The Hybrid: Pick A Damn Side

By Bobby Loesch on December 2, 2021 at 12:00 pm
Iowa-Michigan
© Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC
123 Comments

The Hybrid is a weekly Big Ten football preview, plus relevant or whimsy games from the national slate

"Yeah, but if they play each other, who do you root for?"

When you're a fan of multiple teams in the same sport, people like to try to box you in. Hard to blame them -- I'd be the exact same way.

That said, I don't know what to tell you. I'm a fiercely loyal fan and grew up rooting for Michigan. There was no mega bond, initially. My family is mostly Valparaiso grads, so picking a college football team was a pretty blank slate. I liked the colors, the helmets, and my buddy's dad was a fan, so he had them on a lot. That was about it.

* * *

Becoming an Iowa fan was a lot different. I chose DePaul in Chicago for college, but my parents convinced me otherwise, and, initially, I was not the happiest of campers. I refused to wear gear of any kind my first calendar year on campus. Stubborn shit. But then? That ice thawed and melted right into the Iowa River.

Kinnick Stadium. That roar. Was so new to the culture, I didn't know how to pronounce it; "Kih-neck?" Other than the "Back In Black" and "Enter Sandman", it was a perfect Big Ten college football experience. My freshman year was The Catch, and if something like that doesn't bond you to your squad, nothing will.

But it wasn't just about the football -- it was the whole spectrum of athletics. Prior to going to college, I'd never really watched non-March Madness basketball in my life. I fell in love with Carver and went to nearly all of the games. Easy to do that when you live on the west side all four years like a sucker's sucker. Wrestling was OK. Somewhat.

Getting a job at The Daily Iowan as an upperclassmen unlocked even more. Field hockey, water polo (<3 <3 <3), gymnastics, and, maybe my dark horse favorite, tennis. I covered both men's and women's, and that shit ruled. Some of the nicest, brightest, most cultured, and hardest working student-athletes the university had to offer. And so, so fucking skilled.

At some point between my freshman year and junior year, I started bleeding black and gold. And it felt really right. I had two other buddies who came to Iowa as Michigan fans. One dropped the Wolverines like a bad habit and gave me all of his gear and paraphernalia before we even stepped foot in Iowa City. The other stayed more moderate and quietly pulls for M. I just... I could not turn the volume down, even an ounce.

For those of you who grew up Iowa fans and went to Iowa, all I can ask is what would have happened to that fandom had you went to, like, I don't know, Indiana. Would you be 100% out on the Hawkeyes? Maybe you would, but it's so hard for me to fathom that (for you or myself, really).

These days, it's a little easier. I live over 300 miles from campus. My wife, in the irony of ironies, went to Michigan for undergrad and has her PhD from, oh yes, DePaul. That doesn't mean I don't also get her in the black and gold from time to time. She's a great sport.

It's not much more complicated than that. Time = Loyalty. Or, really, Time + Pain = Super Loyalty. As The Situation likes to say on Jersey Shore: "We didn't come this far just to come this far."

* * *

So back to the lead: who am I rooting for on Saturday? Y'all, I'm sorry, I'm rooting for Michigan. Do I feel like a massive asshole about it? Yes. Is it compounded by the fact I'm going with some of my best ever buds from Iowa? Yes. Will I wear Michigan gear? Leaning toward no and feeling like an even bigger piece of shit about that.

But I've always been in this for titles. Always. No consolation prize bullshit. I literally wrote a column called "Fuck The Rose Bowl". Michigan is in that mix, and Iowa is not and is somehow still unsettled at the QB position. If the situation were flipped, I'd root for Iowa 10 times out of 10.

"Fair weather fan!"

Sure. True. I guess. It's really more like "life fan." As in: one is alive for the CFP, and one is not. If this were hoops, and one was playing for the Final Four and one was playing for, like, I don't know, the NIT championship, maybe it would make more sense. College football likes to distract us with bloated consolation prizes.

If Iowa wins and makes, say, the Rose Bowl (of "Fuck The Rose Bowl" fame), of course I'll be excited. But for real, this team has been a slog to watch all season, despite the good-ish record. My buddy Zach Splan, an alum of the Iowa track team, put it this way:

When it comes to Iowa fans what do you want me to say? It's Iowa. Yes, you and me always want to play to win. We'd like to keep up with the trends, modernize both sides of the ball and if we lose we want to lose like Lane Kiffin throwing it 10,000 times on fourth down because it's funny and awesome. But Iowa is Iowa. We play football not to lose. We will always be the team that "doesn't beat themselves" making us the most boring form of entertainment out there.

Continuing these weird ironies, it's so wild the last time both won their share of the Big Ten title was in tandem, in 2004. Hell, Iowa went 12-0 since and still couldn't win the damn conference. Michigan has never been to the Big Ten Championship Game before.

