“We Were Going to Get Here Anyway”

We have a hard time accepting and practicing this term.
We have a hard time accepting and practicing this term.

By definition, the word “patience” is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

For most of my generation, patience means little. In my 30’s, I learned that not everything will happen when you demand it, and on your time.

The recent events over the past week has proven again on why “patience” can be irritating and beneficial.

Let’s start with the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision last Friday striking down the ruling that same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. I laugh when I see people react like fools on both sides of the issue: pastors setting themselves on fire, people changing their Facebook profile to show their picture in the colors of the rainbow, which is the universal symbol for the LGBT community.

I’m not surprised.  That’s why we’re humans. We behave in ways that I shake my head in disbelief.

Whatever happen to people like me who saw the news and said “I may agree (or disagree) with it, but I can live with it.”

I said this in 2013 in reference to NBA player Jason Collins: we will come to a point where no one cares about an individual’s sexual preference. The same can be applied to different forms of marriages.

I learn how to adapt, accept it, and go about my day. It’s time for it to happen.

We would going to get to this point anyway, whether we liked it or not.

But let the social media mob run roughshod on just about anything, and you want to quit Facebook to get away from the silliness.

When asked for my opinion of the ruling, I calmly said “That’s nice.”

“What do you mean, ‘That’s nice?!?’ Are you happy about it? What IS YOUR OPINION OF IT?!?!?!”

“I’m cool with it. If you expect me to jump up and down about it, you’re talking to the wrong guy.”

“You mean, you’re not surprised about this? How can you be so calm and passive about this?  This is a big deal!!”

“Why in the hell should I be? We were going to get here (with this news) anyway.”

That person wasn’t sure if I was a fire-breathing religious conservative or a bleeding-heart liberal.

It doesn’t matter if I like or reject the ruling. What is important is that I follow the rules, adhere to them, and live my life.

Sadly, for many people I know on Facebook, Twitter, or in real life, that’s not a good enough response from me. They wanted more of my “reaction” to the SCOTUS ruling.

Nice try. That’s my response and I’m sticking to it: calm, sensible, and practical.

I’ve long since stopped making a fuss about many topics, including same-sex issues. I had mentally “accepted” years ago that same-sex marriages should be legal. After all, interfaith marriages and interracial marriages happen everyday. And there are people, liberal or conservative, who are not fans of either of those types of marriages as well.

We were going to get here anyway.

Moderates, like me, witness historical events and we’re going to roll with it. For better or for worse. Democrats and Republicans lose their proverbial shit about anything that moves on Twitter.

If you let a political party dictate how you feel, I can’t help you there.

We’ve been down this societal road before: smoking, civil rights for minorities, and other events.

Nothing is going to be perfect. Never have…never will, so let’s stop with the Pollyanna narrative as it relates to Friday’s ruling. Same sex couples will divorce, bicker, and go through domestic violence  just like heterosexual couples.

Not all marriages are perfect. They take work and patience.

Which brings up the Dixie (Confederate) flag. Now, let me address the shootings in Charleston first. I think it is lazy of us to treat the shooting deaths of nine individuals in a historical African-American church as a secondary item, so we can spend most of our time debating about a flag. The very same flag that was a symbol that we ignored for so long, it’s pretty embarrassing and hypocritical.  The shootings and the flag are two vastly separate issues in my opinion. Let’s treat them as such with common sense.

It doesn’t erase the fact that a deranged person who had very dark and sinister racial attitudes walked into a church and opened fire.

Now, how many of us knew why the LGBT pride flag is a rainbow flag? You learn something new every day.
Now, how many of us knew why the LGBT pride flag is a rainbow flag? You learn something new every day.

Those who quickly brought up the flag moments after the shooting, clearly had an agenda to propagate: get rid of the flag, because it cause the shooter to kill innocent victims.

The flag didn’t cause that individual to kill people. He had his mind set on harming people because he chose to do so.

