IOWA CITY – Every once in a rare while, you come across a scene that you can’t describe. I got the chills. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. From a top box seat row of Kinnick Stadium I stared down at the pristine green of the football field. Not a movement. There was no team. The stands were empty. Not a blade of grass looked to be stirring Saturday afternoon.
The Iowa Hawkeyes were playing Northwestern, 229 miles away. Catch on what I am saying? I had the opportunity to watch Iowa playing in someone else’s field while I sat, class box seats and burgers, in Iowa’s own empty field, watching the game on TV. It was spooky. I was advised that it was likely I would never again have such an opportunity. This was a once-only show.
EVERY FOOTBALL game that I have ever attended, I longingly looked at the long line of deluxe suites. They were enclosed, free of rain, wind or snow, while the Hawkeyes gallantly played on. On a tier above us on Saturday, these top-of-the-luxury suites offered valet food service and other amenities. There is no guessing what such luxury suites cost, the big spenders with deep pockets. Big corporations buy them to woo their clients with soft seats and turkey sandwiches. But they were empty, it was said, on last Saturday afternoon.
My ticket was printed, “Bill Wundram, guest of Chris Wundram.” Chris is a grandson, involved in such things at this charity for Big Brothers Big Sisters. We drove directly to the stadium … only a handful of cars while usually it is bumper tag. We walked a few yards to an oversize elevator that took us to our box. We weren’t fussy. Here we were, in a swell, big box with maybe 100 fans rambling around and singing the Iowa fight song.
I rushed to a railing, and far below was the football field, as green as an Irishman’s dream. I choked up, dreaming that I could see Nile Kinnick rushing for a touchdown. It was awesome, without a black and gold sweater in sight.
SOMEONE HANDED us life-size bright yellow paper hands on sticks. They were to be waved, at an announced point of the game, to kids who were patients in the children's hospital across the field. We excitedly waved the hands, and we believed that little hands waved back.
Some of us took tables, with black cloths, some took the brown leather lounge seats. To watch the game, there were more TV sets than in a sports bar. Our little group planted itself in front of a TV set as big as an automobile. Cheers and shouts and regular visits to hang over the railing, to look outside, far-far below, to that silent, brilliant green football field.
No one seemed to notice the dismal Iowa score.