The incomplete gameday: Watching from home, wishing I was there

My mom and uncle used our tickets to the Indiana-Iowa game last Saturday, allowing me to do something I have been wanting to do for a long time: watch an Iowa home football game in the comfort of my own house.

Before Saturday, I had attended every Hawkeye home football game since the 2011 season, when we sat crammed like sardines in the North End Zone stand. Over that time, I have developed a love-hate relationship with home games. I love watching the action in person (sometimes), but the gameday experience — complete with constant and endless TV timeouts, obnoxious drunks, assholes who decide to stand the whole game, and the deluge of negativity and criticism that rains down on the field after every unsuccessful play — can be exasperating. Needless to stay, there are times when I want to leave, when I wish I had stayed at home and watched the game on TV. At home I could at least turn the channel and watch another game during breaks. (Interestingly, it is surprising how often one changes the channel to avoid commercials only to find that other games have also paused for commercial breaks. Ugh!)

Attending a home game also takes a huge chunk out of the day. For 11 AM games, I get up relatively late, hurry though my morning routine to get ready, head to the stadium an hour before kickoff, watch the game, then slough through post-game traffic. By the time I get home, it is usually three or four o’clock in the afternoon. For afternoon games, I get home at 6 PM or later. Though I would have been watching the game at home anyway, it is a huge chunk I sometimes wish I could get back. (And I have it pretty easy since I can walk to and from Kinnick. My mom usually drops my dad and I off and then picks us up afterward, though. I would prefer to walk, but baby boomers can’t go anywhere farther than a few blocks without burning gas. There are crazy, hardcore fans who travel all the way from northern and western Iowa just to watch the Hawkeyes, then pack up their stuff and head home. For them, Iowa home football games monopolize an entire day and then some. But that is their choice. There is no way I could do that every week.)

Anyway, the original plan last Saturday was for me to attend the game with my uncle. However, I offered the ticket to my mom and she accepted. Instead of getting dropped off at what I think is called the VA loop, I dropped her and my uncle off at Carver.

After stopping by another uncle’s tailgating spot for a spell, I returned home, turned on ESPN College GameDay, watched Lee Corso don Mississippi State’s Bulldog head, and flipped to ESPNU to watch the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes.

Yes, it was nice to watch the game in the luxury of my living room, within a handful of steps to a bathroom and kitchen. But I will admit that it felt weird not being at Kinnick. I felt as if I was missing out on something, as if I should be there. As if I needed to be there. It seemed to be the climax to a strange anxiety that slowly swept over me since I had given up my ticket. In a certain way, it felt like the game was not even happening because I was not seeing it in person. As I waited outside Westlawn to pick up my mom and uncle after the game, it felt strange not walking from the stadium with the other fans clad in black and gold. Even stranger was the emotional void I felt throughout the rest of the day. Something was missing.

Needless to say, my reaction to not going to the game shocked me. I thought I was going to be completely content and laugh at the thought of all those people crammed into the stadium, waiting in line to take a leak, listening to the bitchers bitch and the annoying endorsements and advertisements blaring from the PA, and paying an arm and leg for food and drinks. (I always take a couple Clif Bars into the stadium and never buy anything except for a bottle of water.) I did not miss those aspects, but I did miss the feeling of being in the stadium and watching the game in person, the routine of walking up to the stadium from the VA loop, watching the players warm up and the stadium fill, the excitement and joy after big scoring plays, when everyone throws their arms in the air and joins in a loud, collective “YEAH!” (I missed a lot of those Saturday.) Those have become part of autumn Saturdays for me, and without them the day seemed incomplete. Or least that is what it seems after last Saturday.

Even though I missed the gameday experience last weekend, I still have the opportunity to get my fill three times in November. I guess I will visit Kinnick with a different mindset when the Northwestern Wildcats roll into town in about two weeks.

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