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B1G 2021, Iowa Potluck #1: The Program of Five Smells

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Head down the I-380 corridor—at a reasonable speed, please—and let’s grab a whiff of the Hawkeyes ahead of 2021.

An article—I shit you not—called “Ranking Cedar Rapids’ Top 15 Factories”.

Well, well, well.

It’s Iowa Week.

This morning, in Stew’s delightful look back at the 2020 Hawkeyes and look ahead to the 2021 Iowa campaign, our friend vaudvillain had an astute observation after our weekend post on realignment speculation fueled the most comments on an article OTE has seen since its last gamethread:

I, for one,

was thrilled to see this post today. I will be glad to get back to talking about (and making fun of) actual B1G teams, rather than speculating about potential B1G teams. (Though if it leads to the posting of a gif of a particular defensive play from the Rose Bowl, I’m here for that.)

Posted by vaudvillain on Jul 26, 2021 | 6:53 AM

Too true, man.

In the spirit of that, let’s get to Iowa Week!

The Food: Smell that? It’s Iowa.

The overlap on the Venn diagram of “food invented in Iowa” and “shit it would be interesting to talk about” is, like, three things. So we’ll get to some of those—maybe—over the course of the week, but since we’re talking about a place I loathe, let’s start with some trashy content.

What I mean by trash, of course, is Iowa’s smell.

No, this isn’t a pigshit joke—though we can talk about corporate hog farming ruining Iowa’s agriculture and environment (fuck you, Iowa Select).

Instead, it’s something much nearer and dearer to our Iowa writers’ cold, dead hearts: Cedar Rapids.

Just a quick jaunt up Highway 380—yes, the corridor from Iowa City to Waterloo is SO HOPPIN’ they needed an interstate spur—from the Hawkeyes is Cedar Rapids, which you know for the Ed Helms movie but which is also a very real city.

That city is known for two things:

  1. The speed cameras on 380
  2. The smells

The speed cameras—ruled unconstitutional at some point? but returning in summer 2019—are one thing, but they’re avoidable enough by doing some vague shit like “not speeding” for the better part of three terrible miles. Unfortunately, that means you slow down long enough to appreciate Cedar Rapids’ other contribution to society.

The “City of Five Smells” is marked by Cedar Rapids’ position as a milling center in Iowa, with Cargill, Quaker Oats, Ralston, and Archer Daniels Midland having plants in town...but also by a large trash composting site lovingly called “Mt. Trashmore”, along with a sewage treatment plant and the heavily polluted Cedar River. A meatpacking plant used to add to the smell, though that’s no more (since Farmstead Foods closed in 1990 as meatpackers realized they could move their work to rural towns and import union-busting labor, but hey, you’re not here to listen to a reading of a Wilson Warren book).

Robin Williams even noted the moniker in a 1982 set that’s sparked debate among self-important Wiki editors who decided that it shouldn’t be permitted on the Cedar Rapids page because “lots of cities have smells.” But even the Cedar Rapids Reddit page contains the check-ins of “What’s the smell today?” and “Does it still smell in Cedar Rapids?”

Yes, it does.

Drive through on any given day, as Stew tells us, and you’ll hit one of those five smells:

  1. Quaker
  2. Mt. Trashmore (it’s exactly that)
  3. ADM
  4. Cedar River
  5. Ralston

Within that, while usually you’re going to hit dog food-making day, there’s always the hope that you catch Quaker on the most holy of days (not 6-4, mind you): Crunchberry Day.

When the Quaker plant makes the sweet, surely-naturally-colored breakfast treat, the whole city is overtaken by a powerful waft of sugary air—so great that Raygun has immortalized it in a postcard.

This also happened:

The pinnacle of American democracy.

So tell me, writers:

  1. On what day were you “fortunate” enough to drive through Cedar Rapids? Did you get a ticket? Have you ever whiffed the elusive Crunchberry Day?
  2. Tell us about a bad-smelling city near you.
  3. Is there a “Crunchberry Day” near you where the air smells of happiness?

