The University of Iowa University of Iowa

My Brother’s Keeper

Stephen McDonald

It is an uncommon thing for any one in Iowa City to be jealous of anything that comes out of Ames.

Iowa State is a fine university and from all accounts, Ames is a good place to raise a family; however, if there is any single commodity that Hawkeyes seem to have in abundance it is pride.

Iowa State QB Steele Jantz out-dueled James Vandenberg and Co. on Saturday, leading the Cyclones to a 9-6 victory at Kinnick Stadium. (Conrad Schmidt / AP)

As Paul Rhoads ran off the field on Saturday afternoon, with two fingers extended high above his head, it was hard for some Hawkeye fans not to be a little jealous.

Paul Rhoads’ team played like they always do, over their heads, passionate, and sloppy. It is a double edged sword for the Cyclone program under Rhoads, the passion and joy that he gets his teams to play with is what drives them up and down the field against a more talented defense; however, the lack of detailed focus is what causes three redzone turnovers.

Those turnovers are what kept Iowa alive until the final moments. However, a James Vandenberg interception with little over a minute to go sealed the Iowa State win. Paul Rhoads was (So) Proud, and the underdog Cyclones won a game in Kinnick Stadium.

The first college football Saturday in places like Iowa City is a special event, and the entire spectrum of humanity can be witnessed on the long walk to a stadium.

Tasteless and arrogant men in shirts that depict all kinds of sodomy against opposing mascots, or shirts that read, “I’d rather shower at Penn state then cheer for the cyclones,” flood the streets close to campus. They cling to thirty- packs of cheap beer and spout a whole lot of nothing about the game they are about to watch.

These men are like bugs, never alone, and never appreciated. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, or perhaps, further down the assembly line of age and class, young families often mothers and fathers with children no older than ten throw around a football and tell legends of long-ago Hawkeye moments.

Iowa State fans had plenty to be happy about following Saturday's victory over Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. (Kevin E. Schmidt/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

A college football Saturday will, at the same time, disgust and embarrass you, and make you immensely proud of this weird, insular, and expensive tradition we have cultivated in small college towns with big football. The worst things about a college football Saturday are also its best things, binge drinking, fried food, upsets, and sundresses.

The walk to Kinnick on this most recent Saturday was a walk of anticipation, and expression. About one in ten people were wearing red and gold, and about one in ten people were wearing the wrong colors.

The Iowa State fan base is an interesting one in college football.

Iowa State has one of the smallest revenue streams of any ‘BCS’ program. Not to mention the fact that Ames is one of the most isolated places in college football and it is no wonder that ISU football does not have a reputation for dominance. But the knowledge of these shortcomings is one of the things that make ISU fans so special.

They are the opposite of fair-weather fans; people who choose to support the cyclones do so, usually, under obligation. Either they are alumni, or their parents were alumni. ISU as a brand is not strong enough to attract casual fans with no particular tie, compared to the Hawkeyes who are historically better and more nationally and locally relevant. But, for the most part, cyclone fans are aware of this, and many of them will acknowledge these facts, it doesn’t matter though.

ISU fans cling to the yellow and red closer than most Hawkeyes cling to the black and gold. Being a fan of the ‘little brother’ program in a state is harder, more frustrating, and less enjoyable on a day-to-day basis. But the payoffs, which are fewer, are more exhilarating ten fold.

Iowa State celebrates its first victory in Kinnick Stadium since 2002 with a 9-6 victory on Saturday. (Kevin E. Schmidt/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

When James Vandenberg’s last pass was intercepted and the small but (so) proud ISU section erupted, those fans were immediately aware of what they had done.

In that final and fleeting instant, when they realized what had happened, they were acutely aware of all the disadvantages, both real and imagined that they faced. Financially, physically, all those little things that keep the Hawkeyes above the Cyclones, they knew it.

They felt it, and it suddenly didn’t matter any more. Nothing mattered anymore. The little brother had won, and all the smug a**hole faces of the people who wear black couldn’t do anything about it.

For the Hawkeyes on the field, the future can only get better; I see no reasons for this parade of futility to continue.

There is too much talent at the receiver position, and way too much talent in James Vandenberg’s right arm for this offense not to start playing at a high level.

However, the Hawkeyes’ coaching staff could take a page out of the Cyclone playbook. Playing with emotion, passion, and frankly fun could do good things for this Hawkeye team.

It is probably only a matter of time until the offense begins to play like we expect it too, but until then I am a little jealous of what they have in Ames.


One response to “My Brother’s Keeper

Comments are closed.