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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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