My take is this: the flag should not be used in a public setting (government buildings, post offices, et cetera). Yes, people are going to display it on their own personal terms. Much like those who will display the Nazi flag, any offensive materials (racist, sexist, juvenile, to name a few), and yes the LGBT flag, along with an Iowa Hawkeyes or ISU Cyclones flag.

We can’t completely eliminate its use. You can thank the 1st Amendment for that.

That’s the way it is. If you want to fly the LGBT flag, you have a right to do that. So does someone who wants to fly a Dixie flag…on their own property.

If anything, negative symbols should remind us of our history and the impact it has caused. This country has a history of great and very ugly moments. To wipe clean of the ugly, is to deny the fact that it happened.

We can’t change the past…but do we really learn from it?

The answer is no, because we hate to learn from history. History doesn’t “wow” us. It’s boring.

History is relevant to how we face moments like now: with clarity or with irrationality.  If we don’t learn from history, we’re screwed.

The Civil Rights bill got a lot people talking and taking sides 51 years ago this summer. What happened? People accepted it and moved on, whether they agreed with it or not.
The Civil Rights bill got a lot people talking and taking sides 51 years ago this summer. What happened? People accepted it and moved on, whether they agreed with it or not.

How did America react when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964? There were some knuckleheads for sure on both sides, but overall, the majority of Americans knew that it was going to happen. When it did, we accepted it the best way we knew how and we moved on.

The same here with Friday’s ruling: we’ll accept it, like or hate it, but we move on.

The hashtag “love wins” has been used by everyone who is in favor of the ruling. But, I have to ask philosophically, why are we still so hateful towards (immigrants, homeless, handicapped, atheists, etc.) others? It’s pathetic.  “Love wins” when it’s for one group, and not all humans. Something is wrong with that. Doesn’t “love” incorporate everyone, including those you disagree with?

Hypocrisy…all of us are guilty of this.

Did #lovewins move the needle? Or do we still need to really work on that?
Did love really did “win”? We still have to work on that before we finally say that “love wins.”

Love only won the battle. It hasn’t won the war.

For every person who wag their scornful finger at the South for continuing to fly the Dixie flag, are they the same people who blindly ignore the various forms of de facto discrimination like housing, employment and institutional racism in the North?

How many minorities live in Beaverdale?

Why are residents who live downtown against having low-income residents living in their buildings? Are they afraid that these “poor people” are going to “trash” these high-end luxury condos? Low-income or restricted-income residents are not always the ones who trash homes and places, driving the property value down.

When we brag about how progressive we are in Des Moines, why does it feel that we continue to ignore and not include certain groups and neighborhoods?

Just when you think you know what SCOTUS will rule on...yeah, keep guessing.
Just when you think you know what SCOTUS will rule on…yeah, keep guessing.

Everyone’s happy that same-sex marriages are legal, and yet we can’t seem to get our shit together. People are ecstatic about same-sex marriages but we give the evil eye to interracial and interfaith marriages.

It has been an interesting week, but I’m not celebrating or booing about the news. I knew that, eventually, it would happen. It was only a matter of time and circumstances.

It was being patient. It can be irritating and yet beneficial.

We were going to get here anyway.

Five Things I’ve Learned So Far in Dialysis

I am approaching two months of dialysis very shortly and I want to write about what I have experienced so far.

Several things I have learned about myself in this “new normal”:

  • New co-working space (sort of): Outside of a coffeehouse and a library, I have found that a dialysis clinic is a good place to zone out and be with your own thoughts. After all, you’re not doing much for 3.5 hours, three times a week, but watch television, read a book, or have your nose in your phone. I’ve started to watch The Food Network a lot recently. Not that I’m hungry, but I’m interested to see how you cook food better and be creative.
  • Pass on the water: Drinking water or liquids is good. Too much of it can result in cramping during treatment. Your kidneys can only flush so much out of your system. The same goes with a dialysis machine.
  • Appetite: I don’t have much of an appetite anymore. I have also started to dislike certain foods that I ate regularly before. I get violently sick after nibbling on a Reese’s peanut butter cup or a Sunbelt granola bar.
  • Physical challenges: my balance is a little off, since I’m not carrying so much edema in my legs. It’s weird as hell seeing your legs go from the size of cannons to “normal”. Getting around takes a little more time. My vision has changed slightly. I’m so not ready to get new glasses. I just got new prescription sunglasses in February.
  • Speech and Brain: This is where I have the most trouble with. I didn’t know what septic shock was, until my physician mentioned it after I was released from the hospital in May. Since starting dialysis, I have been unable to form complete sentences, and stuttering and slurring certain words. As I read about the affects of septic shock, I can only conclude why I was stuttering: septic shock effects the entire body: major organs, brain, and limbs.

