A Special Saturday at Kinnick Stadium

I put in about a 17-hour day on Saturday and I’m feeling it a day later, but I suspect there are a number of staff members within the University of Iowa Athletics Department who are every bit as worn down today as I am after putting on one of the most unique (and successful) days of Hawkeye sporting events at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

At 11:00 a.m. Saturday, Iowa’s wrestlers, ranked fourth in the country, hosted top-ranked Oklahoma State – outdoors at Kinnick Stadium – in November. The Hawkeyes topped the Cowboys 18-16, with each side claiming five of the ten matches, but the result is not what people will remember about the event.

My son and I were among 42,287 that paid our $10 per ticket to be on hand to watch “Grapple on the Gridiron”, matching two wrestling programs that, between them, account for 57 national championships. Iowa organized the event with the intention of smashing the meet attendance record set by Penn State two years ago. Mission accomplished and then some. Penn State’s record was “only” 15,996.

Back in late summer, when Iowa announced plans for this event, I thought Athletic Director Gary Barta had finally gone off the deep end. I probably could have thought the same of wrestling coach Tom Brands, but I think we all know he’s been more than a little crazy his whole life, so nothing he does comes as a surprise. But Barta had to sign off on the nutso idea of holding a wrestling meet outdoors at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa in the middle of November.

Can you imagine what that would have been like if there was ANY kind of typical November weather issues? Wind, rain, sleet, snow or just plain really cold temperatures all had at least even odds of showing up. Sure, they had Carver-Hawkeye Arena to move the meet (and 15,000 of the ticket buyers) to, if necessary, but you don’t recover costs of staging by moving indoors.

No matter, though, because the weather was absolutely ideal. Calm winds, sunny and 60 degrees, and a perfect day for big walk-up ticket sales from fans showing up for a bit of early tailgating before the headline event of the day. That, of course, would be Iowa’s undefeated and 5th ranked football team Iowa hosting Minnesota in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale.

We did not tailgate for the 4+ hours we had to kill between wrestling meet and football game. Instead, a quick drive up to Red’s Ale House in North Liberty allowed us to kill the time watching afternoon football games, eating some really good food and enjoying a craft beer or four. (Red’s was featuring pours from Surly and Toppling Goliath. I won’t go in to my reviews of those beers here. That’s what the “Untappd” app is for, right?)

At 5:15 or so, it was time to head back to Kinnick Stadium. We caught the Hawkeye Express Train in Coralville and were in our 25-30 yard line seats a half-hour before kickoff.

The Hawkeyes came away with a 40-35 win over the Golden Gophers, to raise their record to 10-0 for the first time in Iowa football history, but it was a frustrating game from an Iowa fan’s perspective. Iowa never trailed and I thought it was pretty evident Iowa was the better team, but the damn Gophers just would not go away.

I’m not going to lie. Iowa needs big wins as they try to impress the folks who put together the College Football Playoff rankings, so I wanted the Hawks to just bury Minnesota and bury them deep. That didn’t happen at all, obviously.

My phone battery pretty much died by the time the football game started, so those of you who follow me on Twitter were spared having to put up with my frustration. Then again, the cell phone service in Kinnick (at least for Spring customers like me) is atrocious, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten anything out during the game anyway.

The other result of not having a working phone is that I didn’t see the final scores of all of the other night games across the country until I got home somewhere around 12:30 in the morning…

… which is my segue into discussion of the College Football Playoff rankings and Iowa’s place within that conversation.

You’re probably thinking I’m going to argue that Iowa should be ranked in the top four of the CFP rankings, in position to make the NCAA football playoffs. I’m not. Yet. But the results of some of the games yesterday are getting me closer to believing they should be.

One of the games I watched at Red’s yesterday was Clemson-Syracuse. I haven’t watched a lot of their games, but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be. Still, they’re the team you have to rank at the top, despite an unimpressive win.

Ohio State is the defending National Champion, has almost everyone back from among the key contributors to that team, and hasn’t lost a game. They have to be in your top four right now. But I’ve watched them quite a bit and, honestly, it might be the same guys in the same uniforms, but they just haven’t looked all that terrific to me.

Through last week, I’d have had Oklahoma State in the top four. But another of the games I watched at Red’s Saturday was the Cowboys and Iowa State. We left before the game was over, so I didn’t see how Okie State won that game, but during every bit of that game I did watch, the Cowboys looked pretty bad. Still, they are undefeated and they beat TCU a week ago, so maybe you allow a little hangover. I’d have them in top four right now, too, but barely. I don’t think they’ll stay there.

I would reluctantly have Alabama filling out my top four. They’re playing very well now and you credit them for that. I don’t think that totally makes up for the fact that they do have a loss and that loss is to Mississippi, a team that hasn’t turned out to be anything all that special.

I would have Iowa somewhere in that next group of five teams. Where, exactly, isn’t all that important because it’s going to sort itself out over the next three weeks, anyway.

Oklahoma is coming on really strong, as their win over Baylor showed. Notre Dame has only lost to Clemson, so they certainly are in position to be considered to make the field if they win out.

