IOWA CITY — "No" was the operative word at Kinnick Stadium Saturday.
This was to be the day another Iowa Hawkeyes football season began. But ... no.
On the drive on I-380 from Cedar Rapids to Coralville Saturday morning, there was no worse-than-rush hour traffic, no Hawkeye flags flapping from vehicles, no tricked-out black-and-gold RVs.
There was no college football chatter when I flipped on ESPN Radio in the car. They were talking about an NBA playoff game from the night before. In September!
No lines of vehicles were at I-80 exits leading into Iowa City at 9:30 a.m. No vehicles were in the parking lots of the Vine and the Wig & Pen at that time.
There was no stoppage of everything in front of the Iowa team buses so they could they stay on schedule for their arrivals to the stadium from The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids where the Hawkeyes stay the night before home games.
Thus, there was no Hawk Walk. No touching of the Nile Kinnick statue by players and coaches. No family members of players lined up behind ropes on both sides of the statue so they could get a quick hug as their sons/brothers approached the stadium.
No one was wearing black-and-gold overalls. No Hawkeye Express train ran from Coralville to Kinnick and back. No cornhole games were played. No one lugged 12-packs down sidewalks.
On Melrose Avenue across the street from the stadium, there were no vendors. No gyros, no bratwursts, no walking tacos. No Big Ass Turkey Legs.
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At 11 a.m. — often a kickoff time here for home-openers — there was no Iowa Marching Band. No “Back in Black.” No Swarm. No Nile Kinnick speech. No big crowd noise after the national anthem.
But there was The Wave.
At 11:40 — the estimated time of the end of the first quarter — Herky the Hawk and nine Iowa cheerleaders stood outside the stadium and waved up to the windows of the neighboring University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, as has been the tradition of the fans and teams in Kinnick the last few years between the first and second quarters.
They were joined by a few fans. It didn’t appear that many kids or anyone else in the hospital saw them. But at least the Wave was a “yes,” not a “no.”
“We didn’t want to miss it,” said Brianne Ulrich of Cedar Rapids. She was there with her daughter, Haidyn, who turns 12 Sunday.
“That’s her hospital,” Brianne said.
Haidyn is a cancer survivor. She and her mom wore Hawkeye T-shirts and Hawkeye-themed face masks. They waved. Yes, this was a “yes.”
“We’ve had season tickets since 2010,” Brianne said. “We’re used to the excitement. We miss it.”
The scene outside Kinnick Saturday morning was quieter than in the university library. A few joggers. A few walkers. A few folks who dropped by the stadium to take a picture or two.
Anne Edwards of Solon walked her Golden Retriever through the Kinnick parking lot Saturday morning, something she never would have considered on a game day. She would have been there without the dog, though. Her family has had Iowa football tickets for most of the last 20 years.
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“I’m meeting some friends at a house here this afternoon,” Edwards said. “Our usual group is having a socially distanced tailgate, 15 or 20 or us. We’ll have a few drinks, some pulled pork sandwiches. We’ll try to make the day have a little more normalcy.”
Normalcy is a tall order this year, but host Ron Allen of Iowa City tried.
“Even though there is no Hawkeye football today,” Allen said, “our tailgate friends are still our good friends, and there is no reason why we can’t celebrate what we love, the Hawkeyes.”
There was a familiar and beloved figure at the tailgate. Many a Hawkeye fan knows Hawkeye Elvis. During the offseason, he is Greg Suckow of Eagan, Minn. In the fall and winter he wears a sequined black-and-gold Elvis Presley jumpsuit to Hawkeye football and basketball games and has never turned down a photo request.
Hawkeye Elvis would prefer a little less conversation and a little more action with our 2020 sports. Especially when it comes to Iowa.
The weather was so nice Saturday, comfortable with a cloudless sky. But the stadium’s gates were locked and its 69,250 seats were empty. No good.
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