Football Fan Culture In Iowa City

What Are We Really Like

West High Fans at the Battle for the Boot

Nick Weig

Iowa City Football Fan Culture. What are we really like?


Across all sports, fans will strongly associate with the team that they represent and will do almost anything to defend them.  They do this despite constantly ripping on and complaining about their team. America’s most popular sport is football, so naturally fans can feel even more attached to their favorite football team. Iowa City is a college town, and because of this people get attached to the team that plays here. Taylor Shelfo said,”In Iowa City, Iowa, the Hawkeyes are everywhere. You see tiger hawks on bumpers of cars, hawkeye flags hanging in front of homes, and black and yellow clothing all over the city.” But why do people do that?

On Oct. 1, 2016 the Iowa Hawkeye football team lost a close game to one of their biggest rivals, Northwestern. Iowa had 6 penalties called on them and Northwestern had only one. Fans thought they were both getting unfair and incorrect penalties called on them, and that Northwestern was getting away with a lot of penalties. Just over halfway through the game, fans began to throw trash on the field and yell profanities in unison over and over while doing a tomahawk chop. They would later repeat the same behavior at the end of the game. People on both teams had to take shelter in the locker rooms to avoid being hit by any of the trash or other objects being thrown. After the game, Kirk Ferentz, the head coach, said of the incident,”Fans shouldn’t feel strongly enough about some bad calls that they might hurt somebody.”

This wasn’t even close to the first time something like this had happened at Kinnick either. In one famous game from 1952 against Illinois, fans were so upset over the officiating that they ran towards the concessions and trash cans to pick out apple cores. They then began to rain the field with hundreds of apple cores. Gazette sports editor at the time, Gus Schrader, was on the field and found some humor in this, writing,“Yes, the fans were wrong for throwing apple cores, but as long as the dastardly deed was done, I want to compliment one fan for his remarkable accuracy. His apple core hit an official squarely on the neck. I always say, if you’re going to do something unsportsmanlike, do it well.” Later in this same game they ran out of apple cores and began to throw good old fashioned trash. Once the game was over, an Iowa student jumped out of the bleachers and started a fight with an Illinois player. The fight ended pretty quickly, with there only being one punch thrown. The Illinois player punched the Iowa fan square in the mouth and broke his jaw.

Iowa had a bit of a reputation for this sort of thing until rebranding themselves in a more positive light, when in 2017 the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital was built across the street from Kinnick Stadium and Iowa began a new popular, and more positive tradition. At the end of the first quarter everyone at Kinnick Stadium, including the opposing team, turns toward the Children’s Hospital and waves toward the patients to acknowledge and support them. Travis Meade, a former Iowa player,” I think people definitely come to the games more as a sense of pride. It’s just definitely something that fans hang their hat on now.” During games that occur after dusk fans will take out their phones and turn on the flashlight to light up the stadium and add a thrilling effect. This tradition has been dubbed simply  “The Iowa Wave.“

Sports fans can be like this and get this kind of reputation for being the sort of people who can do great things, or do things that can cast a shadow on all of that.

West High isn’t exactly perfect either. West High football player Chris Colgan ’22 said,”I’ve seen people throw drinks on the field at games but I think that student section still does more to help than it really could to disrupt the game.”

The West High student section has tried to do things to add some layers to the game is like when earlier this year when they threw handfuls of flour into the air creating a cloud as the first play of the West vs City game was going on. The student section does elaborate things like this or just simple things like buying sweatshirts to support the team or just partaking in chants with the cheer team. This seems to be true for most sports teams. People will point out when they step out of line and do something stupid, but at the end of the day fans are an essential part of sports.

West High has big fans outside of the student section though. Travis Meade, a West High football coach and alum said,”I always thought we had a lot of alumni support and parents support and obviously the band adds an even bigger atmosphere to that.”

There is a reason that when you go to Iowa or West High games you have to stand up for most of the game. Colgan said,”The student section is always cheering, because that’s just what fans do.” At the end of the day it seems like the student section at West High and Iowa have a relationship with the team that can seem weird, but is still symbiotic and meaningful.

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