In part 36 of my series "Hey You Kids Get Offa' My Lawn!", I will be discussing the increasing commercialization of college football, compared to what us old-timers call "The Good Ole Days," when giants walked the earth, and a college football trophy could (literally) be used to behead an opponent. (1)
Everyone knows that this after-birth known as the Corn Family Trophy is an abomination beyond belief. I accept it as our new trophy, much as a man bleeding from the rectum accepts a colonoscopy: you see, neither of us really has a choice, and we're being told it's "for your own good." There WILL be a trophy for the Iowa-ISU victor, and this will be it. (2) I'm sure some will protest and complain, (3) but to no avail: when Iowa beats ISU in Jack Trice, our players will be sprinting across the field to hoist what looks like the pawn, knight, king, and queen of a pewter Corn-Mania Chess Set. The look of this thing is ridiculous, but that's not what bothers me about it the most.
What bothers me is that the Iowa Corn group has paid good American money to force this monstrosity upon us. And we--meaning the U of Iowa--gladly took their filthy lucre, just as we gladly took Hy-Vee's filthy lucre for the old Cy-Hawk Series Trophy (and we all know how THAT trophy turned out: as the saying goes, "you get what you pay for").
Well, apparently we are rural whores, because that's the kind of trophy we got. You have to pay a whore to have sex, and apparently you have to pay the U of I to play for a trophy no one would even want for free. (4) I hope I won't be the only one who feels a little dirty when we put this thing in our trophy cabinet. At least whores ply their trade on the side, and in cleverly-disguised internet advertisements (hey, all I wanted was a date to the office party, not a blow-job in the janitor's closet!). But we'll gladly take their trophy on national TV, in front of millions, and we'll smile as we do it! (Barta probably won't even have the insight to look at his watch in boredom as it's being handed to him.) (5)
And yet, is ANY of this a surprise? Let's look at the other things Big Ten schools play for. You've got a bucket. You've got an axe. You've got a jug. You've got a bronzed pig. Ahhh, some say, but what do THOSE have to do with football?
EVERYTHING, man. Those trophies come from a time when no one sponsored SHIT. Games were on the radio, the highlights in News On The March newsreels. Teams traveled to games by train or, when slumming, by a rickety old bus. Helmets were made of leather, and jerseys made of wool, but men were forged of iron. "Rub some dirt on it and get back into the game" was not just a quaint aphorism but an actual medical technique. The trophy one carried home was not paid for in deferred stock options and free steaks (endorsed by Curtis Stone) but in guts, blood, and sinew. Do you think there was a fucking committee that met for weeks on end in board rooms to decide what the Little Brown Jug should look like?
Fuck no! Michigan coach Fielding Yost left behind a jug and the Gopher AD painted the score on it (which was a TIE, by the way), and soon it meant more than life itself for the team with the higher number that yearly, fateful Saturday. People forget that the original Floyd of Rosedale was an ACTUAL LIVE PIG. A live pig that was to be slaughtered and eaten by the victors! Could THAT even happen today without a PETA protest on Hawkins Drive? (6) And have you seen Paul Bunyan's Axe? That thing is as big and lethal as a Scottish Claymore! Think you could get THAT approved nowadays as the spoils of the annual Minny-Wisky tilt? (7)
Look, I'm not a prude nor old and conservative (though I DO wish those kids would stay offa' my lawn). But when the new Cy-Hawk trophy looks like something Norman Rockwell shat out on a particularly rough day, there's a problem. Worse, when we're supposed to act like this is not only acceptable, but desirable as the new "normal," that corporations will decide who and what our trophies will be, that money will decide what our new "tradition" will be, something has horribly gone wrong (I picture the Hindenburg disaster--you may picture whatever nightmare springs to your mind).
As far as I know, there's not been anything concrete released about the "Heroes" trophy, to be given to the winner of the Iowa-Nebraska game. But I vow this: if it defames or in any way capitalizes on the memory of the single greatest student-athlete in college football history, a man who tragically died in the service of his country, a man who inspired--and continues to inspire--the youth of today (how many men who died in 1943 can you say THAT about? I can't think of a single one besides ol' #24), then there will be hell to pay. Selling our soul so the Iowa Corn guys can pursue their ethanol fuel agenda, or combat the anti-fructose corn syrup bad press, or frankly even sell a little bit more corn, is bad enough. But to sell our soul by using the memory of Nile Kinnick to sell ANYTHING at all--doesn't matter what it is, don't care what it is--would be as low as what's under a snake's belly, and about as clean.