By the way, is there a fan base more defensive than Notre Dame’s? I Tweeted out an observation that Notre Dame doesn’t play as tough a schedule as they used to before they became partially-affiliated with the ACC, yet still get residual credit in many corners for playing a difficult schedule. As a result, I got a bunch of irate responses from, I imagine, Irish fans. I didn’t say they have an “easy” schedule. But you don’t take Michigan and Northwestern off your schedule and replace them with teams like Virginia, Wake Forest and even Temple (which has been overrated all year, as we’re now seeing) and still get credit for an extremely difficult schedule. Not with me, anyway. I also don’t buy the, “we have the best loss,” argument that Mike Golic of ESPN keeps harping about. It’s a LOSS. You don’t get credit for playing somebody you lost to. You have to win the game for it to be a positive factor.

I think that’s basically it, now. The group of current legitimate contenders for the playoffs got whittled down this week. Stanford lost, essentially ending any chance that a Pac-12 team will be considered. Baylor lost to the Sooners, which is no disgrace, but the brilliant minds of the Big 12 decided to backload their schedule, assuring that any loss by their top teams will be “late losses,” and pretty much eliminate those teams from contention. Well done, Bob Bowlsby & company (I’m really glad he’s screwing up the Big 12 now and not still as Athletic Director at Iowa).

Could Michigan State run the table, beating Ohio State and then Iowa in the B1G Championship game, to work their way back into the playoff picture? Yes. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did exactly that.

Florida should get some appreciation, I suppose. But they lead the SEC-East, which is just as questionable, in terms of top to bottom strength, as the B1G-West and you have to ask yourself: how much consideration would a 1-loss Iowa be getting? The answer is, “none,” and that’s exactly the amount I would give Florida.

Finally, Wisconsin puzzles me, in that I’m puzzled why they aren’t given a lot more respect than they’re getting. Like half a dozen teams ranked above them in this week’s AP Coaches’ Poll, they have two losses. Unlike any of the teams ranked above them, their two losses are to two teams with combined 19-1 records and both ranked in the top six teams in the country. Sure, their best win is over Nebraska, but it’s almost like Badger fans gave up on the season after the Iowa loss and the rest of the country decided, “hey if you think your team sucks, we’ll just agree with you and ignore them, too.”

If Bucky wins out against Northwestern and Minnesota, they’ll end up in a pretty nice bowl game. I wonder if anyone in Wisconsin will even notice, much less attend the game.

Enough words. Here are a few not-really-very-good photos from my day at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday:


What does it look like to watch a wrestling meet in a football stadium? Something like this.

What does it look like to watch a wrestling meet in a football stadium? Something like this.

For perspective on the crowd. Attendance was officially 42,287

For perspective on the crowd. Attendance was officially 42,287

On the double-decker train, the Hawkeye Express, heading back to Kinnick for football.

On the double-decker train, the Hawkeye Express, heading back to Kinnick for football.

"Blackout" crowd watches the first play from scrimmage of Iowa vs Minnesota (technically, the Gophers got called for a procedure penalty before the snap, so this play never happened)

“Blackout” crowd watches the first play from scrimmage of Iowa vs Minnesota (technically, the Gophers got called for a procedure penalty before the snap, so this play never happened)

The Hawkeyes went to get Floyd of Rosedale from the Minnesota sideline in a calm, unified approach  – for a while, anyway.

Floyd of Rosedale is in there somewhere.

Floyd of Rosedale is in there somewhere.


Halloween Frights and Flights

The New York Mets and Minnesota Gophers had frightening nights on Saturday. The only thing more frustrating than being a Mets or Gophers fan on Sunday morning would have to be if you have some sort of allegiance toward Duke University because what happened to the Blue Devils on Halloween is several levels of hell worse than “frightening.”

Sport-Jack-O-LanternsAfter scoring a touchdown to pull ahead of the Miami Hurricanes with just seconds left in the game, Duke kicked off and eight laterals later, Miami crossed the goal line to snatch the win from the Blue Devils. Sure, you could say one of the Miami players’ knee was on the ground when he contributed his lateral and, yes, there appeared to be at least one block in the back, but, hey, it’s Duke and we all hate Duke, so who cares? Right? (Not that many of us love Miami, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

(Late edit: The ACC announced Sunday morning that the entire officiating crew, including the replay official, that worked the Duke-Miami game has been suspended for two games.)

So let’s move on to Saturday Shenanigans that at least some of us care about.

The Mets stare into the abyss

Daniel Murphy’s life has been interesting the past two weeks, hasn’t it?

You remember Murphy. He’s the guy that set a new Major League record for consecutive playoff games with a home run, jacking dingers in six straight postseason games while almost single-handedly providing the necessary offensive punch to propel the New York Mets in to the World Series.

Murphy has not had a good Fall Classic, however. Not only has he thudded back to earth with his bat against Kansas City pitching, but on Saturday he chose the worst time possible to perform his Bill Buckner imitation and allow a slow ground ball to get beneath his glove. The Royals tied the game on Murphy’s error and went on to score two more runs in the same inning, ultimately beating the Mets 5-3 and taking a 3-1 lead in the Series.

Aside from Murphy’s “oops” and a few other defensive faux pas by his teammates, the most intriguing thing about Saturday’s game was New York manager Terry Collins’ bullpen management. (Or is that mismanagement?)

Collins inexplicably chose to use his closer, Jeurys Familia, in Friday night’s blowout win over the Royals in Game 3.

The few pitches he threw in the game Friday certainly weren’t enough to keep him from being effective 24 hours later and you can’t blame Familia for Murphy’s booted grounder. After all, the reliever got the ground ball you would have wanted him to get if you are a Mets fan.

