When I was younger, I tried to play trumpet. The only thing was, well, I wasn’t any good at it. I also wanted to play football in college, but I wasn’t any good at that, either. I settled for the next best thing.
The excitement on game day in Iowa City leaks into the days preceding it. Walking to class on Friday is intoxicating. It’s hard not to feel a part of it, even if the vast majority of us are not playing an instrument on game day or pursuing a Big Ten victory.
The excitement heightens once Friday class is over, and any thoughts of bad grades or upcoming assignments are pushed aside. We rush toward an alternate reality, to feel a part of game day.
The sun falling on Friday only means it’s getting closer to rising again. When it does, game day will be upon us.
Friday nights in downtown Iowa City resemble the crowds that gathered for the Beatles. But, for us, the Beatles are always in town, and they’ll be taking the field in Kinnick less than a day later, suited in black and gold.
Drinks are consumed as if Prohibition will be reinstated in the morning. Freshmen eagerly immerse themselves in the festivities, and seniors soak in what could be one of their last celebrations — with the trumpets.
In Iowa City, when the sun has fallen and bars reach black and gold capacity, the band arrives.
If the Friday night atmosphere in Iowa City is the beginning of a book, and the 4th quarter of Saturday’s game is the end, the clash of sober band members, boosting their elegant instruments in bars at midnight is the middle — the part you wish never ends. It’s the part you can’t put down; the part that gives the book it’s charm, no matter what happens at the end.
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The trumpets roll in. For whatever reason, out of all the musically talented folks who make up the band, the trumpet players are the most sought-out musicians. What I’ll never understand, though, is why after the band captivates the crowd with a sneak peak of Saturday’s show, they allow alcohol-enhanced partiers to be a part of it.
The fans surround the trumpet players, asking for a turn. And to my surprise, the individuals bearing the instruments always oblige. It makes for terrific videos, but awful sounds. Their friends laugh, and the real trumpet player cringes, but it’s a moment that encapsulates what it means to be a Hawkeye on a weekend in the first semester of every school year. On those weekends, everyone is a trumpet player and everyone is a football player.
The trumpet is not easy to play, and the game of football isn’t, either. We can’t succeed at everything, but we can all feel a part of the experience even if we don’t play a vital role in the show.
The trumpet exchange is the peak of both the night before game day and the metaphorical book that is written at least six times every fall. What it represents is the inclusion of an entire community to take part in a ritual as worshipped as any religious holiday I’ve ever taken part in. There’s another holy trinity that exists here, if you will — the team, the band, and the fans.
• Andrew D. Donlan is a senior journalism student at the University of Iowa, who knows all too soon he’ll be wishing he could have one more shot at playing that trumpet.