By our nature, Hawkeye fans are not typically the most optimistic bunch. After a lifetime of having the rug pulled out from under us, typically at the least opportune time (like, say, the final drive of a Big Ten Championship Game, or in overtime of an NCAA Tournament game that would finally break the Sweet 16 seal), we’re inclined to always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. That can mean lots of pessimism and glass half empty outlooks.
But today is Thanksgiving and if only for one day, Hawkeye fans should take a pause and be thankful for the positive in our lives courtesy of our beloved Iowa Hawkeyes. Even if they’re likely to rip it from our hearts at some point in the not so distant future (not to jinx anything, but in case you hadn’t heard the Hawkeyes are double-digit favorites in a game that would win them a second straight division title).
So The Pants is taking time today to spill a little digital ink on some things we’re thankful for in the world of Hawkeye sports.
For me, because we’re in the thick of football season with a very legitimate chance at a second straight trip to Indianapolis, the thing I’m most thankful for at the moment is Phil Parker. It’s an easy one, but this team is sitting at the bottom of the division without Phil but instead we’re seeing his masterpiece. Even with one of the worst offenses in the entire country, the Hawkeyes may well play for a conference title because that man is so damn good at his job. Incredible.
The other thing I’m thankful for, for similar reasons, is Fran McCaffery. The guy works so hard on the recruiting trail and for all the crap opposing fanbases want to sling about his temper, he’s proven to anyone who’s ever actually met him that he’s a great human being and he has rebuilt this Iowa hoops program to something we can all be proud of. But perhaps more importantly, he’s done it with offense in a way that is so starkly contrasted against Hawkeye football that it makes turning the page from football to basketball not just palatable but sometimes enjoyable. So thank you Fran!
For the most part I’d say being a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes has been a pretty good ride. We are competitive, often pretty darn good, but alas, ultimately we come up short. I’m also a fan of the Minnesota Vikings so you will see a pattern here. The B1G Championship against Sparty was a gut punch. The Rose Bowl against Stanford was awesome until the first play of the game. Last year’s B1G Championship was horrendous. That said, I would sign up for these games eight days a week. You want to compete at the highest level. The possibility of a butt kicking is always there. I’m mostly thankful for Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz for providing 40 plus years of stability for Iowa Hawkeye football. The state of Iowa high school football has developed incredible talent: Josey Jewell, Tristan Wirfs, Tyler Linderbaum, Jack Campbell, Nate Kaeding, and Cooper DeJean to name just a few. Iowa high school football has provided a pipeline of NFL talent to the Hawkeyes. Without such stability provided by Coaches Fry and Ferentz, I don’t see a state as small as Iowa developing that much talent. It’s great to be a Hawkeye. Go Hawks!
It kinda feels like the easy answer, but I’m thankful that we have a coach like Kirk Ferentz. He’s been under plenty of criticism this year, some of it warranted and some not, but on the whole Captain Kirk is a damn fine coach and an unparalleled leader of young men. As fans we tend to be in the “what have you done for me lately” state of mind, and in a year like this one that hasn’t always presented Kirk in the best light. But when you take a step back and look at the turbulence some programs and coaches have gone through, the fact that Kirk has been able to sustain a fairly high level of success across 23 seasons is astonishing.
Seeing the image of him embracing Jack Campbell after the Minnesota game just reminded me of how much he cares for his players and his university. Occasionally, we get those glimpses of Emotional Kirk; embracing his players or his voice breaking in a post game speech, and it gets me every time. It isn’t always easy to be a Hawkeye, but people like him make me damn proud to be one.
I’ve debated a few answers here but the simplest one is that I’m thankful to have gone to a university that has a relevant (at least sometimes) football and basketball program. Men’s and women’s. I have plenty of friends who went to smaller colleges with little or no athletics program and they just didn’t get the same experience in college, and they don’t get the same experience now. Rooting for Old Dominion just isn’t quite the same as having your alma mater in a Power Five conference, especially now. I’m not sure Iowa would get into the Big 10 now if it had to, with the television dynamics and geography. So I’m just grateful that in an accident of history, our little state in the middle of nowhere has not only been fortunate enough to be in the right conference at the right time in an era of instability and change, but has managed to be competitive. And I guess this year in particular, I’m grateful that most of us have enough of a sense of humor to find a way to enjoy Iowa football for what it is, even if we gnash our teeth a lot over what it’s not.
I’m thankful for the constant drama that the Iowa sporting programs provide. First it was Football Failson. Then it became basketball Failsons (Fails son?) and that kinda subsided but then kindling got thrown back on the fire that is the football Failson saga and he’s now gonna coach in a Big Ten Championship game for the second year in a row.
I’m also so thankful for getting gutpunched by my favorite Hawkeye teams year after year. I’m not sure what I’d spend my money on if it wasn’t copious amounts of alcohol and grief counseling.
More than anything, I’m thankful for those who still read this, and me, and Power Rankings, even when it’s bad.
And also thankful for Wild Turkey 101.
Of course, we’re also thankful for all of you wonderful Hawkeye fans who make this place such a great community. It truly is the people that make any place great and we’re clearly not talking about the writers here.
So what about you all - what are you thankful for this beautiful day?