Oct. 12, 2007
by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY — Take a walk near historic Kinnick Stadium on game day and prepare to view sites not seen on a regular basis. On home football Saturdays, a sea of black and gold swarms Iowa City with one collective thought — the beloved Hawkeyes.
University of Iowa students wake at the crack of dawn after getting two or three hours of sleep Friday. They aren’t rising early to go to class, but rather to have some more fun cheering on the UI football team. There are alumni from all over the country that come back to see the Hawkeyes play. There are also fans with no affiliation to the university, but still come to support the team they love.
Tailgating offers a range of events that supporters look forward to every home game during the football season. The game of bags and Blongoball are two perennial favorites. Fans also enjoy throwing around a football or Frisbee. Different genres of music from rap to rock are played throughout the tailgating spots around the stadium. Grilled food and chips dominant the feasts, as several fans bring out a little smokey or even a full-size grill. Vendors line up and down the street with turkey legs, pizza and hamburgers. You’ll have to ask a fan over the age of 21 years to explain flippy-cup or pong.
“Let’s be honest here, I like to party and I love my Hawkeyes,” said Zach Howard, a UI junior from Des Moines.
There are painted cars and buses featuring the Hawkeye logo. Fans have tons and tons of black and gold gear that is displayed during the tailgate. The waves of Hawkeye fans wear Iowa jerseys, t-shirts, old leather football helmets and a few even shave the letters I-O-W-A into their hair.
“I like being with the Hawkeye fans and it is a great atmosphere,” said Neeta Kantamneni, a 2001 grad who lives in Milwaukee, Wis. “I have never seen this at any other Big Ten school.”
Tailgaiting is a time to see old friends and catch up. It is a time that brings debates among friends on how the Hawkeyes will fair during the game — how many touchdowns Jake Christensen will throw? Who will rush the ball more between Albert Young and Damian Sims? How many sacks will Mitch King, Kenny Iwebema or Bryan Mattison have? It is also time to talk to people you have never seen before or “high five” all the Hawkeye fans that pass by. On this day, everyone is equal as each person has the goal of stress relief, having a great time and watching the Hawkeyes play their hearts out.
“It’s great to be in Iowa City,” said Rob Dixon, a 1997 Iowa graduate who lives in Chicago. “I had a wonderful experience at the University of Iowa. It’s fun to come back and see the whole experience that is Iowa football — the tailgating, the people and everything. I enjoy reconnecting with people. I live in Chicago and a lot of my friends and family are still in Iowa and it’s fun to get back and see these people and get fired up for the Hawks.”
Dixon returned for his 10th consecutive Homecoming game Sept. 29 against Indiana.
“I’m a local here in town, so we are always keep going to games,” said Mark Callaghan, a 1978 Iowa graduate. “I enjoy the atmosphere, the camaraderie with all the friends and making new friends.”
Iowa has a long-standing tradition of tailgating, and it is not hard to see why Hawkeye fans are considered to be some of the loudest and most loyal in college sports, giving Iowa a huge home-field advantage. No matter how the football team fairs game after game, the fans will always be by its side.
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