Stew:

  1. I live here. It’s, well, the cost of living is cheap as hell. Since I spend pretty much all my time on the north side, the smells don’t generally get to me. I think I’ve only managed a ticked once, and it was on the illegal one (not enough of a notice) so we just straight didn’t pay it. Fun fact, it’s a civil fine, and not in any way associated with a record against your license. The most the state can do is withhold a state tax refund. So if you don’t live in Iowa....fuck’m.
  2. Alright, so ADM is by far the worst smell in the city. It’s good that it’s essentially outside of town on the southwest side, but my goodness it is awful.
  3. There are days when Quaker smells like fried chicken. It’s weird, but good.

LPW:

  1. I’ve only been to Iowa once, and that was to tour it as a potential college back in the late 90s. My mom went there and enjoyed showing me around. I’ve yet to experience Cedar Rapids.
  2. There’s several foul smelling parts of the Chicagoland area that I need to call out. I haven’t been near there myself, but the south fork of the south branch of the Chicago river is known for Bubbly Creek, a former disposal site for all of the dead animal entrails and waste from the old Stockyards on the south side. The stockyards closed a while back, but the animal entrails still cause the creek to bubble up. Also, there’s a stretch of the Stevenson highway near where I grew up near Argo, Stickney and McCook Illinois where there’s nearby Oil Refineries, a corn products plant, a quarry, and a massive stormwater storage holding area called the Deep Tunnel. It smells like rancid farts or rotten eggs.
  3. I don’t know much about Crunchberry day, but one of the best smells in the Chicago area is in the Loop when you can smell the goodness from Blommers Chocolate factory. On days when I go downtown for work, I specifically change my route to take the Brown line, get off at Merchandise Mart, and then walk over the river to maximize the smell of brownies.

HWAHSQB: I have driven through Cedar Rapids 100s of times. I only got one ticket. Technically, I didn’t get a ticket as our car is registered in my wife’s name so she got a ticket. I moved to Fort Dodge and they have a moving speed trap that I got hit with 3 times before I knew it was a thing.

I have caught a Crunchberry Day. I also like the day they process oats as I enjoy the smell of cooking oats much more so than actually eating them.

I have lived and worked in many foul smelling cities to the point that I am somewhat a connoisseur of nasty odors. I grew up in the town that had the largest hog slaughter plant in the world at the time. That’s not pleasant. I spent a lot of time in Hereford, TX where there are over 1 million cattle within 12 miles of town. The city I work in now has two plants that are very conflicting. On one end of town is a plant that makes feed using fish guts. That smells exactly how you think it would. On the other end of town is a plant that makes pastries. Cinnamon roll day can be absolute heaven. It all depends on which way the wind is blowing. You step outside not knowing what is coming.

BRT: I think I have actually stayed in Cedar Rapids once, but I don’t recall anything about it, including any smells. Completely unmemorable - maybe that means it was one of the less-offensive smell days.

There is a feedlot to the southwest of my town, so occasionally we’ll catch an unpleasant whiff. Luckily, it’s relatively rare. No nearby towns where the air smells of vanilla cupcakes - Eagleton is in Indiana.

RockyMtnBlue: In 1998, a time so long ago I was thin and had hair, I was a young, impressionable software consultant. My gig at Motorola was up and my next travel destination was either Louisville, CO or Cedar Rapids. Holy hell did I get lucky. I’ve never been to Cedar Rapids.

Greeley, CO; the home of your UNC Bears. It must be Colorado Center of Livestock or something. You’d hate to think it has that smell because of the students.

MNW: I have driven through Cedar Rapids about a dozen times for various research and/or football trips to Iowa City...I have never made it for Crunchberry Day. The feels like more of a disappointment than it actually should be, because really, if it’s just Cedar Rapids, two cares?

THE bad-smelling city—outside Worthington, MN, which is a stop on I-90 and not somewhere I live—is South Saint Paul. Never mind that the Armour packing operation left town in 1979...the place still smells like shit.


The Football: Smell that? It’s Iowa.

The Hawkeyes’ 2020 season ranged from the raw sewage of Chris Doyle, Racist and the regularly-rotated trash pile that is Gary Barta to the cinnamony whiffs of another pasting of Nebraska and a crunchberry-filled demolition of wisconsin.

At the end of the day, though, a Hawkeyes season is your standard drive through the City of Five Smells: some faceless white dude is gonna give you a ticket if you go too fast, the whole thing smells like dog food, and you’re probably going 8-4.

