Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Inspiring the Nebraska Cornhuskers

A while ago I received a call from someone close with Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini.
Every Friday Coach Pelini publishes a newsletter that he distributes to his players and includes an inspiring story to psyche them up for the big game on Shabbat.  

He thought that a Rabbi may have some inspiring stories to share. 
Now, you have to understand, to help out the CornHuskers would almost be considered a great community service - dare I say, even a mitzvah - to many people here.  I had to do what I could.

The problem is, I am not really a story guy.  So I called up my good friend Dovid Bashevkin from NCSY and he told me to give him the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge Story.  

Right away I remembered that story from when I was an NCSYer in 6th grade. 
In the late 1880s there was a bridge and a big train accident.  There was a big law suit that followed the accident and the whole case hinged on whether or not some guy had waved a lantern signalling to the conductor whether the bridge was up or down. 
The lantern guy was called to the stand and he was asked, "are you the lantern guy?"
"Yes" he said.
"Did you wave the lantern like you were supposed to?"
This is where the suspense built up.  After a long dramatic pause the guys answers, "Yes!  I waived the lantern."
The crowd goes crazy!  The railroad company wins the case.
After the court room empties the lawyer sees that the lantern guy is looking really sad. 
"What's wrong?  Didn't you tell the truth?"
"Yes.  I told the truth.  I waived the lantern.  But..." pause for dramatic punch line delivery - "there was no fire in the lantern!"

What a story.  Moral - sometimes you can do your job perfectly, but if there is no fire burning in you - it is like you never did it at all!

I did not like that story as a kid.  I couldn't help but think about all the poor victims of the train accident and how the railroad company would get off Scot free. 

And, if the story is so famous, why didn't the court find out about it and declare a mistrial?  Or try the guy for perjury or something?

That is why I don't like these stories. 

But Bo Pelini does.  So what can I do but get him some. 
Any ideas anyone?


  1. Great story. One of mine and President Richard Joel's favorites.

  2. I had never heard the name associated with the story, or the claim that it had happened for real. I always thought of what I like to call a true story that never happened.