Rotten Tomatoes” is a review writing and critiquing class being offered as a section of “Writing Commons: A Community of Writers” at The University of Iowa. For many of these authors, this is their first time being published. Readers are encouraged to leave feedback in the comments.
It’s Great to be a Hawkeye
By Kache’ Claytor
I was Running towards my dad as if I were a wide receiver yards away from the game winning touchdown, with a spelling test clinched in my hands as my football, adorned with a gold star and a handwritten “Perfect!” in the corner, signifying another successful day at Garton Elementary in Des Moines, Iowa. Just inches shy of the six-point touchdown, that is, my father’s welcoming arms, I plummeted to the ground, tripping over the uneven grass. My perfect spelling test slipped out of my hands and landed an arm’s length away. Resembling a commentator, my dad yelled out, “Uh-oh, fumble on the 4 yard line!” but quickly rushed over to pick me up and reassure me that I ran like a champ. Although I was only six and my clothes somehow resembled a football player’s uniform with their endless grass stains, I was completely aware of the importance of avoiding a fumble, unless you are the team recovering the ball.
Several years later in Iowa City, similar to my experience, I watched Iowa’s fullback, Mark Weisman, fumble the ball at the 42 yard line, granting Central Michigan with the recovery in the last 45 seconds of the game. A penalty foul by Iowa and three plays later with under forty seconds to go, Central Michigan gained 15 yards and moved into Iowa territory. Central Michigan’s David Harman attempted a career long field goal of 47 yards, and no sooner than Harman released the kick, the commentator rung out, “And the kick is good with 3 seconds to go!” Although Bleacher Report suggested in 2011 that Kinnick Stadium was ranked the No. 11 loudest college stadium, somehow, the 70,500+ fans and I fell silent in Kinnick Stadium the afternoon of September 22, 2012.
It was apparent that the loss to Central Michigan shattered the Iowa team and the fan’s confidence, and added yet another L to Iowa’s already slippery-slope of a season. However, Iowa fans did not let the loss deter us from showing our school spirit, because after all, it’s great to be a Hawkeye! For me and thousands of other football fans, Saturdays aren’t just reserved for the standing-room-only student section of football games, but also the tradition of tailgating; and from my experience, no matter how the season is going, we will still get up at the crack of dawn to start tailgating and support our team.
Regardless of where you tailgate, tailgating is a social norm and a tradition for any football game, and a highlight of my college experience. Iowa Hawkeye spirit is undeniable once you get your first glimpse of the sea of black and gold. There is no such thing as too much spirit as the girls bedazzle their entire outfits and place temporary Herky tattoos on their cheeks, and the guys paint their faces and un-toned stomachs. Many congregate on Melrose Avenue, where you can smell the aromas of ice cold beer and vendors selling better and cheaper food than inside the gates of Kinnick, the fans yelling “Go Hawks,” and the legendary Mr. Chuck Ford yelling “BIG ASS TURKEY LEGS”. While others reside at a tailgate hosted by a Fraternity with high energy music and a friendly round of pong; or in the parking lot behind the English and Philosophy Building where the post graduates gather to blast music, share food, and play traditional tailgating games like corn hole or ladder ball.
Whether it be Melrose Avenue, a tailgate hosted by a Fraternity, or in a parking lot, on any home game day, you can find thousands of people of every age joining together to grill, drink (if of age), and build a sense of community through tailgating. The communal environment is established because no matter if fans have nothing else in common, each fan shares the common bond of our love for Hawkeye football and tailgating. This bond serves as an initial ice breaker and allows us to be more susceptible to conversing, sharing our food/beverages, and celebrating with one another. Tailgating also serves as a reunion for the alumni, current students, and aspiring Hawkeyes; and doubles as a time when the alumni have a chance to prove that they can still out-drink the undergrads and that they will always have Hawkeye pride.
After tailgating, the fans swarm into Kinnick Stadium, ready for Iowa’s legendary pregame entrance, but before we enter, we make certain that we caress Kinnick’s Bronze Helmet statue for good luck and to carry on tradition. Once inside of Kinnick, upon sight, the field is covered with the spirit squad, positioned to run their infamous, giant flags that spell out I-O-W-A across the field. The band is arranged flawlessly in parallel lines, eager to blare the fight song. Our mascot, Herky the Hawk, is mounted on a platform as four guys run him across the field and he raises the Hawkeye flag high and proud, and the team is lined up hand-and-hand in the tunnel ready to rush the field.
Before the National Anthem is played by the marching band; the crowd looks to the giant video board and is enlightened with Nile Kinnick’s Heisman Trophy Acceptance Speech of 1939, accompanied by streaming photos and footage of his memorable football seasons. Once the National Anthem is beautifully played, the intensity heightens as “Back In Black” by AC/DC plays. The crowd claps in unison along with the 1980’s rock song, and the fans begin to prep their cameras for the perfect photo, worthy to upload on one of the most recent photo-based social networks, Instagram. Nothing compares to the feeling, sound, or energy that fills Kinnick Stadium when the I-O-W-A flags are sprinted across the field by the spirit squad, and the players promptly follow. The cheerleaders are hoisted into the air and begin the chant, “Let’s Go Hawks,” as the crowd goes wild in the hopes of a victory. Kinnick is teeming with thunderous Iowa spirit.
As many times as I have witnessed Iowa’s spectacular display of spirit before and during a game, I am still impressed and filled with the same excitement as if it were my first time. Whether or not the team finishes the game with a victory, or the season ends prematurely without an appearance in a bowl game, I along with 70, 500+ fans will wake up and support our team, because that is the Hawkeye way. I remember vividly how I picked myself up off the ground, with the help of my dad, the same way I know the Iowa football team will pick themselves up from this season and for the seasons to come. And while I cannot speak for everyone, I can honestly say, from my experience, it’s great to be a Hawkeye!