Natalie Imbruglia had a song called “Torn” when I was a boy turning into a young man. She was gorgeous, the song was catchy, and I was…figuring things out about the world. We’ll leave it at that before it gets inappropriate.
Anyway, I am torn. The Iowa Hawkeyes and the Bison of North Dakota State face off this weekend. It’s basically the Steelers vs. the University of John Deere if you just look at the uniforms.
Who do I cheer for? I’m a die hard UNI fan. I love UNI enough to make up for the UNI grads you know that don’t care about UNI. I also love upsets, like most people. I worked for an FCS Website/Show last year, and love the FCS – though it should still be Div. I – AA. I’ve cheered for NDSU against Kansas (that’s easy) and K-State. The Bison are excellent. The Bison COULD compete, annually, in any conference. They are better than Purdue, Northwestern, Indiana, and definitely Rutgers. The Bison play tough, physical, and don’t back down. They are lead by former UNI assistant coach, Chris Klieman. He’s a heck of a coach and good dude. It’s hard to cheer against him.
Their fans can be an acquired taste. Just like the Cardinals in baseball, they can be a thorn in opposing fans side. They like to not only NOT tip after a big meal, but take to social media bragging about it. Instead of leaving a few bucks for the poor server, they leave “you don’t deserve a tip, go Bison!” instead. Not a good precedent to set for your fan base.
They come to your stadium and they make a ton of noise. That’s fine. What’s not ok, is what happened to a buddy of mine. At halftime, outside the UNI-Dome, a Bison fan lights up a cigarette. My buddy says “Hey man, you can’t smoke there. It’s a state school, state property, state law. I’m heading over there myself (to an area you can smoke), come with me and let’s talk some football.” The response was two words. One was the word ‘you’, the other was an expletive starting with the letter “F”.
Hawks fans are much like NDSU fans, very vocal and love their team. I worked for a TV show and had to cut the two blocked FG’s by Iowa against UNI for that entire season. I should have just stayed off of Facebook that day. A lot of friends became enemies. That and last year, first game of the season – Iowa is up BIG against Illinois State with less than ten minutes left in the 4th Quarter. My family is at a sports bar wanting the Cubs turned on. There are six TV’s in a row. Five of them are on the Hawkeyes. The game is OVER. We ask for ONE TV to be changed to the Cubs, who were chasing a playoff spot, and is the most exciting Cubs team in a century. They change the channel and the other 4 TV’s STILL have the Hawks on. This table full of Hawk fans LOSE THEIR MINDS. A ten-year-old boy looks at my table and drops a bunch of words that would make a sailor blush. His parents do nothing. They are too pissed off to care. I politely inform them that the other four TV’s still have the Hawks on. They see my Cubs jersey and then they seem embarrassed by their reaction. While I appreciate the fact they realized the error in their ways, it’s still why some Hawk fans have the reputation they do.
But…I also love a heel. I’m a homer for pro wrestling. Last year, the Hawks were a heel. Much like The Miz or Seth Rollins, only their fans wanted them to win. Everyone wanted them to lose, but they found a way to win, game after game. The national media LOVED to hate on their “easy schedule”. But you can only play the schedule in front of you. It’s not YOUR fault the other team sucks. By the way, this was a familiar song to a die-hard UNI fan. Remember when the Men’s Basketball team was ranked in the Top 10? Remember when they were higher ranked than the Cyclones? Yeah, I do. I remember the familiar refrain of “PLAY SOMEBODY!!!”
But…you can only control your own destiny by winning the games in front of you. Win, keep winning, and shut people up. As much crap as I give Hawk fans about not winning a national title, I really wanted to see that last year. The team wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Games are not won on a stat sheet. They aren’t won in pre-season rankings. They are won on the gridiron.
North Dakota State has won five consecutive national titles. Don’t worry, they will be happy to remind you. Yet…UNI always has their number. UNI always gives NDSU their best game and has beaten them a few times. Even ended winning streaks. It just happens.
I want NDSU to beat FBS teams. I want them to make the Missouri Valley Conference look good. I love it when the FBS loses to an FCS team. I like Klieman more than Ferentz. I love how Ferentz churns out NFL talent like he’s selling puppy chow at a church bake sale. But…
Go Hawks. Never thought I would say that, but I…O….W….A!!!! And the W stand for win. I own a #20 Cyclones jersey and a #7 Hawkeyes jersey. I bought the Hawks Jersey because I wanted one. They were sold out of Freddie Russell jerseys and Drew Tate was a delta bravo, so I wanted something else. They had an old Brad Banks jersey for $15. I took it. It’s #7 which would become…Marvin McNutt’s jersey recently. The first guy to have Nutt in his name for Iowa, and I had his jersey. I haven’t done any blood tests, but we have to be related. The resemblance is uncanny.
A loss for Iowa hurts the Hawks a lot more than a loss hurts the Bison. The Bison will still be a Top-5 team after this weekend, probably a Top-3. The Missouri Valley Football Conference is still theirs to lose. Sure, Illinois State beat Northwestern, but so could a lot of good FCS teams. South Dakota State is probably going to win the MVFC. They hung a ton of points on TCU because SDSU is that loaded on offense. NDSU will give the Hawkeyes their toughest game in over a year other than Stanford. As stated before, NDSU could compete NOW with the B1G, and if they had more scholarships, they would compete annually in the B1G. It’s physical, it’s nasty, and it’s football in it’s purest form. Both fan bases drive other fan bases nuts. But part of that reason is because they are good. Nobody complains about a loser because a loser never has anything to say. Iowa fans care more about Wisconsin fans than they do NDSU fans, and that’s the way it should be. I never thought this day would come, but it has.