According to the Sepsis Alliance, nearly 1.4 million people survive sepsis, but they face life-long challenging changes. Sepsis have a high death rate, particularly with the elderly, young, or patients with weakened immune systems. Since I live with diabetes, I fall into the latter category.

In a 2010 article, Medpage Today reported that 59.3% of patients hospitalized with severe sepsis saw worse cognitive or physical function or both by their first post-sepsis assessment.

I knew my kidneys have failed, but no one was able to figure out why I am unable to talk smoothly. Septic shock leaves a mark, permanent or temporary, on your motor and cognitive skills. You feel like you are trying to get out of mud.

The brain, by nature, process what you see or hear, and then sends a message to the mouth to relay what we hear and see. As a life long mild stutter, it has become increasingly difficult to say what I am thinking or want to say.

It is frustrating to run into friends and people I know, and not know their names right away and recognize them, as well as carry a normal conversation without stammering constantly.

The inability to have a conversation with people have become a rather embarrassing predicament.

The cognitive and motor skills are the nerve centers to how we process and dispense information. When those skills are affected, or taken away, by a stroke for example, patients feel trapped inside their own bodies. We take talking as a simple task for which we blindly take for granted.

I will need intense speech therapy/rehab in order to relearn how to talk. I love to write, but not everyone wants to read your thoughts…they want to hear it.

My body is going through changes that, to be honest, frightens me. Have I been sick for so long that I didn’t realize that it was silently killing me?

Going through kidney dialysis, and the goal to get on the transplant list in the fall might be the easiest tasks to do.

It’s my mental and vocal capacities that I worry about. I need those in order to communicate.

Closing the Book on “Mad Men”

Sterling Headshot
“Remember, when God closes a door, he opens a dress.” God bless you, Roger Sterling. (PopSugar)

Tonight, it ends.

The story of a guy named Don Draper and the life surrounding an advertising agency in New York’s 1960’s. But, this story doesn’t begin with a script written by Matthew Weiner. It actually began, innocently enough, with a group performing in Des Moines one night. Critically acclaimed group “RJD2” performed at Vaudeville Mews. Popular for the tune “1976” and “Ghostwriter”, little did anyone, or even the group, would know that that another tune “A Beautiful Mine” would be selected by Weiner to be the opening theme to “Mad Men.”

Yes, Des Moines, you had a small part of television history, besides being the home of January Jones (Betty Draper Francis).

We tend to easily toss the banter of “greatest show ever” at anything we just watched (“The Sopranos” and “MAS*H” for examples), but there is something about television series that pulls us in like a black hole. But, there is validity to what The Sopranos and Mad Men mean to today’s television. It was unique, it had interesting characters that resembled the people we’re around these days.  I dare you to tell me you didn’t run across an Uncle Junior, Paulie Walnuts, or a Roger Sterling in your daily lives? Or wait, we wished we would run across people like that…

Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1?  My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)
Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1? My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

Anyway, I have always been fascinated in how we watch television: how we view it, how we expect it to end and the reaction to it when it ends in the way that we did not anticipated it.

Do Colonel Henry Blake and Rosalind Shays come to mind?

As I wrote back in 2010 about the ending of The Sopranos, the idea that we want a perfect ending to a show is only wishful thinking. Shows should challenge our thinking and attitudes on what we think our perceptions are and to get us to view it a different way.

