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Harty: Go ahead and boo the Lions

[ 0 ] October 19, 2012 |

This column is for the roughly 70,000 fans — especially the Iowa students — who will pack Kinnick Stadium for tonight’s game against Penn State.

Now before you roll your eyes and assume this is another request like that of University of Iowa President Sally Mason in the Daily Iowan to treat the Penn State players and coaches with a rare dose of civility and compassion because of the unusual circumstances, it’s not.

Boo the Nittany Lions all you want as far as I’m concerned.

Treat them just like you would any opponent that’s come to town with the sole purpose of defeating your beloved Hawkeyes.

The 2012 Iowa football team needs all the help it can get, especially considering the injuries at running back. A hostile environment is perhaps the greatest strength Iowa will take into Saturday’s game under the lights at Kinnick Stadium outside of kicker Mike Meyer.

It’s also one area where Iowa doesn’t take a back seat to anybody in the Big Ten. So why not use it to your advantage?

No disrespect to Sally Mason, but to ask the UI students not to boo Penn State on Saturday is going overboard. It’s unfair to the students who know how to create a hostile environment without crossing the line.

Mason is sensitive to this topic as the current chairwoman of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors. Her group was responsible for punishing Penn State at the Big Ten level as part of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Mason is right to be concerned about sportsmanship under these unfortunate circumstances, but not to the point of telling fans to refrain from something as harmless as booing.

Who cares if Nebraska fans don’t boo the visiting team upon entering the field anymore as Mason pointed out? Let’s also see how long that lasts.

It’s risky to tell fans how to behave, especially those aligned as students, and especially heading into a night game.

It also brings attention to a scandal that we’d all like to move on from.

The Penn State players are striving for normalcy, and overcoming a hostile road environment is life as they know it in the Big Ten.

These players don’t want any special treatment because of what some disgusting monster did to little boys. They don’t want sympathy as evidenced by Penn State senior cornerback Stephon Morris tweeting: “We hate them, they hate us” in regard to Iowa. The Penn State players want to distance themselves from that horrific tragedy. They want to be normal again.

There undoubtedly will be some alcohol-fueled knuckleheads in the stands Saturday who will say some stupid and classless things to the Penn State players. But I have faith in the Iowa students that most of them — sober or not sober — can help to create a hostile environment without exploiting the circumstances.

Make it hard for Penn State to prevail, just don’t embarrass your school by chanting things or wearing things that make light of the scandal. It is possible to be a hostile fan without disgracing yourself and your school.

Please, just use a little common sense.

It’s good that signs aren’t permitted inside Kinnick Stadium because all it takes is one idiot to ruin the moment for everybody else. And let’s just hope that fans don’t use this game as a chance to showcase their Halloween costumes at the expense of the Penn State scandal because that would definitely be crossing the line, while the traditional booing and heckling is just part of the game-day experience.

Somebody asked me why else would you boo Penn State if it wasn’t in reference to the scandal? You’d boo the Nittany Lions because they’re a Big Ten team that is competing for the same thing as your team. You’d boo them because they’re the visiting team and that’s what fans do to the visiting team.

This is not an attempt to make light of good sportsmanship. We need more of it in sports. NFL fans are physically assaulting each other at an alarming rate these days.

This is just a reminder not to go overboard the other way. Booing is as much a part of the gameday experience at Kinnick Stadium, or any stadium for that matter, as tailgating and the competition itself.


Story lines to watch

1. Iowa and Penn State are undefeated in the Big Ten at 2-0 and 4-2 overall. The Nittany Lions have won four consecutiuve games since starting the Bill O’Brien coaching era with losses at home to Ohio and at Virginia. Iowa has won two games in a row over Minnesota and Michigan State last Saturday on the road since being upset by Central Michigan 32-31 on Sept. 22 at Kinnick Stadium.

2. Iowa is expected to be without two of its top three running backs with sophomore Mark Weisman nursing an ankle injury and with sophomore Damon Bullock having reoccurring symptoms from a concussion he sustained against Northern Iowa on Sept. 15. True freshman Greg Garmon, who is from Erie, Pa., is now listed as the starter at running back ahead of sophomore Jordan Canzeri, who has yet to play this season. It appears Canzeri will burn his redshirt in order to help Iowa’s depleted running backs.

3. Saturday’s game will be played under the lights at Kinnick Stadium and will mark just the second time that Iowa will face Penn State without Joe Paterno coaching the Nittany Lions. The only other time came in 1930 — the first game in the series.

4. Iowa has defeated Penn State four times in a row at Kinnick Stadium and has won eight of the last 10 games against the Nittany Lions overall. Penn State has a 3-9 record against Iowa since 1993 when it joined the Big Ten. The series is tied, 12-12, overall.

5. Bill O’Brien is in his first season as the Penn State coach. This is also the first time O’Brien has been a head coach at any level. He was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots before taking over at Penn State. O’Brien and first-year Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz worked together in New England with Ferentz coaching the tight ends.


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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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