Sunday, November 16, 2003

Getting Up Close And Personal With a Special Pig

Iowa City, Ia.—First of all, I’d like to point out that I don’t get up close and personal with just any pig.

I mean, I don’t start discussions in public with your run-of-the-mill hog.

But when it comes to a certain porker that now has celebrated its 68th birthday, I’m easy.

I’m talking about Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig that has been awarded every year since 1935 to the winner of the Iowa-Minnesota football game.

Floyd will be living in the football offices at the University of Iowa for the next year because the Hawkeyes walloped Minnesota, 40-22, Saturday in Kinnick Stadium. It’s a familiar place of residence for him because Iowa has beaten Minnesota three straight years.

I was in the Metrodome in Minneapolis a year ago when the Hawkeyes wrapped up an 8-0 Big Ten record with a 45-21 victory over Minnesota, and I got a pretty good look at how Floyd was moving into his golden years. But I vowed to do even better this year.

So I went from the press box to the sidelines midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game with the intention of striking up a conversation with him.

Floyd was relaxing on the 25-yard line in his usual position—standing proudly and with his snout directed downward--when I got there.

"How’s it going?" I asked. "Has Kirk Ferentz been feeding you well?"

"It’s been a great year," Floyd said. "Kirk got that big pay raise last year when the Hawkeyes won 11 games, so the eats have been better than usual. If I don’t watch it, I’ll have to go on the Atkins diet.

"Don’t forget, when I made this deal with the governors of Iowa and Minnesota in 1935 to be the prize in this rivalry, I promised not to pack on any extra pounds."

"Well, you’re hanging in there just fine, Floyd," I said. "You’re a prize porker in my book. By the way, I assume you’ve been doing more than just eating Ferentz’s food during the past year.

"You’ve always had the reputation of being one of the more handsome hogs in the area, so I’d like to ask you a question that maybe no other sportswriter has asked you:

"You got a girlfriend?"

Floyd smiled at that one.

"Darn right I’ve got a girlfriend," he said. "A steady girlfriend. And she’s the prettiest female pig in Johnson County. I think she even got some votes for homecoming queen."

Then Floyd’s expression changed. I could tell he wanted to talk about another matter.

"I’m glad you came over to see me, Ron," he said. "Phil Haddy, the Iowa sports information director, brought over your book, "Tales from the Iowa Hawkeyes," a while back and I just finished reading it last night.

"I noticed that you wrote about me on Page 54. That was very nice of you, and I’m glad you straightened out the story on how I got to be part of the Iowa-Minnesota rivalry. Lots of people didn’t know that I was the product of racism."

"Well, I appreciate that," I said. "Actually, George Wine of Solon—the guy who used to be Iowa’s sports information director—told me about the racism stuff."

"Whatever," Floyd said. "Thanks to George, too. He and I would get along just fine. He’s a farmer now, too, you know."

Wine told me that Minnesota had "manhandled" Ozzie Simmons of Iowa in the 1934 game. Simmons was one of few blacks playing major college football at the time, and Wine said Minnesota was "guilty of some late hits and abusive play against him."

The situation was so bad that when Minnesota played at Iowa in 1935, Clyde Herring, Iowa’s governor, said he couldn’t guarantee the safety of the Gophers’ players because of what had happened to Simmons in 1934.

Floyd B. Olson, Minnesota’s governor, tried to calm the situation by offering Floyd as the reward for winning the Hawkeye-Gopher game. Wine said the 1935 game—won by Minnesota, 13-6--was played cleanly and there "were no racial incidents."

After Iowa lost, Herring presented Olson with Floyd of Rosedale, a full-blooded champion pig and a brother of BlueBoy from Will Rogers’ movie "State Fair."

Olson gave Floyd to the University of Minnesota and commissioned a sculptor to capture the pig’s image.The result was a bronze pig 21 inches long and 15 inches high.

"That’s the straight scoop," Floyd told me. "Most people really don’t want to tie racism in with this football rivalry, but I’m glad you told it the right way. I always heard that you don’t pull any punches with your writing, and you proved it in your book."

"Thanks, Floyd," I said. "You’re my kind of pig, too."

By the time Floyd was wrapping up that part of our conversation, the game was almost over. So along came Robert Gallery, Iowa’s 321-pound offensive tackle and future multi-millionaire. He’s expected to be a first-round pick in the 2004 NFL draft.

Gallery was on a mission. He reached down to pick up Floyd and took him to the 50-yard line in front of the Iowa bench.

But before Gallery carried Floyd away, the pig looked at me and said, "Thanks again for coming over to talk with me. I wanted to show you that I’m a pretty good interview. I know you’ve probably talked to a lot of pigs at the State Fair every August in Des Moines, but I’ll bet they don’t have the vocabulary I have."

"You’re right about that, Floyd," I said. "You obviously picked up a lot of good words over in the Iowa football offices."

"Darn right," Floyd said. "That’s another reason I like it better in Iowa City than Minneapolis. They swear a lot more up north."

Floyd said he had one more thing to tell me.

"Hey, don’t be bashful," he said. "Come over and see me sometime when you’re in Iowa City in the off-season. You’re my kind of sportswriter, and I’ll bet I can give you another good column in a few months.

"But call before you come. I don’t want to miss you if I’m on a date with my girlfriend. I don’t have any curfew from January until two-a-days start in August."

Then away went Gallery and Floyd to the 50. Gallery stood to the left of Floyd, Erik Jensen – Iowa’s senior tight end – was on the right. With the game over, they carried Floyd to the center of the field for the celebration.

Iowa’s players leaped to put their hands on the pig as a signal that he’d be spending another year in Iowa City. The sellout crowd roared.

"This is definitely my kind of town," Floyd shouted.

[Ron Maly’s e-mail address is If you want to contact Floyd of Rosedale, write to him at the same address. Like Maly, he responds to everyone who contacts him – even those people and pigs who write in crayon].

Vol. 3, No. 78
Nov. 16, 2003