Fan(atical) Behavior

Fan(atical) Behavior

Fans, for the most part, are who they are: fanatics about their sporting teams, entertainers, and whatever they are in support of.

It also produces an unsavory group of “habitual line steppers” to quote the late comedian Charlie Murphy.

Monday night was no different. After a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, Orioles’ outfielder Adam Jones mentioned that he heard racial epithets and one fan hurled a bag of peanuts towards him.

The easy narrative, and the usual one, is to throw a blanket on the city of Boston, given the ugly past the city has dealt with in regards to racial issues.

It’s very easy for fans outside of cities like Boston and Philadelphia to wag a scornful finger at the behavior of those fans.

The problem is…there are fans in every city that are boorish, misogynistic, racist, and rotten. To point a finger at one group and talk about how bad they are shouldn’t dismiss the fact that your fan base, or yourself, is guilty of doing the same.

That last sentence was hammered home by ESPN’s Bomani Jones during his drive-time national radio show today. This isn’t a “Boston” problem. This is an “American” problem: fans who feel they can say and do whatever at games, simply because they paid to watch it.

What a stupid concept. Illogical, ignorant, and baseless.

And, don’t give me the “I pay their (players’) salaries, I can do what I want.”

You don’t pay their salaries. The owner pay their salaries. You (fans) pay for the ticket handlers at the gate, the hot dog vendor, and the maintenance crew who picks up behind us after games. When fans misbehaves, we are embarrassing those individuals, not just players and the teams.

No popcorn vendor wants to lose business or (their jobs) behind a fan acting like a drunken sloth who has no filter.

This may sound hollow and clichéd, but it bears repeating: fans, stop being assholes. If you want to boo, just boo. If your team stinks out loud, no one’s making you stay and watch it. Next time, someone will pull out their iPhones and the world will see just how bad you are.

For the love of decency, act like humans, not cavemen at events.

Advertisements

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

“(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)

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.

Marshawn Lynch Doesn’t Have To Speak, But It’s Up To Him To Conquer His Anxiety

Marshawn Lynch Doesn’t Have To Speak, But It’s Up To Him To Conquer His Anxiety

I’m not a good talker. I like conversations, but I am not a serial “conversationalist”. If given a choice, I would prefer to listen, read, and observe things and write what I see everyday.

But, that’s not how the world operates. You have to talk if you need help, to explain things that people do not understand, and to blend in with the human race.

I am a stutterer. Many people who know me understand that I will fumble over words and phrases awkwardly. I prefer not to talk, unless I need to say something.

"Beast Mode" (aka Marshawn Lynch) doesn't have to talk to the press, but that should not excuse him for not seeking help to resolve his anxiety and fear of public speaking. (ESPN)
“Beast Mode” (aka Marshawn Lynch) doesn’t have to talk to the press, but that should not excuse him for not seeking help for resolve his anxiety and fear of public speaking. (ESPN)

Which brings up the topic of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch, a star running back for the Seattle Seahawks, have become a storm of controversy, as if there isn’t enough controversy around pro football these days, for his “combative” nature in refusing to answer questions from the media during press conferences.

Various reports have said that Lynch battles anxiety attacks when pressed to speak to people. Lynch’s approach to all of this is to sound combative, to the level of being dismissive when he is peppered with questions by the press.

The story of Duane Thomas and his awkward exchange with Tom Brookshier brings back uneasy memories.

I don’t have an opinion of Lynch, but I do know what it is like to fear public speaking and anxiety.

Public speaking feels like walking down death row for many people, such as myself. Growing up, I hated to talk, because I was ashamed of my stuttering. As much as I wanted to voice my opinion, say something informative, or approach a girl, it was a virtual hell for me.

Years of speech therapy did help in some areas, but sooner or later, I would have to figure the rest of it out on my own: learning how to start a conversation, using the phone to order pizza, ask a receptionist for directions, to name a few.

