Saturday, November 13, 2004

Football - Sorrow & Joy

From a Roar To a Whimper

Last Sunday, my beloved Detroit Lions lost to the Washington Redskins, 17-10, and I failed to be a man and answer for that to my friend in Maryland, who's a big 'Skins fan. All season long, I'd been talking trash, taking joy in the fact that my Lions were playing well while her Redskins were struggling. A win for Detroit seemed assured, which I made clear. Unfortunately, the Lions played one of their worst games of this season, and after a surprising start have now fallen back to their typical inept play. One would think I'd learn after all these years.

So since I didn't send an e-mail to take my medicine, Stephanie, I'll do it here on my blog. My Lions stink. The Redskins are their daddy. I will now go back under my rock and sulk.

Nothing Like the First Time

And I haven't written about my first University of Iowa football game last week vs. Purdue. The weather was great: sunny and 70 degrees. Mother Nature wanted me to have a good time. The game didn't disappoint either. Purdue made it close at the end, but Iowa generally dominated the game and won 23-21. The only thing I missed out on was eating one of the famous "Big Ass Turkey Legs." (The sign on the food stand actually says that.) They looked good, but I didn't want to carry around a giant drumstick of meat. Maybe some other time, when I can share one...

Did I take this photo? Yes, I ran onto the field, snapped this and ran off, quick as a flash. Coach Kirk Ferentz wants to sign me up as a running back for next season. No, all the photos I took with my spy-sized digital camera didn't turn out very well. I'm a terrible photographer, especially with a camera so small that it's affected by my slightest movement. All you could tell from my photos was that I was outside and that someone with a giant head was sitting in front of me. Too bad, because I would've loved a record of the experience. (I really wanted a picture of "Big Ass Turkey Legs," too.)

My sister will hate hearing this, but the Iowa fans are a lot louder and much more enthusiastic than the Michigan fans. Some say the design of Michigan stadium, with a bowl that stretches back farther, lets more noise escape. Maybe that's true, but I do think Michigan fans are quieter. They sit back and expect their team to win. Iowa fans feel like they can influence the game with their cheering. It makes a big difference.

I've become an old man when it comes to attending football games. (Baseball games are different to me. Someday I'll write about why that is.) "Oy, it's too crowded and uncomfortable. I hate being wedged in between people - what if I have to go to the bathroom? And I can see the game much better at home on TV." But a college football game has a lot of atmosphere that can only be appreciated in person. The variety of fans (the old-timers, the students, the townies), the marching band playing fight songs (I still have to work on learning Iowa's) and rallies, school colors, and raucous enthusiasm - ain't nothin' like it.

One more thing about Iowa football: I know this will sound goofy, but two years ago, I visited Minneapolis, thinking I'd move there. It was difficult to find a place to stay because the hotel rooms were all taken by Iowa fans, in town to see the Hawkeyes play Minnesota. But once I did find a room (and desperately paid a ridiculous amount for a room bigger than my current apartment), I met some Iowa fans in the lobby and was impressed by how nice they were. And I was impressed that so many of these people had made the five-hour trip to cheer on their school. I missed being in an environment like that.

(After Iowa won the game, by the way, those fans ran onto the field - at the other team's stadium - to celebrate winning a share of the Big Ten conference title. Those crazy kids tore down one of the goalposts! I would imagine Minnesota is still sore about that.)

I'm not going to say that I decided to go to Iowa that day, because that's just not true. But for a guy that was looking for a sign to tell him which direction to go, I sometimes wonder if the seed was planted that day. On the drive back to Michigan, I'd decided that I wasn't going to move to Minneapolis. Shortly after that, I remembered that Iowa had a great writing program. The rest could be history...