This past weekend, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes played for the Big 10 Championship against Michigan State. I won’t get into the fact that I am not a football fan, nor the reasons why, which date back to my days growing up in Texas where football is right up there with religion and players practically are seen as sitting at the right hand of God.
Here in Iowa, we don’t have professional sports and our college teams, especially the Hawkeyes, are placed on a very high pedestal. This has always bothered me. Not just the culture of football, which again I won’t get into the fact of players charged with drug and rape offenses with no more than a slap on the wrist. The fact is, these players are kids. They are 18, 19, 20 year-olds who aren’t even at the peak of brain development. Yet, we hold them to the same standard that we do a 32 year old NFL player who is making millions of dollars a year.
Now to my subject of stress. I admit I watched the game. It was a very close and evenly matched game. The University of Iowa came into the championship game with a perfect record, following previous seasons that would have most likely cost the Athletic Director and the head coach (who happens to be the highest paid state employee, but again I won’t get into that) their jobs if this season wouldn’t have turned around. Iowa lost in the last few seconds after several very determined attempts by Michigan State to score a touchdown. When the game was over and the television cameras showed the tear-streaked faces of the Iowa players, my thought again was, “these are just kids”. It took me back to the days when my now grown daughter played high school softball and the heartbreak and tears after a tough loss. It broke my heart to see her cry. It is a character builder, these sports. They teach us that sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. It hurts to lose, but when we lose, life goes on and we work for the next opportunity.
The day after the Big Ten Championship loss, there was an air of sadness in Iowa City. People looked depressed, heartbroken. Many people I talked to mentioned the knots in their stomach, the stress, or how sad they felt when the Hawkeyes lost. I understand the disappointment when our team loses, but we are letting a game, played by 18, 19, 20 year old college student athletes, affect our health and well-being? I sure hope not!
I admit that I have lost sleep the past few weeks about things out of my control. The bombings in Paris, the attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, the slaughter at a company holiday gathering in California, the knife attack in London, so many more that never made the news headlines. I think about the husbands, wives, daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers who will never come home again. I think about the hesitation that many feel about even going to the mall this holiday season, fearing someone with a gun and a grudge will be there to take their anger out on innocent people.
Although I feel empathy for the Iowa players after their difficult loss to Michigan State, it isn’t like the loss felt by the victims’ families after tragic events. There will be another game. As fans, we will continue to cheer on the team. Football will be over and hopefully these players have prepared for their real life careers. Life goes on and we work for the next opportunity. There is no next opportunity for the victims of senseless violence, whether it is isolated gun violence or a terrorist attack. That puts a knot in my stomach and saddens me. That is a loss that cannot be recovered in the next season. Yes, life still goes on and we can’t let it affect our daily lives. Although I think in a way, it still does. That is not “silly” stress.