Derek Johnson Muses

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Why Iowa Fans Should Sell Their Tickets to Nebraska Fans & a Note on Huskers-Southern Miss in KC

Will Herbie find room at Kinnick on Black Friday?

In writing what I will now, I know there will be many Hawkeye fans from the Quad Cities to Council Bluffs (and a couple that I passed in the western Illinois marsh fields last September) who won’t take it seriously because of my fan loyalties. But I’m going to make a proposal to all of you, Hawkeye fans because right now, things aren’t exactly going well for you. You have a coach who isn’t doing, and when he makes a bad decision and losses in passive fashion, you say, “That’s Ferentz.”

For the record, I don’t think that Iowa should fire Kirk Ferentz, and they can’t anyway because of his contract. Ferentz had a slew of injuries to contend with this year and, for the first time in his tenure at Iowa, had to replace a number of assistant coaches, including both coordinators who had been with him since his first year. But Iowa fans have grown weary of paying a lot for a little, and I’d like to suggest a way you can send a message.

Sell your tickets to Nebraska fans. If you don’t, don’t show up at the game. When we’re chanting “Go Big Red!!!” in the fourth quarter, they’ll have to fire Ferentz before he walks off the field. I know what you’re saying: I’m trying to help my own team out, but what’s really best for Nebraska is if Kirk Ferentz remains at Iowa for the next six years and wins six or seven games every year. It’s no good if Ferentz gets fired and Iowa hires a motivated young coach who red letters the Nebraska game.

Right now, the only way Iowa eats $25 million they’d owe a fired Ferentz is if there’s outright hostility from Iowa fans. Eleven years earlier, Husker fans sold out Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, leading to the firing of Terry Allen and paving the way for Mark Mangino to take over the Jayhawks. It happened to former Miami coach Randy Shannon when half the fans who showed up to his final game where cheering for South Florida. The quickest way to get your coach fired in any sport is to have opposing fans fill your stadium. Hence, the reason Mark Dantonio called out Michigan State fans before Nebraska came to East Lansing earlier this year.

I know this sounds crazy, and that, for some of you, doing this amounts to treason. I don’t blame you if you don’t. You don’t want to turn into Minnesota, who built a smaller stadium to keep you and Badger fans out. But Colin Cowherd talks about this a lot: true fans don’t go to games when their team is bad. True fans bail on their teams the first time they start to falter, forcing the team to make moves. If the last image of the 2012 Iowa football team is 30,000 Nebraska fans cheering their team in a half-empty stadium with time winding down in a Nebraska blowout, the winds will shift on Ferentz with the old Iowa power-brokers who’ve enabled him for so long.

(Thoughts on the game itself)

Another Big Red Migration here?

-It occurred to me the other when I heard the news that Southern Miss was now considering playing their home game against Nebraska at Arrowhead in Kansas City: it’s too good to be true. Southern Miss has been a good program for over twenty years. Playing the game in New Orleans would be one thing; it would still be a home game, even with 20,000-30,000 Nebraska fans. But to turn a road-home-road three game series into three road trips to Husker country, that’s just not consist with the behavior of mid-majors.

As early as 2009, I remembered the commissioner of the Sun Belt conference chiding his members for taking too many body-bag games (this was a year where Nebraska played three opponents from that conference). Whether it’s Oklahoma State playing at Louisiana Layfayette, Wisconsin at UNLV, or Nebraska at Wyoming, there are too many big conference schools playing road games at mid-majors who don’t deserve such games. It is a stamp of pride for these schools; stand firm and don’t take more than one non-conference road trip a season. There’s only one reason USM would be willing to make a home game into a road game: money, the universal reason the college football universe keeps spinning.

If USM were negotiating with Dallas, Phoenix, or someplace else that had seen Husker crowds, USM would have an easier time getting the price they wanted. But New Orleans hasn’t seen Husker crowds. Kansas City has every reason to try and get the game; when Nebraska played Oklahoma State in 1998, hotels were booked up past the city limits. Every gas station and truck stop along I-29 from Omaha to KC will be kicking in 10% to get this game, and no doubt the Big 10 would like the pub in Kansas City. Overall, I don’t the game will be moved because New Orleans and the Superdome don’t get a lot of high profile college games, and Southern Miss still has an image to live up to. I just can’t believe they are that desperate.

But if this game gets moved, it’s a huge win for the big boys in college football.

