It began on a normal Monday afternoon, when all the little Hawkeye youth were tucked away in school, learning about the key values of contemporary American society, like punting and stockpiling timeouts. In hindsight, we should have known they were coming -- it was an inevitable confrontation, almost like it had been preordained or even scheduled. Maybe we had no idea they would come so soon, or with such overwhelming force. In any event, we were wholly unprepared.
They struck from all sides at once, hitting us with a staggering display of their astonishing might. When the dust settled, they had conquered everything and set up their base of operations at the most striking symbol of our independence and pride -- the Old Capital.
They were all-too happy to occupy some of our most-renowned culinary establishments, too, although more than one of the invaders lamented the lack of Runzas in our humble enclave. They said our nourishment paled in comparison to the delicious bread pockets (over)stuffed with savory roast beef that they dined on regularly at home. We said nothing and hoped that the invaders would spare the Hamburg Inn No.2 of their gruesome appetites.
Some of our leaders capitulated immediately upon the arrival of the invading force (G*** B****) or vanished into their reinforced command posts to wait out the tumult (K*** F******), but not every campus leader would bow down before these jackbooted thugs. At least one man had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the invaders and their barbarism; one man had the courage to speak out for truth, justice, and the Iowa way; one man had the cojones to implore us all to fight back and get mad.
Meanwhile, the invaders expressed confusion at the refusal of the Iowans to bend their knees and accept the rule of the Nebraskan invaders. It was unheard of, they said. Their superiority was self-evident, they said. Even the blindest and most self-deluded of Iowaegians must be able to see it, they said. They had the greatest fans in the world -- nay, the universe, they said. By god, they had FIVE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS, they said.
General Pelini expressed his concern at the obstinateness of the Iowaegians and feared that their unwillingness to accept the enlightened rule of Soviet Nebraska would set a bad example for the other Free States of the Big Ten Republic and further delay their glorious triumph over the godless heathens of this new land. Marshal Osborne noted that brute force alone would not enable his forces to attain complete victory over the headstrong local forces; no, victory would only be obtained after he had wooed them and swayed them to the inherent superiority of Big Red's cause -- after he had showed them the velvet glove, and not just the iron fist.
The Iowan rebels were not so easily cowed or manipulated by Osborne and his archaic ideals and absurd schemes for world domination; he exhortations to get them to embrace the one true glory of the triple-option fell on deaf ears. Indeed, some Iowan rebels were so enraged by this assault on their homeland and they took up arms and fought back. Throughout the land, in corn fields near and far, between silos tall and squat, a small pocket of resistance emerged and declared their loyalty to Iowa. "On Iowa" belted forth from their lungs!
The forces of the Iowa rebels were small in number, but impassioned in spirit. Led by a young firebrand named Cody and his able lieutenants, C.J. and Mark, they began to fight back in a series of short, precise, guerilla-style strikes on the mighty forces of Soviet Nebraska. Their fight was virtually unwinnable, the opposition all but unstoppable... but they fought on anyway.
The forces of the Iowa rebels fought valiantly, but not without casualties. One young gunslinger, known only as "Jimmy," found himself hopelessly outnumbered and absurdly outgunned. He fought on valiantly, though, taking out as many of the invaders of Big Red as he could (sadly, only about half of his bullets found their target; the rest fell harmlessly into the soft Iowan dirt he loved so fervently), before he himself was brutally slain.
The Iowan rebels continued their fight, though, in the memory of Jimmy and all the others who gave their lives to halt the brutal advance of Soviet Nebraska. They struck near and far, at the supply lines and command posts. They left their mark on Big Red -- sometimes literally.
Wait, that's not what it looked like.
The battle with the forces of Soviet Nebraska was not going well. The Iowan rebels had done some damage, but they were too few and Big Red was too many. They had descended upon the quiet, unassuming hamlet of Iowa City with such ferocity and in such unimaginable numbers that there was simply no way for a small band of plucky rebels to fight them off. General Pelini was too cruel and Marshal Osborne was too calculating. Drastic measures were needed. As a last, desperate hope, the Iowan rebels enlisted the aid of a retired officer renowned for his skill and beloved for the past triumphs to which he had guided the Iowan forces. Past triumphs that even included a victory over the forces of Big Red near the height of their powers. So Crusty General Fry had a plan. Oh, he had a plan.
He knew that the Iowan rebels could never hope to match the awe-insipiring might of Big Red in open combat, never dream of overpowering their vast and obvious strength. No, to be victorious, the Iowan rebels would need to employ deception and misdirection. They would need to trick their opposition. They would need something... exotic.
So General Fry called in some favors and drew up the play. It was an odd Hail Mary, a unique prayer launched into the winds and guided by hope. But it worked; oh, how it worked. For what loyal son of Mother Nebraska, what patriotic soldier of Soviet Nebraska, what loyal follower of Big Red could resist the sight of a gigantic Omaha steak emblazoned with the image of one of history's greatest Nebraskans, Warren Buffett, and resting atop one of the greatest achievements of the Nebraskan Empire: a plush leather La-Z-Boy recliner from Nebraska Furniture Mart? No Nebraskans could resist that. The forces of Big Red uprooted their camps and got their mighty war machine rolling, all to follow the siren song -- and delicious smell -- of the Buffet steak as it headed west, back to their homes and headquarters.
And so Big Red left and the invasion ended. The damage had been done. Heroes had been lost. Sacrifices had been made. But no longer were Iowans awash in a sea of red. No more were they outnumbered in their homes and bars and restaurants and stadiums by the so-called greatest fans in the world. The Iowans were free to rebuild, free to lick their wounds. Big Red was gone.
(A huge thank-you to Horace for his inimitable aid with several of the pictures in this post. Basically, if it's good -- he did it. Thanks, HEC!)