Column: Hawkeyes and their fans saw red

Bad "stadium experience" for Iowa against Badgers

This was the story of the game ... for a while (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)
This was the story of the game ... for a while (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

IOWA CITY — Ultimately, you can provide camel-rides for the kids and the finest meats and cheeses for the adults.

But the “stadium experience” at Kinnick Stadium will only be optimal for Hawkeye fans once Iowa again starts getting victories against the caliber of foe it faced there Saturday.

Wisconsin was very Wisconsin-ish when it mattered most, and pounded down Iowa, 28-9. Had the Hawkeyes seized first-half chances in the red zone and proceeded to finish off their 22nd-ranked foe, Kinnick would have had the decibel level of a jackhammer.

But by late in the game, the only noise of note was made by the Badgers.

The Hawkeyes haven’t scored a touchdown in their last seven quarters of regulation. That’s not entertainment.

While the play’s the thing, it’s easy to veer off into more trivial territory when the headliners take you there. So it was Friday when Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz issued the following statement on Twitter:

I know that the stadium experience is lacking but this team needs your support — do it on your own. Best fans in the country! #MelroseMagic

There was no follow-up tweet with an explanation, so people were left to come to their own conclusions. Many did, citing a barrage of advertisements, the choices in the pumped-in stadium music, and the quality of the audio in certain portions of the stadium..

Mostly, people seem to hate the quantity of ads. On the stadium’s first-year video board, an insurance company’s name is imposed on an image of an American flag shown as the national anthem is played. Everything is a cash-grab these days, and that’s certainly not just an Iowa thing.

The coaches want an atmosphere that will appeal to recruits in attendance, and they want every means at their disposal toward a maximum home-field advantage. That means blood-pumping music at the right times, music that has some connection to 2013.

“I saw (the tweet), I agree with him,” said Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta before Saturday’s game. “Hawkeye fans are the best, but at this point, we need to go play the game.

“We’ll keep going on game-day experience. It’s a great experience. At this point, I haven’t thought about it much because it’s Saturday and the No. 1 priority is to play the game, win the game, and go from there.”

Iowa goes to places where the music and p.a. are utilized to great effect to rouse the crowd and rattle the visiting team, especially when the visitors have the ball. Ohio State was one such place. So was Iowa State.

Everything seems to trickle down from the NFL to college ball, and so do the walls of stadium sound triggered by high-tech versions of disc jockeys.

“To me,” Kirk Ferentz said, “ ‘lacking’ would be — it’s kind of like our facilities right now. We’ve got as good an indoor facility as you’re going to find. And I think nationally, in next July, you’ll say that about our entire facilities.

“We’re kind of going through that with our stadium a little bit. We go into venues where the sound system and the scoreboards are pretty good. And we got the first phase up right now, the scoreboards are outstanding. And a year from now the sound system will be, I think, where we all want it to be. And to me I think it’s just a matter of us trying to be where everybody else is at.”

There was an important addition to the end of Ferentz’s comments on the matter:

“It’s our job to generate the electricity and the energy.”

That’s what we in the news biz call burying the lead. The best and most daunting stadium noise is organic. Meaning, it comes from a crowd that is either reacting to good play from its team or is goading its team to make good plays.

That noise was real and it was spectacular in almost the entire first half when the Hawkeyes’ defense was silencing Wisconsin’s excellent offense. It was dialed down when the Badgers hit on a 44-yard TD pass for a 7-6 lead late in the half. Things got even quieter later.

If Iowa had cashed its two first-half red zone appearances for touchdowns instead of field goals, those who were here might still have ringing in their ears.

Instead, an enduring image from the day was red pom pons.

They were one-third of the red, white and blue pom pons fans waved during the national anthem, to honor America’s military and veterans. The red poms apparently left an impression on the television audience, making it look like it was the Badgers who were the ones being honored. Some Hawkeye fans who watched the game on the tube sounded like it made them, well, see red.

Some days, you just can’t win. At anything.   

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