The Iowa Wave with a First-Timer

It was a landmark day.  We were headed to Iowa City for the Iowa vs. Kent State football game and one of us had never visited Kinnick Stadium.  My girlfriend, Jenn is a University of Iowa graduate who somehow had never experienced a Hawkeye football game; a situation I simply could not let stand.

"Be Bold Wear Gold" being the day's stadium theme, we gathered Hawkeye Old Gold appearal the night before.  After some searching I located a 2010 Fry Fest T-shirt which seemed suitably dorky, and a few less awesome choices.  Game day began with a discussion of the importance of punctuation.  It's easy to mistake "old, gold underwear" with "old gold underwear."  Next, an update of keychain lanyards.  "We need to get there early" I insisted, probably more times than necessary.  Naturally, we left later than originally planned.  I probably should have saved a few of my "let's go"s for the stands. 

We're bessed with some terrific football weather in our part of the world.  The days for late summer games are often warm and comfortable, and the season is usually wrapped up before any bitter cold takes hold.  This day was a gem, cloudless, dry, with temps in the 80s.  The scenes were picture-perfect on the route to Iowa City with harvesting started, the fields showing varied colors; greens, golds, yellows, and tans all glowing in the dazzling sunshine.  We pushed our way down the road past homes, towns, rivers, woods, and derecheo-damaged buildings and trees, the landscape still showing scars from the storm more than a year later.

We arrived early enough to take in a taste of Iowa City on game day.  Parking near Hancher Auditorium (my standard play for basketball and football) was tight, but we found a spot on the street (really!) and made our way to the Cambus shuttle.  Hawkeye fans were embracing the "wear gold" plan; any wearing other colors stood out.  We got in a walk around Melrose Avenue for a look at the vendors and to take in some of the craziness, then bought a bratwurst for lunch before heading into the stadium.

Our seats were in the sun, and the sunshine was intense.  No clouds would provide a break, and although about half the stadium would be shaded for at least part of the game, we would be in the direct sunshine for its entirety.  We developed a plan to get to some shade just ahead of half time, and to make a shade break after the third quarter.

The pagentry of Kinnick impressed my first-timer guest.  The marching band's entrance was amazing, the spirit squads ratcheted the energy further, and the swarm brought an already electric atmosphere to max voltage.  Had we left then, before seeing a second of football, we'd have gone out knowing we'd seen a show.

The Iowa Wave was the experience we'd come for.  Both of us having been treated by The University of Iowa Children's Hospital, it was an experience I wanted to share with Jenn.  It seems a little too easy to refer to it as "the best tradition in college sports."  It's only been around for a handful of years, after all.  But it is the best.  It's best becuse it isn't about football, it isn't mean-spirited, it doesn't antagonize an opponent or pump up the home team's bravado.  It isn't silly, and won't become outdated.  It's heartfelt communication.  More than 60-thousand people all at once, letting some sick kids know that they matter, and that we care about them.  There's a feeling I remember of looking out from a hospital and seeing the world continue on, a feeling shock that these people were out there working and playing and not seeming to know or care what we were experiencing.  A simple wave of recognition would have meant a lot to a boy at that point.

We left Iowa City more proud than ever to be Hawkeyes and credit goes to The Iowa Wave.  We were part of it on this September Saturday, and in a day full of highlights, it was The Wave that stood out.  The cheering at scores and big defensive plays, the screaming and heavy booing at a terrible piece of officiating (REVERSAL?!?!), the refreshing frozen lemon ice in the sun, the AC/DC pumping in the speakers, the "I-O-W-A" chants after scores, and a hundred other memorable moments won't be with us as long as we remember a simple act of waving.  We may all wish we could do more for some hospitalized kids, but we waved, and that's a lot more than doing nothing.

Iowa 30, Kent State 7, September 18, 2021

 

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