By Ben Bruns, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor & former Iowa State All-American
Greetings, Cyclone Fanatics! I know that you’re as excited for Thursday as I am. I always loved the first game of the season, but certainly not for the reasons I do now. Now, I love watching the emotion of the game, seeing guys compete and knowing I have a team I’m going to be proud of, no matter what happens on Thursday night.
When I was playing, the reason for my excitement was completely different. I used to love the first game and before it, the first practice of fall camp, the first day of spring ball and the first conditioning drill in the winter for one reason: IT WAS ABOUT TO BE OVER.
You see, I dreaded as much as loved every minute leading up to each of these. I’m a competitor. Above all else, I want to do the best I can when I start something. That doesn’t always translate into winning. In order to win, you have to have a reasonable level of talent coupled with the right preparation and execution. The bigger the gap there is between you and your competitor, the more your preparation and execution matter.
In competitive situations, competitors always wonder how they stack up in the moments leading up to competition. Did I do what it takes to be successful? Am I skilled enough against this opponent? Can I slam the door on them when given the opportunity? This is true in business, that friendly but maybe a little overly competitive “beer league” softball game (you know the one I’m talking about) and really, all facets of life that involve competition. College football plants this seed of doubt in everyone’s mind – and pours 50 gallons of Miracle Grow on it.
Why? Why would football be that much of a strain on this emotion? Because you can’t hide – not one bit. The game exposes every fiber of your being. I believe you can get away with hiding a little bit on in a lot of other sports…I didn’t get the ball, or the minutes, or my teammates don’t like me. I love wrestling. If I had to choose only one sport to watch for the rest of my life, it would be wrestling. You’re utterly exposed in your preparation and effort. But it doesn’t require you to count on 10 other 18 –to- 22 year-old guys the way football does.
Furthermore, football requires the strategy of a chess game. Coaches count on these kids to deliver what they plan. I don’t know a good coach who thinks he has it all figured out. Everyone is trying to find that next innovation, the wrinkle that will get him over the competitive hump and put his team in the right position to take advantage. Coach Paul Rhoads and company proved last year they were as good as anyone in the country at maximizing their talent, but Thursday brings a new challenge. A veteran team with expectations of a big road win will roll into Ames. Wednesday night, both staffs will be asking themselves the following: Do I have the right plan? Have the kids bought in? Can they execute? Will we make better adjustments than the opposition?
A football team, getting primed for the opener, has little basis for comparison. Young guys feel twinges of doubt because they haven’t been there before. Vets feel doubt because there is always someone younger and fresher getting recruited, not just on your team to take your place, but on your opponent’s squad as well. I can count on one hand the number of defensive tackles/nose guards I played against more than once in my four years at Iowa State. Multiple year starters in exactly the same spot are rare…one look at ISU’s offensive line shows just how much a veteran group gets moved around. Ben Lamaak will have played four different positions when he snaps the football Thursday night.
We’re hungry to see the 2010 Cyclones…but not nearly as much as they are to see themselves.
See you on the second.