I found public speaking to be tolerable: typing what I am going to say, rehearsing it, and reading it in front of a large crowd. I use a few tricks to help me get through it.

Bill Belichick does not have a fear of public speaking. He chooses to be difficult towards people, with a level of contempt.
Bill Belichick does not have a fear of public speaking. He chooses to be difficult towards people, with a level of contempt.

My advice to Lynch, the Seahawks, and the NFL is this: if he does have an anxiety disorder, then get help for it now, and address it to the public. The better the public knows about it from Marshawn Lynch, the more they are willing to give him a break.

If he does not have anxiety problems and this is mere insubordination on his part, he need to stop playing games with people. If Lynch is using anxiety as an excuse to blow off doing interviews (so far, it has not been confirmed by a doctor if he indeed has an anxiety disorder), then he is insulting and embarrassing the people who actually do battle with social anxiety disorder.

There’s no way getting around that.

If he allegedly did not have a problem with speaking during his time at Buffalo, what changed now with him in Seattle?

No wonder why the media is bashing him, fair or not. I don’t hate Lynch the person. I am disappointed in how he is handling this, and I blame the people around him, including the Seahawks, for not helping him learn how to deal with public speaking in spite of his anxiety.

By not addressing his anxiety, Lynch and the Seahawks open themselves up to criticism about him, his behavior, and who he is as a person.

All of this can be resolved…if everyone would stop pointing fingers at each other.

Here’s one simple resolution: if Lynch is consistently uncomfortable speaking due to his anxiety disorder, the NFL and the Seahawks have to make concessions and not force Lynch not to do mandatory press conferences. The same needs to be applied to players and coaches, not named Bill Belichick, who do have legitimate documented cases of social anxiety disorder.

In return, Lynch has to willingly seek help to treat his anxiety and work on adapting ways to deal with his fear of public speaking. If the NFL and Seattle have to accommodate Lynch in some form, then he has to get help on working to conquer his anxiety problems.

I had to learn how to speak and have conversations with people, in spite of my anxiety. I can choose not to talk, but no one is going to change their environment to accommodate me when I demand it for my self-interest.

This is a controversy should have never developed into a what it is, along with the New England Patriots being accused of deflating footballs to gain an advantage.

In the end, it’s on Marshawn Lynch to help himself conquer his fear of public speaking.

No one is going to fix it for him, unless he’s willing to do so himself.

“March Madness” Finally Comes to Des Moines

“March Madness” Finally Comes to Des Moines
The 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena . Hosting this proved that Des Moines was ready to host any major sporting event.
The 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena . Hosting this proved that Des Moines was ready to host any major sporting event.

Remember when Wells Fargo Arena and the Iowa Events Center opened in 2005?

Remember when people complained about paying $6 for a beer at Wells Fargo?

Remember when the Polk County Board of Supervisors had that ridiculous iron-clad contract to put an AHL team inside Wells Fargo?

Remember when people expected Wells Fargo and Des Moines to land a NCAA men’s tournament game right away?

Funny how we forget those moments. People stop complaining about the price of beer. It’s cheaper than venues like Solider Field and Yankee Stadium.

After the first fiasco of having an AHL team, the Board of Supervisors finally got it right by having the right owners and an affiliate that was in the region (Minnesota Wild).

And all that talk about never getting to host March Madness?  That debate ended today.

NCAA2016_DesMoines_logo

This morning, the NCAA has announced that Des Moines was selected as one of eight cities to host the first and second round games for the 2016 Division I men’s basketball tournament…aka March Madness.

Yes…our city. How about that?

See what patience and proving doubters wrong can do?

Des Moines was ready for this moment to come. It took a few “no’s”, but here it is.

This is why the IAHSAA and the IGHSAU moved their tournament dates up a few weeks early, much to their displeasure.

