Game Review: Iowa State Cyclones vs. Iowa Hawkeyes, 9/10/2016, 6:30
Final Score Iowa 42 Iowa State 3; Attendance: 70,585
Weather: Beautiful, 67; Ticket Price: Free! Parking: Free
“Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa” by Tree
Kinnick Stadium lies in the middle of the Iowa campus, which pretty much makes up all of Iowa City. For Iowa games, the town basically doubles in size. The stadium is older, with a classic brick and mortar design. Built in 1929, it was last updated in 2006 with all the bells and whistles. It boast not one, not two, but three well-lit video scoreboards so wherever you sit, you can catch the play on replay. The video ribbons give a reasonable amount of detail to help follow the game. At 70,585, none of the seats are likely to be bad. I can’t say for sure because my buddy Doug had procured sideline passes for the Iowa State game I attended. It was the second time he come through big for me and I was quite grateful to see the game up close and in person. Being the big rivalry game for Iowa, Kinnick was packed. Tickets on the street were going for $80 for the upper deck. My guess is that is probably the high end for tickets and with a lessor opponent or some skilled negotiating, one could probably do better. I would imagine some of their closer Big 10 opponents like Nebraska and Wisconsin could drive tickets higher. I was at a night game and weather could not have been better: low 70’s settling comfortable into the 60’s. Iowa can get cold so I would be wary of late season games.
The stadium concessions are your standard, run of the mill kind produced by the large scale food service company Aramark. In what appears to be a staple of Iowa, the walking taco was featured in the menu. While I like and find it relatively easy to eat, it also has strong staying power and I was hoping to avoid using the stalls at Kinnick. No beer was sold in the stadium and my souvenir cup ran me $5.50. Although, I could have gotten it for $4 from a very frazzled girl at the concession stand. I told her the correct price and she struggle to calculate the change for the twenty dollar bill I paid with. I would say that is less a condemnation on Iowa and more a reflection of the state of math education in general. Apparently the cash register either didn’t help or didn’t work. Despite the avoidance of said walking taco, I did test the stalls and found them to be clean and in working order. Iowans are good and gracious folks, and I found the wait in a long line to be quick and efficient one. Good manners and honesty seemed to be omnipresent during my weekend trip. The stadium was remarkably well coordinated with nearly completely alternating sections of black and yellow. It was also fairly loud and one gains a real appreciation for running the silent count when on the sidelines. The most common cheer is a rolling “I O W A” across the stadium. Herky the Hawk, does his thing walking around the sidelines but it is pretty much the standard mascot bit.
Of course, it is still big time college football with some fairly inebriated patrons of whom only some could blame their behavior on youthful indiscretion. I did hear that the Kinnick Jail is actually fairly nice and that it contains televisions showing the game to those resting their way back to sobriety. I found Iowa’s school colors of black and gold much to my liking, if not all the attire. Overalls, particularly striped ones that seemed to frequent Big Ten games are attractive on a very small percentage of the population, something like .001%. The gold mini skirts are more appealing, but even then, they should be worn with caution because not everyone can pull that off either. Having been recently to two games in the deep south, it was somewhat refreshing to get away from the sun dresses and cowboy boots. Most folks were in jeans and t-shirts with hoodies expectant of the beginnings of the true autumn chill of football. There was the occasional outlier, like the young lady from Iowa State who had crafted a dress(?) out of a large red tank top. As one Iowa fan pointed out, at least she dressed it up with a black lace bra.
My plan was to fly into Cedar Rapids via a connection from O’Hare. Having lost many hours in that airport and given the general lack of reliability in flying these days, I had my concerns. They were well founded as I spent nearly two hours on the runway in Houston only to arrive at O’Hare to a flight that was cancelled for operation reasons. Midair, I was hoping that my gold level with United would get me switched to the 7:45 flight to Cedar Rapids. Customer service being what it is, I was naturally told that I was completely out of luck by my premier access handler as the flight was already full. Frustrated, I went to the customer service counter hoping that real, live interaction might get me a better option. There, a seasoned and sharp counter representative suggested I go to Moline. I had no idea where that was, but a quick call to my buddy Doug made that the viable option. A few hours (and beers) later my mood was much improved, as Doug and I relaxed at the newly built Marriott in Iowa City. I highly recommend the site and Doug was very pleased to leverage my gold status which seems to actually be worth something unlike my status with United. It would have been nice to check out the vibe of downtown but my good friends at the airline had shut the door on that one.
Iowa City is a classic college town and has all the charms one might expect. We had a great breakfast with beer, of course. Doug than gave me tour as he had once lived and worked in Iowa City. Doug now lives in Ames and had coordinated my visit there last year. Hanging with him in Ames was like being with the mayor as he knows everyone, big and small hitters alike. It was no different in Iowa City where we ran into one friend after another. We even got to meet the godfather of wrestling Dan Gable himself. Doug, of course, had met him before. Our site seeing took us up to about noon and it was time to start tailgating in earnest.
