THE TAMPA BLOG (Updated Thurs AM)

The Hawkeye Nation Boys - Jon Miller, Rob Howe and Brian Finley - keep the readers up to date on their travels in Tampa.

Brian: Alright folks, it's time to clear my name and update what's been going on since this was posted... My comments are in blue

TAMPA _ Brian Finley and me departed Iowa City at about 8 p.m. on Monday night in route to Jon Miller's new house in West Des Moines. The directions proved pretty solid, although we missed a turn and received an extended look of the neighborhood.

We arrived at the Miller Estate sometime around 10 and caught the last few minutes and overtime of the Alamo Bowl. The best part of the evening, however, was watching the dog pin the cat on the couch and others escapades of the animals. Clearly, the best part watching the cat, in a moment of desperation, slide underneath a sheet, and the dog just be completely dumbfounded. Where did that cat go? Garfield moment, for sure.

We crashed at about 11:30ish, me on a sofa and Brian on a pullout deal with a big bar in the middle. The cat was sizing me up to see if I'd let it snuggle up with me. I shot it the look that said, "Not in this lifetime." It got the message.

The next thing I remember, outside of Finley's snoring, was Jon's face looking at me at 5:15 a.m.. He encouraged me to rise and shine. I grabbed a shower that I now barely remember.

Brian claimed he took a shower the night before and instead did the Old Spice bath. We loaded up the car. I said good-bye to my Camry in the driveway and we headed out. There was no 'claimed' about it. There was a shower in the 7-8pm range.

We pulled up to Jared Clauss' house for a pick-up, and Brian gave up the front seat to the ex-Iowa lineman. I'm not sure if our Hawkeye Nation brother gestured out of the kindness of his heart or the fear of being sacked. I have a feeling that Chuck Hartlieb would have been riding in the back with me had it been him instead of Jared. The only seat left was behind the driver, Brunner-heighted Jon Miller. Putting a 6-4-and-built Jared Clauss behind him in a sedan-ish Altima would have been fun to watch, but not productive. Besides, the backseat's safer in a crash.

We pulled into the airport at about 6:15 or so. The Hawkeye fans already were lined up at the counter and we fell into place. Check-in went without incident, we passed through security and grabbed some food. With all of the seats taken at our gate, Brian and me slipped down to the next one to wait.

As luck would have it, a talkative, middle-aged woman was the only other occupant in that area. After leaving her bags unattended, she returned.

At this point, Brian announced that he was going to purchase something else to eat. I warned him that he might fill up before the half-ounce peanuts were handed out on the plane. The lady jumped on the thought.

She began complaining about the cheap airlines charging three bucks for those peanuts now. I gave her a polite smile and went back to reading. She did the same.

Brian returned with his bagel and suggested that they might have wanted to butter it in addition to giving him the cream cheese. Our gate mate took the opportunity to agree. She then complained about the people in the Dallas area (this was home, I think) giving her strange looks when she put butter on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Brian agreed with the people in Texas, saying that was a bit weird.

The woman smiled and replied, "That's why God came up with the saying, bread and butter" and reached over to grab her bible to find the passage. After a few minutes, she gave up and gave us a "hmmm."

Brian then decided it was time to get some water, once again leaving me alone with the lonely lady with a giant tattoo of what looked like a fish on top of her foot. She inquired about our destination and wondered why we were headed to Tampa. Other than the fact that it was about 40 degrees warmer than Iowa, I told her about our plans. She seemed uninterested, Brian returned with his water and we left the area.

We walked back to our gate and saw superstar Miller giving a TV interview. We thought about disrupting the event by jumping up and down in the background or shouting obscenities but decided against it.

The Hawkeye Nation Charter took off from Des Moines International Airport a shade after 8 a.m. central time. The plane held 197 Hawkeye fans, three people short of a full load. Us media folks sat in first-class and broke some rules regarding carry-on storage. It was wild. We also got our choice of complimentary snackage. Various flavored prezels, nut mixtures, cheez-its. Hell, I even got an *entire* can of soda. Take that, airport lady.

