One Last Taste of Wine

Tonight I leave for a two-week honeymoon in Europe.  Despite that, I needed to carve out a little time and make one last post to acknowledge the passing of a Hawkeye legend.

George Wine Dies

George Wine
George Wine (courtesy of the Cedar Rapids Gazette)

It’s appropriate that I’m making this post while chewing on a toothpick.  Whenever someone dies, the obituaries that publicize the news have interesting information on the deceased.  I never had an opportunity to talk to George Wine, who passed away Thursday at age 81, although I saw him frequently in passing.  Since I never met him, it was only through his obituaries that I learned of his affinity for toothpicks.  I chomp on them all the time myself, often while making these posts, so that was an interesting piece of information about Wine I didn’t know.

Information, in fact, was what Wine was all about.  George Wine worked in Iowa’s sports information department for nearly three decades, serving as just the second SID in Hawkeye history.  It was during his tenure that sports media really took off, and he navigated all those changes beautifully.  There are many obituaries that have been released the past couple of days that can attest to that better than I can.

George Wine reviewed my first book, Hawkeye Greats, By the Numbers; I posted about that experience earlier.  Wine even contributed a chapter to my second book, What It Means to Be a Hawkeye.  Still, I never met the man.  My co-author, Lyle Hammes, was the one who dealt with Wine on both of those occasions.

Yet despite never meeting him, Wine’s death this week filled me with a tremendous sense of regret.  I have met and spoken with several famous Hawkeye personalities while writing my books.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with Gary Dolphin and Frosty Mitchell, for example.  But while I respect Dolph and Frosty, I never wanted to BE like them.  After all, they have the “golden pipes.”  Their claim to fame is their marvelous voices that describe the Hawkeyes’ exploits to listening fans.  I’ve never had much of a voice, and those who know me know I use it sparingly.

George Wine was different.  He used the power of words to promote the Hawkeyes, and he did so marvelously.  In fact, few have done it better.  Maybe none have done it better.  Wine had such an incredible way of using his vast knowledge of Hawkeye sports history to bring perspective to the successes (and failures) of the current Hawks.  I loved that, I envied that, and I wanted very much to emulate that.  I never wanted to be Ron Gonder, as much as I respect him.  But I wanted to be George Wine and to be able to use the same flair he used to put the current Hawks in their proper historical perspective.

I have yet to talk about my third book (I’ll be getting around to that soon), but I will say that I was very much looking forward to sending it to George Wine and getting his thoughts on it.  If you wrote a book on Hawkeye history, the first thing you wanted to do is send it to George Wine and see if he approved.  If he thought it was good, well, it was good.  He was the last word, the keeper of the athletic history of the Hawkeyes.  So it is with great sadness that I have to acknowledge that I’ll never have the chance to pick his brain or see if my stuff measures up to everything he gave us.

I’m hoping that my work as an author will pick up the torch that was carried so long and so well by men like George Wine.  These guys are icons and very much my role models in my writing.  Rest in peace, George Wine…your work lives on, and it set a very high bar for people like me to shoot for.

A Quick Wine Sample

The quality of Wine’s work can be seen in his terrific book, Black and Gold Memories, as well as his column, Wine Online.  Here are some of my favorite Wine Online posts:

Iowa’s close victory over UNI in 2009 set the tone for a great season

The Hawks start 7-0

The Steelers and Hawkeyes hit South Beach

The 2009 Hawkeyes

Marvin McNutt

Iowa’s history with Michigan

The 2011 Hawkeyes

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