I covered many things and wrote many columns and stories before this blog was born. Since I’m on vacation and out of America for the week (my Dobermans are staying at home with my house-sitter, a burly fellow who has wild mood swings and a nasty temper), I’m going to try keep the blog moving this week with pieces from the past that will be new to almost all of you.
This column is from September of 1993, the week of an Iowa State-Iowa game. The series then wasn’t like it is now, when you’re never sure which team will win. After Fry’s weekly Tuesday press conference, I asked him about rivalry-games he experienced. As was his wont when the subject was his younger days in Texas, he was happy to share memories.
IOWA CITY – As far as intrastate college football rivalries go, Iowa State-Iowa may lack the fire and the fury of, say …
And, most likely, a few others.
The reasons, I suspect, are at least twofold. One, all the aforementioned teams have been really, really good at one time or another in recent times. Great rivalries are when both teams get their share of victories, which Iowa State hasn’t done. Two, Iowans are too darn level-headed to let a silly little thing like football cause harsh feelings.
In fact, if ISU snaps its 10-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes Saturday in Ames, Cyclone fans will probably politely applaud and treat the result as just another win. And if Iowa wins, Hawkeye supporters surely won’t laugh at Iowa State’s continued futility in the series. Uh huh.
Iowa Coach Hayden Fry grew up in Odessa , Texas, and played college ball in the Southwest Conference at Baylor. Some people say football is a religion in Texas. That may be understating things.
“You have all those church schools (Southern Methodist, Texas Christian, Baptist school Baylor),” Fry said Tuesday. “If you won down there, all the preacher would talk about on Sunday was the football game the day before. He never quoted the Bible. If you lost the game, then you’d hear a pretty good sermon, because he didn’t want to talk about the game.”
As far as rivalries go, Iowa-Iowa State can’t touch what Fry experienced when he quarterbacked and later coached Odessa High against archrival Midland in the wide-open spaces of west Texas, which was devoid of college ball.
“It was bad,” Fry said. “There were fights, people destroying cars, rotten-egging the band. People didn’t bet money on the games, they bet wives. … It was bad.”
Fry said you could flip a coin to decide which school among TCU, Texas and Texas A&M was most loathed by his Baylor Bears.
“Those were big, big rivalries,” he said. “A lot of bad blood.”
Fry admits he got a lot more swept up in his own emotions as a young man. Tuesday, he harped on the theme of every game holding equal importance and downplaying rivalries, but confessed he arrived at that philosophy later in life.
“People, basically, let things like that get out of hand,” he said. “It’s just a game. Sure, it’s important, but the sun’s gonna come up the next day. It took me a while to learn that.
“One time I challenged all four or five officials at halftime at a game in Port Arthur, Texas. I followed them back to their dressing room. They locked the door behind them, but I knocked the door down. To this day I wonder how stupid you can be to do something like that.
“The first game I ever coached in high school, my wife gave me a brand new suit. We lost the game. I literally ripped both sleeves off the coat and threw it on the ground.”
As for the so-called bigger-than-life rivalries, Fry said his motto is “Don’t put all your marbles in one basket.” Not to mention eggs.
“I didn’t used to coach that way when I was young,” he said. “You’d say, ‘Hey, we’re Methodists and we’re playing those Christians, or those farmers from A&M, or those almighty tea-sippers from Mississippi.’
“But the reason (the Iowa State) game’s not a war is I won’t let my players and coaches take that attitude. It’s a mental thing. You go after everybody, but you don’t over-emphasize or under-emphasize anyone.”
That’s easy to say when you don’t have those almighty tea-sippers from Mississippi on your schedule.