I don't advocate violence or theft, but if someone were to steal the Corn Family Trophy and chuck it off the Burlington St bridge into the Iowa River--well, not only would I contribute to his bail, I'd give a little more so we could stamp him out a nice bronze medal for service in the public good. Because, if we don't do or say something soon, be prepared to someday hear Brent Musberger intone, "You're live in Iowa City, looking down on Kinnick Field at Pioneer Hybrid Stadium." (8)
When universities do stuff like this, a little bit of something good and decent dies along with it. College sports are already a little insane when it comes to money and sponsors and corporations--let's not ruin it any more than we have to, okay? Now, GET OFFA' MY LAWN!
(1) Just to reiterate: I act like I'm old, but I'm not really that old. I am in my forties and the only medication I take is fish oil capsules, plus an occasional aspirin because I've heard it's good for you. The only problem with fish oil is that you walk around with the distinct feeling that you just ate a tuna sandwich, only you can't remember actually eating a tuna sandwich. Still, it beats taking an actual cholesterol medicine, I suppose. Also, I happen to like tuna sandwiches.
(2) As the saying goes, "Les Jeux Son Faits." It is finished, the fifth and final golden ticket has been found, the contest is over. Yell and scream all we like, this is the horrible trophy we will be playing for on Sept 10th in J. Trice stadium. It is ridiculous, but once the check has been cashed IT IS DONE. But it won't stop me from bitching about it, since that's free.
(3) Yes, there will be another kind of protest. Some will soon say that the definition of a "family" on the trophy discriminates against single-parent families, and gay-marriaged families. Think I'm wrong? There used to be a statue of a family in the U of I's social work building: man, woman, child. There was a similar sort of stink about it, and now it's gone. Trust me, people will bitch about this, sooner or later. Just another mistake in the trophy's design--whether you believe this issue is valid or not, one does NOT design a trophy that might inspire a political protest. That's Rule #1. If you doubt me on this, let's re-hash the pink locker room debate, shall we?
(4) At least people WANT to have sex for free; hell, most of us spent our entire college careers operating under that philosophy. But you could literally not GIVE that horrible trophy away. You well and truly would have to pay someone to take it. If THAT ain't prostitution, I do not know what is.
(5) This is a reference to the great film KLUTE. Jane Fonda is bedding a client, moaning in pleasure, when she pauses to glance at her watch--obviously, her moaning was all a big act. I fear that Barta (or whoever accepts or comments on the new trophy) will not even know enough to glance at his watch and let us in on the joke.
(6) Actually, Floyd the real pig was traded again and eventually died of cholera, but it's a lot more fun if I act as if the Gophers had a big pig-roast and ate it (which probably would've been the case, if there hadn't been some legal issues about "gambling" with the pig in the first place that delayed things, I think). All I know is, if we played for a live pig now, that pig would fucking live forever, and almost certainly only die of old age. It would have its own pen on the U of Minnesota campus, and veterinary services, and dedicated slop bucket, and female piggies to mate with, and Facebook page plus Twitter feed. It would live like a king, with a lifestyle exceeding that of most of the actual U of M student body. But back in the 30's, they were probably swapping their best pig-roast recipes in anxious, slavering anticipation.
(7) I love the Axe. Believe it or not, it replaced a slab of bacon as the trophy of the U of W vs U of MN game. I don't know if it was an actual slab or a bronze representation of a slab, but given Floyd's potential fate, I'm betting on the actual slab. If it were me, I would've kept the slab and ADDED the Axe to the slab as a prize. Because, who doesn't like bacon? I'm sure that, in 1948 when the Axe first came about, the victors sat down to eat on Sunday morning and someone said, "HEY, where's the bacon?" I bet they were kinda pissed about that, at least for the first few years.
The full story of the Little Brown Jug is too long and hilarious to be printed here, but I highly recommend it. The tale of the Old Oaken Bucket is more boring than it should be for such a cool prize for an intrastate rival game, so feel free to skip that one. But the Jug story is priceless. Find it, read it, live it
(8) If you doubt this, ask the family of Joe Thomas about stadium names. Or check out the latest Nike uniform changes (when OSU wore Nike throwbacks last year for the Michigan game, that said something to me), or check out the bottom of those banners on the corners of Kinnick, or look up at the scoreboard, or listen to what (might) happen when the Hawks are in the "red zone", or check out the swooshes on the shoes, or the latest iteration of the most traditional bowl games (the "FED-EX Orange Bowl!"), etc. Honestly, I don't know where the commercialization will end, but I fear it may eventually touch our beloved Nile. And that would be the very definition of "inappropriate touching."