There is something elementary about Cy-Hawk week. For a game talked about constantly and analyzed from every conceivable angle, there remains one end goal. Beat the other and shut up their respective fan base.
Growing up in the suburbs of Des Moines in the early ’90’s, it was an unpleasant experience being a Cyclone fan on Cy-Hawk week. One of my first memories of elementary school was my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Adamiak assigning us to pick our winner for the week by drawing our favorite team’s logo. I was only six at the time, but I remember cognitively weighing my options (I was a very unusual young person.)
I could choose what I knew the outcome would be and jump on the band-wagon; after all, Iowa was loaded with quarterback Matt Rodgers running the show and had a dynamic running back in Nick Bell. Iowa State had Blaise Bryant but the game was in Iowa City and Iowa State had never won a game against Iowa during my life. Or I could go with my untarnished heart and pick the Cyclones because they’d beat the Hawks eventually right? There were about 30 kindergartners in the class and 90 percent of the kids drew the Tigerhawk. Three people drew a drunk looking tornado: me, my twin brother and a girl that didn’t know what a football was. It was a lonely island. Iowa won 45-35, the losing streak extended to eight games.
This story repeated for what felt like an eternity. By the time I hit the fourth grade in 1994, extra credit was on the line. At the end of the Friday spelling test, we could circle who we thought would win the Cy-Hawk game for some extra points. (I blame my 4th grade teacher for harboring my gambling propensity.) Iowa State was dealing with a horrendous two touchdown loss to UNI, Iowa coming off a thrashing of a directional Michigan school. I was obsessed with scoring as high as possible on everything in school so extra credit was a massive opportunity, yet I couldn’t pull the trigger on the obvious choice. Iowa won 33-7 and I drowned my lack of extra credit in a Capri Sun and a Dunk-a-roo.
The years grew on, the Hawks domination continued and I entered middle school. The Friday before the game in 1997, I wore my oversized No. 28 Iowa State jersey to school hoping that with Darren Davis and Todd Bandhauer the Cyclones finally had the offense to compete. I had just defeated the Hawks on my SEGA Genesis 32x College Football USA game the night prior. I arrived at my seventh grade classroom and the girl I had a crush on made fun of me for picking the loser Cyclones. She was right, Iowa won 63-20; Tavian Banks and Tim Dwight torched the Cyclones. I listened to Jewel’s "Foolish Games" to escape. It seemed to fit my mood. Life went on.
Finally in 1998, I hit eighth grade. I was about to turn 14 and get my driver’s permit days after the Cy-Hawk game. My twin brother and I had a birthday party planned the night of the Cy-Hawk game and I was more concerned with showing off for friends and the ladiez than the football game. (Truth be told, parties when I was that age consisted of playing Golden Eye on N64 until two in the morning and attempting to chat with girls in AOL chat rooms. We were rebels.)
I was humiliated enough by Iowa State’s absolute incompetent failure in the series that I dismissed any emotional investment in the game. Iowa State had just been humbled by a hapless TCU team in the opener; Iowa coming off a demolition of another directional Michigan school. If there was a guarantee win in the history of the series, this was it. I was way too cool to have any confidence in the Cyclones.
I watched the game anyway. Midway through the first quarter, Iowa State blocked their first punt in three years. Three plays later, Darren Davis found pay-dirt, 7-0 Cyclones. Minutes later, the Cyclones punted to Iowa’s Kahlil Hill, the announcers bellowed, "He muffed the punt!" My adolescent self laughed and celebrated as Iowa State recovered. A Jamie Kohl field goal made it 10-0. Joe Parmentier plowed in from one yard out to make it 17-3 at halftime. Suddenly, I was running around the house like I was a kindergartner again. Another Joe Parmentier run early in the third gave Iowa State a 27-3 cushion and the 30-point underdog Cyclones had a death grip on the Hawks. The Cyclones maligned defense sacked Kyle McCann six times and they cruised to an easy 27-9 victory. It was Iowa State’s first road win in eight years.
I didn’t care about my party, GoldenEye 007, Surge soda or girls anymore; the impossible had happened.
I wore my No. 28 jersey to school on Monday and taped "27-9" on the back of it. My dad had Hy-Vee re-do our birthday cake so they could feature a replica of the Kinnick Stadium scoreboard with the score plastered on. It is no exaggeration that win was one of the happiest moments of my life to that point.
Two days after the victory, we went to the east-side of Des Moines so my twin and I could take the driver’s permit test . My brother passed, I failed by one question. I was crushed. My brother said to me on the way home, "You better buy a bike because I’m not driving you anywhere." The Cyclone win was quickly an afterthought; I had to worry about being cool again. Life went on.
Fifteen years later and the game has changed immensely. There is no inevitability in either fan-base. The 2013 game is as uncertain as any, with each squad’s question marks far out-weighting their confidence.
Yet, somewhere underneath the logic of the mind, remains a 10 year old’s naivety and faith. Kids in elementary schools across the state are circling their picks and supporting their squad. The same can be said across every single work place.
Bragging rights never get old at any age; that is as elementary as it gets. We all want to be the king of the sand box. Game on.