Blum: Cyclone psychology

By Brent Blum, Columnist

I was listening to 810 WHB out of Kansas City on my way to Arrowhead last Friday afternoon when host Kevin Kieitzman said something about Iowa State that intrigued me. Kieitzman was discussing Farmageddon 2010 with “The Racin’ Boys.” (For what it’s worth I always enjoy names of things that are purposely misspelled to give them an extra edge. I also think Kieitzman’s show is superb.)

Anyway, one of the “boys” is Kirk Elliot, who happens to be a big Iowa State fan, while the other fellows were K-State supporters. They were giving Kirk a hard time about the Cyclones faltering down the stretch in KC the year prior–also ended up being a bit of foreshadowing, but that’s another topic. So, after a good couple minutes of laughing at Kirk’s and Iowa State’s misfortune with the blocked PAT, Kieitzman stops in mid-thought and says,

“Hold on now, why is that whenever something bad happens to Iowa State, we laugh about it. But when something bad happens to another area school, we get real serious and say you can’t cross that line.”

Nobody said anything for a couple seconds. You could tell it was a “Hmmm…never really thought about that” moment. Finally Kirk chimes in, “Well, it’s probably because bad things happen to Iowa State more than anybody.” And then more laughter and the topic was quickly switched.

And of course the next day, Farmageddon 2010 developed and once again, Iowa State had a few golden opportunities to win a competitive game, but ended up falling short. Just add it to the list.

Yet several days later, Kieitzman’s off-the-cuff comment still lingers. Does Iowa State get a different level of (dis)respect compared to other schools? It would be one thing to hear this idea brought up on an Iowa State message board, where some are convinced the world has conspired to destroy Iowa State athletics. But to hear it come up on a Kansas City radio station made me do a double take.

The more I thought about it, the more I think there may be something to this. And believe it or not, a lot of the “laughable” treatment is self-inflicted.

Now let’s get one thing straight, I am about as qualified to speak about psychology as Snooki is qualified to speak about health care reform. But that’s never stopped me from making a fool out of myself.

Most of you reading this have been Iowa State supporters through times both good and bad. The "kick to the stones" games have clearly out-numbered the positive endings. And that is part of what makes us Cyclones. You rarely hear anybody that is a Cyclone fan called a bandwagon jumper.

Iowa State’s lack of consistent historic success creates a "What will go wrong" next mentality. And truth be told, I’m guilty of this thinking myself.

That is where the humor comes in. If you can make fun of yourself, it lessens the burden of all those close calls gone awry. Iowa State fans are usually the first to find amusement in themselves.

Perhaps us Cyclones are too kind to fight back with much vengeance and would rather laugh alongside. We’re a little like the Cubs or the Lions in this context. If you are a fan of all three, my apologies.

That said, the public often feeds off the example set by the media. And for whatever reason, Iowa State can end up as a punching bag as Kieitzman suggested. They have become an increasingly easy target. The unsavory media characterization of Iowa State became especially evident during the conference realignment fiasco this summer. The following is something I posted on the CycloneFanatic message board during the heat of the "Beebe Big 12 Missile Crisis."

I can see both sides here. It’s not the media’s job to defend Iowa State, they are there to report and the radio guys to give their "take" and have no obligation to do what’s in the best interest of Iowa State.

That said, it would be nice to hear another angle besides the Iowa State is going to the "insert second-rate conference here" and they should be happy with it one. I know it’s hard to not pile on, but it seems I’ve heard more about how great the Nebraska-Iowa rivalry will be than anybody giving Iowa State’s side of the story.

It’s almost been a race as to who can bury Iowa State the fastest.

It’s a monumental story and it’s hard for those in the media to hide their excitement. They’re not necessarily demeaning Iowa State, but as a Cyclone it definitely wears on you to hear the drum beat over and over.

In the end, the media saying something wouldn’t have mattered. But it’d be a nice change if Cyclone fans got the impression they have a dog in the fight rather than just kicked to the side.

My eyes were certainly opened. For one, Iowa State’s seat at the BCS table was by no means guaranteed. More than anything, I was stunned at how quickly the media sentiment (both locally and nationally) turned against the Cyclones. It felt like Iowa State had a nasty break-up and their ex was openly mocking how worthless they are, while the Cyclones supposed "friends" were celebrating how great the ex’s new partner is. That flippant attitude left an impression. Iowa State was reduced to an afterthought.

I wondered then and wondered now, would the attitude have been the same if it had been the University of Iowa on the BCS chopping block?

I’m not blaming any individual person or media outlet. The same defeatist mindset existed in a good percentage of the fan-base as well. I had moments where I thought all was lost. I even tweeted at the time, "I’d like to see I-State form a conference with Hawaii, Tulane, Pepperdine, Florida International, Hawaii-Hilo and Chaminade. Might as well get a tan."

And after the Big 12 announced in early June the locations for its future Championships I tweeted, "Isn’t the Big 12 awarding Championships in 2014 a little like buying an anniversary gift for Tiger and Elin?"

Thankfully, that storm passed and Iowa State is hopefully in a much better position as the conference moves into the future.

So through it all, why is it that Iowa State is often the subject of added jest?

In the end it all comes down to winning. If the Cyclones can get back to competing for conference championships in football and men’s basketball, the jokes and snide comments will stop. Iowa State will get their seat at the "adults" table and treated as an equal.

And to be real, complaining about unfair treatment is probably about as productive as watching "Teen Mom" on MTV. As fun as it is at times, both will inevitably leave you frustrated.

And who knows, maybe I’ve been hanging out with Mike Stoops too much and am high on crazy pills. Wouldn’t be the first time I am barking up the wrong tree.

Regardless, I guess it’s part of what comes with being a Cyclone. It’s rarely easy, but Iowa Staters are a hardy and loyal group that sticks together.

The great part is once things do turn around you will be there for the journey and the celebration. And how sweet that celebration will be.

Hopefully at that point it will be Iowa State that has the last laugh.