Monday, August 27, 2012

College Football Game Week Begins

For the first time since 2007 the Hawkeyes open up the season on the road, in Chicago's Soldier Field. That last time it was in the same venue, against the same Northern Illinois Huskies. A game that featured Jake Christensen in his second start at quarterback in a very unmemorable 16-3 game. That day was known more for the Appalachin State upset of Michigan than for anything else. A buzz quickly circled the crowd of black and gold as to how the I-AA team upset one of the most storied college football teams in the nation. If Michigan goes down this week, boom won't be quite as loud as the Maize and Blue begins its season against the defending national champs, Alabama.

There aren't many marquee games to begin the season, but Michigan - Alabama is the highlight of the schedule. Looking over the Big Ten slate there are a couple of games that deserve some notice.

Aside from the Hawkeye game in Chicago I am anxious to see Michigan State and Boise State kick off on Friday night. A year ago Boise opened up in Atlanta against Georgia. I give credit to Boise as they will play anyone anywhere. Along with last year's Georgia game, they have also traveled across the country to take on Virginia Tech. This year it is Michigan State. What I would like to see is the Broncos play one of these teams in the middle of the season, not the first game of the year. Sure, each team has the same amount of time to prepare, but the task would be tougher to have a week to prepare, not more than a month. I still see the Spartans winning this one.

Another game I'm looking forward to is Northern Iowa at Wisconsin. Dave O'Brien starts at QB for the Badgers and the Red and White fans shouldn't expect to see the next coming of Russell Wilson. O'Brien will be a solid starter, but this is a tough opening opponent. Another reason I'm anxious for this one is to see how one of FCS's better programs stands up to the two-time defending Big Ten Champs. A tough schedule for Mark Farely and the Panthers with two road Big Ten teams in three weeks.

Michigan Alabama will be good, and I hope lives up to the expectations. I want to see how well Michigan travels to Dallas and how their crowd measures up to the nearby Crimson Tide. I do think Michigan will be well-prepared for the best of the SEC and play one of the better games of the season. I can't see them upsetting Alabama.

Night Out on the Town

Another season and a new year of Night Out on the Town. For the first installment I look at a favorite that has been spotlighted before. Harry Caray's is not a chain, but a popular spot found in many different places throughout Chicago. And with the Hawkeyes beginning their season in the Windy City, it was important to highlight this tasty restaurant suited for the sports fan.

Of the Chicago locations, I've been to three of them. There had been one in Midway Airport (now gone) as well as one in Wrigleyville (again, gone), and each had its own flair. The same can be said for the other three I've dined at.

First is the original restaurant downtown, a few blocks from the nearest Red Line stop. It consists of the fine dining area, a bar area where food is also served, and upstairs is a ballroom where many of the major sports teams will send their premier athletes for a chance for fans to ask questions. A night I was there the line to eat with the Blackhawks stretched down the stairs and out the door. The signature dish is the Chicken Vesuvio (shown below) and it lives up to expectations.

 Near O'Hare Airport is another location attachd to the Holiday Inn. Another fine dining spot for a great steak. It is one of the locations with the largest outdoor seating. There isn't much to gaze upon, but it is quiet (except for an occasional passing plane) and pleasant - away from the city's noisy traffic. It has the same menu as the downtown location.
Holy Cow!
That leaves us with the last location and the premise for showcasing it this week. Harry Caray's Tavern is located at Navy Pier, the Pier that will host the Hawkeye Huddle, the pre-game gathering spot of Hawkeye Fans before Iowa Football away games. The Huddle is at the ballroom on the pier, but the Tavern isn't far, and it has outdoor seating with views of the Chicago Skyline. Aside from the great menu my son was excited for the Goose Island Root Beer, which comes in a bottle the staff will package up to take home. TVs surround the eating area, and it will be a good place to escape to after the Huddle and watch another Big Ten team, Michigan State take on Boise State. And for Bears games, fans can tailgate here then take the water taxi down Lake Michigan to Soldier Field for the ballgame.