Larry Gelbart nailed it when how he described on MAS*H killing off Henry Blake. The viewers were upset that the writers would create such a killjoy in adding in Blake’s death, but the writers’ had another angle for viewers to understand: MASH wasn’t just a sitcom…it was a sitcom/drama about the reality of war.

So, as AMC closes the book on “Mad Men” this evening, don’t be surprised if the ending you expect isn’t the one you want.

Mind you, Weiner did work on The Sopranos. Anything can happen…just don’t expect it to live up to your own unrealistic expectations.

“Off Center”

“We have a chair ready for you.” 

Those six words rung in my head as I started outpatient dialysis this week.

The mere notion of kidney dialysis would make a millennial grimace with visceral pain, shrug it off and go “well, at least it isn’t me.”

Well, since this is about me, being on dialysis has been a strange experience , not just for the obvious reasons.

Dialysis, be definition, is a process for removing waste and excess water from the blood, and is used primarily as an artificial replacement for lost kidney function in people with kidney failure. I had always carried a lot of fluid or excess water in my legs. It was that way for a long time, to which I had taken diuretics to flush the water out. There is so much water in my legs, that when dialysis is used, my legs cramp up. It can be crippling and yet effective.

But that’s not the only thing that has effected me physically when it comes to dialysis.

As a life-long clutterer/stutterer, I have always prided myself with how I speak. Since I’ve started, my brain and motor skills has been so disjointed it scares me. The process of dialysis is to restore equilibrium and to purge the toxins and excess out of your blood stream. As a result of that, my “balance” is way off. On Saturday when visited me at the hospital, I couldn’t spit out one consistent sentence without hitting a block. The more I listened to myself during my conversations with others, the frustrated I got in how I couldn’t say words that would normally come out.

I don’t know how to explain it, but it is weird on how my speech can be out of sorts as I begin dialysis I wonder if anyone has had any strange occurrences or have felt “off-kilter” while starting or have been going through any type of dialysis, “clean-living” or any type of body purge?

What One Week Can Do…Changes A Life in A Hurry

Cliches comes in a dime a dozen. We toss it around like baseballs, peppering the infield. So forgive me if I move off a beaten path to utter this phrase: Life moves around you very fast, but when you get to spend quiet time alone, looking at what has happened, it is a whole new world, and when alone, will forever endure.

I think of this tonight, as I sit alone in a room, wondering where this new chapter of my life will take me.

One week ago on a Friday, a buddy and I went to see the Iowa Cubs play at Principal Park. On Saturday, I came down with the flu. On Tuesday, I went to the hospital to shake off the flu, on Thursday, I learned that my kidneys no longer can work by themselves.

Here I am, Thursday night, alone at Broadlawns Medical Center, with a temporary catheter in my right chest and right neck, looking about as unrepentant as a good looking man should be, the body odor…let’s not go there.

This is a new chapter for me. Do not feel sorry for that it happened…you’re wasting time feeling sorry when you can learn about it.

I knew my kidneys were falling. I knew since last fall that time was of essence. My body gave no damn to time. I don’t blame my body. It has lived with diabetes for 20 years, diabetic retinopathy for three years, the battle of the bulge for 35 years. The kidneys were going to check out…only that it was sooner rather than later.

Many of you are learning about this for first time. A few of you, no most of you are shocked. Consider the case of last week, when I told a friend at a restaurant that the news wasn’t good for me…and it wasn’t about the Clippers. It went in and out of his ears. So I selectively told a few folks, knowing I would respect them for not broadcasting the news across America like the Kardashians did something dumb for the umpteenth time.

I’m not a famous columnist or a blogger. If I was, I would kindly suggest reading Des Moines Register’s Daniel Finney if you want to read about perspectives and personal struggles. He’s damn good at that.

I have written about my life with diabetes in the past. This is another chapter that I have to endure. Only that I’m going to ask my friends and acquaintances here in town for a favor. One that I’ve never asked. Please stop by. Send well wishes, crack a joke. Anything to keep me busy until
my mom and my sister’s family arrive here from the Quad Cities.