One of the fans asked me how my daughter was feeling after hearing me speak about her virus on Larry Cotlar's radio show Monday morning. It was a real nice gesture and one that I appreciated. Leaving my family at home has always been the one downside of the bowl trips.

We touched down in Tampa at about noon, local time. After checking into the hotel, Brian and me grabbed a couple of slices of New York style pizza. It was delicious.

Shortly after that, my brother and his family came to Tampa from where they live across the state. We spent some time together, most of which would bore you guys, especially if the previous musings already were turning that trick.

Brian and Jon attended the huddle, and I'll let them add to this blog with their thoughts on the night at the convention center.

The huddle was smaller than previous years, but still a good time. I didn't have any pals at the huddle this time around, so I just sort of wandered around. The beer vendors were clearly working on some sort of contest or commission. There were songs, sales pitches and catcalls trying to get someone to buy their overpriced beer pured from blue coolers

WEDNESDAY

Brian and me headed out first thing in the morning for the Kirk Ferentz/Steve Spurrier press conference at the media hotel, which is about 15 minutes from where we're staying. We picked up our media gifts (an Outback Hat and glass set). Mine will be on EBay shortly after I return from Tampa (I'm kidding). Some mighty nice danish/nutroll type things.

We didn't think Jon would be joining us, but he arrived with the boys from Marty and Miller. We all took in the Ferentz press conference. During the intermission waiting for Spurrier, Jon asked Marty if he could give us a ride back to the hotel.

Now, many of you probably aren't aware of my history with Mr. Tirrell. Those who call me "roach" or "cockroach" know it.

The Mouth called me a cockroach on his show a few years back, basically saying I was a kool-aid drinker for Iowa. I never actually heard it, so my knowledge on the "insult" was second hand.

Well, after Jon asks Marty for the ride this morning, Ken Miller starts in with the cockroach talk. To be honest, it originally pissed me off when I heard the story, but since I laugh at it and joke with some of you on the boards about it. Marty has developed a shtick with his radio program.

And really, what would holding a grudge accomplish. He's uglier than me, older than me, confused and I think dementia is starting to settle in. Plus, I'll get my revenge when he least expects it.

We got back to the hotel around 12:3o local time. Luckily, Marty allowed Jon to drive but did supply him with poor directions.

I posted the press conference audio, wrote my column and am getting ready to head to a local watering hole to watch the Iowa-Ohio State men's hoops game. We'll check back with you later.

4,000 words later, the Ferentz transcript was done, and my hands were shot. I met up with Rob to watch the Hawkeye basketball game at a spot that looked promising, the 502 Sports Cafe. Plenty of big screen TVs with HD Satellite service, but also some of the craziest french techno/trance music I've ever heard. It nearly put our party of 3 (Rob's niece joined us) to sleep, not unlike the early performance of the Hawks in that basketball game.

Despite knowing the Hawks had no business being within a posession at the end of that game, I allowed myself to believe they had a shot. And technically, they did. Great gutty performance, and a great "Deluxe" grilled ham and cheese sammitch and fries. I went with the Orange Soda, for old times sake

Later that night, watching some bowl games, it was time for another round of Jack and Wally's Pizza. Or was it Jim and Bernies? Walt and Sammy's? It was good, whatever it was. Miller provided the fundulation, and a request for Mike and Ikes. We arrived at the pizza joint (whatever it may be called) to find it closed up before 8:00. Poo.

On our way to the next pizza spot up the road (past the Devil Crab cart.. eek) we passed a Jimmy Johns with three twenty-somethings urging us to buy a sandwich, offering free pickles, free chips, free cookies. Apparently, theyh had 3 loaves of bread left, and could leave once they'd been sold. We didn't help them out, we wanted a taste of Tampa.

Back at the hotel, we pulled up an internet stream of the Minnesota massacre, put the LSU slaughter on the TV and demolished the 18" half pepperoni half cheese pizza in no time flat. I enjoyed some Dr. Pepper out of my Onew outback bowl glass. Some "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and some guy jumping real high in vegas on a motorbike, and I was out for the night.

BTW, I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Suckers!!!




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