Coming Home to the Place (and Team) I Never Left

By Mark Hasty on August 2, 2017 at 10:00 am
A farmhouse near Dyersville, Iowa
Photo by Mark Hasty

Good morning, afternoon, or evening as the case may be. You might well have noticed that I've never posted anything here before today, and there's a better than even chance you have no idea who I am or what I'm doing here.

You can see from the byline that my name is Mark and I'm a new staff member here at Go Iowa Awesome. I have been writing on the internet about college football in general and Big Ten football in particular for  ... [does math very slowly] ... well, I started the same season as Kirk Ferentz. 1999, eighteen years ago now. And yes, when I started writing about college football, I was on dialup.

The main thing you'll see from me here is my weekly prediction feature, Pickin' On The Big Ten (POTBT for short). Until I temporarily discontinued it after the 2014 season, it was, to my knowledge, the longest continually running college football feature on the internet. Every week I write a brief summary of each Big Ten game and give you an actual final score prediction. The tone is often sarcastic but the picks are serious.

I've been exactly right about a score once, in 2004, involving a game between Michigan State and, um, someone else. I really don't remember who. I've been one or two points off more times than I can remember. I've been way off on a weekly basis. 

POTBT first appeared on the Usenet group I migrated it to my own blog, The Bemusement Park, in 2003 and wrote it there for four seasons. This included the infamous 2006 Iowa-Syracuse overtime game that I still haven't erased from my memory. In 2007 I was invited to join the team at FanHouse back when that was a thing. For the next four seasons Pickin' reached a weekly audience of about a quarter million people, nearly 0.0003 percent of whom bothered to leave a comment. From 2011 through 2014 I worked with Jon Miller of on the Bigger Ten and XOFan sites, both of which are now defunct. After 2014 I just quit writing POTBT because I couldn't convince myself to care about Rutgers and Maryland.

But writing is an addiction, and if you ask somebody who writes why they do it, they'll tell you it's because they can't not write without losing their minds. And indeed, that started happening to me. So a couple months ago I tweeted out that I was looking to get back into the game. GIA's own Patrick Vint answered back almost immediately, and now I'm here.

But why here, on an Iowa fan site, if I write about the Big Ten? That's an easy answer. I'm one of you, an Iowa fan old enough to remember the actual day Hayden Fry was hired. (I was seven years old then.) I remember the improbable 1981 season, sweating out the result of the Ohio State-Michigan game at my great uncle Curt's grocery store in Duncombe, Iowa. I remember New Year's Day 1982 and the incredibly intense excitement of Rose Bowl watching parties.

I remember the names. Tippett. Bohannon. Hallstrom. Roby. Blatcher. Gales. Olejniczak.

I remember the Hawks getting mashed into goo that New Year's Day by one of Don James's better Washington teams.

I remember long, impossibly perfect Saturday afternoons in the back seat of the family car, taking the long way back from wherever we had been to listen to Jim Zabel call the game on WHO.

I am one of you, an Iowa native who grew up in Fort Dodge. An Iowan who, for work reasons, has spent most of his adult life outside the Hawkeye State, but still considers it home. Wherever I've lived, I've been an Iowan living somewhere else. When I lived in Nebraska during the late 1990s and very early 2000s, they thought they'd convert me. But they didn't. When I lived an hour away from Madison for fourteen years, the Badger fans thought they'd convert me, what with all the staff ties to Iowa. But they didn't. When I moved to Illinois last summer ... okay, the next time I hear anybody say anything about Illini football, positive, negative, or otherwise, in this state will be the first. (You can't even get the Big Ten Network on our local cable system.)

And when I spent a year in Cedar Rapids, starting in the summer of 2001, the first thing I did, before I even had a local address, was to buy season tickets. I've always played at neutrality when I write, but it's always been an act. An act I'm pretty bad at, I hasten to add. When I covered the Iowa-Northwestern game at Evanston in 2010 for FanHouse, jNWU assigned me a seat not with the rest of the national media but between Phil Haddy and Bob Brooks. Northwestern knew. (Watching an Iowa game with Brooksie was as wonderful as you imagine it to be.)

So anyway, that's who I am and what I'm doing here. You can count on seeing Pickin' On The Big Ten every Thursday all season long, and other things from me when the time is right. It's nice to meet you all, it's a privilege to be here and as is the case every day, it's a great day to be a Hawkeye.

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