Lonely people shouldn’t dwell alone on what they are about to face. Don’t feel sorry about what has happened…learn about it and grow from it.

“(U)niversity of (N)othing’s (I)mpossible”

March 16, 1990 was a historic day for the University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team.

To write that is a big understatement.

Maurice Newby...the man who made the shot that sent the Cedar Valley into a frenzy. (UNI Athletics Communications)
Maurice Newby…the man who made the shot that sent the Cedar Valley into a frenzy. (UNI Athletics Communications)

Twenty-five years ago today, in their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a Division I-A program, the 14th seeded Panthers faced the Missouri Tigers, who were seeded 3rd and at one time, were ranked #1 in the polls.

UNI, tied with Mizzou, 71-71, with 10 seconds left, had the ball on the sidelines. Troy Muilenburg inbounded the ball to point guard Dale Turner. Turner dribbles the ball to the right, then reverses back to the left. Maurice Newby comes towards Turner, as Mizzou’s Anthony Peeler doesn’t switch off Turner quick enough as Newby receives the pass from Turner. Newby, with time running out, gathers himself behind the three-point line and lets one fly…

…swish.

The Tigers, with no timeouts to use, hurry to inbound the ball and heaves it past the basket into the crowd as the buzzer sounds.

The Panthers won, 74-71 over the Tigers. It was one of the biggest upsets in the 1990 tournament and goes down in the annuals as one of the most memorable in Iowa sports history.

There is a distinction that has to be made here, if you don’t mind.  The 2010 win versus Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament was the biggest win in the program’s history. The Jayhawks were the top seed and nationally ranked in the top 5 during the 2009-10 season.

While many fans, and rightfully so, will say Kansas ranks #1 as the biggest win, the victory over Mizzou was the most “defining” win for the Panthers’ basketball program.

Huh?

You can’t dismiss what that win over the Tigers meant to UNI. Until 1981, UNI was a Division II school. When they made the leap to Division I, they went through plenty of growing pains. To Iowa, Iowa State and the rest of the state, Northern Iowa was a blip on the map. Yes, they are a state school, but they were not always treated as equals like their big brothers were.

UNI is the school where the student body is slightly over 90% Iowan. It was known as Iowa State Teachers’ College until 1967. Norm Stewart, the losing coach for Missouri, was the head coach for ISTC from 1962 to 1969. Panthers athletics were known more for wrestling, volleyball, and most times than not, football.

Jason Reese cuts down the nets after the Panthers' 53-45 win over UW-Green Bay for the Mid-Continent tournament championship. (UNI Athletics Communications)
Jason Reese cuts down the nets after the Panthers’ 53-45 win over UW-Green Bay for the Mid-Continent tournament championship. (UNI Athletics Communications)

The 1989-90 season for UNI was a defining moment for the team for various reasons. They hosted the Iowa Hawkeyes for the first time in seven decades. The game, held in the UNI-Dome on January 3rd, created a buzz that hasn’t been seen since the Dome opened in late 1975. With the court raised and centered in the middle of Dome, 22,676 fans witnessed and were part of history. It was the largest crowd to watch a college basketball game in state history. That record still stands today.

UNI, behind 15 second half points by reserve Brad Hill, upset the Hawkeyes, 77-74.

In early March, the Panthers hosted the Mid-Continent Conference tournament. After finishing in fourth place in the league, and losers of three of their last five games, there were plenty for UNI to prove. They lost only two games in “Eldon’s Dome of Doom” in the regular season.

After a wild triple overtime win over Illinois-Chicago in the first round, Northern Iowa got a go-ahead basket to lead (Southwest) Missouri State 63-61, the Bears had the ball and a chance to tie or win the game. They were called for traveling with 4 seconds left. The Panthers advanced to the title game against a Wisconsin-Green Bay team that beaten the twice during the season.

With a loud raucous crowd behind them, Northern Iowa stymied the Phoenix and star player (current Virginia coach) Tony Bennett, 53-45, to earn their first ever appearance in the “Big Dance.”