But I had two thoughts about this situation that still make me wonder whether using Familia on Friday may end up costing the Mets the Series and perhaps may have cost them Game 4.

The first thought is relatively obvious. If Collins ends up needing Familia again on Sunday night, he’ll be making not his second, but his third straight appearance. Yes, his number of pitches on Friday were minimal, but you have to take into account the pitches thrown to warm up in addition to those that actually count.

If Familia is called on to close out Game 5 and blows another save, Collins is going to get a lot of heat for how he handled his top bullpen asset, and it will be warranted.

Even if you feel Familia was not too tired to pitch effectively Saturday after throwing on Friday or even that he actually threw perfectly fine (and those are both perfectly valid views, I believe), that’s not really the point.

You see, the Royals had a couple runners on base already when Familia entered the game in the eighth inning because Collins elected to have Tyler Clippard start that inning on the mound for the Mets.

If Familia had not pitched on Friday, would Collins have called on his closer to begin the eighth inning, instead of Clippard? If so, would the Royals have had the same scoring opportunity?

We’ll never know, of course. But the question of whether Collins chose Clippard, rather than Familia, to begin the eighth is a perfectly fair question to pose.

If that was a factor, then the decision on Friday has quite possibly already cost the Mets one game. And if the fact that Familia would be working three consecutive nights affects how Collins uses his closer on Sunday, as well, that would just add to the magnitude of the blunder.

The Gophers’ brainfart

I didn’t see a lot of the Minnesota-Michigan football game Saturday night because I was primarily focused on the World Series game, but from the bits and pieces I saw, it looked to me like Minnesota outplayed the Wolverines most of the game and deserved a win.

And then the final 19 seconds of the game happened.

After replay determined that the pass originally ruled to be what would have been the winning touchdown for the Gophers had actually ended a half-yard short of the goal line, Minnesota had 19 seconds and one time-out to manage to get that final 18 inches of fake turf.

The clock started as soon as the ball was deemed by the officials to be ready for play.

After reading postgame quotes and seeing video of interim coach Claeys’ meeting with the media, it’s still unclear to me whether nobody on the field or on the sideline for Minnesota knew that clock was ticking or whether they knew and didn’t care. Regardless, at least half of their remaining time expired before the Gophers got off one snap.

As a result, Minnesota ran one play before facing the decision of whether to kick a game-tying field goal with just two seconds on the clock, to send the game in to overtime, or run one final play and go for the win.

Claeys elected the latter and, while I don’t personally fault that particular decision, I’m sure plenty of others do.

In any event, whether you believe the final 19 seconds reflected panic, miscommunication or simple ineptitude, the results didn’t do anything to help Claeys’ case for removing the “interim” label on his coaching position with the Gophers. There’s absolutely no reason Minnesota shouldn’t have had time to run at least three plays, and possibly four, in those final 19 seconds. That wouldn’t have made victory certain, but I think four plays would give you approximately twice as good a chance of scoring as two plays did.

The Perfect Iowa Hawkeyes

Perfect! As in, 8-0 record.

A lot has been made about Iowa’s “soft” schedule and I’m not going to argue that the Hawkeyes have been beating top-tier teams this season. There are reasons I did not renew my Iowa season tickets this year and one of those reasons was that I didn’t feel the home schedule was worth the time or money necessary to go to seven games at Kinnick Stadium.

The non-conference schedule that Iowa typically puts together leaves something to be desired, as a fan. They play Iowa State every year. They schedule one other major conference opponent. The other two non-conference games are almost always cupcakes. This year, that included Texas State and Illinois State, a couple of squads typical of teams the Hawkeyes usually bring in to take a beating for a payday.

If it turns out that Iowa runs the table, finds a way to upset the B1G’s East Division champion in the conference championship game, and still ends up on the outside of the NCAA playoff bracket, so be it. The football program can do nothing other than learn the same lesson their men’s hoops program learned a couple years ago: schedule stronger opponents or expect to be left out of the dance.

That said…

The first College Football Playoff rankings are due to be released this Tuesday and if what we’re told is true – that these weekly rankings are based on what teams have accomplished against the strength of the schedule they’ve played to this point, not the strength of the teams that remain on their schedule – then Iowa should be ranked ahead of defending national champion Ohio State.

This season, Iowa defeated Pitt at home and both Wisconsin and Northwestern on the road, en route to their 8-0 record.

Here are the teams that Ohio State has vanquished so far:

@ Virginia Tech (4-5, 6th of 7 teams in ACC, Coastal Division)

Hawaii (2-7, 6th of 6 teams in Mountain West, West Division)

Northern Illinois (5-3, 4th of 6 teams in MAC, West Division)

Western Michigan (5-3, 2nd of 6 teams in MAC, West Division)

@ Indiana (4-4, 0-4 in B1G games)

Maryland (2-6, 0-4 in B1G games)

Penn State (7-2, 4-1 in B1G games)

@ Rutgers (3-5, 1-4 in B1G games)

Both Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) and Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) are arguably as strong as Penn State, the one respectable conference win so far for the Buckeyes and Pitt has proven stronger than any non-conference foe on Ohio State’s schedule.

Indeed, all of that is about to change. OSU should have no problem with Minnesota and Illinois the next two weeks, but finishes up with Michigan State and Michigan. But at the time the College Football Playoff committee announces their first rankings this Tuesday, Iowa will have the better resume of the two.

