I scoffed at the University of Iowa as being a destination, or a great place to see a football game.
I laughed at the idea that it could possibly be fun to go there.
This weekend, Iowa conspired to prove me wrong.
By Paul Schmidt
(Paul M. Banks, “editor’s notes” in italics and parantheticals)
Myself and Paul M. Banks arrived on the outskirts of Iowa City late on Friday night, roughly 11 PM. After getting checked in to the hotel, we decided to check out what we could of the campus and then the night life without being the ridiculously creepy older guys in the club. (Hahahaha- that’s an impossible task for us to accomplish)
First, though there are no bars specifically on campus, they are very close, just a stone’s throw away. While PB was sporting The Sports Banks’ logo polo and some slacks on Friday night, I was rocking an Illinois baseball jersey.
I figured, if I’m rolling into enemy territory, I’m flying my flag high. Until the flag is shoved down my throat by angry frat boys…
In all, Iowa students seemed quit tolerant of me wearing the jersey, although there was quite a bit of eye rolling. The most entertaining comments were:
“F*** ILLINOIS!” –From one of our more creative Iowans…
“Woooooo Illinois!” —From one of our more intoxicated Iowan ladies….
“Did you lose a bet or something?” —This one actually made me laugh, and I used this as the reason why I was wearing the jersey the rest of the night, much to my own amusement.
“Hold on, hold on…you can’t just let this guy in, what are you doing?” —This was directed at the bouncer who let me into Joe’s Place, a great, chilled-out bar near the Iowa City bar area.
And that’s really the only way to call it, the promenade, or something like that. Basically, it’s a road with no actual road, it extends for three blocks and is essentially lined with bars and restaurants the whole way.
Now it’s not revolutionary or anything, but it is pretty nice, honestly. Everything is close by, and everything is accessible. And if you wanted it to be, it would appear everything is within walking distance of the campus — although, based on the ridiculous number of taxis we saw around town, it would appear the students don’t necessarily agree.
(It’s called the Ped Mall, short for the pedestrian mall, and it’s like an alcoholic’s answer to the compound housing on the HBO series “Big Love” because they all seem to be interconnected by their yards or beer gardens in this case. They all work as a sort of collective farm…for selling beer. Don’t forget the Hawkeye ladies, whose skirts seem to end above the waist they’re so short. Seriously, once or twice last night I was like “is she only wearing a shirt? Nothing on the bottom? People think Iowa is a very socially conservative place. Certainly not in this area.)
Fast forward to Saturday and the tailgating. It was (and is) a rainy and chilly day, but that didn’t put a damper on the festivities as tents, grills and cars line the front yards and the houses in front of Kinnick Stadium. Part of the charm of this setup is that each house lines its lawn and property with cars and vendors selling all types of pork products, and each house feels like a “family” of its own.
(Yes, the pork flows like water here. Making it Pork Soda I guess, like the name of that infamous Primus album. Outside of Germany, I’ve never had better pork products in my life. It’s realllllllllllly good here)
However, the vibrant tailgating is being ratcheted down a notch by loathsome campus security. For the first home game of the year, campus security harassed many of the people heading to the game. They were enforcing the previously unenforced open-container law, busting anyone heading to the game with an open beer or any type of liquor.
The part that was unfortunate for the campus security was that they weren’t busting students — they wrote 150 tickets and almost all of the tickets were to alumni and doners to the University, leading many to put a fun spin on the school’s “Think Before you Drink” campaign: “Think Before you Donate.”
It got so bad that one alumni bigwig with a broken wrist actually had his cast inspected thoroughly as they believed he was smuggling in contraband.
Since then, campus security has reined things in a little, but the specter still overshadows all that goes on around the stadium.
Pork burgers, pork chops, and, yes, Big Ass Turkey Legs dot the entire landscape, with everyone having a beer or cocktail in hand. Even for the 11 AM kickoff, the partiers line the streets around Kinnick no matter what the weather.
It creates a great football atmosphere and a real sense of community. One that is certainly missing from a couple of other Big Ten schools.
(Agreed, fellow Big Ten schools, this is your role model for autumn Saturdays)
Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbankFollow paulmbanks