This is why Des Moines was willing to host the NCAA Track and Field Championships, the women’s basketball early and regional rounds, Iowa State hosting the volleyball regionals, and the coup d’etat, the NCAA wrestling championships in 2013.

And not to mention, Des Moines has hosted the AAU Junior Olympics the last few years as well.

This is why after listening to what they needed to do to improve their chances at hosting the men’s tournament, Des Moines, quietly and patiently, worked diligently to put as many of the pieces together. A new hotel will be built next to the Events Center complex in the next two years.

So that excuse of not having a hotel on site can no longer be used as an excuse by the NCAA or anyone else.

This news even surprised WHO-TV’s Andy Fales, who thought Des Moines was going to miss out, yet again:

…after the announcement:

The more you doubt a person or something, the more they can prove you wrong.

The credit goes to the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau and others like Iowa State, Drake, and sports fans. We earned this. We proved that anything can happen…patience is a virtue.

Is hosting a major national sports event still a “useless folly”, Mike Draper?  I didn’t think so. The CVB just got scoreboard.

That also goes for those who will continue to find ways to player-hate on Des Moines. You can quietly exit stage left.

The haters are not going to ruin this day for sports fans. We’ve waited for a long time for this to happen. When 2016 arrives, it’ll be 44 years since March Madness was held in an Iowa venue (Hilton Coliseum hosted the 1972 Midwest regionals).

There are a few other things I want to add about the news (for one, it’s long overdue for the NCAA to find new cities to host tournaments), but for today, it’s a good day to see that the work towards getting March Madness paid off.

“Pros And Cons” Warned Us About Crime and Sports

“Pros And Cons” Warned Us About Crime and Sports

Over the past few months, I have listened and watched how people react to news stories, and then over-react to levels that becomes irrational.

Time and again, society treats sports and entertainment like a domestic ecstasy. It’s a perfect world outside of the real world we live in, which is broken, insane, and imperfect. And once again, society point their scornful finger at sports and entertainment for being exactly what society is: broken, insane, and imperfect.

Sports mirrors society, but most of us choose to ignore that aspect. We demand perfection from those we look up to and yet we fail to see those flaws in ourselves.

I sit back with amusement. Why? Because I’m not shocked by the level of domestic violence, drug use, and criminal activity and other things that have beset the sports world, and in Hollywood.

A book I read in 1998 and I still have on my bookshelf pulled back the curtain on crime and sports back then, and we turned a blind eye and ignored it.

(Courtesy: Goodreads.com)
(Courtesy: Goodreads.com)

Jeff Benedict and Don Yeager wrote an eye-opening book titled “Pros and Cons” about the disturbing trend of violence in the NFL, on and off the field. What Benedict and Yeager exposed could easily be applied to baseball, hockey, and soccer. Back then, the internet was a new thing and “Inside Edition” was where we went to get the skinny on “everything”.

It is recommended reading for those who hasn’t followed the history of how crime intertwines with sports. After reading it, you won’t be so “shocked” by what we are seeing now.

Society feeds off of sensational stories that gets us talking and reacting, which is our modus operandi on social media, rather than making a concerted, genuine effort to understand issues.  Most of us are too lazy to delve into topics that are complex and hard to sort out.

Unpopular opinion: TMZ is not a news source, regardless how many stories they have broken or videos they have leaked. TMZ’s main purpose is to out celebrities and record their behavior, even if it means paying paparazzi and unscrupulous people to get pictures and videos of famous people in compromising positions.

Individuals like Benedict, Yeager, and others, have researched, discussed, and talked about these topics involving violence in sports long before everyone else. It’s unfortunate that it took so long. No, Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, and Colin Cowherd doesn’t get credit for “bringing light” to these subjects. They’re just like the rest of us:  whatever is the big story, they’ll pontificate about it to the public.

Sports mirrors life: there are a lot of ugly stuff going on that we think we know, but don’t know. We need to stop treating sports like a fairy-tale nirvana, because the choices and decisions that are made, as in the case of the NFL, are the same things that people make in the real world.

