HAWKEYE BY THE GRACE OF GOD

by Steve Clem on January 6, 2010


Being a Hawkeye fan, sadly or not, is a big piece of the fabric that’s woven into my life.

Anyone who meets me knows soon thereafter that I go a little bat shit crazy for my Hawkeyes. I mean, I have a son named Nile, for God’s sake.But believe it or not, my identification with Hawkeye football is not related solely to their wins and losses.

See I am a B.F. Hawkeye Fan. (Before Fry, as in Hayden). I used to trudge to elementary school wearing a Hawkeye t-shirt, only to be greeted by laughs from the kids wearing Nebraska and Iowa State (yeah, that’s how bad it was) shirts.

I remember many a Saturday as a kid, as I’d be playing outside in the piles of leaves my dad had just raked. He of course did his raking while listening to Jim Zabel on WHO 1040 either on a headset or with the stereo speakers blaring out the window. And loss after loss, and they were constant, my dad would always say “Well, they tried hard. Wait’ll next week.” Or “Wait until we play them next year.”

So I had it instilled in me at an early age that you don’t give up on your team, and you don’t talk bad about them, even when they flat out suck. Ever. It’s just how we rolled.

Outside of that aspect, the wins and losses aren’t the main focus for me because so much of the game culture on a Saturday afternoon in the crisp fall air of Iowa City is so perfect.

The smell of beer-soaked brats slowly sizzling, waiting for you to smother them in mustard and sauerkraut.

The sound of the marching band in the distance, the drums rat-a-tat-tating in anticipation of the upcoming pre-game show.

Enjoying good food and cheer with quality people. There is something about people from Iowa. I’ve met people from all corners of the world in my nearly 40 years, but there’s no group of people I’d rather spend time with than a group of Iowans gathered to cheer on the Hawks.

The people of Iowa are hard working, humble and dryly hilarious.

We tend to get embarrassed when someone compliments us in public. We don’t typically care much how much we paid for our blue jeans, or if they were designer label. We generally prefer a simple life.

That is why Kirk Ferentz, the current head football coach, has been so successful at Iowa, in my opinion. Unlike Fry, who could tell tall tales and puff out his chest with the best of them, Ferentz is very mild-mannered. He’s Clark Kent sans glasses, and with chewing gum.

And while Fry’s gregarious ways were just what Iowa football needed during his era, Ferentz’s lower key, hard-work approach has been just what the program has needed today.

Work hard. Stay focused. Don’t talk shit. Remember to be humble. And courteous.

So for those out there who don’t understand why I spend so much of my energy on a silly football team, perhaps this gives you some insight into what makes it so compelling to me.

In a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the performance of 18-22 year old kids on a synthetic grass rectangle help me re-connect to my roots, and remember the lessons I learned growing up. Work Hard. Stay focused. Don’t talk shit. Remember to be humble. And courteous.

I’m proud of Iowa’s big win in the Orange Bowl a few weeks ago. Without a doubt it was the biggest bowl victory that Iowa has had in my lifetime. But I’m not just proud because of the win. I’m proud of Ferentz, and the players, and how they went about winning. And how they carry themselves.

And I’m proud to be a Hawkeye.I’m an Iowan by birth, but I’m a Hawkeye by the grace of God.

* * * *

Steve Clem originally published this piece on the blog A Prisoner in the Tundra.

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