There have been many restaurants in Chicago founded by Chicago's sports personalities, but Harry Caray's has stood the test of time, at the same location and with the same staff.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Start of Classes

Camp for the Iowa Football has come to a temporary stop as classes begin on the University of Iowa campus. The "camp" mindset may be over, but the team continues to operate in that mode on the practice field. Monday was a day off for the team and video staff, but everything continues on Tuesday. Its always a great day for the video staff as this is the one day they are all guaranteed to be passing all classes. Of course I don't give the crew enough credit.

On the first day of classes the Princeton Review announced the University of Iowa campus is the #2 Party School. This is a rise from a lower ten finish a year ago. I don't think this is what the Iowa City City Council had in mind when passing an ordnance forbidding those 19yr olds and below in an establishment where the majority of their sales are of the alcoholic type. This legislation was to curb underage drinking, but it doesn't appear it has much of an adverse effect on the school.

While watching the Little League World Series on ESPN earlier today I couldn't help but wonder how many days of school these kids are missing. It doesn't seem to be an issue when the season ends for many in the months of July and early August. But school is opening around the country and no one is concerned about the number of days are missed. Many say this is a great opportunity for the kids.

It is, but then why is it such a big deal that college-aged students want to extend their season for football and to play a game for the national championship. Wouldn't this be a great opportunity for the men?

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Changes in technology have occurred over the years. But with those changes, many things have stayed the same. How to shoot football hasn't changed. Having it ready for the coaches once they are in their office is still as important today as it was the first day I started. And dating back to that first day I started, the Video Football League (VFL) continues to be enjoyed the staff members.

VFL is played by members of the video staff prior to practice. It has always been important to set up the camera equipment early in order to troubleshoot any issues that arise. That leaves time to play some football before the players begin to arrive. Most often it is the only time members of the staff have to get some exercise in during a busy day.

To begin play, three players are required, with one being an all-time quarterback. But if you have at least four, and that was all we were allowed to have on staff, the rules change to 2 v 2 and the boundary is the hash to the sideline, beginning at the 25, withe tree downs to make a TD.

Over the years different student staffs take different levels of activity. From the very involved to those who use the extra time to relax and ready themselves for the imminent practice involvement. Today the number of full-time staff members have stayed the same, the number of volunteers has increased. Thus the 2 on 2 game has now evolved to three on three.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Kid's Day

A tradition that started in the early years of Kirk Ferentz' tenure as Iowa Head Coach, Kid's Day has evolved into a primary event on the football schedule every August. Yesterday's event drew over 10,000 fans of all ages to watch the first real scrimmage of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The first year of Kid's Day found hundreds of fans with their lawn chairs and blankets surrounding the Kenyon Practice Facility with an up close look at the program. The only thing separating the fans and team was a try link fence. Our lifts were immersed within the fans, and I had to dodge each one to retrieve tapes that were dropped from above in baskets.
Now the event is in Kinnick Stadium with concessions, HawkVision and loud music played throughout the practice. Instead of fighting fans to retrieve tapes we now must dodge them as they stand in lines for food, posters and games to get from one end of the stadium to the other. The event has almost become a bigger deal for fans than the annual spring game, typically held on a cool and damp day in April.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Big Ten Network at Practice

Most of the football teams in the Big Ten are underway with practice. And as the days pass in August fans get more anxious for the first game to be played. Any information they can receive on their team is valuable. Today the Big Ten Network will help contribute to the their hunger for news as they began their tour around the conference previewing each of the teams. The Iowa Hawkeyes were their first stop.

The network's studio team of Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith anchor the coverage on each of the stops. Interviews include notable players and head coach. A minimal crew record the practice and all components are produced back in Chicago to be shown Thursday night at 9pm (Iowa time).

The BTN announcing crew, which includes blogger Tom Dienhart travel among the conference cities by bus. After its stop in Iowa City it moves west along I-80 to Nebraska followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northwestern before switching production crews in Chicago for the final 7 teams. The BTN bus has a player representing each school. Keenan Davis is the lone Hawkeye on the bus, and above he signs below his picture.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Media Day at Iowa

Media Day at Iowa finds journalists and bloggers from across the state and throughout the Midwest for their opportunity for soundbites and material for articles for use throughout August in preparation for the Hawkeye's opening game in Chicago September 1. Every Tuesday during the season Head Coach Kirk Ferentz spends time addressing the local media with Hawkeye players following up. Many of the media attending today's event look for a local angle or a human interest side.

