Thursday, September 15, 2005

Iowa vs. Iowa State

This last weekend I was down in Ames, Iowa to see Henry Rollins, which I already mentioned, but I was also there to check out the Iowa / Iowa State game.  Being a graduate of a small, middle of nowhere, central Minnesotan, private college (St. John’s University) I never had the “big game” experience. Sure, we had the Johnnie / Tommie game, which was always intense and resulted in a ton of people showing up on campus, but it could not even begin to compare the sheer craziness that was the Iowa / Iowa State game.

Neither me or my brother Randy had tickets to the game since we didn’t get any ahead of time and didn’t want to pay scalpers for them. That was fine by me, however, as Randy said that for most of the game the entire crowd, at least in the student section, stood up and standing up for an entire football game just didn’t seem all that fun to me, even if I was out there in the middle of the crowd embracing the thronging masses of humanity I was surrounded by.

Instead, Randy and I went down to check out the tailgating before the game and then went back to his apartment to watch the game on ABC.  For me, a big game consisted of maybe 5-10 thousand people at a game.  Most St. John’s games were only attended by a couple thousand and only playoff games, homecoming, and the Johnnie / Tommie had the 5,000 plus crowds.  Now as we walked down towards the stadium we saw lots of college kids making their way down there as well, a few more inebriated than others, but they could all at least walk.

As we came to Stephens Auditorium, which is their large performance auditorium, we started to see the overwhelming immensity of the tailgating masses.  Once we got over the hill by Stephens and had a chance to look over the parking lots and the stadium itself, I was simply in awe.  The news later said that there was easily in excess of 50,000 people there in attendance, which I easily believe.

I was going to meet up with some friends of mine outside to tailgate with them, but unlike at SJU I couldn’t just scan the crowd to find who I was looking for. No, it would be next to impossible this time.  Finding a group of maybe 10-15 people in a mass of 50,000+ was not going to happen.  Even if you subtracted the 30,000 or so people that had already gone into the stadium, that left a whopping 20,000 or so people to wade through to find who I came to meet up with.

Now I know that some of you geniuses are screaming at your monitor, “Call your friends and find out where they’re at!”  Well, friends, that is exactly what I did.  There was a problem, however, in that the cell phone towers in the area were not able to handle the enormous amount of cell traffic. 9 out of 10 calls that I tried to make simply failed.  The other one call would just connect straight to the person’s voicemail.  So that was pretty much out.

Instead of searching around, my brother and I just walked through the crowds people watching.  I felt like I was three or four years younger than I am being so surrounded by college kids.  A lot of the experience made me long for the college life even more than I usually do.  I thought I was finally coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go back to the exact type of environment that college offered me and then this just had to re-open a wound I had almost patched up.

Regardless of my personal feelings about my place in life at the moment, seeing the waves of people, mostly dressed in either gold for Iowa or red for Iowa State, was simply amazing.  I don’t know if my brother appreciated it or not, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed the crowd that was on display, which is in stark contrast to the way I usually feel about crowds in general.  

As we finally worked our way through the crowd and found ourselves on the way back to his apartment, I felt a slight notion of elation.  I don’t really know why, maybe it was being back in the college atmosphere, maybe it was because I could finally move free without being surrounded by people, maybe it was just a random mood swing, but any way you look at it I loved that crowd browsing experience.

I wouldn’t trade my small private college experience for anything, but by being in Ames for the game, it made me wonder if there were a few things that I might have missed out on by not going to a larger school.  Namely, the massiveness of the sporting programs and the camaraderie that exists between all of the students, even though I’m sure most of the people there didn’t even know each other.  All in all, it was a great experience.

Oh, and to top it all off, ISU won.  Take that Iowa!  Your national ranking means nothing against the mighty Cyclones!

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