In fact, if you look at Michigan State’s schedule, you’ll find a similar story. Their big win, so far, was over an Oregon team that is no longer ranked among the top 25 teams in college football.

The story could be very different by December, but it will be interesting to see what the playoff committee’s view will be on Tuesday. Nobody in the Big Ten should be in the top 4 teams of the country at this point.



Welcome back, Knuckleballs readers. Long time-no see.

My contributions here have been sparse, at best, lately. I’m hoping that’s about to change.

I took a little time off, for a couple of reasons. I think they were good reasons, but then I’m biased, obviously.

After completing my third season of covering the Cedar Rapids Kernels for MetroSportsReport.com and contributing articles to TwinsDaily.com, I simply needed time away from writing on a regular basis.

Oh, I also lost my “day job,” so that’s taken a bit of getting used to, too.

RebootI got a decent “separation pay” deal from my employer and by officially “retiring,” I’m also able to keep most of the most important benefits (health insurance, etc.), so there are certainly worse ways to lose your job.

I’m not looking for sympathy here. I was ready to move on and, as it turns out, my employer was ready enough to have me move on that they’re willing to pay me for quite some time NOT to work for them. Not a bad situation, at all.

Still, it leaves me in a position to essentially reboot my life, or at least significant aspects of my future. I make a lot of “old man” jokes at my own expense, but I’m really not all that old. I haven’t reached the big six-oh yet, though I’m certainly closing in on it. The point is, I feel like it’s far too early for me to simply do nothing with my day.

The nice thing is that my financial situation allows me to take some time to examine my options and find something that I feel I’ll really enjoy doing with my time going forward. That will be a nice change.

In the meantime, I think I’m ready to get back at the keyboard on a more regular basis. For now, that means, hopefully, posting more frequently here. I realize that, when you take the kind of hiatus I’ve taken, it will be difficult (and, possibly, impossible) to get readership levels back to what they used to be.

That’s OK (for now, anyway).

I couldn’t decide on one topic to write about today, so I’m going to just touch on a number of issues.

World Series Game 1

Wow. How are they going to top that?

Game 1 had all the usual stuff (good pitching, good defense, good hitting) and then some:

  • Human interest (Volquez pitching after his father passed away earlier in the day)
  • Network difficulties (What the hell, FOX?)
  • A totally unexpected defensive lapse that threatened to cost the Royals the game.
  • A deep home run in the 9th inning off a shut-down closer to tie the game.
  • Five extra innings, before the guy who made the aforementioned error drove in the walk-off run with a sacrifice fly.

On Twitter, I went on record as picking the Royals to win the Series in seven games.

That’s probably less of a prediction than it is a hope. I’m an American League guy so, as long as it’s not the Yankees in the Series, I’m almost always going to be pulling for the AL representative. Mostly, though, I just want to see a great Series and that would include a deciding seventh game.

Torii Hunter’s Retirement

Hunter made the right call. There’s no way to look at his work on the field this season and objectively say that it looks like he still has enough in the tank to be a regular contributor on a team that expects to be a contender and, let’s face it, Torii Hunter is not cut out to play a reserve role. It’s not in his personality.

I give credit where I believe it’s due, however. His presence on the team was a net-positive for the Twins and, without him, I do not believe they have as much success in 2015 as they did.

It sounds like he’ll get an opportunity to join the Twins’ front office in some capacity. I have mixed feelings about that and I suppose where I come down on the subject will depend on what role he’s given.

On the one hand, clearly Major League Baseball needs more African-Americans in front office positions and Torii Hunter has the background and personality that one would think might make him successful in some kind of front office role.

On the other hand, given some of Hunter’s stated views on certain social issues, I would have a difficult time trusting him to make any sort of personnel decisions that call for inclusion of staff from diverse backgrounds and beliefs.

In the end, nobody really should care all that much what a professional baseball player believes, with regard to racial, religious or any other social issue. I know I don’t. But if/when that player is being considered for a position in a professional business organization (which is what the front office is), now we can and should care about those views because they can impact who that team hires and how employees are treated in the workplace.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out. In the meantime, I would congratulate Hunter on a terrific Major League career and thank him for what he contributed to my enjoyment of Minnesota Twins baseball during his years in a Twins uniform.

Big Ten Football

Yeah, I know this has been primarily a baseball blog since we opened the doors here going on six years ago. It will probably stay that way, for the most part, but I do have interests outside of baseball, so sometimes I’m going to write about those things. This is one of those times.

I gave up my Iowa Hawkeyes football season tickets this season for a number of reasons. I’m not sorry I did so. Surprisingly, even though I now have a lot more free time on my hands, it would have been very difficult for me to make it to many games at Kinnick Stadium this year and the home schedule, frankly, was not something to get too excited about.

I'll be there Nov 14 when Floyd comes home.

I’ll be there Nov 14 when Floyd comes home.

Fortunately, the Hawkeyes have rewarded my lack of financial support by going 7-0 so far this season and, thanks to a pretty weak B1G West, they have a reasonable shot at being undefeated in the regular season and heading to Indianapolis for the conference Championship Game.

I have probably jinxed the Hawkeyes, however. I bought Championship Game tickets on Stubhub last week.

I also have tickets for the November 14 game against Minnesota.

