I have a confession to make: I missed nearly every minute of Saturday night’s Iowa game in Happy Valley.
It wasn’t because I had given up hope. In fact, I had a feeling Iowa would show up and give a spirited, competitive effort. As I’ve said before, I’m not that football smart all the time.
I was actually at the Bar Mitzvah of a wonderful young man, the son of some close family friends instead. I did manage to sneak into the bar at the venue where the post-ceremony party was going on to sneak a peek or two at the game. It was 14-0 at my first check in, and things just went downhill from there.
I’d like to say the outcome got me worked up and upset, but strangely, I was okay with it. I don’t know if it was the afterglow of the Cubs World Series championship or the coolness of seeing a kid I knew as a hot-headed goofball mature into a poised, confident young man in front of dozens of friends and family.
Maybe a little of both.
It’s funny, because now that the Cubs have erased 108 years of futility, my only real sports wishes revolve around Iowa finally reaching the Promised Land.
If you would have told me the boys in blue would break their curse before I got to see a Hawkeye Rose Bowl win or Final Four appearance, I’d of said you were nuts. But here we are.
I think the Cubs story is particularly germane to being an Iowa fan. Like the Cubs, the Hawkeyes have a loyal and long-suffering fan base. Like the Cubs, the Hawkeyes have teased their true believer with brushes with greatness. Like the Cubs, at least until 2016, the Hawks have always fallen maddeningly short – either by excruciating close losses (see Michigan State in Indianapolis) or stunning, embarrassing incompetence (see every Rose Bowl since I’ve been alive).
It is enough to make you give up and say it’s not worth it.
But after what we just witnessed happen on the north side of Chicago, how can we give up?
Look, I’m as disappointed and perplexed – and yes, even angry – as any Iowa fan surveying the wreckage of what should have been a promising season. I don’t see any way Iowa comes close to hanging with Michigan and not being embarrassed on national television this Saturday night. I, too, realize the rest of the college football world is howling with laughter at our athletic director’s ridiculous negotiation strategy with a head coach who has proven time and time again to have zero consistency in sustaining success.
So what, then?
Some year, it will be Iowa’s year. And I want to be there to write in chalk on the walls of Kinnick like those thousands of Cubs fans did on Wrigley. Every disappointment will make the eventual reaching of the summit that much sweeter.
Now some of you will accuse me of pulling the “I’m a better fan” card. But that’s really not the case. I’m actually just selfish! And maybe ridiculously patient and optimistic. I refuse to give Iowa anything but my undivided loyalty and love until they pay me back with greatness. Hell, I had that attitude with the Cubs since 1979 and waited the better part of four decades for the payoff, and it was worth it.
Weirdly, this brings me back to my young friend George and his Bar Mitzvah.
George is a great kid, but he’d be the first to admit to you that he can be a real pain in the butt. Preparing for a Bar Mitzvah is a tough, tough task requiring hours of preparation, attention to detail and self-sacrifice. And George wasn’t really into it. He fought with his parents. He fought with the rabbi. He fought with his brother and sister and babysitters about it. There were times when no one thought he’d make it, including George himself.
But a funny thing happened on that journey. By falling and failing time and again, but ALWAYS getting back up and pushing forward, he found himself standing tall at the temple on Saturday, being welcomed and acknowledged as a man.
“Everybody who knows me will be able to understand that I do not always take the easiest path in my daily life,” George said, in the first instance I can ever remember him public speaking. “Whether it’s in school, with my friends, or in my relationships with the members of my family, there are usually bumps in the road. I am learning that determination and perseverance do pay off even if I have what appears to be a huge task in front of me. I am standing here today, proud of my accomplishments having completed my training.”
Obviously, a journey of self-discovery like this is far more important than what happens on a field of play. But the lesson remains the same:
Never, ever give up. Never, ever quit.
Keep believing, and someday you will earn respect and be on top. No matter how long it takes.
Follow me on Twitter @ToryBrecht and @12Saturdays.