Sunday, September 05, 2004

In the Heat of the Kinnick Battle

Iowa City, Ia. – They called it the “Throwback Game,” and this was how it went yesterday at Kinnick Stadium:

An hour and 40 minutes before the game, I show up with two of my sons and two of my grandchildren in front of the Recreation Building to watch the Iowa marching band’s drumline performance.

For those of you who haven’t been there for that, I advise it strongly. It’s a great way to get mentally ready for the game.

There was a time—back in football’s 1970s Dark Ages at Iowa—when some of the Hawkeye teams should’ve showed up to hear the drumline.

Maybe they’d have played better.

The team, I mean.

I’m thinking the drumline performance is supposed to start at 9 a.m., but at 9 there’s still no sign of the drummers. I ask a guy if the drummers have already performed.

“Not yet,” he says. “But you’re standing in front of me and I’d like you to move.”

I'm thinking of telling him to do something that's physically impossible, but I think better of it. I mean, why sink to that level on the first day of the season?

I figure this grouchy old goat to be 70-something years of age and that he’s either the grandfather of one of the drummers or someone who was kicked out of the band when he was a student.

Eight minutes later, the drummers show up. They put on an excellent performance. A spectator holding a Bud Light in his right hand and three straw hats as souvenirs of the Iowa-Kent State “Throwback Game” would like to applaud.

He can’t unless he throws his beer to the ground. He thinks better of throwing out the beer. They can’t accuse many Iowa fans of being dumb. He doesn’t applaud. Instead, he takes another drink of beer.

I go onto the west sideline at Kinnick Stadium in order to get a good look at what’s going on. The heat is stifling. I sort of like the Hawkeyes’ uniforms—black jerseys with gold numbers

But I’d prefer gold pants to the white pants they’re wearing.

The cheerleaders are wearing all-white sweaters with the word “IOWA” across the front, white pants and white skirts and saddle shoes.

I hope those outfits are made of cotton and not wool.

If they aren’t, they’ll have to haul a few cheerleaders out of the stadium because of heat exhaustion.

Bob Bowlsby, Iowa’s athletic director, is hot, too.

“I think the new press box we build will be air conditioned,” Bowlsby says.

One guy who can’t escape the heat is Iowa quarterback Drew Tate, whose day is limited because of dehydration problems.

On this sultry, 85-degree day, the Hawkeyes can get along with him in their 39-7 victory.

Phil Haddy and his Iowa sports information staff are wearing knickers and long socks.

They look like they’re headed to Finkbine to play 18 holes.

“I think you should wear those outfits at all the games this season,” I say to Haddy.

Maybe Tom Kroeschell of Iowa State could be talked into donning the same kind of garb when the Cyclones show up for next Saturday’s game.

Well, hell, stranger things have happened at Iowa-Iowa State games.

Ask Bret Bielema and Jim Walden.

One of the few people attending the game who is older than the 75-year-old stadium is Bob Brooks, the veteran radio and TV broadcaster from Cedar Rapids.

Brooks said he attended every Iowa home game in 1939, “and it cost me 25 cents for the whole season. I belonged to the Knothole Club as a kid.”

I ask Brooks what Nile Kinnick, the Heisman Trophy winner and star of Iowa’s ’39 Ironmen, would have thought of yesterday’s game.

“Not much,” Brooks says.

At the time, Brooks and other reporters are waiting patiently—well, maybe a few weren’t being so patient—for Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa players to get to the steamy interview room.

“Eddie Anderson didn’t have interviews like this right after the game,” Brooks says. “And people didn’t interview Kinnick then either.

“What would happen was that Bert McGrane would come down here [to Iowa City] on Monday and talk to Anderson then.

“Bert got to know Eddie very well. You know, Eddie quit the coaching job twice—both times on Friday nights—before finally leaving as Iowa’s coach.

“But before he quit, he always called Bert.”

[McGrane was a longtime Des Moines Register sportswriter who grew attached to the Hawkeye program. Legend has it that he’d write reams of copy when he covered Iowa’s game, but if his boss assigned him to an Iowa State game he’d write only a dozen or so paragraphs in protest].

Just to bring Iowa’s giddy fans back to reality, let me point out what first-year Kent State coach Doug Martin said after the game.

Roth said Parker will be back next week in time for preparations for Saturday’s game against Iowa State.

Roth said he didn’t plan to visit Parker after the game.

“I usually do tailgating things after the game,” Roth says. “I’ll have to catch him on Monday.”

A reporter [not me] tries to get Roth into a conversation about the Cy-Hawk Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the Iowa-Iowa State game.

“It’s kind of an ugly trophy,” the reporter from Cedar Rapids says.

Roth chuckles.

It’s obvious he’s not going to be drawn into that kind of conversation a week before Iowa State—a rather surprising 23-0 winner over Northern Iowa yesterday—plays at Kinnick Stadium.

“It’s not really the trophy,” Roth says. “It’s the meaning, you know. I definitely like having it on our sidelines, and I’m looking forward to it again this year.”

Iowa finally got control of the Cy-Hawk Trophy last season after Iowa State won five straight games in the series.

My early line:

Iowa 35, Iowa State 21

Vol. 4, No. 252
Sept. 5, 2004