That should be an interesting day, for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s a night game at Kinnick and that’s always a good time. The Hawkeyes and Gophers usually battle one another pretty hard, so it shapes up as being perhaps one of the few really good games left on the home schedule.

Iowa will also finally join the “alternate uniform” trend that night with all-black uniforms on tap for the game with the Gophers.

As a warm-up for the game, Hawkeye wrestling has a meet with Oklahoma State scheduled for 11 am that Saturday – in Kinnick Stadium. Yes, an outdoor college wrestling meet in Iowa in November. What could possibly go wrong?

The plan is to break the college wrestling meet attendance record set at Penn State last season. Based on initial demand for tickets, the old record won’t just be broken, it will be obliterated.

So on the 14th, I’ll need to get to Kinnick for wrestling by 11, then tailgate a few hours before the Hawks and Gophers tee it up at 7 pm. It’s quite possible that I’m too old for that, but we’ll see how it goes.

On a much less pleasant note, I think everyone who’s a fan of college football was sad to see Minnesota coach Jerry Kill step down from his job with the Gophers for health reasons. It’s impossible to watch the video of his press conference and not feel heartbroken for the man, his family and, by extension, the U of M Community.

Despite seeming to take a bit of step backwards this season, Kill appeared to have the Gopher football program moving in a positive direction, but regardless of what you feel about the program, he has always come across to me as a genuinely good man with his heart in the right place.

I’m confident he will successfully transition in to other roles that he will find fulfilling, eventually. I wish him all the best.

That’s it for today.

I’ll do my best to be back with more regular postings and you can look forward to on-site reports (and photos) next week from the Arizona Fall League in Phoenix. I’m looking forward to spending a few days down there because there are several Twins prospects (most of them also former Kernels) playing and – well – it’s Arizona in November.


Saturday is Floyd Day

While the Twins are winding up their lost season with a final weekend of futility, there will be another sporting event down the road from Target Field that I and a lot of other folks will be paying much greater attention to on Saturday.

Yes, it’s time once again for the annual contest to determine where Floyd of Rosedale calls home for the next year as my Hawkeyes make the trip north to take on the Golden Rodents of Minnesota.

Floyd has called Iowa City home for the past year since the Hawkeyes’ administration of Minny’s first loss of the 2012 season at Kinnick Stadium a year ago resulted in this scene at the end of the game.

Once again, the Gophers are 4-0 headed in to the game. Iowa is 3-1. Apparently, however, those records are a bit misleading since the consensus view around the country seems to be that Minnesota and Iowa are going to be contending for the 5th and 6th spots in the Legends Division of the Big Ten Conference this year.

I’ve seen most of every Iowa game in person or on television and I’ve caught a few glimpses of Minnesota’s work, as well. I’m not overwhelming impressed with either team, but I’ve also seen a bit of Michigan and Nebraska, who were supposed to be the best of the Legends and I can’t say I think they’ve got much to brag about, either. In fact, the entire division looks mediocre to me, so far.

But back to the battle for Floyd.

My sense is that Iowa simply doesn’t take this “rivalry” thing with Minnesota all that seriously in recent years. I’m not sure why. Obviously, from the video above, the players enjoy taking the bronze pig from the Gophers, but there just isn’t much talk around here about the Minnesota game. Not like there used to be 10-15 years ago (and more).

Based on this video, it appears Minnesota players take it much more seriously… and personally. In fact, they have “hatred” for Iowa.

OK, I guess. Whatever you need to do to get motivated.

But here’s what I found even more telling: According to the Star-Tribune’s Sid Hartman, “The Gophers ticket office made every effort not to sell tickets to the Iowa game to Hawkeyes fans. If the application had an Iowa address on it, they didn’t get the tickets.”

Am I the only one who finds that comical?

Seriously, do the folks running the show at Minnesota really think there’s a single Hawkeye fan who, upon finding out the Gopher Athletic Department would not sell them a ticket to this game, would say to themselves, “Oh well, I guess we just can’t go to the game.”?

Do they think for a moment that the secondary market for Gopher tickets is so hot that ticket prices at StubHub or, for that matter, from the guy on a street corner on game day, will be cost prohibitive for Iowa fans?

As a matter of fact, while I’m not driving up for the game this weekend, I know several fellow Hawkeye fans who are and not a single one of them I talked to even considered sending money directly to the Gophers for their tickets. A couple of them got their tickets from the University of Iowa’s official allotment, but the rest bought tickets elsewhere and many of them paid less than face value for them.

Even when the two teams are mediocre, as is the case this year, there’s always a high demand for tickets among the visiting team’s faithful fanbase. There’s probably no game on either team’s B1G schedule that generates the same interest in tickets from the opposition, with the exception of Wisconsin games. (Yes, in most years I think Wisconsin games do generate more interest in both cases.)

So apparently Gopher Athletics is swimming in so much annual revenue that they prefer NOT to sell every ticket they have to the games against Iowa, rather than sell any of those tickets to Iowa fans, even though it will have absolutely no effect on attendance at that game by people wearing black and gold.  I didn’t realize things were going so well, financially, at Rodentville. Congratulations on the fiscal surplus, I guess.

As for the game, Iowa is a one-point favorite in Vegas, last I checked. I never bet on the Hawkeyes (or the Vikings or the Twins), but I’ll go with the wiseguys and say Iowa wins 28-27.

