Friday, August 19, 2005

Another corner turned

The maturation of the ISU football program and fan base continues.

Ask your average Cyclone fan this: If ISU splits with Iowa and Nebraska, which win would you prefer?

CSJ's highly unscientific polling shows a sea change in the thinking of Cyclonedom: A win in Lincoln is preferred over a beating of the Hawkeyes. This is monumental.

When ISU football was just another program, a win over the Bumblebees would make or break a season. But with 2004's near-miss, Cyclone fan now realizes there are bigger prizes than downing Kirk and Crew. The Iowa game may not be second tier to NU, CU and KSU, but a loss to the former will easily be remedied by wins over the latter.

During the dark days of The Streak, Iowa fan would belittle Cyclone fan with: "The ISU game is less important than every Big 10 game." While I always doubted Iowa fans enjoyed a pummelling of Indiana more than a pummelling of ISU, they had reason to place the Ohio State and Michigan games above their matchup with the Cyclones. They still do.

But now, so do the Cyclones. That is the best sign of football health I can think of.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

So long, Bruce; Thanks for all the dollars

Bruce VDV has given notice: I'm jumping from the plane with no apparent parachute.

Which is the best way he could leave, considering the perhaps shabby treatment he has received from the University for being asked to work without a contract.

What did he do in that time? He cemented Mac, Fennelly and Wayne to contract extensions. He hired a potentially competent softball coach. He announced fundraising and ticket sales are at an all-time high.

Given results like that, I would recommend whoever hires him in the future continue the month-to-month standing. He does nice work not knowing where his next paycheck is coming from.

In my eyes, Bruce only had three black marks, two of which were forced upon him: Dumping baseball and Men's swimming (a gift from Gene Smith), the horrid way that LE's drinking was handled (a situation perhaps directed by the President's office), and his rather vanilla personality. Bruce was never very good on the summer rubber chicken circuit. He wasn't a glad-hander and back-slapper. He didn't buy trays of drinks at Kelly's. He somehow got donors to open their checkbooks and build things without be Mr. Smooth. He was an AD only an accountant could love.

That accountant is leaving ISU athletics in as solid a financial shape as they have been in recent memory, with a solid foundation for future revenue growth. While ISU's budgets still pale in comparison to most of the league, no ground is being lost, and ISU is performing at perhaps the highest win/dollar ratio in the XII.

For that, we thank you, Bruce.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Blogs, rumors and the "working press"

In case you haven't noticed, the internet is rapidly changing how the news media does it's job. News consumers are no longer content to wait for the morning paper to find out how their team did last night. They want the box score, quotes and analysis almost before the game has ended. This is making it tough on all flavors of media, but most dramatically on the print folks.

Sometimes they lash out.

Nancy has one correct point: she has to verify everything she is going to print as fact. This means talking to the parties involved directly, which is the central tenant of good journalism.

Where she wanders astray is in her portrayal of those who post on message boards or write blogs like this one.

The money quote:

"Read the blogs if you want. Read the message boards. But do it for entertainment, not information. Don't accept anything you read on them as truth unless it has been independently verified.

Usual scenario: A loser tries to make himself seem important by posting information that makes him appear to be an insider, "in the know."

Worse case scenario: Gambling interests, bookies, the mob pass off inaccurate information about a player or team as truth to try to influence wagering or the outcome of a contest. They're counting on readers and viewers to be gullible.

Don't be."

While a few may be losers living in their mother's basements, most are not. We have jobs, families, lives. We just happen to be passionate enough about something to write about it. It's a virtual barroom argument.

But what is getting stuck in the craw of Nancy and the "working press" is that despite the vast amounts of smoke generated online, there is a significant amount of fire. Enough fire that sportswriters now cruise the message boards looking for the next one. It's part of their beat now.

In fact, most of the major local sports stories have been first reported, unverified, online: Coach Peterson's child porn, Eustachy's drinking, Jon Beutjer's roommate problems, Pierre Pierce's dating struggles, etc. Some of these floated around in cyberspace for days before the "working press" either noticed, or were able to get anything on the record. Flat out, they are getting beat, especially the Register.

A sports page that was once one of the nation's best is now second banana to papers like the Ames Tribune. They seldom send a staff photographer to away games for either Iowa or ISU, content to work with whatever AP sends them. Their drop in circulation month to month and year to year is way above the industry average, and no improvement is in sight.

So those who do mediocre work, and who are barely able to justify their job at an operation that focuses not on the news, but on maintaining a 20% profit margin, get the most belligerent at those who do better work for free.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

And now, for the contrary opinion

In my last post, I played the wet blanket. Now I present an outsider who is willing to toss an damp sleeping bag on ISU football.

This Nebraska columnist holds to the most damning of opinions about ISU: If ISU can win the division, the division must suck. As in, ISU is a constant of football physics: they never improve much above a certain level, so if you lose to them, it says more about how bad you are than how good ISU might be.

He also gets a nice dig in about ISU celebrating a bowl win over Miami OH. I suspect after the year NU had, a bowl win would have been greeted with Gatorade showers all around.

And while he gives a nod to Dan and the rebuilding job he has done, the piece still has an air of "Enjoy it while we're down". Much like what Cyclone fans read and heard during their 5 year run over the Evil Empire. We've heard this record before.

We shouldn't be surprised. It will take a handful of division titles before the rest of the league thinks much of ISU.

This is a damn good time to begin. If winning itself isn't motivation enough, stuffing a trophy down a naysayer's throat should be.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Reel yourselves in, Cyclone fans

The CSJ staff was at a barbeque Saturday night where a circle of Cyclone fans were noisily arguing what the coming football and basketball seasons held. It was an awakening for us.

We have heard rumblings through the summer of bubbling optimism among the Cardinal and Gold crowd, but we could hardly believe our ears at some of the scenarios that were being seriously discussed.

"If the kicking game doesn't kill us, we win the Big XII North"

"If Taggert comes through, we can win the league"

"I think we can sweep Iowa in Football and Basketball"

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Slow down! What the heck has happened to the Cyclone fan of old? The "Just don't embarrass us" school of support? The "Just happy to be here" mentaility?

Yes, there were plenty of happy signs from last season in both football and basketball. Yes, with improvement in some areas both teams could be even more successful. Yes, that optimism has manifested in a record number of season tickets being sold for football, and should be expected in basketball.

But have some restraint. We are Cyclone fans, after all.

How many times have you let optimism carry your spirit away only to have it crushed on the turf of Norman or Lincoln or Iowa City? How many near misses have gone by over the years, dampening our souls for an entire spring and summer? How many season lost to one key injury, one huge turnover, one missed kick?

We want success as much as you, but we know better than to tempt fate and mock karma. Assume the glass is half empty until you get a finger in there to confirm otherwise.

Be hopeful, but keep it to yourself, Cyclone fan. Besides, nobody likes a "told you so".