Or, the story of B’s and my first Hawkeye game, and my first football game EVER.
Kickoff on Saturday was at 11:00am. We were going to show up at our new friends’ tailgate at 9:00am. And we were awoken at 6:00am by the house across the street, who clearly thought waiting three hours for brews and brats was too long. So this is the view out our window around 7:30am, when we finally gave up on sleep.
Rob had finagled an invitation for the four of us to a 3L’s tailgate on Melrose, so once he and Jill arrived (on foot, from a mile away, out of deference to game day traffic), we headed over and attempted to remind our bodies that it’s five o’clock somewhere. Which means chips, bratwursts, and Hawkeye-themed Bud Light cans. Yeah, we didn’t know they made black and yellow cans just for Iowa City, either.
In fact, we didn’t really know anything about tailgaiting, since none of us had ever done it before. We surmised enough to not bring cookies or pie, though we did get as far as our porch before realizing we were transporting the beer over in a sparkling water case. Everyone was wearing gold (“Be bold, wear gold!”), including us. Everyone was also really nice and totally accepting of this small band of 1Ls and girlfriends gatecrashing gate-tiptoeing a grown up party. It is, in sum, very easy to host a tailgate: all you need is lawn space, long tables, Dixie cups, beer, something grillable, and a laissez-faire attitude towards trash. This is the most crucial point.
Melrose Avenue was completely packed as we made our way to Kinnick Stadium a few blocks down (the first of surely many odes to our beyond-convenient location), and the stadium itself was a total ocean of gold. Sold out, over 70,000 fans. We briefly lost Jill and Rob, but managed to stick with a few 3Ls who, over the course of the game, picked Billy up with shouts of joy three times. We were once specifically informed, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re not being belligerent enough.”
U Iowa played the University of Northern Iowa and it was meant to be a surefire win, a practice game. We won, but barely, at 17-16. With something like twenty seconds left in the game, UNI’s Panthers set up a field goal (is that the right phrasing?), but we blocked it with one second left on the clock. It was a Hawkeye victory!!!!!… until the refs re-evaluated and determined the ball hadn’t crossed the neutral zone. So with one second left, UNI got another field goal awarded, we blocked it again and really, truly, officially won. (Cue high fives, screams, Billy being picked up.)
Melrose Avenue was closed to car traffic after the game. Our street — our little street — was literally full of people as we streamed back home with the crowd. The entire city (citizens and students and from miles out) come to the Hawkeye games, because this is the best — not to mention one of the only — outlets for sports lovers in Iowa. It’s not like New York, where you can chose from two baseball teams, two football teams, one hockey team and one basketball team. (That’s also better for me, doesn’t care enough about sports to keep the NY ones straight.) These football Saturdays are really Iowa City’s THING — what everyone waits for and watches and bonds over. It may seem limited, or limiting, but it’s actually really exciting.
Which is why we bought season tickets.