Oz is awesome. No, not the gritty HBO prison drama, although that was pretty great, too. Also not the magical land of winged monkeys and yellow-brick roads, although that too was pretty fun (unless you prefer your simians to be a bit more earthbound). No, we mean Oz, the very intense and excitable and all-around awesome Iowa cheerleader.
When then-No. 7 ranked Michigan State traveled to Iowa City on Jan. 28 to take on the Hawkeyes, people saw it as the most anticipated Iowa basketball game since it last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2006. After Iowa center Adam Woodbury netted his team's first score of the eventual 71-69 loss in overtime, Oz went nuts.
He flapped his massive arms, punched the air, and let out what must have been one of the loudest screams heard in Carver-Hawkeye that day. Almost like a cartoon, Oz's jaw appeared to unhinge, doubling its circumference to allow for optimal bellows. ESPN's cameras were focused on Oz the whole time, catapulting him to a level of fame he said he could never imagine.
That led to this one (via reddit), which is even better:
Oz is crazy-strong (as evidenced nicely by the Vine here) and he's been breaking down a few doors when it comes to stereotypes among male cheerleaders, which is fun:
The Iowa men's basketball team and its fans aren't the only ones reaping rewards from Oz's enthusiasm, either. Gregg Niemiec, Iowa's head cheerleading coach, said that he's helping kick negative stereotypes of male cheerleaders, which could lead to greater interest in the its future.
"It's helped out not just Iowa cheerleading but male cheerleading," Niemiec said. "People are excited to cheer on the team ... and Oz is helping bring them to national attention ... You see Oz throw a girl and catch her with one hand - you have to put all stereotypes away because that's as athletic you can get."
This has been a pretty fun (if occasionally frustrating) season of hoopyball at Iowa; Oz's great reactions to the play on the court have only enhanced that enjoyment. I mean, he's basically the physical embodiment of GO IOWA AWESOME. Let's hope Iowa gives him more to exuberantly cheer about over the next few weeks.
If nothing else, we'll always have the GIFs.