I love college football. Autumn colors, crisp air, joyful crowds, fervent tail-gating, peppy bands, and noble competition on the gridiron among mostly-amateur student-athletes. But the main reason I love college football is this: If there were no college football, there would be no Iowa Hawkeyes college football team.
Being from Iowa, being a University of Iowa grad (stunning many of my high school teachers), and being from the same neighborhood that produced Kenny Ploen made it inevitable, and delightful, for me to love those Hawkeye football teams forever.
You might be asking yourself, who is Kenny Ploen? First, his last name is pronounced "Plane." (His first name is pronounced "Kenny.") Next, he was an All-American quarterback at Iowa. Finally, he quarterbacked us to our first victory in the Rose Bowl, 117-2, against Southern Cal (I might be fuzzy on the details, but we did beat someone from out west. Mark Twain said he had a perfect memory, even for things that didn't happen, and I kind of like that.)
I was a mere child at the time and, later, when I got to shake his hand and get his autograph at a church dinner, I was over the moon happy. And that cinched it.
I was hooked on the black and gold, and have remained there ever since. Living in South Carolina makes it difficult for me to get to Nile Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, which is named after the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner, Nobel Prize winner in Literature, former Governor of Iowa, and concert pianist when he wasn't performing open heart surgery with a Swiss Army knife on the battlefields in France.
But I do have a satellite dish and a wide screen HD television. And I do get to watch their games from the comfort and convenience of my living room, where I wear my Iowa regalia and shout encouragement to my Hawks, even though Lisa reminds me that, "They can't hear you, John." And I can record the games to watch again and again.
This year begins on September 1st. In Chicago's Soldier Field. A new season. Another chance to go undefeated and unscored upon.
And if you listen carefully beginning at 3:30 Eastern Daylight Time, you just might be able to hear me shout "GO HAWKS!" They can hear it, and you can, too. It takes faith.