It's like it had to be this way. The football gods' way of screaming up from hell "Just pick a team, weirdo."

To them, and to you, I say "nah" and throw up my hands for all deserved insults.

I love my school, and I love my childhood team. I'll roll with both forever. This column has been called The Hybrid for a decade and a half for that exact reason. Can't bend now.

The Hybrid

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in time of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.”

Friday Night Lights

Western Kentucky at UTSA: Wait, UTSA lost?!

Iowa 28, Nebraska 21:

They... did?

My mom/stepdad's puppy got his first taste of the rivalry.

A rivalry... very clearly based on special teams.

Every. Damn. Time.

Oregon (10) vs. Utah (17): lol, we are not talking about this game

WE TALKIN' APPLE CUP.

Biggest Wazzu margin of victory in series history. The Huskies received all smoke. They rushed the field. On the road.

Butch crowd surfed. Flags were waved.

But no one's word stuck out more than the new program leader in TDs:

The Game: Speaking of flipping a rivalry...

These dudes. And this dude.

From off the board to a Top 3 Heisman favorite; holy wow.

That late November shit:

RB3:

It got emotional.

Real emotional:

It was one of the best days of my entire life.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bobby L (@bobbystompy)


The biggest win since I have been seriously following the team. I would put it over several pro sports actual championships I've followed. And I'm not alone:

When Michigan scored the first TD, I reminded myself that Michigan had scored first in 3 of the previous 4 games. When Michigan was up 15 going into the 4thm, I kept finding parallels, like being up 10 in the 4th in 2016. I had hope, but I couldn't believe. But they just kept pushing. Every time an opportunity presented itself for Michigan to fold, they shoved it down OSU's throats. Every time they got within one score, they just calmly won the battle in the trenches and scored another TD. There were no panicked three and outs, only first downs. The clock kept ticking, and finally it happened. They won. What happened afterwards was the most cathartic thing I've ever experienced in sports. Jubilation, relief, one big celebration. 

I'll never let this go. We beat Ohio State.

Indy outcome or not. It was never about winning the Big Ten title game, for me. It was about taking that first step. That first, giant step.

Saturday

Baylor (9) vs. Oklahoma State (5): Okie State will literally be in the playoff, and I still won't be taking them seriously. Makes me understand the calcified brains of the people who don't understand that just because you started a season unranked, it doesn't mean you're baddy bad bad forever and always. I'm told they play defense.

Georgia (1) vs. Alabama (3): Everyone penning in this UGA victory has me thinking Alabama allllll day erry day. Surely you've seen the "Alabama's first time as an underdog in a lonnnnng time" stat, but do you remember what happened last time they actually were?

...took out Georgia, 38-10. On the road.

Houston (21) at Cincinnati (4): Do what you do.

Michigan (2) vs. Iowa (13): I'm picking Michigan. It's a double digit spread, OK? Everything Iowa is good at, Michigan can counter. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo are projected Top 10 picks. I worry -- so much -- about Iowa's QBs being able to stay upright. Iowa special teams are incredible; No. 1 in the nation. The team right next to them? Michigan. It could be really, really bad.

The case for Iowa winning does come in said special teams. And, of course, muck. The problem is every big win has had insane circumstances. Not trying to take anything away, but the PSU game did have the Clifford injury. We were down double digits to Nebraska in the fourth quarter. The ISU game, though glorious, was much tighter than people remember; the Hawkeyes very much struggle to move the ball.

I'm happy Iowa is in this game, but it wasn't without high levels of circumstance and, yes, luck. And it's college football -- you gotta make your own luck sometimes. But this is, I'm afraid, where it runs out.

USC at Cal: Cool.

Ohio State:

/eyes widen

/eyes slowly close

ND Nation: Can... I defend Notre Dame for a sec?

Seriously, fuck that.

OK, back to the task at hand. This is gonna be, like, a dunk contest, so buckle up.

#NeverForget

Hahahaha.

Even more realistic.

HAAAAA.

/shakes head

I think, what got me the most, was the 7 a.m. meeting where he said he'd explain everything. Why would you attend this?

I bet I can find it.

/tries to find it

/finds it

Man.

Hahahahahaha -- MVP.

They knew. They always new.

The Mini Hyball

Michigan basketball, who started in the Top 5 and will be unranked next week, actively look like they are point shaving (latest triumph was scoring in the 50s against one of the worst defenses in the country).

Meanwhile, Iowa hoops continues to ascend. Joey damn T.

Ohhhh, I wanted that dub; felt so damn good.

The prophet.

And the leader:

Wrapping It Up...

See you in Indy.

Bobby Loesch is a weekly contributor to Go Iowa Awesome. Follow him on Twitter @bobbystompy or email to bobbyloesch [at] gmail.com.

123 Comments
View 123 Comments