Since Iowa was playing in Jacksonville which is only about 3.5 hours away, I figured I had to make the jaunt up north to go to the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl. It was not the normal Iowa gameday experience. I think this is the first time I have gone to an Iowa game sober (I had one beer, but I'm a bit of a heavyweight so I know how to handle myself, no big deal), and it was also the first time I took my wife. These both proved to be wise decisions, as alcohol most certainly would not have added any fun to my experience.
Iowa did not have its usual representation as fans have become disenchanted with the team. Expectations were high, results were low, and it seems like Iowa goes to Florida every year, so there wasn't that much appeal to making the trip. Also, it's the TaxSlayer Bowl, so it would take an extremely desperate and dedicated fanbase to get excited for that.
Tennessee was that fanbase.
I was surrounded by orange. My wife and I were literally the only two people supporting the Hawkeyes in our section. There was another Iowa fan a section over and about ten rows back who kept spelling Fuck Kirk, so despite running into 100 Tennessee fans and 5 Iowa fans, Iowa produced the worst fans of the game. Congratulations, Hawkeyes. I would like to talk trash about Tennessee fans, but outside of them loving cigarettes, they were actually very pleasant people to be around.
I cannot stress this enough: Tennessee fans were SO PUMPED to be there. Their excitement was not sarcastic, it was as legit as it gets. They hadn't been to a bowl game in a while, and they are excited where Butch Jones is taking the team. One of my favorite things in this world is when middle-aged people where shirts designed for teenagers, so I was really happy to see a 50-year-old man wearing a "Butch Please" shirt for the game. Overall thought, they were just incredibly positive people. They have a chant where they just go, "It's great...to be...a Tennessee Vol." How pleasant and quaint of them.
As for the game, thank God I have other things that I care about in this world more than Iowa football (like my dog...and Iowa wrestling...oh yeah, and my wife too). Sports don't mean as much to me; there are still times where a heartbreaking loss will kill my mood, but ass kickings like the one Iowa received don't really matter as much to me. I can be angry at my team, or I can just laugh at how awful they are. I chose the latter and filled the game with pithy one liners that impressed the people around me.
The Hawkeyes lost 45-28, and the game was not nearly that close, yet I still had a good time. I spent some time with the old lady, hung out with some friendly people who cheered for the opposing side, and most importantly, I got to see a whole lot of CJ Beathard. It wasn't great, but having Beathard was enough for me to stay late to watch the final two touchdowns, both of which were really nice throws.
I am an eternal optimist. Beathard gives the Hawkeyes a look they need on offense to not be competent but actually be dangerous. If the Hawkeyes brought in a new offensive coordinator (Ken O'Keefe is available), it would give them the offense necessary to accentuate their strengths. Right now, everybody is down on Iowa football, and it's just a really negative atmosphere. I can understand it, but it's still way more fun to focus on the positives and just have a good time watching football...
Maybe I should have gone to Tennessee.