Schwartz: Ten Sentences – Hawkeye Stages of Grief Edition

August 23, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

This is the column I should have written last week. Sorry. Ten sentences to capture what we’re all feeling about the cancelation of Big Ten football season.

1. There are five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—and, yes, grief is the perfect word to describe what Hawkeye fans are going through right now because of the cancelation of Big Ten football season.

2. If you’re skeptical, if you’re rolling your eyes at the idea that someone can mourn the loss of college football season as they might a loved one, stop, don’t judge: for perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iowans and University of Iowa fans, fall is a special time—a moment that goes well beyond wins and losses; it’s about gatherings, traditions, friends and loved ones and, of course, the Hawkeyes.

3. It’s been taken away from us by a horrible virus that has killed 173,000 Americans as well as the government’s and many of its citizens’ unwillingness to take it seriously.

4. College football is a part of our lives, and it was supposed to always be there—always—even as the players came and went.

5. That’s how sports work, and to think a year ago at this time that something like this could happen would have been impossible—unimaginable; I mean, think about it: If someone would have said, “A.J. Epenesa is going to leave college for the NFL a year early,” of course we would have believed them, and if someone would have said something wacky like, “Kirk Ferentz is going to resign to spend a few years before retirement as Bill Belichick’s offensive line coach,” we would have doubted that claim, but no one would have said such a scenario was impossible, but if someone would have said, “College football will go away,” no one in their right mind would have given such an idea even a moment’s consideration.

6. If it feels like the loss of Hawkeye football season resembles the loss of a family member or close friend, that’s because it does, and you don’t have to apologize to anyone for what you’re feeling; as professor of psychology and brain science Susan Krauss Whitbourne wrote, “your brain experiences changes during a sporting event that reflects, if not influences, your feelings of happiness and satisfaction.”

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7. The same no doubt goes for the consumption of a sporting event on TV or by some other means, especially when one of the teams playing—like the Hawkeyes—is a team that you identify with, that you can’t imagine not being a part of your life.

8. That brings us back to the five stages:

– Denial: It feels like we spent much of the spring and summer in this stage, as if we were saying, “Surely we’ll have this COVID thing figured out by fall,” and then when stories started to trickle out about the skepticism of university presidents and smart athletes who are worried about their long-term health, we were like, “Oh, they’ll figure out a way to play.”

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– Anger: I’m 65 percent sure this is where we are now, as evidenced by the two-dozen parents of Big Ten players who showed up at Big Ten headquarters Friday to protest the conference’s decision.

– Bargaining: You know this one is coming. “OK, if all the schools go online-only, doesn’t that mean we can put the players in an NBA-like bubble so that they can play? I don’t even need to go to the games. They can play in front of an empty stadium. I can watch on TV.”

– Depression: This will happen late-September or early October if the SEC figures out a way to play and Hawkeye football fans find college football on their TVs, but it’s never the Hawkeyes.

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– Acceptance: It’ll come. Eventually.

9. The Hawkeyes were supposed to kick off just a couple of weeks from now, and we’re supposed to be less than a month from the Iowa-Iowa State game, El Assico, but instead we’re thinking about what projects we can get done this fall, if any good pumpkin patches and apple orchards will be open, and whether we can stomach getting our football fix from the SEC, Big 12, or—yawn—the NFL.

10. Just remember you—we—are not going through this alone, that Hawkeye fans across Iowa and the country are experiencing a similar loss, so lean on your friends and loved ones, share a beer and let those feelings out: the Hawkeyes’ 2020 season is gone, and it isn’t coming back.

 * Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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