Iowa fans lather
up Maui scene
LAHAINA, Maui » I am in the horde. In the mob. A clapping, chanting, cheering, singing, stomping, jeering mob. We stand. We sit. We jump up. A pom-pom grazes the side of my head.
Someone has stuck me with a sticker in the shape of the state that reads "IOWA -- We Play To Win."
(The security guy down at the bottom of the bleachers wears one, too.)
What do they call that mob scene at the grunge punk rock concerts? The mosh pit? I am in the mosh pit.
Average age, 47.
(Of course, my neighbors, Anne from Kalona and Laurie from Davenport, are obviously pulling that number down. In fact, I would card them.)
"I called my granddaughter before the game," Anne says. "It's tough, with the time difference, to catch her between school and when she goes to bed. I said, 'Aloha!' She said, 'Aloha, amigo.' "
These Iowa fans are having the time of their lives.
I had to pick Iowa, to be in the middle of the horde. Why? Because they are the second-craziest group of fans here at the EA Sports Maui Invitational. I don't think I could survive a game in the Louisville section. That would be too much action. That would be overstimulation.
They just might put my heart over the top.
The Louisville man in the red shirt who stands up and waves his arm around and around and around makes me dizzy. And the noise they all make while he does it: Oooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! It's disorienting.
And then he does the motions and the place shakes:
They come from Kentucky. Their basketball jones is in midseason form.
No, Iowa people are not quite as crazy. Almost, but not quite. They sang "Happy Birthday" to coach Steve Alford. They filled every inch of their bleachers with yellow, white and black. They wear porkpie hats with "Herky Hawkeye" embroidered on the front. They know every Iowa player's first name.
It's very collegiate.
Not Fresno State "Red Mile" collegiate.
Not Aloha Stadium "Eh, you suck, No. 21! Wot! Like beef?" collegiate.
Yes, they get on the officials. But they warn them first, give a guy a chance to straighten out his evil ways: "Hey! We're gonna get on ya!"
One man decides he will monitor 3-second calls.
"I'm just hollering about illegal screens," another declares.
Laurie takes my picture, during a break in the madness.
"Is B.J. Armstrong still down there?" Anne asks, pointing to the courtside seats set aside for NBA scouts. They still love the former Hawkeye. "Yesterday we all went '1-2-3! Hi, B.J.!' He waved" -- Anne mimicked the embarrassed look of a dutiful son -- "and gave his little smile."
Admittedly, this day is more subdued. The crowd is still recovering from the previous day, when Iowa beat Louisville, and the Hawkeye faithful had to answer the challenge of the crazed Louisville crowd. That was 40 minutes of fever pitch. It was astonishing, a stirring atmosphere. It was like a home game for both teams. Like two great home arenas split exactly in half.
At one point, an official was running down the sideline to full boos, and as soon as he hit midcourt he was greeted by a wall of raucous cheers from the opposing side.
This was big-time basketball. Chicken skin.
This day couldn't match that, in the stands, even if yesterday's game was even better.
Everyone in the crowd was a little drained. You usually don't have to turn around and do another home game the very next day.
But there was still stomping, still singing, still jumping, still knees slapped with every miss. Still lots and lots of spelling.
Give me an I ...
One woman, wearing a gold-yellow Outback Bowl T-shirt, refused to watch free throws, facing the other way, rocking back and forth.
She peeked, and Jeff Horner missed.
The Hawks were taking us on a ride.
"I thought we took some bad shots," Alford would say.
The heart rates around me definitely reflected that.
"I thought Pierre (Pierce) played a little bit out of control tonight," Alford would say.
You could say that.
But then Pierce took a shot -- "from the mainland," Texas coach Rick Barnes described it -- a 3, and it was good! The Hawks were ahead! One last stand, seven seconds left -- the Hawks would win!
The Hawks were in the championship game.
I was in the horde. In the mob. I was hugged. You could hear someone singing the "In Heaven There is No Beer" song.
They say it was invented by Hawkeye fans. The song, not beer.
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Kalani Simpson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org