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Schwartz: More football? Already?

March 31, 2016

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Six months ago, Iowa’s football team was 4-0. A last-second win over Pitt had Hawkeye fans buzzing. The team was preparing to open Big Ten play at Wisconsin.

No one knew it then, but Iowa was in the early stages of taking fans on a rare journey. The Hawkeyes beat Wisconsin, then they beat everyone else on their regular-season schedule and qualified for the Big Ten Championship Game at 12-0.

12-0!

Iowa lost to Michigan State in one of college football’s most competitive games of the 2015 season. The loss brought pain. It instilled pride, because the Hawkeyes left everything on that field in Indianapolis. But it did not make us cringe.

Then came the Rose Bowl and, well, you remember. Stanford crushed the Hawkeyes.

As we licked our wounds, Iowa’s men’s basketball team followed football’s playbook and ran off a string of wins that no one saw coming. They started 10-1 in the Big Ten and reached No. 3 in the country.

But someone or something cut a hole in the Hawkeyes’ hang glider. They didn’t fade gently from college basketball’s national picture. They finished their season 3-7. Fans were left wondering, what happened?

As this was going on, the women’s basketball team looked like it was going to miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly a decade, which would have been fine given their enormous string of success. Except a late-season rally put them back into the tourney title picture, only to see their bubble burst on Selection Monday.

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And Iowa wrestling? Well, they stumbled to a fifth-place NCAA finish and didn’t produce a single national champ. Penn State coach Cael Sanderson further cemented his place as college wrestling’s “New Gable.” For the next 10 years, it’ll be hard to see anyone displacing Penn State wrestling. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, look to have slipped back to a pack that includes Minnesota, Oklahoma State, and anyone else who pretends they have a shot at dethroning Penn State.

The last six months have been an emotional rollercoaster for Hawkeye fans. Spring football began last week. Which leads to the question, how the hell are we supposed to care about something else?

In the relentless world of sports—when seasons bleed into more seasons and spectacles beget spectacles—when do we catch our breath? Iowa has produced so many memorable moments this school year, taken us on such pleasure rides, that I’m not ready for more. More football. More depth charts. More prognosticating. More everything.

First, let’s put this in perspective: I’m half-kidding, and I realize I’m writing about something minor. This column should not be interpreted as a BIG DEAL. In the grand scheme of the world, what I’m writing about lands somewhere between “trivial” and “low impact.”

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This column is more about how much emotional stimulation a college sports fan can absorb. Professional teams are lone franchises that play for 3-5 months then give you a break to focus on something else. College programs require loyalty to multiple teams that spans nine months out of the year. It’s constant.

It’s weird, you know? As I wrote this paragraph, I paused for a moment to ask myself, “So what? What the hell is my point?”

(Side note: I wanted to write about the NCAA and Drew Ott, but that can be summed up in one sentence. “What’s taking you so long, NCAA?”)

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Anyway, I think my point is that the Hawkeyes have worn me out – in a good way. I value their successes and feel their failures, but the line between sanity and fandom has to be drawn somewhere, and I’m choosing to draw it at the uniquely American phenomenon known as Spring Practice. Yes, the “s” and “p” are capitalized.

Practice. PRACTICE.

It’s March. Enough football, for now. Enough Hawkeyes. Take a break and relish your amazing, crazy, unforgettable 2015-16 campaign.

You’ve earned it.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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