Last year, my theme for this series of FanPosts was "Traditions." This year, it's "Transformations," and the narrative was to be about how the Hawkeyes, as the most visible symbol of our Iowan heritage, are a vehicle for introducing ourselves to others, and teaching them who we are. The prism through which I wanted to offer that story was my wife's conversion to a Hawkeye fan, and I was going to bookend the story with the 2007 and 2011 incarnations of Indiana @ Iowa. However, due to various circumstances, my wife was not able to attend the game. The best laid plans of mice and men, and so forth. However, she did stay home to care for our small children so that my oldest son and I could make it to the game. If you detect a bit of excessive adoration in this post, that's why. And now, on to the show.
Both sides of my family are from Solon, but my grandparents long ago moved to Estes Park, CO. During a family reunion out in Estes many summers ago, my uncle brought up some Iowa sweet corn. We grilled some burgers, Grampa hung out his Hawkeye flag, and we sat around on the mountainside enjoying our sweet corn. I remember looking at my family -- Hawkeye, all -- and thinking to myself, "If I ever get married, it'll have to be to a woman who gets this." Since I lived in St. Louis, I assumed I would have to find an Iowa girl down here that was marriage material -- possibly an insurmountable challenge. But, as I discussed in Part 3 of this series, that assumption proved incorrect. Instead, I married a local girl from St. Charles and converted her into a Hawkeye fan.
You may be asking, "Good sir, how is this done?" I set forth the basic alchemy in the previous post, but it can be distilled to one critical ingredient: forging good memories.
My wife's first step actually took place in Green Bay, Wisconsin. During our courtship, we talked once about dream vacations and I told her that I wanted to see the Packers play at Lambeau Field. A few weeks later, that girl showed up at my door with two tickets to St. Louis @ Green Bay, on Monday Night Football, the week after Thanksgiving. Not only is it Lambeau, it's a night game. A Monday night game. On the Frozen Tundra! Free dating tip: if a girlfriend surprises you with two tickets to your favorite NFL team on Monday Night Football three months into a relationship, you are officially done dating; she is your future wife.
On the drive up, I told her about the legendary tailgating at Lambeau Field and as we pulled into the parking lot, she said, "Did you bring anything for tailgating?" I said, "No." She said, "Do you know somebody here, then?" I said, "Nope." She said, "Then who will we tailgate with?" I pulled out my Iowa Hawkeyes stocking cap, tugged it down over my ears, and said, "Hawkeye fans. They'll find us." I don't think that added up in her mind; we were at a Green Bay game after all. But we piled out of the car and hadn't walked ten steps before a van drove by, honking, and the driver leaned out the window and yelled, "GO HAWKS!" I waved back, they stopped, we made the introductions, and we tailgated with our new Hawkeye friends for hours, and kept in touch for years after.
Folks, that's how you teach people what it means to be a Hawkeye. You just go live it.
We take these things for granted, don't we? My wife attended a small local college and was unfamiliar with the pomp and circumstance of a Big 10 football game. I've made it one of my fatherly duties to ensure that my children are not denied that experience. It'll be an Iowa game every year for us. We cheer when we cross the river into Iowa.
As I said above, my wife was denied the experience this year because of a family emergency, and she stayed home so that Spencer and I could go to the game. That is dedication, people. I just wrapped up a gigantic case that had me working 60-70 hour weeks for 18 months straight, and on our very first weekend off, she is home alone, again, taking care of kids. Why? So I can go to an Iowa game. I said I needed to marry a woman who gets it? She gets it. Frankly, she had me at, "I got us Packers tickets at home."
So, it was just Spencer and I, and we had a blast. We were in the north end zone, right behind the alumni band. We had brats before the game, and then gorged ourselves at the Ox Yoke Inn before heading home with bellies full of Millstream root beer and Amana ham (plus two six packs of Schild Brau and Windmill Wheat in the trunk).
We are an Iowa family.
Note: My original idea with the "Transformation" theme was to go through some photos of our kids and home over the years, showing the evolution into a Hawkeye family, but the Internet contains enough creepers that I've reconsidered. Instead, please enjoy a few select photos and accept my gratitude for reading my sentimental nonsense (and post your own Iowa fan conversion stories!).
When we moved, we learned that the couple across the street graduated from Penn State. My wife bought a 3x5 flag and we hang it proudly off the front of the house every Saturday.
Herkey is very popular with women ages 2-3 in my house.
I bought this tie at Hy-Vee for $9 while I was working there during college in 1998. I wear it to work every Monday after an Iowa football victory.
I volunteer with Iowa ASIST doing college fairs at local high schools. If you do not, get off your ass and volunteer somewhere. It's fun.
A surprise gift from my wife: twenty-four bottles of Franziskaner hefe-weissen, the best light beer ever conceived by the mind of God or the hands of men. She keeps an eye on my beer supply and when it's running low, she makes a special trip to Friar Tuck's to get my favorite brand.
Finally, a few more mad props to my bride, who has embraced this black-and-gold craziness that we Iowans grew up with, and made it her own:
- She took us all to the local Iowa club picnic in Creve Coeur Park, where we had the honor of meeting Marvin McNutt, Jr., and his family
- She dutifully decks our children out in Hawkeye gear every football Saturday.
- When we needed a new grill cover, she bought me a Hawkeye cover.
- When our second son was born, we named him Hayden, and my wife got a little Hawkeye teddy bear for his room.
- She bought Iowa jerseys and/or cheerleading outfits for all of our kids.
- When we had to switch to Charter, and they didn't carry the Iowa-ULM game, she packed the kids up and hauled us all off to a local bar where the St. Louis Iowa Club was having a game watch so I could see it. When the kids got tired and needed naps, she offered to take them home and put them to bed and come back to get me, so I could stay and drink and watch an unimportant non-conference game.
- She got me the NFL channel and Red Zone so I could at least watch some of the Packers highlights live.
- She clears our schedule on Saturdays in the fall, so I can watch the Iowa game in peace. When our 3-year old sees football on TV, she says, "Is it Saturday?"
Our five-year anniversary is in December. What's the secret to a happy marriage? Marry a good Iowan or, failing that, marry a good women and turn her into a good Iowan.