What do a bunch of polo-shirt wearing sports guys and your Townie Hawk have in common? We all attended Hawkeye Football Media Day, August 6, at the lovely Kinnick Stadium, where I got my first taste of what it’s really like to be inside Iowa football.
My first thought: What the hell am I doing here? Look around, man. Many a super-expensive video camera, many a chummy-looking crowd of balding men. Oh, there were women, too. A moussed-up talking head presumably from one of Cedar Rapid’s teevee news stations. A few timid-looking sideline sitters. One irresistibly funny dolled-up undergrad teetering around in heels with some guy I sincerely hope was her dad. Our LV crew got some looks. Some “what the heck are they doing here?” looks. Respect, fellas. We’re reporting here!
My second thought: Why is everyone so sober? I had this idea that these things were a good ‘ol boys’ club where everyone is holding a class of whiskey on the rocks. Or hopped up on speedballs in some Hunter S. Thompson kaleidoscopic fantasy world. Luckily, I didn’t pre-drink, though we were so over-prepared we showed up an hour early and I would’ve had plenty of time to sober up.
Kirk’s press conference was predictably informative, rather dry. He got a mild laugh when he talked about back in the day when Gallery committed to staying at the U of I for his senior year. Gallery asked Kirk, “Are you stayin’?” Kirk answered, “Yes.” “Well, then, I’m stayin’!” says Gallery. Yuck yuck yuck.
Other notable news from our beloved leader: It’s a brand-new year with brand-new challenges and a brand-new team. Angerer and Edds are going to be really hard to replace, as is Moeaki. There’s a dead-heat competition in progress for who will be our place kicker. Time will tell. All conference games will be challenging.
On Clayborn’s return to the team, Defensive Coordinator Norm Parker says, “I’m not surprised. I thought he’d come back because he said he would.” Who knew there was such strong moral fiber involved in football? At least, that’s the line you’re fed on Media Day.
I asked the players some silly questions to break the ice. What’s on your headphones? What’s the most difficult aspect of your position? What’s your favorite color, black…or gold? If you haven’t seen any of the videos from media day, you can watch the players wrestle with these riveting queries on the LittleVillageMag YouTube Channel (youtube.com/user/littlevillagemag).
I know you’re dying to know who the winner of the bicep “contest” was. Well, it was Adrian and his 19” bicep. Welcome to the gun show, indeed. Christian was a close second at 18 ½”. Dang, dudes!
I found out the best thing about being a Hawkeye, and for most players, it had a whole lot to do with the fans at Kinnick Stadium.
“There’s nothing to compare with the excitement every Saturday at Kinnick,” says Ferentz the younger. “It’s electric in there,” says Binns. Sash remarks, “Being out on the field on a Saturday, you can’t compare it and you can’t explain it.” Jewel Hampton enjoys the feeling of “team unity, and the fans…how they love you so much.” “They’re the best fans in college football,” says Adam Robinson. Most players that I spoke to also agreed that being a Hawk is all about the camaraderie, the coaching, and the hard work and fun times with teammates, on and off the field.
Looking ahead, September’s games are just what they should be. Some nice warm-ups (not to be taken lightly, lest we forge last year’s UNI game). A really late (9:35 p.m.!) game with Arizona that’s sure to be a tough match-up, given Arizona’s scrappy but ultimately disappointing 2009 season, which included a double overtime loss to eventual Pac-10 Champions Oregon.
Oh, and one more thing to reflect upon before I go: Let’s all do our best to remember as we cheer the boys on this year, that they are, in fact, boys. Most aren’t old enough to sit down and share a beer with you. Some aren’t old enough to even pass through the doors of the bar you’re sitting in.
It was Vandenberg who really made this point to me. Granted, he is a large guy, but his face reminded me of my 17-year old brother! His freckles and boy-next-door smile made me feel a twinge of guilt for yelling at him so much last year; we put so much pressure and expectation on these guys who are ultimately just (super-talented) kids going to college. Let’s keep that in mind, townie sports fans, as we progress through what is bound to be a challenging season.