I’ve written before about my love for football. My sister and I grew up hearing our dad’s tales of playing for Algona High and then Notre Dame. We loved his stories of being on the Knute Rockne-coached team with the famed Four Horseman in the 1920s.
Later (obviously!) I married a football player whose love for the game was no less than my dad’s. Bing was captain of his suburban Chicago high school team and was set to play in college until knee injuries cut short those dreams. Years and two artificial knees later, I asked him if he would do it all again if he knew then the pain it would cause him down the road. “In a heartbeat,” he answered without hesitation. He loved the game that much.
So it’s understandable that I remain a football fan in my old age. (Here’s where you say, “Oh you’re not old – you’re still very young.” Thank you. Next time I shouldn’t need to prompt you.)
Thus, I was thrilled last week when my friend Barb asked if I would like to go to the Iowa-Penn State game with her. Going to a college football game is so much more than just seeing a game. There is such a wonderful, charged atmosphere on campus, in this case with strangers greeting strangers, all wearing gold and black and calling, “Go Hawks!” over and over.
A special bonus included having lunch with our twin granddaughters, Hannah and Madeline, who are sophomores at Iowa, and their mother, Erin, who motored over from Fort Madison with our grandson Max, a high school sophomore. We also got to see the Iowa band rehearse in the field house – college bands are spectacular!
The game itself, as you all know by now, was a cliff-hanger, with Iowa losing in the last second. However, they played their hearts out and nearly beat the number four-ranked team in the country, no small feat! Iowa’s new tradition of waving to the children who are watching from the Children’s Hospital has to be a Hallmark moment. Since it was a night game, everyone waved their lighted cell phones – the entire stadium looked like a fairyland of sparkling lights. Tears blurred the lights for me – and, I’m sure, countless others.
Years ago, I went to a game at Notre Dame with my sister and cousin. It was in 1999, and Notre Dame was having a not-so-hot season. They were playing the University of Southern California, always a powerhouse. I wrote an Inkspots column about that game, also, and waxed poetic about the fun of strolling around the beautiful campus in the October sunshine. We went to the pep rally the night before the game and afterward, I called Bing, who was home minding our offspring, to tell him about it. I said one of the speakers at the rally was a hockey player I’d never heard of named Wayne Gretzky. “WAYNE GRETZKY – HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE HEARD OF WAYNE GRETZKY, THE GREAT ONE?”
I didn’t think it was necessary for him to yell at me – Gretzky never played football, so how would I know him?
The game itself, played in the pouring rain, was also a cliffhanger, but with a happier ending than last week’s game. Notre Dame came from behind and beat the mighty Trojans in the final seconds. I wrote at the time, “It was a dream ending to a dream weekend. And somewhere high over Notre Dame stadium, my dad smiled.”