Huh, this would’ve been a good Hate Friday analogy.

Well, writers, the questions:

  1. Can the Iowa Hawkeyes turn any kind of metaphorical corner under Kirk Ferentz v3.0 and his failson OC, either on- or off-the-field, or is what you see what you get?
  2. How, in the era of NLI and racial consciousness across college sports, do you see the University of Iowa keeping up with the Joneses?
  3. Tell us about one of the stupidest money-fueled, advertising-related decisions your Athletics Department made in the last 5-10 years.

Stew:

  1. I mean, they probably have the ability and schedule to win 10 games in a season and the division. That’s probably their ceiling. Ain’t no revolution coming here. I mean, we got incredibly excited when they started to run some actual gap assignments for a year. It lasted a year. It is what it is. And it is vanilla as hell and not gonna change until Ferentz retires. The good news there is that Iowa is getting what appears to be a competent President for the first time in a decade so Gary Barta may not be the one to make the next hire.
  2. Who are the Joneses here? MN, WI, and the rest of the division? Because, man, it shouldn’t be that difficult. But hopefully Nate Kaeding’s restaurant empire is good enough to keep the Iowa players comfortable.
  3. I think the stupidest one at the moment is that the official pizza of Iowa football is Quick Star. 1. It’s a gas station. 2. It’s a bad gas station. 3. It’s a bad gas station based out of gotdamn wisconsin. The fuck!?! There’s Kum and Go and Casey’s right fuckin’ there! Quick Star?!?

LPW:

  1. I don’t ever expect Iowa to change. I love the phrase failson, and I fully expect Brian Ferentz to take over from Kirk sometime in the next decade.
  2. Iowa would not do that willingly.
  3. This doesn’t exactly fit with advertising or money, maybe, but the dumbest thing I can think of NU doing in that regard in the past ten years is the bloody jerseys courtesy of Under Armour. I wrote about this six years ago with GoForThree and Ted Glover.

BRT:

  1. No, I don’t see much change in Iowa. And honestly, I’m not sure they need to. They’ve got good fan support, they win enough games to keep it, and everyone seems pretty happy with that. If you can consistently win 8-10 games a year, it’s the foolish program that tries to tinker with that without good reason. (Ask me how I know.)
  2. This is a tough question to answer. They may be lagging slightly behind, but as is the case in many big-time college programs, you’ve got conflicting interests. Students, and student-athletes are, I think, leading the charge in terms of becoming more empowered to speak out and trash a team or school that is not doing well in this area. However, the actual Powers-That-Be: boards, presidents, donors, older coaching staffs are still often either resistant to change or unsure of how they should accomplish it (that’s not a sufficient excuse, by the way - there are plenty or resources out there, so if they are well-intentioned but “not sure what to do” they absolutely are still on the hook for that.) The conservative elements within athletic programs (please note I am not using that as a political term, but in its literal sense of being resistant to change) usually have more power, and will for the foreseeable future. Those who wish to see change and greater equity have to keep up the noise.
  3. I personally love the ridiculous tie-ins that one gets around town or on the radio. Do we need an Official Formal Menswear Retailer of the Nebraska Cornhuskers? An Official Favorite French Fry of the Nebraska Huskers? No, no we do not. But I enjoy the absurdity of it, so bring it on.

RockyMtnBlue:

  1. Why would they even try to ‘turn the corner’? It’s working. You look at their recruits and then you watch them play (especially on offense) and it doesn’t seem like it should work at all. But it does. Like BRT, I have an appreciation for consistent 8-10 win teams that I didn’t used to have. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not easy to do that.
  2. I don’t. But they will and I won’t understand how.
  3. Selling the naming rights to coaching positions. What. The. Fuck. The “Donald C. Graham Football Offensive Line Coach”? Seriously? And we needed “Football” in there so we would think it’s a volleyball offensive line coach, or perhaps a crew offensive line coach? If Michigan sells the naming rights to the stadium I’m out.

MNW: Northwestern’s in-game experience has, like basically every other school, become more corporate in the last decade: fewer songs from the marching band, more on-field promotions where you throw a butler through a hoop to win a free bottle of Coke or something. More sterile, less fun, but not nearly as bad as how Dollar Bill Barta has made Iowa athletics.

Bring back the Goose Island Beer Tent.