I really don’t know what to expect, though. The Hawkeyes struggle to defend the pass but Minny hasn’t shown that they can pass, so it’s pretty much impossible to predict how things will go.

The forecast is for rain, I believe. Good thing the Gophers play in a dome. Oh… wait… nevermind.

– JC

Hawkeyes & Gophers Battle for a Pig

It’s been a few days since I really had much to write about concerning the Twins. I still don’t have much to write about concerning the Twins.

So let’s talk football.

As I’ve written here often, I’m a season ticket holder for Iowa Hawkeyes football. I realize that most of the time almost none of the people reading this blog care about the Hawks, but it’s my blog (partially, anyway), so I’ll write about them when I feel like it, regardless.

This week, however, there’s an off-chance some of our Minnesota-based readers might actually care about Iowa football, since Iowa City is about to be invaded by the golden rodents from the University of Minnesota.

It hasn’t really been this long since Floyd of Rosedale resided in Iowa… it just seems like it. (Photo: The Gazette)

It does seem odd that this game is being played so early in the year. Usually, our respective teams have battled through a number of ups and downs over the course of the entire season before facing off to see who gets to keep Floyd of Rosedale for the next year.

But things change. Iowa now has a Thanksgiving-weekend season finale scheduled against the new kids on the Big Ten block, the Cornhuskers, so Iowa/Minnesota has become the first conference game for both schools.

I understand folks up north are pleased with this year’s Gophers. They’re 4-0, so one would hope their fans are pleased.

Fans in Iowa are less pleased, to say the least, with our Hawkeyes, who sit at 2-2 through the non-conference part of the schedule. The Hawks pretty much sleepwalked through the season opener against Northern Illinois in Soldier Field, but escaped with a win. They failed to wake up for at least another week and lost their intra-state game with Iowa State. The Hawks did manage to avoid losing to traditional FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa. They weren’t so fortunate last week, botching an on-side kick attempt by Central Michigan and losing the game on a CMU last-second field goal.

Most Hawk fans weren’t really expecting much more than a .500 season this year, but even those projections didn’t include entering B1G play at 2-2. It could be a long year down here. That said, people here do get fired up for the border wars, so the environment should be pretty well charged up.

With things being what they are in the respective camps, however, I would imagine we’ll be seeing a bit more maroon in Kinnick Stadium this Saturday than has been the case over the past decade or so. Minnesota hasn’t played here since 2009 and the Gophers have won both of the two most recent games up at TCF Stadium. Ticket prices on StubHub have been dropping all week, so there should be no shortage of opportunities for the Minnesota faithful to attend the game.

So, in the interest of sportsmanship, I thought I would share a few inside tips for my Minnesota friends that might be considering a trip to Iowa City for the game.

Parking: Unless you’ve managed to get a hold of a premium parking permit from one of the big-givers, don’t even think about trying to park near Kinnick Stadium. You’ll just get frustrated by being told, “you can’t park here.” We aren’t picking on you because you’re from Minnesota, honest (though I’d be fine with that if it were the case). Most of the rest of us can’t park there, either.

Here’s what I tell virtually everyone who asks me about parking for an Iowa Game: “I take the train and you should, too.” It’s called the Hawkeye Express and it runs every half hour (top and bottom of the hour) from the Clarion Suites/IHOP location toward the west end of Coralville. There’s a lot of free parking room there and even more up in the south parking lot of Coral Ridge Mall, just 2 blocks away. It’s about a 10 minute train ride that drops you off near the Southwest corner of Kinnick Stadium. Trips to the stadium start at 8:00 am and return trips start at the beginning of the 4th quarter, with the last train leaving 90 minutes after the final gun. 

The Hawkeye Express unloading passengers near Kinnick Stadium

The price is $12 per person round trip (children 12 and under ride free, but DO need a ticket). There’s a ticket booth beside the IHOP restaurant, but the lines can get pretty long there and, for those parking in the Coral Ridge Mall parking lot, you’ll walk right by a “Black and Gold Shop” which I believe will sell you train tickets, as well. Of course, you’ll have to go inside and be surrounded by black and gold for a few minutes, but you should probably get used to that anyway.

If you feel you really must park and walk, I suggest the Finkbine Golf Course Lots. Plan on about a 20 minute walk.

Tailgating: You can actually tailgate in the parking lots used by the Hawkeye Express, but there’s plenty of food and drink to be had once you get up to the stadium, too. Check out Melrose Avenue (along the south end zone of Kinnick, to the right of where the train drops you off) for food stands set up in the front yards of the houses along Melrose facing the stadium.

One word of warning: while having a beer is allowed within the space of your own tailgating area, wandering the parking lots and streets of the area with open containers is prohibited. They’ve clamped down on enforcing this a bit in recent years.

Trash talking: I think it’s pretty juvenile to wander around the tailgating lots before a game and talk trash to the fans of the home team. I do understand, however, that some people take some pleasure in that kind of thing. If you’re one of those people, here’s my advice: Be creative. Think outside the box.

If the best you can do is taunt Iowa fans with, “your team/quarterback/coach sucks!” you’ll probably get nothing more than a shrug from a lot of Iowa fans right now. In fact, there’s a good number who would probably respond by offering you a beer and inviting you to sit down while they tell you just how much they agree with you. Not the response you were hoping for, but you may get a beer out of it anyway.