Below Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Brooks sits down with quarterback James Vandenberg.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Taking the Video Staff to Twitter

The Iowa Football Video Staff has taken to Twitter. Follow along at @VIDSofIOWAFB to see what your favorite video staff is up to as the season unfolds.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Indoor Practice with a Different Look

When inclement weather forced the Iowa Football inside, most of the last twenty five years it occurred in the iconic "bubble" located north of Kinnick Stadium. At the time it was a one of a kind facility that included a regulation football field, uncommon at the time it was built. Today a new chapter of indoor practice began as the Hawkeyes entered a new permanent structure very different than a building inflated. A regulation field inside a "barn-like" building situated inside the Kenyon Practice Facility.

In the old bubble, the video staff had to shoot from lifts that were placed on the field. Phases of the game such as kick offs and two minute drills had to be compromised as players negotiated around a scissor lift. A lift placed in one of the end zones became a target for field goal practice. And pads needed to be placed around all to ensure the safety of the players and video personnel. The new indoor building has permanent platforms finding video staffers off the playing field. Something coaches, players and videographers all like.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Here We Go

Practice 1 of the 2012 season for the Iowa Hawkeyes started on the new fields of the Kenyon Practice Facility. Lifts went sky high again for the video staff with four new students who haven't shot a practice from anywhere other than the stable conditions of Kinnick Stadium.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cubs - Cardinals

The east has the Yankees and Red Sox. The west has Giants and Dodgers. But in the Midwest the rivalry is the Cubs and the Cardinals. And whether the game is in Chicago or St. Louis, each team's fan base is well-represented. Of course the Cardinal fans have much more to boast about as they come off a World Series Championship in 2011, and have had others in my lifetime. Cubs fans have a love for their team. Their last championship goes back over 100 years and it is hard to find anyone who is was alive for that title. Cardinals fans like to remind Chicago fans of their success.

This past weekend was the second time the two teams played in Chicago this season and my second time to see the two teams play each other in 2012. Earlier in the season I witnessed a rare Cubs win in Busch Stadium. Both ballparks are great venues for baseball. There is the historic Wrigley Field with the ivy on the walls and located in the middle of a neighborhood. Busch Stadium is in the heart of downtown St. Louis underneath the famous Arch. A much easier venue to drive to with the many ramps downtown and interstates running all around the stadium. Wrigley is nestled into a neighborhood block and the best way to reach it is by train or by bus.
 But it doesn't matter which ballpark the game is in, fans are intently into every pitch and the Gateway City's famous export flows freely in either stadium. I've heard of stories of Yankee and Red Sox fans getting into fights during the games, and don't forget about a stabbing outside Dodger Stadium early last season of a Giants fan. But when these two teams get together, it is a friendly rivalry that does lead to a disagreement or two between some intense fans.
WGN's Pat Hughes and Keith Moreland next to KMOX's Mike Shannon and John Rooney
 Growing up in Central Iowa both the Cubs and Cardinals radio stations could be heard on the nearby radio. The Cubs, being a team who played often during the day, would be over by the time I would go to bed. But the Cardinals boomed into my bedroom from the nearby FM affiliate. Jack Buck and Mike Shannon were the voices of my summers during my youth. I knew everything about Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Lonnie Smith, Tommy Herr and other Cardinal players from these iconic announcers. The Cubs, of course had Harry Caray and Milo Hamilton as well as Lou Boudreau. And the words, "Chicago Cubs Baseball is on the Air" was as popular then as it is today when Pat Hughes greets Cubs fans all around the world.
Perhaps known more to today's generation as the radio analyst of Cubs Baseball, Ron Santo was recently inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Santo a third baseman for the Cubs and White Sox had been on the ballot for many years, but he didn't go in until after he passed away. #10 flags, Santo's jersey number flew high above Wrigley Field all weekend long in honor of the former Cubs radio announcer.