If your favorite sports teams lose, you hurt. Maybe a lot.
But winning can be painful, too. For instance, there may be a night when you can’t sleep and are vulnerable to dark thoughts, and you begin to realize you had nothing to do with your team’s success. It would have won without you!
In such terrifying moments, remember this: You’re the team. You stay affiliated with it over decades. The players and coaches come and go. The Cyclones and Hawkeyes of the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s may say they’re Cyclones or Hawkeyes for life, but what have they done for you lately?
Tribalism, a much-used word these days about non-sports things, is the lifeblood of sports. It flows freely in Iowa during the week of the Iowa State-Iowa football game. Your team and its fans are pure of heart and rich in character. The other team and its poor, misguided backers are flawed creatures at best, and may be semi-sinister.
All right, most people who enjoy sports aren’t that kooky, bless their hearts. They see them as entertainment, not religion. The games are things to complain about, laugh about, shout about. Then they move on to something else.
It can be hard to believe that, though, when you walk through a parking lot at any major-college or NFL stadium on a gameday. You see so many people with a united front, flying their flags, wearing their colors, chanting their chants, singing their fight songs, pledging their allegiance.
The tribe has spoken.
Hey, fun is the point, a very good point. Enough things aren’t fun. It’s big fun to be part of something bigger than yourself, to belong to a community of (mostly) strangers that all want the same deeply meaningful thing. Namely, for their team to score more points than the other team.
But logic leaves the building when anyone’s fans are called “the best” by the people those fans cheer. Or when fans believe that about themselves.
Last January, Josh Jackson tweeted this in his announcement he would be leaving Iowa to enter the NFL draft: “I have been blessed with the opportunity to play at the University of Iowa in front of the best fans in the world.”
That was a nice gesture, but it must have jolted fans of Jackson’s new team, the Green Bay Packers. They never hesitate to declare themselves the world’s best.
In a letter to Cyclone supporters after last Saturday’s South Dakota State-ISU football game in Ames was cancelled because of bad weather, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard wrote “The response from our fans, despite all of the uncertainty surrounding the situation, was absolutely fantastic. This was another reminder of why I believe our fans are the best in the country!”
Who’s right, Jackson or Pollard? Who has the best fans in this or any other hemisphere, Iowa or Iowa State?
Ah, never mind that. What’s the deal with all the leadership roles of both teams getting taken by non-Iowans? Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell is from Ohio and went to college at Mount Union. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz is from Pennsylvania and went to college at Connecticut.
Their starting quarterbacks? Iowa’s Nate Stanley is from a Wisconsin town an hour from Minneapolis-St. Paul. Iowa State’s Kyle Kempt was born in Washington and lived in Hawaii and Oregon before going to high school in Ohio.
It’s as if they all migrated to this state for their own opportunity and growth, stealing good jobs from Iowans. These shenanigans are going on under our noses and we’re distracted by a football game? I blame our state’s sports media for polarizing us with its partisan coverage, be it on the left side of the state or the right.
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I’m sorry, what were we talking about? Well, we’re out of space anyway. I’m grateful you Cyclone, Hawkeye and neutral fans have read this far. You know what I’m about to write next, but I wanted it published for posterity:
You’re the best readers in the world!
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