Gridiron gloom


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So it's December (Yeah, I know; the calendar says it's still November. Ignore the calendar; it's running slow.), and gloom and doom are stalking around Hawkeye Nation, numbing imaginations and quieting the braggarts (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Why? you ask. Well, because it's December, and December is the longest month. And because the Hawkeye football team did not live up to expectations.

Well, some people's expectations. You have to admit, some of those expectations were Himalayan in scope, and the football team turned out to be somewhat more Appalachian.

Which is not to put down Appalachia — it's a beautiful area and much easier to visit than the Himalayas.

My expectations were not quite so Himalayan. I remember coach Kirk Ferentz saying, before the season started, that he had looked at the Big Ten and thought the Hawkeyes could easily wind up in the middle of the pack. Hardly anybody listened to him, of course.

And, well, that's where they ended up.

That, of course, will not satisfy Hawkeye fans, who are nothing if not dreamers. So I carefully studied the matter with the help of a slide rule (don't ask; it involves logarithms, which are much more complicated than Al Gore rhythms) and Dennis Lehane's latest novel.

It was not the injuries, though they hurt. It was not the lack of effort. It was not the loss of two key linebackers to graduation or the loss of key offensive linemen.

It was Jonathan Papelbon.

Who knew that Red Sox's alleged closer was pitching for the Hawkeye football defense in the late fourth quarter this season?

I mean, Kirk Ferentz is a pretty bright guy, and he can be witty, in his own dry way, and he certainly knows a whole lot more about football than I do. That being said, I could've told him that the last thing he wanted, outside of ever playing Northwestern again, was to have Papelbon try to close out games. Papelbum, as I've taken to calling him, was this past baseball season simply the worst closer in all of baseball who didn't, curiously, lose his job.

You just can't have that guy pitching for your defense. I'm surprised no one else figured this out.

The other reason was Ricky Stanzi. No, not his performance; that was fine to excellent most of the time, and that's all you can ask.

It was his recent interview with the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Let's just listen in a bit:

"I don't know how other colleges are, but when you walk around here, you've got people … you've got guys walking around in dresses and just these hippies. They're doing nothing. There's the Ped Mall area down there, right in the middle. Those people are going nowhere. Those people are the people who don't like America."

He went on to say, "They always find something wrong with it. They're the problem. …"

Oh, I don't know, Ricky.

Some of those people are just playing Hacky-Sack. Or music. I'm not exactly sure how playing Hacky-Sack or music indicates a dislike of America. It might just indicate a passion for playing Hacky-Sack — which I don't share, but I don't think it's un-American.

And music? I mean, you like music. You, it's been reported, have a passion for Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" — although I'm not quite sure you twig what Springsteen meant.

And some of those people on the Ped Mall might be dreaming of and discussing a new future for America — say, one with fewer Einsteinian quarterbacks with more than capable mouths and tiny concepts, not to mention fewer greenhouse-spewing, pollution-emitting vehicles mere yards from the Ped Mall. (Which is now "safely" smoke-free, thanks to our courageous City Council.)

Mere yards — that's kind of in your bailiwick, right, Ricky?

Oh, well. It's only football.

It's not as if it were something real.

Like December.

Or baseball.

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