The text messages came before I even heard the news. It was May, and it was just announced that Iowa State was playing Arkansas in basketball.
One friend asked me who I would be rooting for. Then as I read the official press release of the announcment of the game that is a part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, I received a text from my friend and fellow native Iowan, Justin Acri.
“Arkansas at Iowa State, we are going.”
By June we aleready had a hotel booked. If you have listened to Acri’s show, The Zone heard on 103.7 The Buzz with co-host Pat Bradley, you have heard the trip mentioned often. And for good reason.
Acri and I grew up die-hard Iowa State fans, and most of the time that wasn’t easy. We both grew up near the campus and had family who attaended ISU. I started going to games when I was three. My dad, an ISU alum, was extremely proud of his alma mater, and every time we visited the campus he showed me an old dorm, an old class building or another landmark. I loved every minute of it, and he had hooked me. I was Clone to the bone.
Love and devotion that is passed down an early age never dies. It is how many in our state feel about the Razorbacks.
But like Acri, in my time living in Arkansas I have grown fond of the Hogs. I’ve also made great friendships with former Hogs like Bradley, the former guard, and Anthony Lucas, the great receiver. My wife, Sheena, is a huge fan and won me over when I first met her and learned her favorite Hog was Kenoy Kennedy. Not a receiver but a hard-htting safety. You have to love a girl that appreciates that.
My dad, who moved to Bryant 10 years ago, now yells equally loud at the TV during Cyclones and Hogs games and owns dozens of Hogs T-shirts. My little boys learned to call the Hogs when they were two and J.D., 5, loves that his dad is friends with a real Razorback like Bradley and often emulates him on his little Nerf hoop. Two of his favorite NFL players are Knile Davis and Darren McFadden because they are UA alums. My brother, Andy – who lives near Conway – now checks Cyclones and Hogs scores on Saturdays while working on a tug boat on the Pacific Ocean for weeks at a time.
So, the Olsons from Carroll, Iowa now have two favorite college teams. Since the teams play in the Big 12 and SEC, respectively, it’s never been a conflict until today.
The other part of the trip is visiting our home state. Acri still has a lot of family in the area. He got to hang out with his old college buddies Tuesday night, and he and Bradley did the show from his dad’s kitchen table Wednesday morning. Those are good times, and it has been fun meeting them and introducing Bradley to the sights both of us grew up with.
I have little family left here, but I have a lot of friends. I will see many of them Friday night. Arkansas has been so good to me, and I will live there the rest of my life, but my roots are in Iowa. I have lasting memories of growing up in farm country and the values I have learned that shaped me as a person.
Two teams, a home state with good friends and old ones and good food has made for a great time so far. We know it will only get bettter, especially with the game tonight.