|My ticket from Iowa's opening game, September 3, 2016|
(Quick author's note: I am experimenting with inserting weblinks directly into my blog posts. If you see a word underlined, left-click on that word and it should bring you to the story. Thanks, as always, for reading my blog.)
Saturday, I was able to attend Iowa's first football game of the 2016 season. It is always fun to be back in Iowa City and as my friend Dave and I drove into town, we marveled at both the changes and the similarities to when we were there...three decades ago.
We caught up with a few of our fraternity brothers and families. Although this game did not have the representation future B1G Ten games will certainly have, it was great to see old friends.
The game itself went thankfully according to plan. Iowa eventually wore down a spirited Miami of Iowa team, securing a 45-21 victory. I have no doubt that other games this season will not be so lopsided so I may it a point to enjoy this one.
|The scoreboard at Kinnick Stadium, September 3, 2016. Photo by J. Berta.|
As I have written before, college football is a minor passion of mine. I like it for a variety of reasons and am probably a bit too invested (w-a-y too invested my wife might say, depending on the game and score) in my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes. Part of it is a genuine joy I experience in the game and having a shared experience with the place I went to school. I suppose another reason is my less-than-noble desire to see a team I have pledged allegiance to win. In any event, I do remind myself (sometimes sooner than later) that it is a game. A game, win or lose, that will be with me next week and next season. It is timeless.
While football may be timeless, players are not. They get older, then old. Long hair gives way to receding hairlines, if not outright baldness. Some go on to stellar NFL careers. Others never play another down after college.
Then there are those who do not age...because they cannot. They are gone. One such player that always comes to mind is Nile Kinnick.
Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy, playing for Iowa. He was also an amazing student and by all accounts an outstanding human being. He also died far too young.
When I lived out East I would occasionally run into Michigan fans. One day, some "Go Blue" fan snidely asked me, "Does Iowa even have a Heisman winner?" It was more of a taunt than a question.
I replied: "Well, we have one. But when your Heisman winner is a WAR HERO, you only need one."
Nile Kinnick perished in the Pacific during World War II as a Navy pilot. Rather than crash land his plane on the deck of a carrier and risk damaging the flight deck, he chose to ditch in the water. In doing so, he lost his life.
Nile Kinnick gave an immortal speech when he received the Heisman. Here's the link to it and if you have not heard it before, of if it has been a while, I encourage you to take the two minutes to listen to it.
(This is your first "left click" moment, just FYI.)
Despite Kinnick's undeniable status as a fallen hero, something tells me Kinnick would have NOT approved of my comeback to my Michigan fan friend. He was a humble man who disdained bluster and bravado. Here's a quote from him that graces the back of a t-shirt I bought from my friends who run Public House in Davenport:
|A quote from Hawkeye great, Nile Kinnick. Photo by J. Berta, t-shirt from Public House bar, Davenport, Iowa.|
So to the memory of Nile Kinnick, I do apologize for what was a blatant effort to leverage his memory to win an argument. I will endeavor to not do that again.
Speaking of fallen athletes, two college football players were lost this summer: One was the former punter for Michigan State (2011-2014), Mike Sadler. The other was Nebraska's punter, Sam Foltz. They were athletes at the height of their college careers with their whole life in front of them. They were denied the opportunity, as William Butler Yeats wrote to live long enough,"... to comb grey hair." (This is a reference to Yeats' work, The Wild Swans at Coole, (1919) "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory." I have a link to the this work int credits.))
At their game Saturday (September 3, 2016) Nebraska did a truly class act. They took the field for a punt and let the clock run down, taking a delay of game penalty.
As the clock ran down, it was clear that this was a memorial to a fallen friend, a teammate lost. Nebraska was heavily favored against Fresno State and five more yards would have helped their field position against the mighty Nebraska Cornhusters.
Frenso State would have none of it. In true sportsmanship, they declined the penalty. Here's the link to that story.
College football is many things. True, it is a game. It does not determine election outcomes or the stock market's value or the Geo-political balance of power in the world. What is it, besides a game, is a reflection of our values, of the things that matter to us. When I saw what Nebraska did and when I saw the response from Fresno State, I smiled.
While Fresno State lost the game, they won the hearts of Nebraska fans. They declined a penalty...and claimed the honor of the day.
I'll leave you with this photo of the formation. You can read the story and see a video clip here:
R.I.P. Sam Foltz & Mike Sadler.
Be well my friends,