As I watch this highlight of the 1985 Iowa Football Season on the Big Ten Network, I have started thinking about why I am so passionate about the sports teams that I follow, and why I don't have any sympathy for the Alabama's and Ohio State's of the world. The simple answer is entitlement. Iowa fans can recall on one hand the number of Rose Bowls that Iowa has been to in their lifetime. Anyone more than 6 months younger than myself can't even point to one, and I certainly can't say I particularly remember that Rose Bowl in '91 at 6 months old.
When I finally get to watch my Iowa Hawkeyes play in a Rose Bowl, I will take absolutely nothing for granted. I will appreciate every win that lead us to the B1G championship game, and while I will agonize over the one loss that kept us out of the national championship playoff bracket, I will never say that Iowa is entitled to that playoff despite our loss. I, like all or most of you, will rejoice that I finally get to see my Iowa Hawkeyes play in the granddaddy of them all for the first time since 1991. I will appreciate the effort that the team which I call my own put forth for an entire season to solidify their place in history. And, win or lose, I will cheer for Iowa from beginning to end. Why?
Because I've felt the agony of a 1-10 season.
Because I've had my heart ripped out by Western Michigan and the subsequent failure to go to a bowl game in '07.
Because I've seen how the loss of a Quarterback can take us from National Championship contenders to second best in the Big Ten. (Not that that keeps SEC teams out of the National Championship)
Because I've seen seasons that follow BCS bowl seasons end in countless unbearable losses, despite retaining almost all key players and coaches.
Because I've seen a game end 6-4. Two Safeties!? (Okay so we won that game, but come on)
AND THAT'S JUST FOOTBALL! Northwestern State has sent me into a spiraling depression with a last second 3. Matt McDonough has gone from 3 appearances in the National Championship at his weight class to finishing out of contention for All-American status. I can't think of any specific heart-breaking moments in Iowa Women's Basketball but it hasn't been all roses and unicorns there either.
EDIT: Gonzaga as a team has made me unbelievably outraged by drawing home court advantage as an 11 seed to take out the likes of our sixth seeded Women's Basketball team in the first round of the 2011 tournament. (Thanks HMBGoHawks)
I've always been unappreciative of anything that teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, etc. do and I've always seemed to have a time-relevant reason. I say things like "I don't want to root for Alabama or Notre Dame in the National Championship this year," and then I think "Well, why is that? Is it just blind hatred for successful programs? I went to a wildly successful high school (Valley in West Des Moines) and I don't hate them." But I always come up with at least one thing that's relevant to current events that justifies my hatred. Don't most of these things apply to just about every school in the nation though? Why yes, a lot of them do. So why specifically do I hate these schools?
The same reason that I, a passionate Iowa alumnus, will appreciate a Rose Bowl appearance more than a passionate Ohio State alumnus, a passionate Michigan alumnus, a passionate Notre Dame alumnus, and a passionate Alabama alumnus combined. I have never truly felt a sense of entitlement for anything more than I've received.
Entitlement. This seems to be constantly misconstrued as confidence anymore. I cannot tell you how many SEC fans, coaches, and reporters were enraged that their precious conference was about to be left out of the national championship game this year. They felt entitled to an automatic berth because of admittedly historic success in the game the past seven seasons. How can you ever feel entitled to represent one of the best two teams in college football? ESPECIALLY based on past success? Not only is the parity in college football unbelievable, but traditionally successful programs have trouble retaining players!! It's never the same team!!! This applies even more so to the SEC because the recruiting prowess is with the SEC right now, so pro-caliber athletes are going to come and go quicker than a team like Iowa.
How often do you see the Dallas Clark's of the world go through Ohio State or Alabama? You don't, because they don't value walk-ons. There is literally a movie (albeit a fantastic movie) about the one time that Notre Dame entertained a walk-on to play in a meaningful football game. Iowa relies on developing talent that's not ready for the level of football they have to play to be successful. That's why we rely on fundamental defense and efficient offense. It's also why I appreciate fundamental defense over high powered offense.
Ohio State, because of the talent that they can recruit, doesn't have to suffer through a 1-10 season. And I don't think their fans would. The SEC is represented by a team that can go 3-9 and then throw a hissy fit about not going to the national championship. And don't tell me I just don't appreciate a historic turnaround. I'm as big of a Chiefs fan as I am an Iowa fan, and both teams have enjoyed historic turnarounds, to a degree, this season. What I don't appreciate is entitlement, and that showed in full force amongst Auburn and other SEC fans for a week. I don't think you can find an Iowa fan that's disappointed about this season, and yet Auburn fans have the audacity to feel disappointed about missing the national championship? I felt no sympathy for them, and I'll feel no sympathy if they lose, regardless of how it happens.
All this is to say I've found my reasons for everything. I can say with complete certainty that I appreciate my Iowa Hawkeyes more completely than the fans of any of the high powered recruiting schools in the nation. It's the same reason that I felt humbled to sit by NIU fans this year at Kinnick for that game. They didn't bash Iowa with nothing but uninformed slander with a sense of entitlement to another BCS bowl this season. They were knowledgeable, passionate fans that wanted to see their team win. They didn't expect to win, they were happy and excited to win. They appreciated when NIU played good football, and they were agonized when Iowa played good football. These emotions gave them a more complete and memorable victory than if they had come in with a sense of entitlement. How do I know this?
Because I felt the same way in 2005 when Drew Tate completed a touchdown pass to Warren Holloway as time expired to win the Capitol One bowl over LSU.
Because I felt the same way in 2008 when Daniel Murray kicked a field goal to beat a national championship-bound Penn State team.
Because I felt the exact same way in 2011 when Iowa came back from a 27-10 deficit with 12 minutes left in the game against Pittsburgh.
Think about that. The first three were big games against big teams. That Pitt game was a game that fans from another team would have felt entitled to win, especially at home. I was grateful that I had the chance to feel pure joy in a game that also provided a completely gut-wrenching loss to another team.
I never felt that Iowa was entitled to win those games, and that allows for a feeling of pure joy when they overcame tremendous odds to win those games.
Auburn won three games in similar fashion this year. I was excited when Auburn beat Alabama because I heard pure joy from their announcer on the return following the missed field goal that solidified Auburn's upset of then No. 1 ranked Alabama. But the ensuing week, following a no. 3 ranking behind undefeateds Florida State and Ohio State, revealed an entitlement that is unbelievable given their record last year and the manner in which they are winning games. I just don't believe that you can feel the emotions that I've felt in the games I noted before and not be grateful for whatever you receive. I was certainly ecstatic for a number four overall BCS ranking in 2009 despite being a consensus number one from the computers.
These are the reasons that I am an Iowa fan. I appreciate where Iowa is, where they've been, and where they have the opportunity to go. Not where they're entitled to go; where they have the opportunity to go.
How about you guys? Does this echo your thoughts or am I completely off base in your eyes?