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The Greatest Tradition In College Football

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The Big Ten has some of the best traditions in all of college football. Their newest one is their greatest one.

Children’s Hospital, Iowa City, Iowa
Ted Glover

Hi gang. For those of you that remember me from these parts, hey, glad to be back on the front page for a cameo. For those of you who don’t know me, you are one of the fortunate ones, but I used to write about Ohio State for OTE for a few seasons.

One of the things I love about Ohio State is the tradition; heck it’s one of the things that makes college football in America so special. From The Game, the Buckeye Leaves on the helmets, Script Ohio; the list goes on. Every school in the Big Ten has tradition, some more than others, but they all mean something special to you, the fan or alumni of that school. Something that becomes a part of you, something that makes you feel normal.

Yesterday, I was able to witness, and participate in, what has quickly become the Greatest Tradition In College Football.

‘Normal’ takes on a completely different meaning when you have a sick family member in the hospital with a serious illness, especially when it’s a child. There is no ‘normal’ anymore. Not only is your loved one sick, there isn’t a thing you can do about it other than what doctors suggest or recommend. You’re powerless, in many ways, and life becomes a series of tests, test results, surgeries, hopeful news, bad news, bad coffee, worse food, and an overpowering urge to scream—In anger, frustration, fear, exhaustion.

A normal day for me, and almost 80,000 other fans, was to go to Kinnick yesterday to watch Ohio State play Iowa. We gathered with our friends and family to tailgate, talk about the upcoming game, and forget about jobs, after school schedules, and that weird noise your car makes when you start it up in the morning. We gathered together in our tailgating groups, greeted old friends, and made new ones. It was...normal.

But in the hospital, you would give anything—even your own health—to make your kid better, so they can get up and go home. In lieu of that, what you crave more than anything else is to feel...normal again. Anything that helps your kid forget chemo, radiation, or transplant lists, if only for a minute, is about the best you can hope for.

The University of Iowa Hospital sits directly across the street from Kinnick. The university recently finished a new addition, the Children’s Hospital. And from the Children's Hospital, on the very top, they’ve built a room with a wrap around window that has a panoramic view of the stadium. And as beautiful as the building looks on the outside, there are real life and death struggles going on inside, every day. And as real as that struggle is for that child and that child’s family, outside life goes on like...normal. And it’s easy to feel like you’re forgotten. And sometimes, that’s the most depressing thing of all.

Outside the hospital, as you move from your tailgating spot to the stadium, you notice the new hospital that towers over the stadium. And as you walk closer, you notice something else. Homemade signs in the window of the hospital, cheering on the Hawkeyes. ‘NICU Loves The Hawks!’, says one. ‘GO HAWKS’ says another. From about halfway up the high rise to the top floor, signs adorn windows facing the stadium.

We found our seats, and settled in for the game. It was a dubious start for the Buckeyes, as J.T. Barrett threw a pick six on the first play, but rebounded with a touchdown on their next series. About halfway through the first quarter, you could see people gathering across the street, in the top floor of the hospital. My heart went out to those folks, because even though they were just across the street, in some ways, they were halfway around the world. None of those kids up there were in any condition to walk out to Mom and Dad’s car, much less attend the game. But soon, not only would they get normal for a minute, they would know they were not forgotten.

The first quarter ended, and the windows across the street were packed, shoulder to shoulder. The PA announcer directed us to look across the street, and for a brief minute, something amazing happened. Almost 80,000 people, in unison, waved:

Hopefully, those kids and their families knew that they weren’t forgotten, and that we’re all wishing you get well soon. For just a minute, maybe they forgot where they were, why they were there, and were able to believe that someday, they’ll be home.

They were normal, and that is The Greatest Tradition In All Of College Football.

Well done, Iowa.