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It’s the best of Twitter. It’s the worst of Twitter. There is wisdom and foolishness aplenty.
We’re speaking, of course, of Cy-Hawk week, when seemingly every sports fan in Iowa feels the need to weigh in on Saturday’s Big Game. Civility is often a casualty.
No. 18 Iowa (2-0, 1-0 Big Ten Conference) will visit Iowa State (1-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday in sold-out Jack Trice Stadium to ultimately decide the outcome.
But before that comes days and weeks of buildup, much of it playing out on Twitter, where Hawkeye and Cyclone loyalists engage in verbal combat, each trying to get the last word.
“I have a few friends who are Cyclone fans and some family members. I like to needle them about things about the rivalry and their history, or lack thereof, sometimes,” said Ross Binder, 37, an Iowa graduate who tweets under the handle @RossWB. “I want to have some fun with it. If I can get at them a little bit, that’s good.
“But I figure they’re going to get back at me at some point, probably during basketball season. They’ve had more success there lately.”
Brent Blum is an Iowa State graduate who will celebrate his 35th birthday Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, where he will be part of the Cyclone radio broadcast crew. He, too, enjoys partaking in some “jabs” at the rival fan base, particularly in this most heated of weeks.
“Iowans are generally supportive of each other. And I think 99 percent of the people reflect that,” Blum said. “Of course, on Twitter you often find that other 1 percent …”
The Register spoke to six fans behind popular Twitter accounts — three from each university — to get their views on the most anticipated Cy-Hawk game ever, and on the banter that has preceded it.
Twitter handle: @_AlexGookin. 2,660 followers.
How he became a Cyclone fan: Gookin grew up an “obnoxious Hawkeye fan” in Fairfield, wearing team gear every day to high school and avidly following the 2009 team that went on to win the Orange Bowl. When it came time to choose a college, however, he gravitated toward Iowa State, where he studied journalism and graduated in 2017. The clincher? Then-Cyclone football coach Paul Rhoads wrote Gookin a letter saying he would love to see him reporting on the Iowa State team someday. “Kirk Ferentz never wrote me a letter,” Gookin deadpanned, speaking of the long-time Hawkeye coach. Gookin did get to cover one of Rhoads’ teams for the Iowa State Daily newspaper, in 2014. That team finished 2-10. Gookin now works in marketing.
Twitter persona: “I’m known for being kind of funny, but I do like going after people who are gonna say something stupid. Mainly Hawkeye fans,” Gookin said. “One thing I’ve always tried to keep in mind is, ‘Would I say this to a person in front of their face?’ Most of the time, I’m going after people’s bad opinions and not them personally.”
Sample tweet: "What Cyclone fan says: 'It is so cool to have GameDay come to Ames.'
What Hawkeye fans hear: “GAMEDAY CHOSE AMES BECAUSE OF ITS RICH FOOTBALL TRADITION AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GAME IT IS PLAYING. ALSO THE IOWA HAWKEYES SUCK.”
Interaction with rival fans: Gookin said he has particularly enjoyed going back and forth with the @hawkize Twitter handle (see below). “We’ve met before and talked. He’s totally fine. We tend to get along for the most part, and if we can zing each other pretty good, we respect each other for that,” he said.
Going to the game? Yes, Gookin will be in Ames on Saturday, although he doesn’t yet have a ticket. At the least, he intends to soak up the atmosphere surrounding ESPN’s “College GameDay” broadcast and the tailgating scene.
What would his “GameDay” sign say? Gookin will be making one, but hadn’t finalized the wording earlier this week. “I’d like to keep it Cyclone-centric and something that is supportive of the Cyclones and not so much giving attention to the Hawkeyes,” he said.
Prediction: Gookin expects a closely contested game between two very good teams. “I would have to lean Iowa State because of that environment, and I think (coach Matt) Campbell has to win one. I think he finally will.”
Twitter handle: @brentblum. 12,400 followers.
How he became a Cyclone fan: Blum’s father graduated from Iowa State, his mother from Iowa. As a child, he chose the Cyclones to embrace the underdog role.
Twitter persona: Blum created his Twitter account in 2008 while working in Florida as a way to keep involved with the sports scene at his alma mater. “It’s like texting with your buddies, except you don’t know anybody,” he said. “I enjoy poking at Iowa occasionally. Most of the Iowa folks understand that it doesn’t come from a mean place. It’s from a fun place. More and more in the last two years I’ve had to block people because it’s gotten a little more mean-spirited than I was cool with.”
Sample tweet: "I’m guessing the decibel level in Jack Trice for a mid-afternoon kick after people have been up since 4 a.m. to see the GameDay festivities will be quite high. Or people will be in need of a nap."
Interaction with rival fans: Blum, who is a development officer for the Iowa State Foundation in addition to his radio duties, enjoys debating on Twitter with media members such as Jon Miller of HawkeyeNation and Todd Brommelkamp of KGYM radio in Cedar Rapids. And, once again, @hawkize is a favorite foil. “I think he’s super funny, bright, and he knows how to twist Iowa State in the right way,” Blum said.
Going to the game? Of course. You can hear him during pregame and halftime segments on the Cyclone Radio Network.
“GameDay” sign: Blum wants to stop by to check out the scene surrounding the live TV broadcast, but will not be carrying a sign.
Prediction: “Anybody who’s stating absolutes in this game is a little reckless,” Blum said. “I think both defenses are potentially elite. I think Iowa State fans are rightly concerned about Iowa State’s offensive performance (in a season-opening win over Northern Iowa). I think it will be a defensive-minded game, and whoever wins the turnover battle will win.”
