Twenty-three years ago this spring, I realized that I was a die-hard Hawkeye fan.
I was 10 years old and the Iowa basketball team had been invited to the NCAA Tournament. The first-round opponent was Virginia Commonwealth, which I thought was a "made-up" name.
And just like tens of thousands of Hawk fans throughout the country, I was mesmerized by the 1980 Hawkeye team's road to the Final Four.
I can still remember it pretty clearly. What a thrill. Virginia Commonwealth, NC State, Syracuse and Georgetown all fell victim to Lute Olson's Hawks.
Obviously, Ronnie Lester was the star of the team. But, there were plenty of great performances by his supporting cast, which included Vince Brookins, Kevin Boyle, Steve Krafcisin, Steve Waite, Kenny Arnold, Bobby Hansen and Mark Gannon.
If Lester hadn't gotten hurt against Louisville in the semi-finals, who knows? In the 12 minutes that Lester played in that game, he scored 10 points…and didn't miss a shot.
Those Hawkeyes were big-time heroes to me back then. And they still are, really. Back then, I remember thinking that this Final Four stuff was pretty cool…and that Iowa would probably make it back every five years or so.
Uh…I guess not.
But, I'm also a die-hard Cubs' fan, which means a couple of things:
1) I have a high tolerance for mental anguish, disappointment, frustration and "wait until next years."
2) I am an optimist. I usually believe that THIS is the year for each of my favorite teams. Clearly, these qualities have helped me through the highs and lows of being a Hawkeye fan. As a fan of sports at all levels in this great state, I started my own web site—IowaSportsOpinions.com—a couple of years ago. The site gained a loyal following and eventually, there were some very good opportunities in front of me.
This summer, I decided to join The Insiders network. Beginning this week, I will be posting regular columns on this web site and I'll also write a column for each issue of the "Hawkeye Illustrated" magazine.
I have always enjoyed writing about the Hawkeyes. I try to write columns about topics that I would discuss with my family and friends while we're watching a game.
For example, some of the pieces I've written in the past year have included:
· 33 reasons I'm a Hawkeye fan
· What if Harry and Steve were Iowa's broadcasters?
· The Big Ten: Parity or "Homer" Officiating?
· 24 fantastic things about Iowa's championship season
I was raised in Strawberry Point—a small town in Northeast Iowa—in a sports-crazy family. I have five brothers and two sisters. And we were all avid Iowa fans.
One of my favorite Hawkeye memories occurred in the spring of 1987, when Iowa played Oklahoma to go to the Elite Eight. It was a Friday night and there must have been about 15 people crammed into our living room. When Kevin Gamble nailed the three-pointer to beat the Sooners, everyone went crazy. We were all jumping around, high-fiving each other and acting like sports fans should in those brief, glorious moments when your team is on top of the world.
(Sadly, the UNLV game two days later was also pretty memorable, for much different reasons. But, there's no reason to rehash that right now.)
I look forward to writing columns for this web site and its magazine. I want to thank Rob Howe and The Insiders network for presenting me with this opportunity.
I also want to thank all of my loyal readers for the last two years at IowaSportsOpinions.com. I have received messages from many of you, and your comments and support are definitely appreciated.
Finally, I want to thank all of the current readers of this web site for giving me a chance to share my thoughts about the Hawks. I want you to know that I always appreciate your feedback…whether you agree with something I've written or not. Please send your comments and questions to Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.
Just like you, I am ready for football season to begin. Hawkeye fans everywhere are excited about where the football program is headed. And I'm also fired up about the possibilities on the hardcourt for Iowa this winter.
It's a great time to be a Hawkeye fan, that's for sure. This should be a lot of fun.
(Marty Gallagher publishes www.IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)