Passionate Doesn't Even Begin to Cover It

For the record, what I should be doing right now is...
-Working on our taxes
-Working on my talk for the retreat
-Cleaning my house
-Doing the Laundry
-Napping (for the sake of the baby, of course!)

All things I should be doing, but instead I'm going to take 30 minutes to write this little post because my blood pressure has not quite lowered itself yet from the events of last night and I feel the need to elaborate here in blog land.  Don't worry, no politics here.  I don't have the ambition or the stupidity to tackle that subject, especially in light of the State of the Union Address last night.  No, no, this is much lighter...sort of.  Consider this my "Ode to the Iowa Hawkeyes" and/or a well-deserved tribute to my Dad.
I'm going to throw conventional writing methods out the window and give you the bottom line up front.  I am a die hard Iowa Hawkeye fan.  Like born and raised and proud to be a Hawkeye for life, kind of fan.  It's in my blood, it's part of my entire childhood (and now adulthood) and it's a gift passed down from my Dad.  I didn't go to Iowa (because they didn't have a program in my major) but I was born and raised there.  I actually went to the University of Northern Iowa (Go Panthers!!) but I will always, always, always be an Iowa fan first.  Always.  There are a few reasons why that's true, but before I even explain I have to also tell you a great story about my Dad.

I am the oldest of 3 girls in our family.  From my earliest memory of this conversation, I have always known exactly how my Dad felt about having 3 daughters.  Proud.  And extremely happy about it.  Never once have I heard my Dad say he wished we'd had a boy in our family or that he wanted to keep trying until he got one.  In fact, we frequently heard the exact opposite message from him.  He went out of his way to tell us and make sure we knew that he didn't need a boy, God gave him 3 girls and he was more than blessed.  In fact, it used to make my Dad so mad (and still does) when people would say to him, "Wow, 3 girls, too bad you didn't get that boy, huh?"  I can't tell you how many times I heard that line from someone, then watched my Dad control his anger about it while saying something like, "Nope, that's not how I feel about it.  I love my girls and I wouldn't trade em for anything" until they walked away when he'd turn to us and say, "What a dumb thing to say.  We don't need any boys around here, do we girls??" We'd laugh when we were little, but the older we got the more we understood just how much our Dad loved us.  As an adult woman now, with a daughter and a son, I certainly have nothing against boys!  I married one, I've given birth to one and of course I was raised by a great one!  But I see the unbelievable fruit of being raised in a home, particularly by a Father, who not only affirmed his love for his girls, but regularly defended his satisfaction with us too.  Working with teenagers and coming across so many girls who are aching for that kind of love makes me appreciate all the more the gift my Dad gave us.  He raised 3 secure and confident (not perfect) daughters who didn't have gaping holes that needed to be filled by running from man to man.  That is a HUGE blessing and I thank God and my Dad for it.
Now here is what I think is so great.  My Dad has always loved sports.  He played them growing up, he met my Mom largely due to backyard basketball games with his buddies and we grew up watching college/professional games, listening to them on the radio or even watching him play in various church leagues.  Many people (who really weren't trying to be rude I'm sure) lobbed that comment about my Dad missing a son to him, mostly because they saw how athletic my Dad was how much he loved sports and they assumed with 3 girls he'd never get to experience that.  But God has an incredible sense of humor!  I think because my Dad never excluded us from that side of him, but always invited us into his love for sports, he raised 3 girls who played sports and love sports!  Sports of all kinds, mind you.  He coached all three of us for four seasons of High School golf and when I was younger, it bugged him that there was no real program for young girls to learn the game of basketball (there weren't city leagues or club teams back then, maybe a class at the local YMCA) so he and a couple of his friends started a Saturday morning clinic for my friends and classmates when we were in 4th or 5th grade.  They taught us all the fundamentals of the game and do you know that my friends and I ended up having a pretty incredible run through junior high when we were undefeated, and into high school where we played on the Varsity team as freshmen and went on to win conference titles and break/make new school records too??  Don't think my Dad didn't have something to do with that.  He also did the same thing for my sisters and their friends, always encouraging us to compete and play hard and do our best at the sports we loved.  We went to a small Christian school and we could play many sports so we were all three busy from season to season, playing something year round.  He invested so much time in us and again, never was it so that he could live vicariously through us or at the expense of what was best for us.  He was encouraging and not critical.  He was supportive and not overbearing.  He was always there for every game and never considered our events to be unimportant.  Obviously you can imagine the memories and the qualities that instilled in my sisters and I.  And for the record, even though we are long out of high school, my Dad is still coaching high school golf and he's just started a Saturday basketball clinic for young girls at the school he coaches for, to teach them the fundamentals of the game too!  Sports are in his blood!
Today we are all adults, with families of our own and age that is only increasing.  We don't play too many sports together anymore, aside from a round of golf here or there, but we do watch sports and cheer for our teams, religiously.  We are all Iowa fans and raised to be Packer fans, but with the addition of husbands in the mix, things have gotten interesting!  I married a Cowboys fan, Stacie married a now-turned Packer fan, and Jennie married a Bears fan.  Football season is fun and tense for all of us!  The one thing we agree on is that we are all NOT Vikings fans!!  Ha!  There is a good deal of good-natured ribbing that goes on between us, but mostly we can all just enjoy watching and following the NFL season together.  When it comes to college sports, most of are pretty passionate about the Hawkeyes, I think because all of us girls have inherited such a loyalty to them.  Stacie and I did not inherit my Dad's loyalty for the Cubs, we both don't care about baseball at all, but Jennie married a die-hard Cubs fan, so she and my Dad continue their bond over the boys of summer together, with my brother in law, Dave.  Stacie and I primarily have turned into the nuts who are crazy about college basketball, college football and the Packers.  Stacie (and her husband Jesse) trump us all in her love and knowledge about the Packers, but when it comes to college basketball, she and I are both pretty passionate about the Hawkeyes.
Before the Bears/Packers playoff game...a house divided!!!  
Which brings me to the reason for this post.  This year has been an incredible one for Iowa basketball.  When I was growing up we were a consistently top 25 team.  We always had a great basketball program.  For the last 7 years or so, we've struggled.  We could all three give you a long explanation of why (cough, cough *Steve Alford* cough, cough) but those are the old days and we are all happy to see them gone!  We are LOVING the ride this year, with a coach who has turned program back around and a deep team that is capable of making a great run into March this year.  (However I'm not happy with most of them after last night, but I'll get to that in a minute.)  Because we are enjoying our return to being nationally ranked again, my Dad and Stacie and I have kicked up our level of excitement and competitiveness, considerably.  We have been group texting through most of the games and at the mention of every article we read or rumor we hear.  We are crazy people.  Stacie and I have inherited my Dad's competitiveness and let me tell you, nothing gets the three of us more upset than losing or not playing up to our potential.  We are SO capable of beating every team this year and it KILLS us when we lose and especially when we shouldn't have.  I know there is probably a level of loyalty that is healthy and then there is there level where we find ourselves.  We are SO into this season and holding out big hopes for our Hawks, which is why a loss to Michigan State last night about killed the three of us.  Like seriously, we all probably lost sleep over it!  We were texting like mad through the whole game and into overtime, OVERTIME, which was just incredibly intense.  We SHOULD HAVE WON THAT GAME!!!  But missed free throws, missed lay-ups, and some mental mistakes were our downfall.  It was painful.  And we'd all like a word with Coach McCaffery about why a certain player (OLASENI) isn't playing more????  Seriously, Fran...I'm a fan of yours, really...but get him on the floor before I blow a gasket!!!!  We need him out there more AND I have plenty of other thoughts to share, should you be interested in those too!!!  Call me??  
Ok, now I know what you're thinking, "Good grief Stephanie, it's just basketball!  You need to relax!"  And yeah, yeah, maybe...  But as I said to Trav last night, "Imagine if I was one of those women who didn't care about sports at all and totally never understood or got stressed out watching a college basketball game?"  He immediately died laughing and shot back, "Well that's definitely NOT you!"  I am who I am people, but now you know a little bit more about why.  I know sports are not everybody's thing and lots of people bond with their Dads over other things, but for me and for our family, this is our deal and Iowa is our team.  We know the thrill of victory and we can attest to the agony of defeat!  It will take us all a little time to move past last night, but we will.  And come Feb 1, we'll be texting like fools again, cheering our hearts out and generally raising our blood pressure to dangerous levels for two hours.  And do you know what tickles me??? That same love for the Hawkeyes that my Dad instilled in me?  Now my kids are catching it too.  They were right with me through the game last night, yelling and covering their eyes and chanting "GO HAWKS!!" until the bitter end.  When my sister was here we laughed our heads off because she said to Ava, "Do you know what nervous means Ava?  What makes you nervous?"  Without skipping a beat Ava chimed in with, "YES!  Like when the Hawks lose, that makes me really nervous!"  Amen sista!!!!  I have done my duty here.  I am passing that torch, just like my Dad did with me!  And by the way, I should also mention lest you think my Mom is a passive bystander, she did marry my Dad and she can hold her own when it comes to knowledge and support for both the Packers and the Hawkeyes!  She's no pushover in the world of sports!  She also sat through every single game of ours and drove us all over creation to attend practices, camps, and games.  As much as my Dad supported us, so did my Mom.  They both sacrificed a lot for all of us and I am equally grateful for my Mom's role in my life.

