I hope you’ve been enjoying my special posts celebrating Super Bowl week. However, I need to interrupt the festivities briefly…with a super edition of Random Hash!
Chris Street and Hawkeye Basketball
I have to admit…I was very impressed two weeks ago with how the university handled the 20th anniversary of the passing of Chris Street. The CMS patches on the jerseys and the Chris Street warmup shirts were a great idea, and the crowd clearly rose to the occasion. You could tell that the Hawkeye fans just weren’t going to let the team lose to Wisconsin. After the game, the Hawkeye team gave the Street family the game ball…and it certainly brought back memories of the first home game following Chris’ death. I’ll never forget how the 1993 Hawks upset the Fab Five and weaved their way through the crowd to hand the game ball over to the Streets. The scene in the locker room after the Wisconsin game two weeks ago brought that whole story full circle.
The media did an incredible job covering the story as well. I was floored by the number of tributes that came pouring in the week before the game honoring Street’s memory. It made my Hawkeyes Revisited profile seem a bit pale by comparison, but that’s not a bad thing! I enjoyed every single story from folks reminiscing about Street. It was great to see so many people honoring his memory.
Hawkeye Book Updates
As a Hawkeye author, I’m always keeping my eye out for the latest and greatest in Hawkeye books. Two weeks ago, I mentioned that Rick Brown is planning to release a new book on Chris Street. No word on a release date for that book yet, but I’m excited to check it out.
Another Hawkeye book that I’m excited about does have a release date. Readers of this site know that I’m a big fan of the work of Ron Maly, and his blog is always linked at the right. Ten years ago (hard to believe it has been that long!), he released a hardcover book of stories about Hawkeye football called Tales from the Iowa Sidelines. In 2005, Maly came out with an updated paperback version of the book.
Well, it’s been a decade since the 2003 release of his first book, so it’s time for yet another update. The third edition of Tales from the Iowa Sidelines is due out on July 1. The first two editions of this book were big sellers, and I can’t wait to see what Maly does with this one.
New Order By Mail Option!
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Be sure to mention which book or books you’re ordering and provide an address where you’d like the book or books sent. And as always, you can have any of my books signed and/or personalized by request…just let me know! Thanks for all your support!
Manti Te’o and the Notre Dame Bluff
I’ve had a lot of people ask me for my opinion on the biggest sports story of the past month – Manti Te’o and his fake girlfriend. In case you haven’t heard the story (and frankly, that seems hard to believe at this point, as this story is everywhere), Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, the 2012 Heisman Trophy runner up, had been claiming for months that his girlfriend died this year from leukemia. It was one of those heartfelt stories that made him an inspiring story as he made a run at the Heisman.
After the season, it came to light that Te’o’s girlfriend, well, didn’t exist. Te’o claims that he was the victim of a hoax, that he had only met his girlfriend online (despite telling his father he met her in person), and that he fully believed the story about her tragic death.
But it’s pretty convenient that this story evoked a lot of sympathy for a guy gunning for the Heisman Trophy. There are also several inconsistencies in his story, inconsistencies that he has shied away from answering questions about. He has conducted two public interviews since the revelation of the hoax – an interview with ESPN that Te’o insisted be off-camera, and an interview with that hard-hitting journalist, Katie Couric. (Since Larry King retired, Couric has become the softball question tosser of choice for people who don’t want to face the hot seat.) For a guy with nothing to hide, Te’o is sure acting like someone with something to hide.
I only find the whole thing amusing because it’s pretty much par for the course at Notre Dame. Knute Rockne, the legendary Irish coach, was a masterful liar. In 1924, the Irish were down in Georgia for a game against Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets were fired up to whip those Yankees from up north. Rockne knew he needed an edge. In the locker room before the game, Rockne pulled a crumpled telegraph from his pocket. It was from Knute Rockne’s six-year-old son, Billy, a little boy who had been something of a mascot to the Irish team. The telegraph read, “Please win this game for my Daddy. It’s very important to him.”
Rockne, his voice cracking with emotion, confessed that Billy was very ill and in the hospital. This revelation inspired the Fighting Irish, and they all swore that they would win the game for little Billy. And they did win! The team traveled back to South Bend by train, and when they arrived at the train station, there was Billy on the platform, healthy as can be and oblivious to his father’s manipulations.