Twitter handle: @hawkize. 7,957 followers.
How he became a Hawkeye fan: The 32-year-old who mans this account didn’t want his full name used, but he attended Iowa and began blogging about Hawkeye sports with two friends from high school. The Twitter handle followed in 2009, and he slowly built up a loyal following.
Twitter persona: “People like funny one-liners. It’s a medium that lends itself to people who don’t have to do a lot of analytics. You can do stream-of-consciousness,” he said. “I’m the same person on Twitter as in real life. Maybe a little more cut-throat with my language. I make funny jokes about Nebraska or Iowa State. Hopefully, they don’t take it personally.”
Sample tweet: "Everyone is very excited in Iowa for the premier sporting event Saturday - Liverpool and Newcastle"
Interaction with rival fans: “This is my least favorite week of the year on Twitter, and it’s not even close. Because it gets so visceral and pulls the bottom barrel of people out. It’s just unfortunate how personal it gets,” he said. “I know @TedFlintKansas (see below) well. He’s a good guy. I like to go back and forth with him. We have a good time. Grant Mahoney (former Cyclone kicker) is a friend. Grant is really good at getting under Hawkeye fans’ skin. The smarter the person, the better the interactions go.”
Going to the game? No, but he was at the last two Cy-Hawk matchups in Ames, both Hawkeye victories. “I’m a good-luck charm,” he said.
“GameDay” sign: It would be a simple plea to ESPN’s foremost college football color commentator. “Kirk Herbstreit, unblock me.”
Prediction: “Iowa by 13. I think that (Iowa State quarterback) Brock Purdy’s going to be running for his life back there.”
Twitter handle: @PlannedSickDays. 18,000 followers.
How he became a Hawkeye fan: The 43-year-old behind this account also asked that his name be withheld. He is a third-generation Hawkeye fan who used to attend games with his father.
Twitter persona: He started the account 10 years go just to joke around with fellow Hawkeye fans. “I don’t sit down and compose things in advance. We’re just trying to pass time in life, right?” he said. “Social media gets kind of a bad rap. It allows you to kind of create your own little world. I feel like I’m amongst my people.”
Sample tweet: "In Heaven there is no Beer!
bring on hate week"
Interaction with rival fans: “I look forward to (Cy-Hawk week),” he said. “It’s probably the busiest week. But it will depend on the outcome on Saturday. That’s when I’ll see those tweets from three years ago. If the outcome is not in your favor, people like to go back and find things you said in the past.”
Going to the game? No.
“GameDay” sign: He came up with dozens. The latest? “Iowa State is the comments section.”
Prediction: Iowa 27, Iowa State 24. “Forget the UNI game. Everything points to a last-possession kind of game. I don’t know if Iowa used all their magic up a couple of years ago. I hope not.”
Twitter handle: @RossWB. 2,319 followers.
How he became a Hawkeye fan: Binder grew up in Sioux City and became a Hawkeye fan as a teenager when two older brothers attended school there. He followed suit.
Twitter persona: “I try not to take football too seriously, or college sports, in general. You can have a lot of fun with them,” Binder said. “But it’s probably a good thing they didn’t have Twitter when I was an undergrad. I would have said something pretty regrettable, I’m sure.”
Sample tweet: "i clicked a link to cyclone fanatic and it literally tried to give my computer a virus"
Interaction with rival fans: “It really depends on probably how exactly the game goes. Definitely as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much more gracious, I think,” Binder said of the tweets he sends during games. “I try not to post immediate knee-jerk reactions, because those are more likely to be something you regret a few hours later or the next day.”
Going to the game? No.
“GameDay” sign: “Iowa State was my safety school.” Binder clarified that this actually isn’t true. “I never considered Iowa State,” he said.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Iowa State 20. “Before the season, I would have said Iowa State,” Binder said. “But given the way they looked in Week 1 — and I think Iowa’s been looking better the last two weeks — I’m going with the Hawkeyes.”
Twitter handle: @TedFlintKansas. 4,013 followers.
How he became a Cyclone fan: The 35-year-old behind this account didn’t want his name revealed. But it’s not Ted Flint, and he’s not from Kansas. That was an alter ego he made up in college to use when he took road trips with buddies. He grew up a Cyclones fan.
Twitter persona: “I’m fiercely loyal to my friends and my teams. I’m just a fan. I like to call myself the ‘id’ of Iowa State. I say the things that everyone wants to say,” he said. “Ted Flint” also co-hosts a podcast called “We’re not that drunk,” and was one of the founders of TheTailgateSociety.com website.
Sample tweet: "Nothing encapsulates Cyhawk twiiter [sic] like stepping in dog diarrhea within three steps of waking up."
Interaction with rival fans: “Most Hawkeye people who I interact with are a lot of fun. We’ve developed a rapport over the years,” he said. “But then you get these new guys who are trying to make a mark. And it’s a young man’s game. I don’t block them. I mute. I want them to be out there screaming into the void at me.”
Going to the game? Yes.
“GameDay” sign: “Kirk Ferentz drinks Miller Lite.” Why? “I hate Miller Lite,” he said.
Prediction: Iowa State 27, Iowa 17. “I feel like Iowa State’s defense will be the best unit on the field,” he said. “People make fun of me for always picking the Cyclones. But there’s no fun in picking your favorite team to lose. What’s the point? Why are you a fan?”
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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