Nov. 21, 2008
Editor’s Note: Barbara Brotman didn’t graduate from the University of Iowa or attend the UI…but her daughter does and together with other family they celebrated with other fans of the Hawkeyes the UI’s recent victory over Penn State. It was quite an experience for Barbara, who shared her story with the readers of the Chicago Tribune and the editors of hawkeyesports.com thought you’d enjoy it, too.
OAK PARK, Ill. —How did it come to this?
One minute, my only connection to college football was a vague awareness that it existed. The next minute I was standing outside a stadium with a Hawkeye temporary tattoo on my cheek and a Big Ass Turkey Leg in my hand.
My daughter, a University of Iowa student, beamed. “This is Iowa football,” she said proudly as I tried to wipe barbecue sauce from my other cheek without letting go of my meal, an Iowa football delicacy that looked like haunch of brontosaurus.
I was a Big 10 football innocent. My own college experience was at a city university that had no football team and is rated fifth in the nation by the Princeton Review for students not drinking beer. I lived at home. I chugged milk.
Even as an adult, I remained a lamb as regards the pigskin. I knew that large colleges played football and that it seemed to involve bare-chested guys in freezing weather and beer, but that was about as far as it went.
That was before Iowa.
Before last weekend, I didn’t know that in Iowa, people got up before dawn to head out for tailgating.
I didn’t know that people parked RVs in lots, set up big-screen TVs and spent the entire day cooking, eating and drinking.
“At what point did I realize that I had entered a new world? Was it when we couldn’t get a hotel room closer than a half-hour away, months in advance? Was it on game day, when we goggled at the Hawkeye baby bottles and pacifiers at the massive souvenir display at a sporting goods store? Was it when we were surrounded by yellow-and-black-clad post-tailgaters heading to the stadium, stopping for a final chug of beer just outside the gate? Was it when the three F-15C Eagle jets from the Wild Boar 390th Fighter Squadron did a deafening flyover before the game began? “
I didn’t know that they started drinking at 7 a.m. I didn’t know why anyone would want to start drinking at 7 a.m.
But when your child is attending the University of Iowa and it is Family Weekend and the Hawkeyes are playing third-ranked Penn State in a nationally televised game, which was the case last weekend, the jig is up. Your innocence is about to end and your tush is about to freeze, unless you sit on a blanket.
At what point did I realize that I had entered a new world? Was it when we couldn’t get a hotel room closer than a half-hour away, months in advance? Was it on game day, when we goggled at the Hawkeye baby bottles and pacifiers at the massive souvenir display at a sporting goods store? Was it when we were surrounded by yellow-and-black-clad post-tailgaters heading to the stadium, stopping for a final chug of beer just outside the gate? Was it when the three F-15C Eagle jets from the Wild Boar 390th Fighter Squadron did a deafening flyover before the game began?
Wedged so tightly between people in our row that I couldn’t straighten my shoulders, I pretended I could see a football game, though our seats were behind a goal post and so low as to be nearly on the field.
When the action was at the other end, the view on the big video screen seemed to be a different event entirely. I followed the gist of the thing with a running explanation by my husband and by the sound in the stadium–a wave of cheers when things went well, swift and remarkable silence when they didn’t.
As football fans–a.k.a. the rest of the country–know, things went very well for the Hawkeyes. They beat Penn State 24-23, pulling ahead with six seconds remaining in the game. Even I understood, and joined my new friends in shrieking.
By that time, we were watching from the warmth of a sports bar. Though my daughter bemoaned that we had missed out on the celebratory storming of the field, I still felt enveloped in Hawkeye spirit. The crowds were everywhere. We sat in our car, immobilized by streaming pedestrians, our daughter sticking her hand out the window for high-fives.
My Hawkeye tattoo was so firmly attached that I had to scrape my skin raw to get it off. The scar lasted days.
So was this my next big thing? Would I be buying a set of Hawkeye shot glasses and donning black-and-yellow striped overalls?
Not quite. But it had been an introduction to something different, and of value because of that difference and because it was my daughter’s thing.
Iowa hosts Purdue today. The tailgaters will be partying, the beer will be flowing and the Big Ass Turkey Leg stand will be hopping.
From my spot on my sofa, I toast my daughter and the rest of that world I visited for one strange day.
Please pass my cup of Earl Grey tea.