Jason Reese (left) and Nick Pace joking around during a 2012 reunion of the '89-90 UNI team on campus. (Courier archives)
Jason Reese (left) and Nick Pace joking around during a 2012 reunion of the ’89-90 UNI team on campus. (Courier archives)

Purple fever was running white-hot through the Cedar Valley and the state. Panthers fans had something to boast about and a moniker for the team: University of Nothing’s Impossible: beating Iowa, winning three games in three nights to win the conference tournament. Nothing was impossible for this team: Jason Reese, Maurice Newby, Troy Muilenburg, Dale Turner, Steve Phyfe, Cedric McCullough, Cam Johnson, Nick Pace, Brad Hill, Jonathon Cox, Scott Socha, Kent Pollpeter, and Steve Deering.

Northern Iowa drew Missouri in the Southeast regional at Richmond, Virginia Friday morning, March 16th.

Here is the full game, without commercials.

See what I mean why I say a “defining” moment for UNI basketball? That season gave the Panthers the foundation they needed to build success…and what we see today, as Northern Iowa returns to the tournament to face Wyoming on Friday.

Since 1990, Northern Iowa has made the NCAA tournament in 2004-06 and 2009-10, and won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in 2004, 2009, 2010, and two weeks ago.

Steve Phfye holds the Mid-Continent trophy in the air. (UNI Athletics Communications)
Steve Phfye holds the Mid-Continent trophy in the air. (UNI Athletics Communications)

The win against Mizzou turned UNI from a “blip” to a place where getting an easy win was no longer possible. Before beating Kansas and Missouri, Iowa was their biggest win, only to eclipse that two months later, knocking off the Tigers.

Northern Iowa may still be the little brother Iowa and ISU would rather not be bothered with, but there is no disputing this: UNI is no longer a pushover. They’re the ones doing the pushing around, which makes the rivalry between the three public schools, and Drake, something that fans in Iowa can appreciate and enjoy.

Nothing is impossible for the Purple and the Gold.

Nothing.

 

A Tiger’s Roar: Pat Mitchell (1939-2015)

Dean Smith coached Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Rasheed Wallace, Larry Brown, and Kenny "The Jet" Smith. (Courtesy: WUNC)
Dean Smith coached Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Rasheed Wallace, Larry Brown, and Kenny “The Jet” Smith. (Courtesy: WUNC)

Dean Smith, the legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach, passed away Saturday evening at age 83. The recurring theme over the past several days is not about Smith’s won-loss records and being one of the best college basketball coaches ever. It was about Smith the individual: principled, graceful, teacher, and a father figure. Dean Smith lived a full life.

Mentioning Smith gives me an opportunity to tell you about another individual, who passed away last Wednesday. Similar to Smith, he too was principled, graceful, teacher, and he was one of the best coaches in Iowa.


Pat Mitchell was the head football coach at Cedar Falls for so long, I thought he was the only coach the Tigers ever had.

For a long time, I never thought there was anyone before him (Ed Lyons) and I swore that there would be no one after him (Brad Remmert).

Pat Mitchell taught and coached at Cedar Falls High for 47 years, 24 trips to the post-season, and 39 playoff wins. (Courier archives)
Pat Mitchell taught and coached at Cedar Falls High for 47 years, 24 trips to the post-season, and 39 playoff wins. (Courier archives)

From 1967 to 2014, no one was identified with Tigers football more than Coach Mitch, who died on February 4th after an extended battle with cancer.  If there was anyone else who knew how to use the UNI-Dome to his team’s advantage, Mitch was the master of it. Playing the Tigers in the UNI-Dome was a house of horrors for opponents far and wide.

Mitch’s teams played smart, strong, and fast. If you dug yourself a hole against CF, good luck trying to crawl out of that hole…you were cooked. That’s what happens when you face a guy who is 4th all time in wins (344-138-2) in Iowa prep football.

But Mitchell was more than a coach…he was an iconic figure in the annuls of Cedar Valley sports, particularly in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. He coached against Reggie Roby, Kerry Burt, Jerry Moses, Chris Klieman, Tim Dwight, and many others who have become stars and legends in Iowa prep football.