Speed Limits: On your way down to Iowa City, you’re probably going to be driving through Cedar Rapids in I-380. If so, you will see speed limit signs alerting you to the fact that the limit is 55 mph through most of the city, especially the S-curve through downtown. You may also note that the signs alert you to the fact that speeds are “photo-enforced.” They aren’t kidding.

Traffic Camera along I-380 in Cedar Rapids (Photo: Jim Slosiarek, The Gazette)

There are cameras installed at several points along I-380 in Cedar Rapids. If you’re going 5 mph over the posted speed limit, you’ll probably be fine. If you’re going 10 mph over the speed limit, you’re going to GET fined. You will get a nice letter in the mail in a few days advising you how to pay your fine. The process has withstood court challenges and there are reciprocity agreements supposedly in place with most other states, so ignoring the issue is likely to just make things more expensive for you in the long run. Maybe you can figure out a way to avoid paying the tickets, but seriously, it’s just easier to ease up on the gas as you go through Cedar Rapids. By the way, the Iowa Highway Patrol is out in full force along all of I-380 on game days, as well.

Yanno what? On second thought… forget what I just said about the speeding thing. Our local economy can use all the help it can get.

Game time Saturday is 11:00 am. See you there!

– JC

Butterflies With Hiccups – Iowa Style

I’m taking advantage of a bit of extra free time I have this afternoon to do another post of random news items (if you use a very generous definition of the word “news”), most of it with an Iowa connection today.

I played hooky this afternoon and watched the Twins and White Sox. True, I had to deal with the Comcast broadcast out of Chicago due to the MLB blackout rules and that means listening to Hawk Harrelson, but that’s what the mute button is for, right? I hear he left the broadcast booth in the 7th inning of the Twins 18-9 blowout of the Sox on Tuesday night and I have to admit I wish I had witnessed that.

As this MLB season winds down, I’m rooting for two things: First, as many of you know, I’m a bit of an Orioles fan, so I still have a team in contention. I still think the Birds are doing it with smoke and mirrors, but I really don’t care how they get the job done, I just want them to beat the Yankees over in the AL East and get in to the playoffs. (Admit it, you wouldn’t mind seeing JJ Hardy and Lew Ford in the playoffs, either.) Second, I’m hoping that the White Sox end up on the outside of the playoffs looking in AND that they finish just close enough that their losses to the Twins this year account for their failure to qualify.


Miguel Sano

Speaking of playoffs, I’m driving over to Clinton IA this evening to catch game one of the best-of-three playoff series between the Twins’ Midwest League (Class A) affiliate Beloit Snappers and the Clinton LumberKings (Seattle’s affiliate). Clinton finished the MWL regular season on a 10-game winning streak (the last three of which came against my Cedar Rapids Kernels). I saw all three of the Clinton-CR games this past weekend and I think Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and their Beloit teammates have their work cut out for them. Either way, at least I’ll get to check off another MWL ballpark with my visit to Beloit tonight.


There’s nothing really new on the Twins’ affiliation front for 2013. Now that the minor league regular season is over, teams that are interested in exploring new affiliation options (both MLB teams and minor league teams) can notify the MLB Commissioner’s Office or the president of minor league baseball of such. The teams are not allowed to state publicly that they’ve submitted that notification, however.

The powers-that-be will provide a list of potential affiliates to those teams by September 15. Then, and only then, are the various MLB and MiLB clubs able to start negotiating possible new partnerships with one another.

There was a new article posted online at the website of one of the local CR TV stations (KCRG) this week, but it really didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. KCRG is owned by the same company (SourceMedia) as the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the report was written by the Gazette writer, Jeff Johnson, that covers the Kernels beat. Johnson has written about the affiliation issue a couple of times already this season and I think he has a pretty solid sense of what’s about to happen.

I’m optimistic, at this point, that I’ll be watching future Twins play baseball at Perfect Game Field here in Cedar Rapids for the next few summers, but the Kernels Directors (essentially, the team’s “owners”) still have a few questions they should be asking the Twins (such as, “Are you planning on buying a MWL team and moving it to St. Paul in a couple of years?”) before anyone is going to sign a deal. As soon as I hear more, I’ll post something, but I don’t expect to hear a lot before the end of September.


Since this is an Iowa-centered post on a baseball-centered blog, I thought I would mention this little piece of news, as well.

How many of you have seen the movie “Field of Dreams”? Everyone? I thought so.

How many of you have visited the site near Dyersville, in Eastern Iowa, where the movie was filmed? Did you even know the site has been a mini-tourist attraction, complete with cornfield-bordered baseball field, pretty much ever since the movie was released? No? Well now there’s going to be even more of a reason for you to visit, especially if you have kids who play baseball or softball.

Go the Distance Baseball LLC plans to build a $38 million youth baseball/softball complex at the Field of Dreams site. The complex will include 24 ballfields of varying sizes (over and above the original field, which apparently won’t be altered).  The company received approval of a $16.5 million sales tax rebate from the Iowa Legislature & Governor last spring and now have a $5.1 million property tax rebate from the Dyersville City Council, as well.

New Field of Dreams complex (from their Facebook page)

Here’s the artist’s rendering of the site:

Sounds like Ray Kinsella is hearing more voices, doesn’t it? He and his tractor are going to be kept awfully busy plowing under all those other fields. Almost makes me want to get back in to coaching youth baseball. Almost.