Some good and some bad, some really bad and some pretty good.

We just hate to admit that. It’s always someone else’s fault.

“There’s No Use Complaining…It’s Here”: A Guide to District Football Part 1

“There’s No Use Complaining…It’s Here”:  A Guide to District Football Part 1
Starting tonight, all of the classes, from 8-man to Class 4A will be playing district football. All other sports will remain in conferences.
Starting tonight, all of the classes, from 8-man to Class 4A will be playing district football. All other sports will remain in conferences.

It was going to happen. The question was “when”, “how”, and “who”?

No matter how much kicking-and-screaming there was from the eastern side of the state, they were going to be corralled with the west and finally be under one system, with the rest of everyone else.

Now, it’s here. It’s time to get acquainted.

Iowa Class 4A football…meet district football. 

There’s no use continuing to complain about it…from the eastern side of the state to the scribes in Sioux City who’s still think that it’s a CIML conspiracy. It’s time for a new era…and some things to understand about district football as we open the curtain to the 2014 Iowa prep football season.

If you want a short history of how we’ve gotten here, you can go here from a 2011 blog post. The same problems back then are the same problems now: travel, costs, and enrollment numbers, which many fans tend to dismiss the latter, but at this point, it’s become a big factor.

The constant chatter since the formation of the 4A districts in February have been over two pressing questions: how can a team with a losing record qualify for the playoffs, and how does the IAHSAA determine who gets into the post-season.

Well…let’s answer them the best we way we can. Nothing’s perfect, you know.

Q: How did Mason City get into the playoffs with an 1-8 and 2-7 records? That makes no sense.

A: That’s simple. Your district record > overall record. Yep, your district record trumps your overall record.

It’s crazy, but follow me here. In states that have district football (Missouri for one), how you finish in your district usually determines if you get in the playoffs. In the case for 4A, the top four teams in each of the 8 districts advances to the playoffs. If you win even one district game, and those below you don’t, you have a chance to play beyond Week 9…as long as you are in the top 4 in your district.

In the case of Mason City, this is how they got in with sub .500 records. In 2012, they finished 4th in their division with a 1-3 record (1-8 overall). Des Moines Hoover finished last with an 0-4 division record (1-8 overall. A win over a non-division team). Remember, the top 4 in each division (nowdistricts) advances. Ft. Dodge and Council Bluffs Lincoln advanced with 2-3 division records, 3-6 overall.

Ft. Dodge and Sioux City have done division football for the past two seasons. The test run is over for them. District football is waiting for them. (Sioux City Journal)

Everyone in eastern Iowa were irate about it, but when you look at the 2012 playoff field, Waterloo West (3-6), Cedar Rapids Kennedy (4-5), Burlington (3-6), and Iowa City High (4-5) got in with sub-.500 records from the east side. Ottumwa (2-3, 4-5 overall) also got in. Eight sub-.500 teams (4 from each side of the state) got in.

Not good enough?

2013: Mason City finished 2-7 overall, 2-3 in division. Hoover finished 4-5 overall, and 2-3 in division. Mason City defeated Hoover head-to-head, thus the Mohawks had the tie-breaker and ended up 3rd in their division, Hoover in 4th.

Both teams, along with Des Moines East (1-4 division, 2-7 overall), Ankeny and Sioux City North (both 4-5) qualified. Over on the east, Waterloo West, Dubuque Hempstead, Clinton, and Davenport Assumption had 4-5 records…and made the playoffs.

It’s not that district football “helped” bad teams get in…it was expanding the post-season field from 16 to 32 that was the real culprit in allowing teams with losing records get in. So, if you’re going to whine about Mason City, the same could be said for Burlington for a 3-6 record in conference play.

It’s all a wash.

In the next post, we’ll answer the question about the uneven split of Class 4A and why there’s 46 schools and not 48.