Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Below Minnesota, Just Above Hell

It's Iowa week. If there's one thing I know everything about, it's Iowa. One year later, we return to the truth vacuum. Hey girl.

A mysterious trend has risen in the college football world since the advent of the BCS: conference pride. People from all over the country are cheering on their in-conference foes against out-of-conference opponents. It's a unique phenomenon. I don't think it exists in pro sports, unless the northeastern conferences I follow are especially bloodthirsty and fans everywhere else are pulling for their hated rivals (possible).

I don't want to place the blame for this on the fans, the BCS' knighting of six "Big" conferences that would receive automatic bids to major bowl games united and divided fan bases in a way we've never seen before. There is no longer rooting for your team, there is a hierarchy: root for your team first and your conference second. You not only have to win, you have to get respect from the media for your wins.

Come bowl season the most common stat you will see on TV is the bowl record by conference. I understand that. It becomes a geographic thing, the south loves that they have the best football (they do). But all this comes at a cost. Two weeks ago I left my cubicle early on a Friday to embark on the trip to Tuscaloosa, and as I'm leaving the woman next to me who has Gator stickers all over her cube says, "Have fun! But you know I have to cheer for Alabama, with the SEC and all."

No. We have gotten away from our core values of cheering for a TEAM. Enough patchwork fanship. You can't fake this stuff. I've been talking about this with friends of mine recently and you just feel how you feel, you don't suddenly muster up appreciation for a program on any given Saturday because it's advantageous to your conference.

Heartbreak is the lifeblood of rivalries. The fact that we have a trophy game with Michigan State doesn't change the fact that they've never taken from us. The fact that Lloyd Carr begged a ref for - and was rewarded with - two seconds in 2005 makes me want to beat Michigan. The fact that my car was towed in Alabama makes me want to stomp the low tide in State College next year. And in a brief but virtuous return to my thesis of last year's post, the fact that Iowa is still a state makes me want to beat them this year. I would never cheer for these teams under any circumstances.

Iowa has disrupted the natural order of things in 7 of the last 8 meetings with Penn State. Ferentz is a very good coach, but has had trouble getting consistent play out of his team in the last two years. They may have even underachieved during that time! Fans of the Hawkeyes would not have you believe it though, they flood message boards like water floods Iowa with diagonal comparisons and selective memory like they have already sewn up last and next year's conference championship. Like the lovebugs that are swarming Florida at the moment, they are acidic and disgusting.

Agh, so gross. Who even moves to Iowa? How does the state maintain a population? If every family has two children, you have to figure one of them is thinking, "I'm getting the hell out of here" and does it, which would indicate a steady decline. Yet they seem to be hovering around 3 million people. Incredible! The internet and the travel channel have probably made it easier for Iowans to cope with their situation. Youtube videos of beaches are only a 20 minute 56k download away! Grab your sunscreen! When you all vacation, I hope it's in Canada. Thanks for the salmonella.

As you can tell I don't really feel like writing about football because we are probably going to lose this weekend, and it sucks. I don't have a more elegant way of putting it. I'll never forget where I was or how I felt after the last two Iowa losses and I'm not looking forward to it again. 2008 hurt the most because there was national title hopes at stake. 2009 was a complete meltdown, my reward for dropping hundreds of dollars to be in attendance for what I had hoped would be payback.

Despite my acknowledgement that this is a rebuilding year, I want this to be a must win on a personal level. I just want to beat this team, I don't care how. I would take a fluke loss to Indiana over an expected loss to the Hawkeyes. However I am a realist, so Just in case we don't win, here are ways that the state can make it up to me:

*Adrian Clayborn: Get drafted by the Giants and be a bust. And then get busted for cocaine.

*Ricky Stanzi: Admit that you have no idea what's going on in a football game.

*Kirk Ferentz: Suggest Ricky Stanzi watch tape of Jake Christensen.

*Matt Hayek (Mayor, Iowa City, IA): Give me the keys to the city.

*Adam Robinson: Day-drink before the game and puke on DJK in the 1st quarter.


The Pick:

Iowa 26
Penn State 13

We force punts on half of their possessions and limit them to below 30 points, but it is our offense that can't find it's rhythm until it's too late. Bolden only throws one pick this game but the running game offers little support as a veteran defensive line is crushes Royster in a big game. It's not going to matter that they only have one running back, we can't stop one running back. Kill me now.

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