This is rivalry week down here in Iowa. It’s the week of the annual Iowa – Iowa State football game, which I know is of very little interest to much of anyone outside our state’s borders. But it’s a big deal here. It’s in Iowa City this year, which means that’s where I’ll be spending most of my Saturday.

I’m a Hawkeye season ticket holder, but I’m not “anti-ISU” like a lot of people are. I went to high school over in central Iowa, about 40 miles from Iowa State’s campus in Ames. My parents were even ISU season ticket holders for a few years (back in the days when Johnny Majors coached the Cyclones), so I saw a game or two back then. I enjoy taking jabs at my ISU-fan friends and co-workers, but I really don’t mind them having some success on the football field from time to time.

But not this Saturday.

The trophy case in the Iowa football complex that is built to hold the various traveling trophies that the Hawkeyes play for is empty at the moment, with all three of them currently in the possession of various rivals. It’s time the Cy-Hawk Trophy resumes its rightful place in Iowa City.

It may feel a bit lonely for a while, but come September 29, after the Gophers have been sent packing, Floyd of Rosedale will be there to keep it company.

– JC

The Weeks Ahead

Labor Day Weekend is upon us and that means there’s but one month left in the Twins’ baseball season.

I’ve gotta be honest, though… the season is pretty much over already, where I’m concerned. I’m simply unable to muster enough enthusiasm to even listen to Twins games, at this point. Maybe I’d retain a bit more interest if I could actually watch their games, but since FSN isn’t carried on the local cable provider here and MLB blacks out Twins games (and those of five other teams) in all of Iowa, I can’t really put that theory to the test.

I’ll be mildly interested in seeing what some of the September call-ups do with the Twins. Again, I use the word “seeing” loosely, since all I’ll be able to “see” will be the results in the boxscores. I’m hoping that at least a couple of the newbies will be impressive enough in their auditions to provide a little hope for next year, but I’ll wait until Spring Training to really pay close attention to them.

So, for the next month, I’ll be focused primarily in three other areas.

First and foremost, I’m a fan and season ticket holder of the Iowa Hawkeyes and they get their season underway Saturday night against Northern Illinois over at Soldier Field. That game is followed by five straight home games (though there’s a bye week mixed in there somewhere, I think), so my Saturdays for the next several weeks will be spent in Iowa City. 

I’m not expecting great things from the Hawks this year, but I do expect a winning season with a midling bowl game at the end. Best of all, Iowa has several new assistant coaches, including both offensive and defensive coordinators, so at least there’s a chance that play-calling and defensive schemes won’t be as predictable as they’ve been for the past decade. Now if they can just find a running back somewhere.

I’m also a Vikings fan, so I’ll be starting to pay much closer attention to them, as well, this month. I did watch their final pre-season game on TV, for whatever that was worth (which wasn’t much).

I understand that the regular radio voices of Vikings football were doing “simulcast” broadcasts of the pre-season games on TV. Let me just say this… for all the crap I’ve heard from Twins fans about their TV and radio crews, I just hope none of the same people actually LIKE the two total bozos that are doing radio for the Vikings. If you give me a choice between signing up to listen to Bremer/Blyleven and Provus/Gladden for another ten years or having to listen to those Vikings broadcasters for one more game, put me down for the Twins. If I had to listen to the Vikings broadcasters, they’d probably force me to become a Packers fan within the course of a single season.

It did make me ponder the whole TV thing more, though. A Vikings game in which their top 25 or so players were not even dressed was shown live on local television in Cedar Rapids and not a single Twins game was on TV here all season. The Vikings and the NFL are lowering their attendance threshhold required to prevent a TV blackout in their actual local market. The Twins and MLB impose a blackout that extends hundreds of miles away from the Twin Cities, regardless of ticket sales or whether their broadcast affiliate has any coverage on cable systems in those areas.

The NFL shares their media rights relatively equally. MLB embraces a system where the Dodgers are expecting a TV rights contract exceeding 8 BILLION (yes, with a B) dollars, while other teams might be lucky to scrape in a few million due to their market size.

Gosh, I wonder why pro football has long ago passed Major League Baseball in terms of fan interest across the nation.

Anyway, I think the Vikings should be improved, but if they win six games, that’s about all I’ll be expecting. Of course, that means that by October, I’ll probably be ready for the brief distraction that will be provided by MLB’s playoffs. I do know I’ll be watching the single game Wildcard play-in games.  After that, I probably won’t pay much attention to the playoffs outside of “deciding games” and, depending on who makes it that far, the World Series.

Finally, over the next month, I’ll also be continuing to keep eyes and ears open locally as the mini-drama concerning the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ affiliation for next year and beyond unfolds. I’m still hoping we’ll be seeing the Twins’ young prospects playing for the Kernels, but at this point, I won’t be surprised by much of anything when that announcement is finally made late in September.

On the immediate front, my Labor Day Weekend is going to have a full day of sports on Saturday (Hawkeyes on TV in the afternoon, Kernels game in the evening) and I’m also planning on making it out to at least one of the two final Kernels games of the season Sunday and/or Monday afternoons.

I’m actually giving serious thought to making the drive over to Clinton IA on Wednesday for Game 1 of the Beloit Snappers’ playoff series with the Lumber Kings. It’s a bit sad to realize that will likely be my final opportunity to see a baseball game in person at least until Spring Training.

In the mean time, someone give me a little nudge or something if the Twins do anything worth paying attention to, ok?

– JC