Asher on Aspen: Family Rivalry |

Asher on Aspen: Family Rivalry

Getting out of Aspen and going back to ‘college’ brings flood of emotions

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of returning home to support one’s alma mater. Over this past Thanksgiving break, I attended the final two Iowa Hawkeye football games of the season. The first was at home in Iowa City (where I attended school), and the second was in Lincoln (where my parents attended school). With almost my entire extended family being from Nebraska, there has forever been a family divide when it comes to these two Big Ten schools.

Up until this most recent trip home, I had not been back to Iowa City since I graduated five years ago. The memories came rushing back and I was instantly filled with nostalgia from the moment I exited off the interstate. I scanned the paths I used to walk to class and gazed longingly at the coffee shops I used to spend hours studying in. For the first time, the buildings didn’t look nearly as big and scary as I thought they once did. The walls weren’t quite so tall, and the air smelled considerably less intimidating.

I slipped away from the tailgate chaos for a brief break to watch my cousin Bethy play with the Hawkeye Marching Band in a spirited pre-game rally. Her mother, Carey (my godmother), also went to Iowa and played in the marching band. Another cousin of mine Abby is currently in the marching band at Nebraska, and her brother and father used to play football for the Cornhusker state. I have another cousin Sean who is a sports broadcaster who has covered Husker football since 1999, and yet another cousin Jamie who was named Homecoming Queen at the university several years ago. Can you keep up? Can you feel the family tension?

The energy inside Kinnick Stadium for the Illinois game was electric. It was 60 degrees and sunny. The weather was more than ideal. Looking around, I felt honored to be standing among so many Hawkeyes. Phrases like “Fight for Iowa,” “Hawkeye Nation,” “Stay Golden,” “I bleed black and gold,” and “Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa,” were printed proudly on their backs.

Every college football program across the country has their special traditions and time-honored lores. My biased favorite, however, has to be the Iowa wave. This heartfelt moment that started in 2017 occurs at the end of the first quarter of every home game. At that point, everyone in the stadium (roughly 63,000 people) turn and wave to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, which directly overlooks the stadium. The fans collectively wave to patients and their families watching the game from the hospital.

For a moment, you forget you’re at a football game. Nothing that’s happening on the field seems to matter and the focus is on the kids entirely. The wave serves as a subtle reminder for fans that football is just a game and it’s not the most important thing. Witnessing this for the first time in person was beyond beautiful, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t start tearing up.

The following week on Black Friday, I found myself in Lincoln for the final game of the season. I drove up with an uncle who roots for Iowa but met up with cousins who cheer for Nebraska. Quite like usual, this game was full of excitement and had everyone on their feet. My chit chat with the Husker cousins started to subside as the tension built in the fourth quarter. With just seven minutes and 21 seconds left on the clock, the game was tied at 21-21. Worried, uncertain eyes looked around anxiously. Everyone was either biting their lips, clenching their fists, or squinting their eyes to ensure they didn’t miss a beat. Murmured predictions filled my ears as everyone prayed for their desired outcome.

We eventually pulled it off and beat Nebraska, 28-21. This win marks the seventh year in a row that we have beat the Huskers. It also means that we are heading to Indianapolis this weekend for the Big Ten Championship to play the Michigan Wolverines. Despite the loss, my cousins and I still hugged after the game and agreed that it was nice to see each other. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the heat of the moment but win or lose, we’re all still family and that’s what matters most.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled programming in Aspen. Time to bust out those skis!

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