|Kinnick Stadium, home of my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes. Photo by J. Berta|
It is that time of year, college football is back. For some, college football is simply a way to pass the time until Sundays when there is pro football. For others, college football is unknown or ignored.
Then there are the rest of us. For those of us, this is a special time of year. After either celebrating or lamenting the last game of the season, of being teased with the "Spring Game," reading and watching all the gridiron sages procrastinate on the fates of the teams, finally the wait is over. The season is here. And it begins.
Saturday kicked off (pun intended) the 2014 college football season for most of the nation, included my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes. Despite a spirited effort by a solid University of Northern Iowa Panthers 31-23. I missed the game due to travel but have caught up on it thanks to our friends at ESPN and the local press.
There is much optimism amongst the Hawkeye faithful that this will be a good year, a very good year, for the team. Comments like that always give me pause. Call me less than an unbridled optimist, but things never work out the way we usually want. Even though we do not play some of the traditional powerhouses in the conference, everyone can be beaten and I am sure we will have our hands full more often that we'd like to admit. Win or lose, I'll be cheering for my team. For those of you who are fans of other teams, I'd expect nothing less on your end.
I've been known to get a bit "passionate" about college football. As I've aged, I realize that it is a game. It's not the crisis in Syria. Call it maturity, but I've been able to put it into (I hope) proper perspective. It's a game and it's entertainment. I don't pay my mortgage by cheering on my team. Still, it also provides an opportunity to do something I enjoy and spend time with people I went to college with. I get a kick out of the fact that damn near thirty years ago I was the college kid. Now, it's my friends who have kids going to Iowa.
Sure, it's fun to play bags, have the beverage of your choice and eat a brat. Yet it's the personal connection that matters. The friends I see at an Iowa game are the people I used to see everyday back when Bush 41 was President. Now, I see them a few times a year. This is not something to lament. It's called life. We grow up (or at least older, with a nod to Jimmy Buffett's aptly written song), have families of our own, move away on on with our lives. Your family is your ultimate priority. Yet it's wonderful to see friends again, albeit for a few days out of the year as we experience, and yes, celebrate Iowa football. I am certain millions of people have the same experiences across our nation. I think that's cool.
College football is a game and I'll renew my call to keep it in perspective. However, there are aspects of it that transcend the hash marks on the field. There are virtues about it that endure after the clock has run out, the national champion crowned. It is the players. Please let me share the story of one.
The photo that opens this blog is of Kinnick Stadium, where Iowa plays its home games. Nile Kinnick won the Heisman Trophy for Iowa in 1939 and is its most famous player. He also was killed in action during World War II. Kinnick had turned down pro football to go to law school. He then, in turn, bailed on law school to join the Navy. He was not just an athlete, he was a scholar, Phi Beta Kappa to be precise. In an era when there is a healthy amount of "eye-rolling" at the phrase, "student-athlete," Kinnick was the real deal.
|Nile Kinnick, public domain, full cite below|
He also was an example of what we all can aspire to both on and off the field. Here is an excerpt of a letter Kinnick wrote his father shortly after reporting for naval flight training:
"There is no reason in the world why we shouldn't fight for the preservation of a chance to live freely, no reason why we shouldn't suffer to uphold that which we want to endure. May God give me the courage to do my duty and not falter."
What a great letter. Here's someone who personified success yet confessed that most human of emotions, fear. We all cannot win the Heisman or even make the team. Yet we all can confront our fears. Kinnick did, and so can we.
And it begins, the 2014 college football season. I hope Iowa has a stellar year and I am looking forward to seeing good friends at a few games. Yet even if Iowa comes up a bit short on the field, we can all celebrate all the good things that are college football...and those that continue on long after the season ends.
Be well my friends (& Go Hawks!)