(When Nebraska invaded Minnesota…)

Illinois, Issues Etc., and Missouri Road Notes: Part 2


Morning coffee at Starbucks in Edwardsville, Illinois. At separate tables are sitting two identical girls: nerd glasses like mine, brown hair pulled back, studying. One wears running gear, the other wears average dull college class clothes. Then a third girl walks in who looks exactly the same except her hair is done and she’s wear black pants & a sleeveless vest with a white shirt underneath. Then I look around and realize… all the girls around here look like that.

Wish I would have gone to the place on the Missouri side where the Missouri River flows into the Mississippi. I could have gotten a good view of it. Instead, I go up a tower where you can view the convergence, and view it from across the way, at Lewis and Clark’s winter camp before their expedition up the river. Love all things Lewis and Clark.

View from the top

Meet Pastor Wilken, Jeff, and Craig, the team behind Issues, Etc. They do the show in a small section of a strip mall in Collinsville because they want to be good stewards of the funds they receive. Such a blessing to come and encourage those who labor in the gospel. Great to see the operations of an actual radio station. Most intriguing thing I observed: Pastor Wilken looks at a poster of President Obama while he’s doing the show (I’m dead serious).

Lunch at Stake and Shake, one place I always try to eat at if I go far enough east. They overcharge me for my order (or get it wrong entirely), but it’s a good sandwich, even though thin. The fries are flimsy too.

Visit the Gateway Arch, which looks impressive, but when I get close to it, I realize it’s not the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bridge is massive, and looks the part of something huge. Maybe it’s because the Arch doesn’t serve a purpose of transportation or has no foreign tourists swarming it. I go into the Jefferson Western Expansion Museum, stamp my passport, and buy some novelty snack. I don’t ride to the top because I don’t like heights.

View from the ground.

Visit the U.S. Grant Home, where I complete the stamps for the Midwest part of passport. The roads down their make no sense to me; I have to stop at walking trails.

St. Louis is the lousiest piece of junk I’ve ever seen. Rotten railroads cross the river, whose banks team with unkept brush, and cracked buildings dot the streets. Even the high-end hotels aren’t kept up.The bad neighborhoods I observe from the interstate are what I imagine Detroit looks like, but this city has to be worse in places. The suburbs have so many empty sections in their strip malls, plus empty spots in the big malls, it’s embarrassing. St. Louis is a spralling city, but it doesn’t look that much more special than Omaha.

Get off the interstate just east of Jonesburg, Missouri and do my rural photographing thing. Going through Jonesburg, I pass over a dead turtle in the middle of the road. I hate driving around on the country roads, which are paved with golf-ball sized Missouri limestone.

Exit at Columbia, deciding  to eat at Steak and Shake again, then notice that Steak and Shake is next to Bob Evans. Remembering the time I had eating at Bob Evans in Lima, Ohio two and a half year when I was this tired, I head across the street. Chicken pot pie, with a roll and broccoli. I tip a solid twenty percent, good service. I mull which hotel to choose and call the Howard Johnson on my phone to see how much they are. Then I see a new Motel 6 as I cross the interstate, and decide to take my chances. It pays off: the room is clean and very respectable, and even has a couch.

I go to bed at 9:30 but I can’t sleep. I get up and drive to campustown, where I went once with Elizabeth when she went graduate school here in Columbia. The bars and clubs are abuzz, but the only coffee place open past eleven is Starbucks. I sit and type on my IPod while I watch the festivities of the students, girls trying to walk in high heels and dresses. I gradually make my way back to my car, hoping no one notices my red Husker shorts.


When I get back to Motel 6, it’s past midnight. I send an e-mail, take two pills, and hit the hay.

Have morning coffee at Kaldi’s: spiced maple coffee which surprises me. I expected it to be typical flavored coffee, basically food coloring with no body. Instead, it’s body with an apple-cinnamon accent, and I remember why I love food. I study a devotion over an egg and bacon bagel, enjoying the hip vibe of Kaldi’s. Take a pic of the sign for my sister.

I photograph a few barns, but not many. I want to get home.

Eating lunch at one of America’s northern-most Waffle Houses (Platte City, MO). I don’t know why this chain appeals to me. The last Waffle House I went to was in Florida and was a mess. This one is clean, but the vibe from the staff is lax, and don’t know how much I want to watch of my chicken being fried and my waffle being made. I know it’s part of the charming experience, but somethings are better left unknown. The meal is adequate and way too filling, and I don’t skimp on the tip.

I take one more photo detour in furthest northwest corner of Missouri, a state that’s unbelievably diverse. I bolt when I get onto Highway Two, and am equally relieved when I hear Unsportsmanlike Conduct on the radio. I arrive home at four, and head to bed.


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