Kinnick is a bit unique in that the official parking and tailgating right around the stadium is limited. It is not unusual that only big donors get access to those lots, but at Kinnick, there are even less of those spots and they carry some onerous restrictions like no tents. To meet this tailgating demand, the homeowners in immediate proximity of the stadium have developed their entrepreneurial skills and offer outstanding tailgating opportunities in a tree covered suburban setting, replete with private port-a-potties in the backyards. The experience is, in a word, sublime.
We went straight to Doug’s old stomping grounds, a mere five or six minute walk from Kinnick. I was staying at Shawn and Kate’s that night, right across Doug’s old house. Their place was already in party with cold beer on ice, burgers and dogs on the grill and cornhole in progress. I climbed the deck of this oasis to peer out upon a similar tableau playing out from yard to yard. We had a beer or two, but the Mayor of Iowa was getting restless and it was time to press the flesh with the fans of Jon Goodvin’s Hawkapolooza. Off we went Doug, his kids and his much better half Amy, to renew acquaintances and sample for Iowa hospitality. I was not to be disappointed, chowing on wings, brisket, the ever present walking taco and all your other staples of great tailgating. There was even a taste of home, with some ice cold Yeungling. We hung out for a while, relishing this uniquely American experience. But there was more to see and we made the short walk to the Kinnick lots. Doug was right about the tailgating. It was okay but it just didn’t have the vibe of the private spots. To be fair, in either instance, it helps to know someone, but with the private lots the early bird can at least get a worm. It probably won’t be on Olive Court where the Mayor parties, but it is still going to be good even if you are a little farther down the road from Kinnick. After we circled the stadium, we still had time to hit Shawn and Kate’s one more time, it was that close. Resting my feet for nearly an hour, I had one more brat and rehydrated with some water because one needs to be in good shape when standing on the sidelines. I let the Mayor go ahead so he could work the room, err field. Amy, the kids and I made the easy walk over half hour later with plenty of time to get to the sidelines.
It is a rivalry, but the truth is that Iowa has had the lion’s share of success on the grid iron. The Cyclones were limping into this game having opened with a loss to NIU. To say the Hawkeyes were sharpening their talons was an understatement. This was a blood bath from the start. The Hawkeyes scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. The Cyclones weakly responded with a field goal, and I think everyone knew this one was already over even though it was still the first quarter. It was 28 – 3 at the half and while the Cyclones play improved, they were clearly the inferior team. The final was 48 – 3. It was unfortunate that it wasn’t a better game because the rest of the day had been fantastic. I can’t blame the Hawkeyes for crushing the Cyclones. There’s no mercy for your rival.
Being on the sidelines is a different experience. You sacrifice getting a good view of the entire game for the opportunity to see and feel parts of the game up close. It can be exhilarating. You also have to be on your toes particularly at Kinnick where there isn’t a ton of room beyond the sidelines. You are dodging tv cameras, sideline reporters and the occasional player if the play goes out of bounds your way.
I had several interesting observations on the sidelines. Regardless of what you think of Colin Kapernick’s decision to take a knee on the sidelines during the national anthem, you have to respect his conviction. That struck me as I stared up at the 70,000 people looking down on me. Being a big time college player takes some restraint. There were some student Hawkeye fans that ragged on the Iowa State bench the entire game. These kids did not look like they had ever played a day of organized football in their life and the smallest of the bunch was a loud mouthed little guy who came in at about at buck twenty-five. To their credit, the Cyclone players and staff completely ignored them. The heckling did not go unnoticed by the two big time Iowa State boosters standing next to the team. These were older guys but I could tell they were ready to give those kids some old school discipline. I was kind of hoping it would happen because with the game so one-sided, it would have been the first drama of the night. But even the old timers kept their cool and stayed classy. The same can’t be said for the young guys next to me who asked the attractive sideline camera woman to take a selfie with him. While she graciously complied, it was all business. Clearly he thought he had a chance, I mean he did have that sideline pass after all. It was game of him to try, but clearly his “game’ was not what he thought it was.
Doug also had scored passes for my hosts, Shawn and Kate, but they were on the other side of the field. At one point of the game, the big video board displayed a giant boot with “Iowa” stamped on the heel. It turns out that it was my host Kate’s boot.
In summary, I think a trip to Iowa City to visit Kinnick Stadium and cheer on the Hawkeyes is worth the potential detour to Moline. I recommend September and early October and make a weekend of it. Enjoy the warm hospitality, cold beer and a good ol’ fashioned power running game.