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Schwartz: When Hawkeyes Get Political

January 31, 2016

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Seeing images of Kirk Ferentz on Saturday at a Chris Christie event made me feel dirty.

Ferentz should be apolitical, you know? He should be out recruiting or drawing up plays or something.

Not at a political rally.

It’s like walking in on your parents having sex. I mean, of course they do it. You just don’t want visual evidence that they do it.

We’re a couple of days from the Iowa Caucuses, one of the state’s most important political responsibilities. Ferentz is an Iowa citizen and has every right to support who he wants.

But sports and politics don’t easily mix. We like our sports on one side, and our politics on the other.

Sports fans often don’t react well when the two mix.

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“STICK TO SPORTS!” is the common cry to athletes, coaches, and sports media who cross into politics. It’s not a new phenomenon. Muhammad Ali caught more flack for speaking out against Vietnam than for anything he ever did in the ring. When some Iowa football players recently made Donald Trump a Hawkeye jersey, some fans freaked out their appearance may have violated NCAA rules (it didn’t).

The Hawkeyes are one of the few things that bring us together, but politics is so divisive. In today’s climate, you’re GOP or you’re a Democrat and God forbid anyone act intelligently enough to keep an open mind about dissenting opinions. In Hawkeye World, you’re black and gold, not black or gold. You’re just a Hawkeye.

So when you see Iowa football players supporting Trump, or Ferentz just listening to Christie, it relocates the Hawkeyes to this really weird place. The Hawkeyes are true love. They might have bad seasons, but in a broader sense they can do no wrong.

The Hawkeyes are the opposite of politics. At Thanksgiving, politics is on the “no” list. Under no circumstances should politics ever be breached. The Hawkeyes (or whatever college team you root for) are sacred ground. Everyone is welcome. Here, friend, hold my hand while we eat pumpkin pie and talk about the Hawkeyes.

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Question: What if the Hawkeyes support someone you support? Then what? What I mean is: I had a much more visceral reaction to the players supporting Trump than I did to Ferentz listening to Christie, but I like Christie more than Trump. So is our level of outrage dependent on how far away from our own views an athlete travels?

It’s hard to say, and likely varies from person to person. That said, I think there’s one thing we can all agree on.

We need to get Jarrod Uthoff as far away from Carly Fiorina as possible.

OK, jokes aside, the sports-politics juxtaposition is very real. And, in truth, sports are very, very political, but I’m not writing about sports in the cultural-political sense. I’m talking about this Caucus nonsense we Iowans are being subjected to.

As it is, movies are political. Books are political. The media are political. TV is political. Your neighbors are political. Grocery stores and coffee shops are political. And sport, apparently, is political.

As it is, movies are political. Books are political. The media are political. TV is political. Your neighbors are political. Grocery stores and coffee shops are political. And sport, apparently, is political.

Ugh. When are the Caucuses over? I want my Hawkeyes back.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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