Jack Stoll, Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek is a pretty solid trio, and if Chris Hickman moves back there it adds even more talent to the room. As for depth in the front seven, it’s all potential at this point. If we simply plug in the most experienced returners as starters for this exercise (Deontre Thomas, Damion Daniels and Ben Stille on the line and JoJo Domann, Colin Miller, Will Honas and Caleb Tannor at linebacker), then you’re probably looking at Keem Green, Ty Robinson, Jordon Riley, Casey Rogers and Pheldarius Payne as your back-up options at defensive line. Those guys all have very few if any snaps under their belts, but they’ve all got a chance to be pretty good players. It’s the same at linebacker where the depth is made up of all junior college transfers and underclassmen. So the bodies are there, it’s just a matter of how ready those bodies are to play and which of them move to the front of the pack. 

There's a lot of chatter about the men's coaches all the time. Any updates for the women's teams? Thoughts on our newer gymnastics/basketball coaches? How is the softball team this season after all the upheaval last year? (@AlpineAddiction)  

MB: Softball team seemed to emerge from the drama in a good place, though from a record standpoint not such a good place, 9-14. Women’s hoops, I think, figured on some sort of postseason play after finishing 17-13—the 13th loss in the Big Ten Tournament. Amy Williams had a fairly young team, so there’s optimism about next season. Key losses were Nicea Eliely and Hannah Whitish. 

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