Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Friday, October 07, 2005

The grass is always pinker

It was a normal enough fall afternoon. I was toolin' around town yesterday, running errands, and flipping between sports talk radio and music on the car radio. Then I heard this story on WXYT-AM's "The Big Show."

Somebody - or a group of somebodies - snuck past security at the University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium late Thursday or Friday night, before Iowa's game with Illinois, and sprayed herbicide on the field, burning the words "IOWA SUCKS" into the grass.

Initially, no one knew what had happened. Then, toward the end of Saturday's game, "SUCKS" apparently began to materialize. Maybe people thought it was just an illusion - a product of hangover or heartburn. A couple of days later, however, the herbicide finished its job and the whole message became visible.

(Image via The Daily Iowan)

The hosts of "The Big Show" - Doug Karsch and Art Regner - speculated that Illinois fans were responsible for the prank, since Iowa was playing Illinois. A reasonable assumption, of course. But according to each of the reports I read, there's no reason not to suspect, say, Iowa State fans. (On the other hand, "sucks" is spelled correctly, so you can probably scratch them off the list.) Or disgruntled Iowa students. You always have to watch out for those high school kids, of course. And maybe people pissed off with Kinnick Stadium's pink visitors' locker room (more on that later) did the deed.

Soon after getting home, I found an image of the vandalized field at mgoblog. Oh, man. No, they didn't. Holy shit. Look at that!

(Image via KCRG.com)

You know... normally, I'd probably think something like this is pretty damn funny. College football pranks often make for hilarious stories. But I like that field, man. During my stay in Iowa City, I worked up a healthy affection for the Hawkeyes and their football home. It took two years, but the place (and the people) eventually wore me down and I converted to a Hawkeyes fan. And I truly enjoyed my one-and-only visit to Kinnick Stadium for Iowa's game vs. Purdue last season. It's a great place to watch college football.

Damn. Look at that! Iowa just replaced that sod a few weeks ago, because a brutal summer burned it up. It cost $150,000. There's an argument for switching to FieldTurf, if I've ever seen one. I'll contribute to the cause, guys. Put me down for $20. I'm good for it. Unless you still haven't spent all that parking ticket money you got out of me. If not, go ahead and put that $100+ toward the field.

But that's not the only story involving Iowa and Kinnick Stadium right now. Last week, two Iowa law school professors, Erin Buzuvis and Jill Gaulding (who sound like two huge fucking barrels of laughs), criticized the football program and its visitors' locker room for its pink color, and called upon the school to turn its back on a 25-year tradition and paint the room a shade of something else.

What's wrong with pink? According to the two professors - along with other faculty and students who have joined in their protest - the use of pink in the locker room perpetuates stereotypes about women and homosexuals that promote weakness and effeminacy. (As Sally Jenkins wrote in the Washington Post, this could set one hell of a precedent. Maybe the makers of Pepto-Bismol should start consulting lawyers. Are they calling indigestion sufferers "sissies"? Hmm, they could be next on the list.)

(Image from the Associated Press)

Why was the locker room pink in the first place? Former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry, a psychology major, read that pink had a calming effect on people and thought it might pacify opponents. Presumably, this would give his Hawkeyes a psychological advantage when both teams took the field. So the locker room walls were coated with a warm tone called "Dusty Rose." (That sounds kind of tough, doesn't it?)

During Kinnick Stadium's recent renovation, Iowa's athletic department took the opportunity to expand on this piece of Hawkeye football lore. Now, it's not just the locker room walls that are pink. Everything in the damn room is pink. This time, the shade is called "Innocence." The carpet, the chairs, the sinks, the urinals, the toilets, the tiles - it's all pink. Elle Woods would love it!

Did it work? Well, it apparently had quite the opposite effect on former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. Legend has it that Schembechler went ballistic when he saw the visitors' locker room and ordered his assistant coaches to put paper over the walls before his team came in. I wonder what color that paper was?

You think Fry didn't kick back and smile when he heard about Schembechler's reaction? I haven't been able to find out if Iowa won that game or not, but if Fry managed to distract Schembechler by making him think about the locker room walls instead of football strategy (even if it was for 15 minutes), I'd say he accomplished his purpose.

But besides that, it's a funny story. And after you strip away all the talk about psychology and strategy, the idea of a football team in a pink locker room is funny. At least to me. Clearly, it's not funny to people like Buzuvis and Gaulding. What happened to their sense of humor? Look, maybe there's a shred of truth to what they're saying. I'm chuckling at the image of big, tough behemoths surrounded by pink. I'm sorry - I don't think there's anything inherently misogynistic or homophobic about that. (And this is from someone who admitted to watching America's Next Top Model yesterday, okay?) Isn't the humor in this obvious? Or am I being insensitive, and just not realizing it?

You know who else sees the humor in this? The hundreds of people who wore pink t-shirts to last Saturday's football game. Right now, pink t-shirts might be the hottest clothing item in Iowa City. According to this Daily Iowan article, stores near campus can't keep their pink "IOWA" t-shirts in stock.

Now that stuff makes me miss Iowa City. Just a little bit. That other stuff? Eehh, not so much.



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