Most artists or members of the media adhere to a simple recipe for success. “Stay true to yourself.” And in Nebraska, you might add, “be humble.”
After 33 years at the Lincoln Journal Star and becoming arguably the most widely read sportswriter in the state, Steve Sipple has followed those two mantras like a fish to water.
Sipple retired from the newspaper on May 5 and shared the last third of a century of ideas and stories with members of the Executive Club on Monday at their weekly luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Lincoln.
“This job was difficult for me. The magnitude of Nebraska football and what it entails and the scary thing is you know as much as I do most of the time, and some of you know more than I do,” Sipple said. to his audience. “And that was always in my head when I was writing. You can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes here, because they know it and have been following it for years. They follow it closely and read everything.
Through his writing and his appearance on the radio, Sipple reflected an unsophisticated personality, unassuming and with an unassuming approach to those who digested his media. So the real article from Columbus, Nebraska showed how he was one of them and they kept reading and listening.
“Knowing how much people care about Nebraska football, that made it difficult at times,” Sipple explained. “So my strategy was to know a little bit more than most people. I have to know too much.
After returning to the paper in 1990, Sipple said he drew the beats of bowling, horse racing and volleyball before landing on the Husker football beat just as Tom Osborne’s drum beat started riding in the mid 90’s.
“It was around this time in 1994 when they came to me and said, ‘We’re going to get you into football.’ I always thought it happened naturally. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it was,” Sipple recalled. “They (Husker football) were in their race in 1994 and 1995, Tom (Osborne) was doing really well and I became the beat writer from 1995 to 2007, and that’s when they upgraded me to columnist.”
Sipple said 33 years have passed like a blur.
“I always say to young journalists, it goes by quickly, try to take advantage of it, it goes by very quickly. Thirty-three… it felt like 13.
At the same time as he became a columnist, Nebraska football entered the unforgettable era of Bo Pelini with Sipple side by side trading blows.
“I remember a time when Bo (Pelini) was yelling at me and I was yelling at him – I remember that very well,” Sipple said with a knowing chuckle. “I was walking my dog around my neighborhood and on my phone, and we were screaming and a little girl went to get her dad because there was this weird guy walking around the neighborhood screaming into his phone. But it wasn’t always like that. My wife said, ‘You are crazy.’
And around this time, Sipple became a philosopher and shared more about his days as a columnist.
“When you’re a writer and you write your opinion, you come up against the coaches. I mean, that’s what’s happening,” Sipple said. “You don’t get into this business to be friends with the coaches. But me and Pelini had a comfortable relationship. Which means whenever someone writes something they don’t like, like (Tom) Shatel, I’m the first person to hear about it.
Next, Sipple began his “simple” relationship with former NU basketball head coach Danny Nee.
“I covered for Danny Nee. You think Bo was crazy… Danny (Nee) tested me too. I was quite young and he was tough on me,” Sipple said of Nee, who coached the Huskers from 1986 to 2000. “I called about his job. I called him a used car salesman. It cost the Journal Star $60,000. I thought I’d lose my job no matter what day I go to the office and they (sports staff) called me the $60,000 man because when I called Nee a used car salesman, they all pulled their ads out of the newspaper. there were some pretty notable car sales people who contacted me.
Sipple reveled in his coaching relationships over the years, but there was one that was second to none and only got better with age.
“I will never compare anyone to Osborne. Since I got older, I’ve come to appreciate him for the level at which he operated,” Sipple said of the three-time national championship coach who coached 25 years at Nebraska, compiling 255 wins. ” It was extraordinary. What he did was extraordinary and what he was was unique.
Osborne was one of many who contacted Sipple after his retirement from the paper was announced, according to Sipple. He said everything was very friendly.
“If you work somewhere for 33 years, it’s not easy to leave anyway,” Sipple said. “Leaving the Journal Star, it was a very good separation. It worked very well. When I finally did, it was great.
Even after some time had passed since his departure, the meaning of the ending was evident. But, Sipple said his future will be announced on June 1.