They are who we thought they were

Despite all of the dumb national media tropes about the supposedly endless political banter between family members at the Thanksgiving dinner table (’37 ways to ANNIHILATE your racist uncle this year!’ is almost certainly on Buzzfeed somewhere), the one aspect of the holiday that really matters—besides eating—is football: it keeps us occupied. It provides the soundtrack to our food coma naps, and perhaps most importantly, it keeps us from discussing politics.



And for fans in the northern and eastern halves of Iowa, last weekend gave us plenty to be thankful for, even if the Hawkeyes and Cyclones came far too close for comfort (unless you’re a Packers fan. In that case, I’m not sure what to tell you). Iowa blew a huge lead and what should’ve been an easy win, nearly allowing our neighbors to the West to further ruin what should’ve been a 10-2 or at the very least 9-3 season—but then again, I say that every year.


Kirk is Kirk, and the Hawks always find ways to inexplicably lose to teams like Northwestern and Purdue and set up the standard 8-4 or 7-5 finish. With one of our most advantageous schedules in a long time, this one should’ve ended differently, but the guys will head to San Diego and play USC or Arizona State and the world will keep spinning. Ferentz has proved himself invincible, so there’s no use in calling for a coaching change.


Iowa is a perpetually slightly above average football program, and as the basketball team has shown us in the years since Tom Davis left, consistently good still beats almost always bad. But Kirk is here to stay and so is Fran (at least until his sons graduate), so deal with it.


Barring a miraculous collapse against Incarnate Word, er, Drake, ISU will wrap up its regular season 8-4, as many expected the team would, and the rumors around where Matt Campbell is headed will be as persistent as Willie Harvey rushing the quarterback.


The 2018 campaign included a marquee win over West Virginia, and while I’ll freely admit I thought Campbell would be another corpse in the coaching graveyard that’s been Iowa State over the last three decades, he’s legitimately turned things around and managed to build a winner.


He found a long-term answer at quarterback in Brock Purdy, and he achieved the elusive win over Kansas State and Bill Snyder—the coach who, as we’ve joked at the county board meetings, only has a few months on outgoing supervisor Harlyn Riekena. The Cyclones are on the up and up, and even the most avid Hawkeye fan can admit that much.


And here at home, the pride of Grundy Center showed up in a big way for UNI in the playoffs last week. Anyone who’s ever watched Bryce Flater play football knew that he was going to find a way to contribute for the Panthers this season, and while he’d mostly been confined to special teams as a redshirt freshman, an opening at linebacker as a result of an injury proved to us what we already knew.


Six tackles and a sack in one half? Coach Farley, you may need to find a more permanent spot for this guy. He’s a stud, plain and simple.


In many ways, the past weekend of football—ingested between shopping trips—reinforced what we already knew to be true: Iowa and Iowa State are top 25 to 30 teams (I haven’t checked the rankings, so don’t fact check me) that aren’t quite at an elite level yet, Bryce was going to shine as soon as he got his opportunity, the Bears are actually good (okay, that’s a bit of a surprise), Jim Harbaugh will never beat Ohio State, the Vikings can still squeak into the playoffs and the Packers need to fire Mike McCarthy yesterday unless Aaron Rodgers can come up with a new catchy slogan (R-E-L-A-X) in between State Farm commercial shoots.


It was a win on other fronts, as well: Kellie and I set a date, I actually managed to fix something in the house, I put a good dent in my latest book—Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by former journalist and TV creator David Simon, a light read about the detectives tasked with investigating murders in Baltimore—and we got through an entire season of “Narcos: Mexico,” another uplifting tale of the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980s and a determined but naïve DEA agent’s attempt to stop it.


As I settle back into work on Cyber Monday, I’ve only got one question: is it Christmas yet?