Iowa Football: Big A-- Turkey Legs and a City Trying To Ruin Tradition

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IApril 15, 2011

Ever since I was little, I've wanted to cover college football. It's a sport unlike any other, one filled with tradition and one that brings entire states together. And now that my dream has become a reality from covering Iowa games for Bleacher Report to my acceptance at Northwestern University's school of journalism I've embraced the sport I love even more.

Yes, professional football is great and yes, its fans are passionate too. But no pro team will ever capture the hearts of a community, state or region like a college team can on any given Saturday. For that reason, no matter where my career takes me, college football will always be my favorite sport in the world.

Sadly, Iowa City seems to have forgotten what makes college football great and what makes having a team so special. And ironically, it's a city whose citizens proudly display shirts that read "Iowa F----- City" during the fall.

The Iowa City Council announced that it will discuss removing temporary vendors from popular Melrose Street outside of Kinnick Stadium next fall. Residents in the area complained that the vendors are disrupting the residential environment.

“We decided that the past enforcement practices where we tolerated what was going on could not continue,” Doug Boothroy, Iowa City’s director of housing and inspection services, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

So in other words, if the Melrose Neighborhood Association and the city get their way, that means no more funny t-shirts, no more pork sandwiches and no more Big A-- Turkey Legs outside Kinnick Stadium in the fall.

This is the second year in a row that the city has tried to diminish the game day atmosphere around Kinnick. Last year it implemented laws to limit excess tailgating around the stadium. Fans lashed out at Iowa City in protest, but the city ultimately got its way.

The city council can expect a similar reaction this time around as well, especially if it goes through with its plans.

The city had a reason to crack down on the drinking, namely because it was so commonplace at a university function where half the people attending weren't of drinking age. In addition, the laws didn't ruin the atmosphere around the stadium.

However, disallowing vender permits would have a much more drastic effect on the game day atmosphere. And other than annoyance, the grounds for removal aren't very solid.

"It’s heartbreakingly depressing to have our neighborhood turned into a disgusting mess on football game days,” Jean Walker, a representative of the Melrose Neighborhood Association, said in an email message to the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

While Melrose may be jam packed on game days, the street's residents knew that they would be living near a football stadium when they bought their homes and they knew that inevitably means large crowds with 70,585 people, Kinnick Stadium becomes the fifth largest "city" in Iowa on game days.

When you buy a house you also accept your neighbors, and in this instance, the residents get a few more seven days out of the year.

The problem isn't just that the vendors may be forced to leave. There will always be a place to buy Iowa t-shirts and there will always be turkey legs, albeit not "big a--" turkey legs.

The problem is that Iowa City is trying so hard to not be Iowa City.

Iowa City is a college town, plain and simple. However, city officials are trying to turn it into something it's not, and the complaint of a few "concerned" citizens has helped them with their movement.

People will always find something to complain about; that's nothing new. However, in today's politically correct society, anyone who complains suddenly has a tremendous amount of power.

These days, if a person doesn't like crowds and the atmosphere surrounding a football game, they are given an opportunity to ruin that experience for everyone. That's not right. That can't happen.

Hawkeye football is a statewide occasion and Iowa City is lucky enough to play host to such an unbelievable tradition. While the old stereotype that "there's nothing else to do in Iowa" may be a bit of an exaggeration, it's true in a sense, because this is Iowa's pro team. It's a tradition unlike any other; an experience that the city for some reason has the nerve to challenge.

Instead of embracing the incredible atmosphere that game day brings to town, the city is limiting fans from having innocent, harmless fun. It is ignoring the fact that the Hawkeyes bring in $100 million to Johnson County each year, and instead is trying to push them away.

Other cities would kill for that kind of event. But Iowa City doesn't realize just how good it has it.

The Hawkeyes give Iowa City an identity and make it a unique and charming place, especially on Saturdays in the fall.

Perhaps ESPN personality Chris Fowler said it best, "The state is shut down and stores closed for the afternoon as devout Hawkeye fans share a common bond.  Not much else matters on a home football Saturday in Iowa City."

That bond is why college football is such a great tradition, and it's a shame for Iowa City to try to ruin such a good thing.

If the Melrose Neighborhood Association and the city get their way, Iowa City will lose yet another part of what makes it such a magical place on football Saturdays.

The city council will continue trying to turn it into a middle-class suburb with tidy houses, picket fences and birds chirping as kids play outside. And while there is definitely nothing wrong with those types of towns, that isn't Iowa City.

There's a place for neat, conservative towns, but there also needs to be a place for fun-loving college towns like Iowa City.

So, for the sake of college traditions everywhere, here's to hoping that the city council keeps vendors and turkey legs on Melrose next season, and here's to hoping that it realizes just how lucky it is to have Hawkeye football in the fall.

Because this isn't a stereotypical city suburb and this isn't an upper-class area outside of New York or Los Angeles. This is like nowhere else in the world.

This is Iowa F----- City, and that's just how it should stay.


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