Of course, everyone has heard the “win one for the Gipper” speech. One of Rockne’s greatest players, George Gipp, died of pneumonia in 1920. Eight years later, Rockne told the story of how Gipp told him on his deathbed that Gipp wanted Notre Dame to win one for the Gipper. Rockne’s inspiring speech spurred the Irish to an upset of undefeated Army.
No one other than Rockne was around for Gipp’s alleged comment, so no one can confirm if it’s true. But since Rockne was an inveterate liar, it’s safe to assume that the whole story was a fabrication…just like the time before a Notre Dame-Indiana game when he convinced his players that it was Indiana’s fierce tackling style – rather than pneumonia – that sent Gipp to an early grave.
Rockne’s creative motivation lasted well beyond his time on campus. One of the stories I didn’t include in my Hawkeye Flashback to the 1953 Notre Dame game detailed how Irish coach Frank Leahy was ill that whole 1953 season. At one point, Leahy was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis. Word spread that Leahy had suffered a heart attack, and the Irish administration went so far as to read Leahy his last rites in the locker room before a game.
Notre Dame’s players, particularly 1953 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner, weren’t fooled. “I thought, ‘He’s pulling a Rockne,'” Lattner recalled. “I was laughing when somebody told us Leahy had a heart attack.”
And what about the scene in Rudy where all the players lay their jerseys on Coach Devine’s desk to compel him to play Ruettiger, which has been widely debunked over the years as being completely fictional? Notre Dame football is an institution practically built on “dramatic effect”. Manti Te’o and his fake girlfriend’s death during a Heisman push? It’s just another part of that (real or imagined) Notre Dame mystique.
Okay, I haven’t lived in Iowa in a long time, so I’m not really current on what’s airing on Iowa City Public Access Television. But one show I’ve been catching up on the past month or so is called Sports Opinion, which airs on PATV Channel 18.
Sports Opinion is basically a roundtable discussion of Hawkeye sports with regulars Bob Boyd, Dirk Keller, Earl Murphy, and Bud Sueppel, and the occasional special guest. Keller, the owner of Common Sense Advertising in Iowa City, serves as sort of the moderator of the show. Earl Murphy, the most experienced one of the group, used to own Bremer’s Men’s Store in Iowa City, which was a town landmark. And Sueppel owned Sueppel’s Flowers, which decorated events for the university – including the Rose Bowl back when Hayden Fry coached the Hawks. Sueppel was also quoted in the book, Blood, Sweat, and Cheers: Great Football Rivalries of the Big Ten.
I didn’t even know Sports Opinion was still around. It was on the air back when I was in college, when legendary Hawkeye sportswriter Al Grady moderated the show. That’s one reason why it’s so great to see that Earl Murphy, a friend of Grady’s, is still on the show. Anyway, they often have very good guests; one of my favorite episodes is when they chat for an hour with Dr. Tom Davis.
If you’d like to catch up on some back episodes of Sports Opinion, the power of Youtube makes that possible…so check it out.
Just so this post has a little bit of Super Bowl flavor, here’s an excellent Don Doxsie article I read last week about Jack Harbaugh, who spent two years as an assistant coach at Iowa in 1971 and 1972. Jack Harbaugh is also the father of John and Jim Harbaugh, the two head coaches meeting in this year’s Super Bowl.
Black History Month
Today is the first day of February, which means it’s the first day of Black History Month. In honor of Black History Month, I’m going to be writing a few posts about some of the great African-American sports pioneers that have graced Iowa City. With my book on Duke Slater just released, it seems like a good time to review Iowa’s prominent role in providing athletic opportunities for African-Americans.
All that is coming up after this weekend – tomorrow I’ll conclude Super Bowl week with one more Super Bowl post, and then it’s on to our next adventure. As always, thanks for reading!
Tagged with: Al Grady • Blood Sweat and Cheers: Great Football Rivalries of the Big Ten • Bob Boyd • Bud Sueppel • Chris Street • Dirk Keller • Dr. Tom Davis • Earl Murphy • Frank Leahy • George Gipp • Hawkeye basketball • Hayden Fry • Jack Harbaugh • Jim Harbaugh • John Harbaugh • Johnny Lattner • Knute Rockne • Manti Te'o • Ron Maly • Sports Opinion • Tales from the Iowa Sidelines
Filed under: General
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