Philosophers long ago identified that existence just may be meaningless--and that free will is nothing more than an illusion--as one of life's essential and most important questions. In centuries past, some philosophers have taken this to the extreme, arguing for suicide as the preferred, if not only, solution. On the other hand, others have taken a more existentialist tack, arguing that embracing that fundamental meaninglessness to be the ultimate act of liberation. As an Iowa football fan one could easily find him or herself wedged between these two philosophical suppositions. What started as a season of the greatest import, a potentially life-changing year of progress and great possibility, has unraveled into a sort of illusion which forces the ardent true believing Iowa fan to confront a potentially devastating reality.
Iowa, is Iowa. Nothing more, nothing less.
Does it matter?
"And even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we win! Even if we play so far above our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days; even if God in Heaven above comes down and points his hand at our side of the field; even if every man woman and child held hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn't matter because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk because they've got all the money! It just doesn't matter if we win or we lose. It just doesn't matter!"
--- Bill Murray, from Meatballs (1979)
It just doesn't matter. So you embrace the existentialist solution. Of course, in addition to being a solution, that approach is quite possibly the most deceitful lie you've ever engaged in. You know and all your friends know that you'll never be without caring for Iowa football. As long as you invest even so much as a few seconds in a season caring about Iowa football, you're bound (and gagged) to the quandary of meaning.
Meaning. What does it all mean?
Today Iowa takes on its bitter interstate rival, for a trophy with which we have convinced ourselves is of significant importance and, yes, meaning. "We're playing for the pig, man!" A pig. Indeed. Oh the irony. First off, Iowa already owns the pig and has for several years. They are merely protecting the pig. Thus there is no joy of achieving possession. Second, we are expected to protect that ownership with style, we are expected to win and win large. There is practically no one outside of West Lafayette who sanely believes this is a losable game. Check that, there is no one that will forgive the Hawkeyes should they lose this game. Even playing it close but winning will lead to ridicule and scorn, which is painful enough. But losing? Catastrophe. Beyond the pig, there is possibly even less payoff that awaits. Iowa relinquished any postseason control long ago. Penn State, a team that Iowa more or less crushed early in their fated Big Ten campaign, a team that has never been ranked within earshot of Iowa and a team that has all the bowl season sex appeal of Gilbert Gottfried, has more control over their post-season destiny than does Iowa. We are told that a win over the hated interstate rival will not enhance our standing, but a loss will most assuredly strike a deathblow. In short, it just doesn't matter.
Ah...so that's it eh? Win and you really win nothing. Lose and you lose everything. If you are an existentialist you really don't care because it's all meaningless entertainment, a happy-go-lucky distraction from your weekend chores. If you do care, if you are what the philosophers call an extremist---or to use the more colloquial term---a fan, how do you approach today?