We went to an Iowa game on New Year's Eve this year...My dad, my sister Stacie, Travis and I.  It was SO MUCH FUN and I'm so glad we did it because all the games are sold out for the rest of the year!  It  brought back so many memories to be there with my Dad again and to eat one of their famous twist cones, I was craving one BIG time!   We had a ball and we will be back next year, this time with our kids in tow. It's only a game, yes, I know.  But I've got a lifetime of memories and Dad that shared his passions with me, and I intend to do the same with my own kids.  They will be allowed to like who they like when it comes to college/professional teams, but they will never grow up not knowing which team their Mom loves!!  Or their Dad!!  I support his Cowboys because I love him, but don't even get me started on what a disaster his team and Jerry Jones are.  Talk about painful!!
So there you have it friends, when you see my crazed tweets from now on after an Iowa win or loss, now you'll know the level of fanatic I really am and what makes my heart tick come Fall and Winter. It's a really good thing I'm not due to have this baby until the summer because I'm sure March Madness will surely be near, labor-inducing for me!

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to grill my kids on the latest stats of the Iowa players and see if they've memorized the fight song yet??  HA HA, I kid, I kid!!  Really, I need to go tackle 10 loads of laundry and get a Cubbies verse memorized with Ava :) Happy Wednesday, friends!  And to all you sports fans out there, here's to a win from your favorite team this week...Unless they are playing Iowa, then look out!!  And GO HAWKS!!!

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