Schwartz: This And That – To Cheer, Or Not To Cheer

December 5, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Where do you stand on this issue?

Is it OK to root for other Big Ten teams in certain situations when they’re not playing Iowa, or as Hawkeye fans should our rooting interests sit exclusively with the Hawkeyes 24/7?

And when I say root for other teams, I don’t mean pull for Team X to beat Team Y to help Iowa’s Big Ten standing; I mean root for another Big Ten team because you actually want to see them succeed?

Obviously, the answer to this question relies on personal preference, but this time of year – for some sappy folks, such as myself – rooting for Iowa takes first priority, but rooting for the good story finishes second.

Which is why Minnesota’s loss to Wisconsin last weekend felt like such a bummer. Beyond the monotony of the Badgers going to yet another Big Ten Championship Game, they intercepted the Gophers’ dream season, a chance for fans unaccustomed to winning the opportunity to go to a Rose Bowl. If you knew a long-suffering Cubs fan in 2016, or a Cleveland sports fan in 2016, or a St. Louis Blues fan earlier this year, then you know the joy of a team – finally – winning.

It’s a weird sensation. The Gophers and Iowa are historic rivals, teams that annually play for a storied trophy with tragic origins. Many of us last weekend checked in on the Gophers and felt frustrated as Wisconsin pulled away.

Maybe P.J. Fleck won me over. If you’re not at least a little moved by his positive attitude – his open discussion of failure and refusal to let his players get weighed down by it is, in a word, awesome – then I don’t know what to tell you. Enjoy your cynicism.

Maybe there’s just something wonderful that comes with age in knowing others will get to experience something positive for the first time. I’ll never forget my wife’s face when we took our seats in the Rose Bowl a few years ago, regardless of how the game turned out. It was a moment she’d waited for her whole life.

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Why wouldn’t we want others to feel that way?

If You Had To Pick One …

Here’s a good bar argument:

Junior AJ Epenesa, named first-team All-Big Ten defensive lineman, and junior Tristan Wirfs, who Wednesday was named the conference’s best offensive lineman, are both candidates to leave Iowa early to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.

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Let’s say only one of them decided to go pro. And let’s say you got to pick which one would come back to Iowa for his senior season in 2020.

Who would you pick?

Would you go with Epenesa, who’s already among Iowa’s most storied defensive players? He has the chance to write his name alongside Andre Tippett, Merton Hanks, and Aaron Kampman as Hawkeyes who made lasting impressions in the NFL.

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Imagine what (more) he could bring to the defense next year now that they’ll be more experienced at linebacker. Epenesa would be unstoppable up front, a presence guaranteed to disrupt every one of their opponents.

Or would you go with Wirfs, Iowa’s best offensive line prospect since Brandon Scherff? Wirfs re-teaming with Alaric Jackson and (hopefully) improved interior play would help Iowa improve on a run game that finished 10th in the Big Ten this season.

Wirfs is the sort of anchor most programs dream about. When they leave you don’t replace them. You just find someone to line up in their spot and accept it’s going to be a downgrade.

What do you think? Who you got?

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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