Mitch is on the list of local coaches, that if you just mention their last name or nickname, people knew who you were talking about: Dick Marcussen and Dan List at CF, Howard Vernon, Steve McGraw, and Dave Natvig at East Waterloo, and George Dutcher, Bob Siddens, and Glenn Strobridge at West Waterloo.

The players Mitch coached, I either watched or played against: Terrence Freeney, Chris Nuss, Jason Hamrock, Mike Flagg, Matt Purdy, Barkley Hill, and Gabe Hurley, among so many.

But it was the rivalries…oh those rivalries. When East, West, CF, and Columbus got together on a Friday night, it wasn’t a football game…it was a battle royale. The heydays of the old Big 8 Conference was a special time: iconic coaches, outstanding players, and the stadiums that were rocking. There was pride on the line…and a city championship to be won.

There are three program defining games, in my view, that made Mitchell and the Tigers’ the formidable powerhouse that they are now. Incidentally, all three was against a city rival, East Waterloo.

In 1971, the Tigers were leading East 24-13, late in the 4th quarter at UNI’s old Latham Field. Behind talented Tiger quarterback Bill Salmon, CF jumped out to a big lead. But, the Trojans rallied with two touchdowns in the last 5 minutes of the contest for a 25-24 win. East went on to win their 6th straight mythical Class 4A state title.

That loss set up the second defining moment in 1972 when CF pulled off a 10-9 upset win over East. That win was all the momentum they needed to qualify for the playoffs, which was instituted that year by the IAHSAA.

Jeremiah Longnecker and Pat Mitchell with a celebratory hug after the Tigers' 15-14 win over Linn-Mar to win the 1986 Class 4A state title. (Courier archives)
Jeremiah Longnecker and Pat Mitchell with a celebratory hug after the Tigers’ 15-14 win over Linn-Mar to win the 1986 Class 4A state title. (Courier archives)

The third program-defining game was the 1st round playoff game against East in 1986. In the regular season, the Trojans pancaked the Tigers, 49-14. In the rematch at the UNI-Dome, CF stymied East and stunned the favorite to win the 4A title with a 12-6 win. It was the Tigers who went on to win a state title that year, defeating Linn-Mar, 15-14.

The Tigers would repeat that effort again in 1987, by losing to East in the regular season and beating the Trojans in the 1st round again, but fell short to Dowling Catholic, 21-3 in the semifinals.

The 1986 title was the only one Pat Mitchell would win. Mitchell and the Tigers came close several times, finishing as runner-ups 4 times (’82, ’99, ’05, ’08).

No one had a bad thing to say about Coach Mitch. Why should they? Being a coach is not about play calls, touchdowns, and championships. It’s about people. His players loved and respected him. Cedar Falls rallied behind the Tigers, all due to Mitchell’s personality: positive, delightful, tenacious, and never giving up.

It never dawn on me that one day Mitch would finally hang it up. For the last ten years, Brad Remmert and him were co-coaches and the Tigers continued the high level of success in Class 4A. Mitchell made the decision to retire before the start of the 2014 season.

In December, my brother-in-law was inducted into our high school’s basketball ring of honor. During the ceremony, I was mentally looking back how those moments and the people I was fortunate to watch, read, and listen, as well as played against, have shaped my view of respecting history and traditions. Yes, I am biased towards my alma mater, East High, but it would be foolish to not include a guy like Pat Mitchell, a rival, in being such an important figure in our community, with regards to sports.

Mitch’s passing feels like an end of an era for me. It’s hard to imagine one person, being at one school for nearly your entire life (I recently turned 39. Mitchell was at CF for 47 years). It was a little hard this past fall to not to see a highlight of Mitch on the sidelines. It was because I, and so many of us from the Cedar Valley, were so used to it.

The roar of the greatest Tiger in Cedar Falls High School history is now silent.

Pat Mitchell lived a full life and people will remember the person that Mitch was. The wins and losses are secondary.

As it should be.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,542 other followers

%d bloggers like this: