Tag:Nile Kinnick
Posted on: July 29, 2011 4:25 pm

Nebraska, Iowa unveil "The Heroes Game"

Posted by Adam Jacobi

On Friday, representatives from the Iowa and Nebraska athletic departments introduced the theme of the two football teams' annual rivalry game: "The Heroes Game," a celebration of local heroes on a yearly basis. If that sounds, well, unusual, that's understandable. Here's an excerpt from the official release explaining it:

[While] the goal is the same as other "trophy games" - win the struggle on the gridiron and claim the trophy -- the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers won't use their annual meeting to determine ownership of football bragging rights for the Corn Belt exclusively. Instead, they will use the national stage that will be Nebraska's Memorial Stadium or Iowa's historic Kinnick Stadium each autumn to honor citizens of their respective states who are, according to Webster's Dictionary, "admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities," and they intend to work with a partner to do a good deed of their own.

The institutions plan to honor one citizen of Iowa and one citizen of Nebraska prior to each Heroes Game for their extraordinary act. These heroes will be nominated by friends, neighbors or co-workers and will be guests of the two teams at the game where they will be honored on-field during game day. Each will also have their name and hometown etched on the to-be-created Heroes Game trophy.

This is definitely a creative concept, if one that's not entirely football-related; there aren't many other trophies -- especially in college football -- that are interactive at all, much less to the point of etching onto it the names of people who aren't even involved with either program every year. Further, it looks like they've avoided the obvious pairing of Nile Kinnick to a hero-related Iowa football trophy. Points for that.

As for what the final product will look like they didn't unveil the trophy on Friday, either -- just the philosophical concept behind it. Hey, they don't need the trophy itself until late November. Plenty of time there.

As for the concept, this is either cool or embarrassingly schlocky -- and judging by the conference division names, the Big Ten has no compunctions about courting accusations of schlock. And yet, this trophy at the very least honors actual heroes instead of suggesting a couple of football teams from the Midwest fit that bill better than anybody else (they're too busy being Legends anyway). It'll be very interesting to see how the selection plays out, and whether the designation of "hero" starts to consistently fit into the military theme alluded to when the press release mentioned "Nebraska's Memorial Stadium or Iowa's historic Kinnick Stadium," two stadiums named to honor casualties of war.

One request, though: No politicians. Not even once. Please. We're begging you. 

Posted on: July 27, 2011 6:36 pm

Iowa and Nebraska adding trophy to new rivalry

Posted by Adam Jacobi

There's a new trophy coming to college football, and it'll probably have an old name attached to it. Here's an invitation sent out by Iowa and Nebraska yesterday:

There's no way to know for sure what the trophy's going to be before the unveiling -- the Big Ten's pretty good at keeping secrets, after all -- but with the invocation of a "hero," there's nearly a 100% chance that Nile Kinnick is involved somehow. Kinnick is obviously Iowa's pride and joy, and for obvious reasons: he's a native of Adel, Iowa, he's the Hawkeyes' only Heisman Trophy winner (1939), the stadium's named after him, a statue of Kinnick is out in front of said stadium, an excerpt of his Heisman speech is played in the pregame video montage there, and Kinnick's also on the coin flipped before every Big Ten game. Quite the resume, and all that's without mentioning Kinnick's tragic death in 1943 in an airplane crash while training for World War II. Put it this way -- if this "hero" business is a reference to anybody but Nile Kinnick, Iowa fans may riot.

It's also worth pointing out, however, that Kinnick wasn't an Iowa resident his entire life; while Nile was in high school, his father had to move to Nebraska for work, so Kinnick actually graduated from Benson HS in Omaha. He's a member of the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame, which is quite the accomplishment for one year of residence in the state. So Kinnick does have a Nebraska connection.

That said, it's a pretty flimsy connection, so unless the Big Ten follows the pattern of dual-naming the trophy like with the conference awards, Nebraska fans are probably going to be a little furious that their Huskers are going to be playing for a trophy that's 99% about the Hawkeyes. And even if it is dual-named, Nebraska doesn't really have a corollary to Nile Kinnick in its history (few programs do, obviously), so whoever gets picked for the Huskers would probably be overshadowed by Kinnick in terms of relevance.

And yet, that should make the trophy even more alluring for the Cornhuskers. Remember, Nile Kinnick is Iowa football. He's practically a saint in Iowa City and the rest of the state. His legend grows by the day there. It may be revealed that he once admitted to chopping down an apple tree, then saying "I cannot tell a lie." So if the trophy means more to Iowa than it does to Nebraska, how great is it going to be the first time Nebraska takes it from the Hawkeyes? It's like the sports equivalent of stealing somebody's wife. That should be enough to kickstart a rivalry, no?

And if that's the case, then welcome to a real conference rivalry, Iowa. For the duration of the Hawkeyes' involvement in the Big Ten (and all its earlier iterations), they've never had a mutual primary rival in the conference. Minnesota and Wisconsin have both been fine rivals over the decades, but the Gophers and Badgers have had each other first and foremost (it's FBS' most-played rivalry ever, at 120 games), and that rivalry was specifically protected by the Big Ten in the switch to divisions while Iowa was handed a protected annual game against Purdue. Iowa and Purdue have as much of a rivalry as the Saskatchewan Roughriders and... well, Purdue.

So clearly Hawkeye fans must have been thrilled to see the annual game with Nebraska given the season-ending spot, effectively replacing Nebraska's rivalry against Colorado with something even more geographically (and culturally) immediate. Nebraska-Colorado may have been a compelling rivalry on the gridiron, but the most passionate rivalries are so closely geographic that they can make fans hate immediate family members. Iowa-Nebraska is that, if for no other reason than Lincoln is 200 miles closer to Iowa City than to Boulder, CO -- and Omaha and Des Moines (the two states' primary population centers) are not only even closer, but on the same direct route between the two campuses. This is a rivalry begging for regional conflict. Involving the venerable Nile Kinnick is going to make things even spicier. 
Posted on: March 31, 2011 6:50 pm

Ohio State going camouflage for 2011 Spring Game

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Photo via OhioStateBuckeyes.com

When the Ohio State Buckeyes take to the field for the 2011 spring game, they'll do so with invisible heads. At least, that's the goal, anyway, if the Buckeyes' helmets are any indication. As the picture above shows, Ohio State officially unveiled its special digital camouflage helmets that'll be worn for the duration of spring practice.

Here's more from the school about what prompted the special helmets:

The Ohio State Buckeyes will sport custom-painted helmets honoring the American military as part of the 2011 Spring Football Game tribute to America's finest on Saturday, April 23, at Ohio Stadium. That day will feature tributes to the 75th anniversary of Jesse Owens' Olympic performance in Berlin, as well as recognition of servicemen and women and Buckeye All-Americans.

The distinctive football helmets are painted in a silver, gray and black camouflage pattern registered and designed specifically for Ohio State. Each helmet will feature an American flag decal on the front and a Jesse Owens commemorative decal on the back.

Honoring Jesse Owens' accomplishments is certainly a noble aim, and OSU should in some way make note of their most famous alumnus' most famous accomplishments, but lumping him into American football's allegory of combat seems a little... well, let's say forced.

Moreover, while it's also noble to honor the troops, must we always do so by pretending to be them in some way? In the Heisman Trophy's most famous speech, Nile Kinnick said this in 1939:

I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest, and not on the battlefields of Europe. I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country, would much more, much rather struggle and fight to win the Heisman award, than the Croix de Guerre.

What Kinnick says here is that while football resembles war in some respects, it clearly is not war, and he cherishes those differences rather than conflating the two institutions based on their similarities. War terrified him, as it terrified most people back then -- especially since war was so casualty-intensive back then. Kinnick was hardly some pacifist hippie, either; he later enlisted for the Army when the United States declared war and died during training two years later.

That sentiment has long since left college football, and Nike has dutifully stepped into the void and helped change the dynamic of the sport. Whether this means college football is simply being more honest about its roots in instructed combat or it means football is glorifying man's worst actions probably depends on one's predisposition to war in the first place. And that's a debate that'll likely go on just about forever.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com