Dear Palmer and Number Two -
I’m writing to you from the past in hopes that one day when I tell you to Google my name and four really silly words together, you find this piece. I’m writing to you because of how moved and touched and excited I am for your future. I’m writing to you because I believe that right now is one of the most pivotal times in all of sports. I’m writing to you because I believe that we’re at the precipice of real change in women’s athletics and I think it’s important for you to understand that it wasn’t always this way. I’m writing to you because I want you to understand some of the amazing ways in which your parents alma mater helped pave the way for you.
Palmer, you will never remember it, but this past weekend we witnessed history together. You in your oversized Caitlin Clark shirt jersey sitting in our living room and watching the wonderful Lisa Bluder (Yes she’s truly wonderful and I have every reason to think it, but more on that later) and Caitlin Clark and Gabbie Marshall and Kate Martin and Addison O’Grady and Hannah Stuelke and the rest of Bluder’s Bunch play basketball INSIDE Kinnick Stadium in front of 55,646 fans and a national TV audience.
And it was only an exhibition. That game didn’t even count for anything in terms of wins or losses or stats. But it counted for EVERYTHING in terms of status and pushing the game and women’s sports forward.
We watched it together. Or better yet, I half watched them and half watched you half watching them. And in those moments, the past, present and future combined together in a real auspicious way. I saw it all in front of me as if I was Chevy Chase sitting in the attic watching old tapes of his childhood (just Google it).
As we watched Caitlin Clark do whatever she wanted with the basketball, I saw you doing whatever you wanted with the basketball. As Addison O’Grady ran hard up and down the court and was rewarded with quick passes for easy buckets, I saw you running hard up and down the court and getting rewarded with quick passes for easy buckets. I envisioned us out back late into the night getting jumpers up and having Neighbor Phil tell us to shut up so he can sleep...but we both know we won’t because you want to be the next Clark and to be the next Clark we gotta get shots up, baby!
Hell, I even saw myself in the crowd Knowshon Moreno crying (just Google it) as you checked into your first game wearing those crispy black and white Iowa uniforms. And the sold out crowd at Carver Hawkeye Arena erupted.
It gives me chills just thinking about it and you’re barely over a year old.
I’m not sure what it was exactly, but something seemed to have clicked in that moment even a little bit for you, too. Maybe it was me chanting for you to “Dunk it” when you’d pick up the little orange Little Tikes ball? Or maybe you became aware of the constant applause coming from me and the television and you absolutely loved it. Or, maybe it was seeing the excitement I had watching these athletes do something I’ve never seen before?
But whatever it was, I loved it and you seemed to love it, too.
The Crossover at Kinnick Stadium was very special to me as a soon-to-be-dad of two daughters. It was inspiring. It made me fully believe that everything is in front of you. And trust me when I say that I’ve never meant it more. You both can do anything you want to do academically and athletically and while my eyes may not have been open to it in the past, they certainly are now.
As you most certainly know by now, Iowa women’s athletics is literally in your blood. Your mother played Field Hockey in Iowa City and made a Final Four her freshman year. She was an All-American in high school and was praised up and down the East Coast for her aggressive style of play that ultimately got her a scholarship to a place she wouldn’t have been able to point out on a map before that. Go and ask her and she’ll tell you, even back in 2008 (not that long ago, despite what you may think), things were much, much different than they are right now. There is a legit buzz now that just didn’t exist a decade ago.
There is a passion that didn’t exist a decade ago.
There’s money that didn’t exist a decade ago!
Things were even different for the Iowa Women’s Basketball program, too. I should know, I was a part of it (albeit in a very, very, very small way). You see, I was on Coach Bluder’s Grey Squad my junior/senior year on campus. I got to see first-hand how Coach Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald and Abby Stamp cared for that program on a weekly basis. I saw the love, passion and strength they coached with and how it rubbed off on the likes of Kamille Wahlin, Kash Alexander, Hannah Draxten, Morgan Johnson and Jaime Printy (just to name a few). Hell, that coaching staff coached up the guys just as much as they coached up their scholarship athletes and made sure we all left that arena better for it.
They didn’t hold back. The players didn’t hold back. And let me tell you, those girls would whoop up on us day in and day out.
It really opens up your eyes to what should be.
But things were different then.
I can fully admit to you both now that I didn’t understand how special that program was when I signed up to be a part of it after a random intramural game at the Fieldhouse. If I’m being completely honest with you, I only originally joined up to stay in shape and get some free shoes. It was only by being in their universe that allowed me to realize how special it all was. How much they deserved way more recognition and community praise than they were getting at the time.
But let me tell you, they sure are getting it now...and girls, it’s more than deserved.
It gives me goosebumps to even think that I was the smallest little part of this massive and historical program (even if all I did was try not to die while having to keep up with Bluder’s fast paced offense) and that your mom is and was an example of someone that did her best to push women’s sports forward and that we both did it at the same place that finds themselves at the epicenter of change in women’s athletics.
Again, I say all of this in hopes that you both realize how special this moment in sports history is. And I know in my heart of hearts it’s only going to become more special as you both grow into your own. While I promise to never push you in a direction you don’t want to go, I do want you to realize that for all of its short comings in the past, the University of Iowa has bought into women’s athletics and are seemingly building something extremely important in Iowa City.
From the Women’s Basketball team, to the Women’s Wrestling program, to the Field Hockey program (just name a few), Iowa Does Women’s Sports!
The door is open and it’s not going to close now. You will be in black and gold until your old enough to tell me otherwise and even after that, I hope you wear those colors proudly.
And hopefully, if we are blessed enough for you both to find yourself in a position where Iowa is on the table as the next step in your athletic journey, I just want you to remember...
Love you always,