Wednesday, October 14, 2015


An Iowa Hawkeye "bags" board, photo by J. Berta

Greetings All:

On Saturday, I was able to head up to Iowa City and see my beloved Hawkeys play their homecoming game against the "Fighting Illini" of the University of Iowa.  Despite a strong showing by Illinois, Iowa carried the day.  For the first time since 2009, Iowa is 6-0.  If you're a Hawkeye fan, it's a great season.

With all the crazy and terrible things in the world, one might wonder why I would be writing about something as trivial as college football?  I suppose my short answer is the following:  It's my blog.  

And as it is my blog, I consider it both my privilege and right to string together whatever nouns and verbs I chose to publish.  I also do try to write about things I truly care about and speak from a perspective of authentic writing. (And please see my numerous grammatical errors in support of this position.)

So back to Saturday.  It was a LOT of fun.  As I alluded to above, it was great to see Iowa win.  Yet as my friend Dave and I discussed at lunch yesterday, once the game started, our "fun factor' was out of our hands.  If Iowa had lost, then that would have been a clear downer.  At the end of the game, the emotion I experienced was one more of relief than joy at the win.  It was almost like the feeling, "Well, I'm sure glad that worked out today."

The time before the game, the tailgating, was pure fun.  I was hanging out with some of my fraternity brothers from w-a-y back and we re-told the same stories from decades ago.  I still laugh as hard (perhaps harder) now at their re-telling as I did the first time we told them.  Nostalgia is a magnet for humor.

Another fairly recent addition to the tailgating experience is the game cornhole, or as we refer to it, bags.  Bags, for the uninitiated, is a game played by four players, two per team.  Players line up twenty-something feet away from a wooden board, slightly raised with a hole in the upper center.  The players throw bags about the size of a flattened, over-sized tennis ball towards the hole.  If it goes in, that's three points.  If it lands on the board, that's one.  Each player alternates, throwing four bags total.  First team to 21 wins.  Oh, if you go over 21 points, you drop back to 11.

Bags has become quite popular.  People decorate their boards with their favorite team logos (see the photo above) and folks can get quite competitive.  

My way of background, I'm a terrible bags player, abysmal actually.  Fortunately, my friends invite me to play because they view it for what it is, a game.

In thinking back to last Saturday, my time playing bags with three other guys I have known for almost three decades, was the highlight of the tailgate experience.  It was trivial fun.  Oh, and in an ironic moment, I played so well that I caused my team to go over 21 points.  I felt the typical male competitive shame at failing at a competitive event and also a bit of guilt at letting my partner down.  However, that moment quickly passed as we headed towards the stadium.

The older I get, the more I endeavor to enjoy moments of fun.  There is plenty of serious, sobering situations to get our attention.  So Saturday was a chance to put all of that aside for a few hours at the game in the stadium and for a few minutes outside of it with the bags game at the tailgate.  I was grateful for the time with my friends.

Now, let's rewind a few weeks.  On September 19th, there was another Iowa game, this time at night.  As the Iowa Hawkeyes prepared to take the field, a couple of alums were there as well.  The man of the hour was Brett Greenwood.  A former walk-on who left as the unquestioned leader of the defense, was there to lead his team onto the field.  

Greenwood needed help.  He needed a walker.  A few years back, while training to make an NFL roster, he suffered what I understand to be a stroke.  His promising athletic career was over.  He almost died.  Yet through incredible determination and tenacious focus, he is recovering.  Slow progress, yet progress nonetheless.  There he was, again on the field, walking under his own power.  

Then, there was his partner for the evening.  Wearing his friend's jersey (#30) a fellow teammate and was there by his side.  This was Pat Angerer.  Angerer was another standout for Iowa and went on to play for the NFL.  He recently retired and has been spending a significant amount of time by Brett Greenwood's side, offering encouragement and support.  The photo below sums up everything I love about Iowa football...and friendship.

Pat Angerer and his friend and teammate Brett Greenwood, back on the field .  Photo credit  to Cliff Jette/The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa).  Fair use and/or public domain claimed, full source link below in the credits.

So what does Pat Angerer and Brett Greenwood have to do with bags?  One could argue, nothing.  Fair enough, but allow me to make this blog offer of proof.  Bags is a game, a diversion.  Yet what gives it meaning, at least to me, is the time spent and the experience shared with your teammate and the others you're playing against.  It's a celebration, albeit brief, of sharing time together.  The sheer fact I was able to engage in such a pure act of amusement with my friends is Exhibit A in the case of the charmed life I get to live.  Bags is a game.  Yet the experience offered from being able to play this game is something so much more than a game.

Maybe it's just how my brain processes stuff that I can make the Olympic record leap between the game of bags and Brett Greenwood and Pat Angerer's friendship, yet I can.  Here's how I see it.

We get to choose how we live our lives.  Sure, we need to work to pay our bills and meet our obligations.  Yet even after all that is complete, there is still ample time left over for other things.  I believe we're drawn to interact with others.  When we're able to do that with people who matter to us, that is time well spent.  Of course, our families should come first.  Still, friendship matters.  And as it matters, time spent with friends should be cherished, celebrated and remembered.  In that light a game of bags is so much more than cloth filled objects slapping against wood.

Brett Greenwood has made amazing progress.  In the articles below, there is tribute paid to his courage, his tenacious pursuit of recovery, on his own terms.  He has goals and I believe he will achieve them.  One of those goals is to live on his own.  I'll wager he'll make that a reality someday.

And when he does, I would not be surprised if he and his old friend Pat will be playing bags in Brett's backyard...taking on all who want to play them.

Now how's that for the ultimate team sport?

Be well my friends,


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