Outside the men’s room: It’s time to move on

By Kirk Haaland, blogger The 15 game football losing streak is over. It has been for over a decade. It’s time to move on. There is always a need to beat your in-state rival in order to enhance in-state recruiting–but there is also a point where intense focus on a neighboring university can take focus off of your own team. That is a fine line that many Cyclone fans walk on a daily basis. At what point does a focus on Iowa impact the growth and potential of our beloved Iowa State?

It is often a talking point to note how few of their “fans” even attended their university. This is not a negative. In fact, ISU would be well off to have a much larger segment of casual fans. They may not come off as the most intelligent, courteous, insightful, or hygienically inclined, but they spend money on merchandise and attend games just like the rest of us. Through the 80’s and 90’s, Iowa was the premier program in the state, especially in football. They were always on TV, which made them more than adequately accessible for everyone in Iowa. During that same time, Iowa State was amidst mighty struggles in football, but had a winner developing in basketball. Although the basketball program was the Cadillac of the Iowa State athletic department, it wasn’t markedly better during that time than Iowa (who has a Final 4 appearance in the last 25 years). It was an easy time to become an Iowa “fan” if you had no other loyalties.

The Iowa fan base as a whole increased its percentage of casual fans, in turn increasing the percentage of fans that are difficult to stomach. Few things get my blood boiling as quickly as when ISU fans are said to be acting like “little brother”. And the part that really irks me? That far too many times, it is true. In my opinion, there are just as many, if not more Iowa fans that have “big brother syndrome”, insisting that Iowa State isn’t on their level and should never be able to compete with Iowa. You know the type I’m talking about here. The fan that insists Iowa only loses because it is Iowa State’s Superbowl.

But a funny thing happened when Iowa jumped out to a 9-0 start this football season. I didn’t care. Sure, I watched because of my familiarity with Iowa’s team. I know them far better than a Clemson or a Cal, thus having more interest. But I really didn’t care if they won. Maybe I’m not constantly surrounded by the most annoying Iowa fans to always rub it in my face, but I do spend more time on message boards than any physician would recommend for a quality state of life–including Iowa message boards.

I’m not saying that it is wrong to put an extra emphasis on the Iowa game in any sport. I would encourage it. The passion from the fans is what makes the games so hotly contested and part of what makes college athletics so much fun. Even though the basketball game the past few years has lacked the same luster it once had when both teams were perennial top 25 teams, the game is still big for both programs. The football game is and always will be massively important to both universities. Dan McCarney knew it and so did Hayden Fry. Dominating your in-state rival produces endless fruits in the long run in both recruiting and growing a fan base.

I wasn’t forced to live through that entire 15 game losing streak, being born in 1984. Maybe that is part of why I’m not so jaded toward all of their teams. Maybe it is because I am the perfect age as a Cyclone fan to think the success Iowa State has had in the past 15 years (time frame since I actually knew what was going on) is normal, and I have yet to be worn down by ineptitude. I’m sure during a time of such “great depression” like struggle it was more fun to cheer against Iowa than for the Cyclones. After all, there was at least a chance for the desired outcome. Maybe my defense mechanism against Iowa fans finally kicked in while they were on their national title crusade this season. Either way, my feeling of indifference is going strong and here to stay.

Here’s the thing though, and the brunt of the point I am trying to communicate. Iowa State is no longer in the position where it needs to cheer against Iowa to get its fix. The basketball team has had multiple achievements in the past 25 years, the past four seasons notwithstanding. The football team, while having close to no tradition outside of two guys named Bruce and Majors and a team called “The Dirty Thirty,” has had a capable program for nearly 10 years now. We have our own team to cheer for now.

I previously mentioned that I wasn’t old enough to really know what was going on throughout the entire 15 game losing streak to truly endure all of that pain. But my dad was and I grew up in his house. I always wondered how my dad could so accurately predict the future when it came to Iowa State’s failings. Recent and past history alike has illustrated why on so many different levels. It wasn’t that my dad was the first Ms. Cleo. It’s that he, like every other Cyclone, was waiting for it. The conclusion I have been able to draw is that while I may not have a full on hate for Iowa for whatever reason, nearly every member of the Cyclone fan base waits. Waits for something bad to happen. Waits for Lucy to pull the football away. Waits for the crucial turnover. Waits for the official to blow a call. Waits for a missed field goal. Waits for Iowa State to invent another way to lose. And then plays the “woe is me” card. It is my contention that this attitude is a side effect of the unnecessary focus on Iowa. The pinnacle of athletic achievement cannot be reached while the focus on Iowa and the “woe is me” attitude are so ingrained in much of the fan base.

Maybe you have an uncle, cubicle neighbor, or best friend that is the most annoying Iowa fan you’d ever have to tolerate. I know I’ve met my share. But let me pose this question to you: Can Iowa State truly reach the mountain peak while so many of its own focus on Iowa? I understand that anytime the Cyclones are mentioned in the local or national media it is almost always followed by a direct comparison or mention to Iowa–hard to not talk about Iowa in that situation. But let’s try not to be the ones that always make that comparison in every argument. How about when there is another transgression in Iowa City we put it in our back pocket for later, instead of taking the offensive with it? Not to mention that those things go on at nearly every university and it is only a matter of time until that comes back around to Ames.

The next time you have a negative stone to throw at Iowa take a moment to think, “is this a small piece of putting the focus on Iowa?” It is my contention that a large focus on Iowa detracts from Iowa State, thus, detracting from the limitless potential of the Cyclones.

Cyclone Tracker

• For as much as we Iowans pride ourselves at being able to handle cold and inclement weather, especially while driving, often mocking other locales for the widespread panic a trace of snow brings, we sure aren’t very good at parking at Hilton when said trace of snow exists. Crooked rows of cars are one thing, but two rows meeting and completely closing off a pathway for subsequent vehicles are baffling to me.

• The volleyball team, and more specifically the Big 12, really did get completely hosed on that NCAA draw.

• Let’s wait and see how this men’s basketball team develops over the rest of the non-conference before we blow any more gaskets. If UNI, Northwestern, and Cal end up being our three worst losses this season, we are all in for an excellent ride in the Big 12.

• The women’s basketball game against Minnesota was a great example of taking what the other team gives you. The Cyclones, widely revered for their 3-point shooting, were pressured relentlessly by the Gophers. The counter was executed brilliantly by the Cyclones. Attack the defense off the dribble and in the paint. They drew enough fouls to shoot 30 free throws on the day, making 25. Their decision making fit perfectly, only taking 12 treys and making five of them.

Cyclone Trivia

Last week’s question: Which Cyclone has registered the most 35+ point games in their career? How many?

Answer: Hercle Ivy, eight times.

This Week: The Iowa State men’s basketball team is 12-13 all time in the NCAA Tournament. Seven of those wins have come in two cities. Can you name them and ISU’s record in each city in NCAA Tournament play?