Remember last week when the Iowa Corn Growers Association unveiled the new Cy-Hawk trophy and everyone hated it? Those were the days, right? Well, in the face of public outcry, ICGA made the proper Gobian response:
Less than a week after its unveiling, the new Cy-Hawk Trophy is no more, with a new trophy set to be released in 2012. As reported by B Stiles:
Iowa Corn is now seeking fan input on what the new trophy should consist of, with the plan being to have it ready for the 2012 football game between Iowa and Iowa State that will be held at Kinnick Stadium.
"The new Cy-Hawk football trophy, we trust, will be truly something the fans will embrace," Iowa Corn CEO Craig Floss said.
"We weren't blind to the fact that there would be very strong opinions and that you wouldn't satisfy everyone," Klatt said. "But it's clearly a different environment today because of our communications systems that are available to everyone versus as recently as a decade ago."
Everyone agrees we need not resurrect the old trophy for this season's game, so 2011 will likely go trophyless (there's talk of a temporary trophy, which, like, c'mon) while we wait for the inevitable internet poll to choose another nondescript symbol of wholesome Iowa values and high fructose syrup. Frankly, 2011 is going to prove the point: It's not necessary that we have a trophy for every game. We will play Iowa State, and we will probably win, and when it's over we'll congregate somewhere on the field and exchange high fives and fist bumps, and there will be no discernible difference from years past.
In 1975, Iowa played for exactly one trophy, and it's the greatest trophy in the world. Just ten years ago, Iowa played for two. Now, Iowa will play for as many as four trophies in seasons where Wisconsin rotates onto the schedule, with an option to add a fifth against non-rival Purdue. All but one of these "trophy games" are based on an incorrect premise, one which Iowa (and Wisconsin and Nebraska, for that matter) should understand: Games aren't built on trophies. No, trophies are built on games. Floyd of Rosedale works because it has a tall tale and history and deep-seeded resentment attached to it. It only works because it has all those things, because it has this wonderful backstory and Murray Warmath and Shonn Greene and the hatred created by a lifetime of cross-border mockery. It's what Iowa and Minnesota play for, just like Paul Bunyan's Axe or the Little Brown Jug. They're simple and classic and full of history and organic. They've become synonymous with the games themselves.
Compare that to the new crop of trophies. The Heartland Trophy was stapled to the back of the Iowa-Wisconsin game in 2004, after Iowa and Wisconsin had played 79 games. It had no legend or origin story. As such, while it became a sort of symbol of Iowa-Wisconsin, it didn't resonate. The same goes for Cy-Hawk, which didn't have any real story beyond the fact that the Des Moines Athletic Club donated it; consequently, there were few tears shed for its retirement this spring and no real outrage over the fact that there will be no trophy this year.
There is no real history behind Iowa-Nebraska, but we're apparently getting a trophy anyway. If it has any chance, it must be organic. It must be a symbol of the series to the players and fans chosen by the players and fans. Do the governors want to exchange a riverboat casino? That's a story. Do the teams agree to fight over a barrel of corn (not a pewter statue of a barrel of corn, mind you)? That's phenomenal. But the moment that someone hoists THE HEROES TROPHY SPONSORED BY YOUR LOCAL HY-VEE WHERE THERE'S A FRIENDLY SMILE IN EVERY AISLE, every bit of emotion associated with that trophy is dead, because the story behind it is dead.
Someday we'll tell our kids how the governor of Iowa and the governor of Minnesota agreed to bet a pig on the 1935 Hawks-Gophers game as a way of easing racial tensions between the teams and the fans, and how that pig was named Floyd and came from Rosedale Farms and, when he died of cholera the next year, they made a bronze statue of him and play for it every year. And when our kids ask why we play for THE HEROES TROPHY SPONSORED BY HY-VEE, we will tell them the story of how Rick Klatt and whatever the Nebraska version of Rick Klatt is got together with executives from the grocery store and decided that Iowa and Nebraska should pass around an Isabel Bloom statuette. One of these things is not like the other.
The solution isn't more trophies. It's fewer trophies. It's not adding a trophy for Nebraska until the time is right. It's definitely not adding a trophy for Purdue. It's letting the Heartland Trophy fall by the wayside in the two-year hiatus created by the fact that the athletic directors who forced the trophy onto us don't really give a damn about the game. And it's taking this Cy-Hawk debacle as the sign from the Gods that it clearly is. The Cy-Hawk Trophy has been temporarily retired. Let's do everyone a favor and make that retirement permanent.