Monday, March 21, 2016

From An Iowan: Why We Just Witnessed The Greatest Sports Weekend In Iowa Sports History

March Madness has always been a special time for me. The spring-like weather, sometimes the occasional March-blizzard that would drop 13 inches of snow but would always melt in a few days. Or how about those teachers that would let you watch Iowa and Iowa State in the Big Ten and Big 8/12 Tournaments instead of doing math problems. Remember those days? God bless those teachers that did that and still do do that. The upsets, the busted brackets, the not-doing-anything-at-work on Thursday and Friday, the first two days of the Tournament. March is awesome.

Being from Iowa, it doesn't take a lot to impress me or get me through. I'm a simple guy. I feel like a lot of Iowans are right there with me. We love our sports teams. Gosh, we're a passionate sports state. We don't have big professional teams. Iowa State, Iowa, UNI, and Drake are our pro teams. And we're proud of that. We see the kids that shine in the UNI-Dome come state playoffs and ball players down at The Well in March go on to star for our "pro teams" and we follow them through their careers. Root for them through their careers. But then it ends for them and they join us out in the working field. Sometimes they go on to have actual pro careers and that makes us puff out our chest a little more. But most don't and we're ok with that. They're ok with that. 

This set up to be a special basketball season for Iowans. We were coming off a year where three teams made the NCAA Tournament last year. We knew Des Moines would be getting a Regional. The season had its ups and downs for Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI but once again, all three made the Tournament. And then they announced who was coming to Des Moines. Kansas. UCONN. Kentucky. Indiana. Wow! As if Des Moines hosting wasn't enough, it got four of the best programs in college basketball! I remember watching high school state basketball championships down at "The Barn"-Remember that place? I loved it. But watching games there as a kid, never in my wildest dreams would I imagine Jim Nantz and "ONIONS" himself coming to Des Moines to call basketball games. Not only did they come to Des Moines, their CBS crew raved about our Capital City. And so did many other reporters that were in Iowa to cover their teams. We really do live in a special place. Thank you to EVERYONE that made it possible for the Tournament to come here and many thanks to everyone that helped out during the games and along the way. 

As I said earlier, three teams from the state of Iowa got in the Dance and ALL three made the Round of 32. The state of California, with 24 Division I programs, had 0 in the Round of 32. Remember when we were happy with ONE Iowa team getting called on Selection Sunday. Maybe we would get lucky and have 2. Not these days. That's why it was such a special weekend. Iowa State, headed to Chicago to meet up with an old friend. Iowa Senior Adam Woodbury, a kid that turned down UNC to play in his home state, hitting a buzzer-beater. And as we all know. Northern Iowa nailing a half-courter in one of the greatest shots ever in the Tournament. I was on Cloud Nine Friday night, all day Saturday, and early Sunday morning. Iowa would then fall to Villanova. Ben Jacobson's team looked like it was well on its way to the Sweet 16 before falling in heart-breaking fashion to Texas A&M. It hurt. There's no other way to put it. I felt awful for the Iowa and UNI players, coaches, and fans. Absolutely crushing.

But then I saw Ben Jacobson do post-game interviews with pure class and while the national media started to talk about what a joke UNI was down the stretch, I once again felt this enormous amount of pride sweep over me again. Here's a guy, a lot like you and me, take all the blame about his team not winning and advancing to the Sweet 16. The way UNI let that lead go, they could of crumbled in OT. They didn't. Despite that lost, the Panthers made Iowans everywhere feel proud. It's more than just a game, sometimes, ya know? Yea, that wasn't very fun. But the way those kids and coaches conducted themselves after the game is what Iowa's all about.

With all that, I'm willing to say that was the greatest weekend (including Thursday and Friday) in Iowa sports history. That's my opinion. If you disagree, that's ok. I'm young. Maybe there was one better, I don't know. But to me that was the best. 

THANK YOU from a "March Madness Nut" who grew up in this state and loves this state. To the players, coaches, workers, fans, and everyone else who put this magical weekend together, thanks.

Go get them Iowa State, the state of Iowa is behind you all the way. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday Munchies: Thoughts on the Rose Bowl, Iowa/Iowa State hoops, and March Madness in Des Moines

*Now that we've had some time for Iowa's Rose Bowl debacle to settle in, a fair question is being raised. What will be more remembered..the 12-0 regular season or getting blown out on the biggest stage for Iowa football in a long, long time. Because we live in the moment so much these days, it's easy right now to choose the loss against Stanford. But history teaches me that it will be the regular season that will be remembered the most. I look back at the 2002 season for Iowa and how special it was. Talk to most Iowa fans and I bet they remember the beat-down the Hawkeyes laid on Michigan in Ann Arbor. Or how about tearing down the goalposts in the Metrodome. Memories that will put a shine in any Iowa fans eyes when talking about them. Iowa's final game that year? A 38-17 blowout loss in the Orange Bowl to USC. What's the one memory from that game I have? Carson Palmer leading the Trojans on drives of 79, 80, 99, 85 and 61 yards? Nope. This is the play I will never forget. It will take awhile to wipe away the loss, sure. But give it some time and I bet thoughts of Iowa beating its rival ISU after the passing of Tyler Sash, Brett Greenwood leading the team on the field against Pitt followed by Marshall Koehn hitting the game-winning field goal, and beating Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska all in the same season. These memories will be talked about in Iowa bars for decades to come.
*While the Rose Bowl took the headlines, it was the Iowa men's basketball team who stole the spotlight. In the same week, the Hawkeyes defeated #1 Michigan State and #14 Purdue. Not bad for a team that was predicted to be on the bubble prior to the year. And if this Iowa team doesn't fall flat on its face in conference play like the Alford teams were notorious for doing, the black and gold will be in the Tournament. South Sioux City's Mike Gesell was awesome against the Spartans. The senior put in 25 points and had his team in control the entire night. Iowa will look to keep this thing going tomorrow at home against Nebraska.
*If there was ever a "good loss," Iowa State picked one up Saturday night at now #2 Oklahoma. The Clones had the Sooners on the ropes for the games' entirety. Georges Niang had himself a night. 29 points on 13-18 shooting against a top-tier team had ESPN's Fran Fraschilla on-air claiming Georges is "the best offensive player in college basketball." When Iowa State needed a basket late, the Clones went to Georges. Niang having great basketball sense, felt the double-team come, and the senior kicked it out to Monte Morris. Although it isn't Morris' strong suite, Morris fired the 3-ball that would of given the Clones the lead. He missed. I have absolutely no problem with that shot. He was wide open and he knows how to make shots in clutch situations, as it's been proven over and over. Iowa State will get its chance at revenge in a few weeks from now when the Sooners visit Hilton on Big Monday.
*When the Sooners come to Ames, they might find Iowa State newcomer Deonte Burton in the starting lineup. The transfer from Marquette is averaging almost 14 points per game while shooting 68% from the field. Not only can he dunk, he can shoot. Burton was 83% from long-range this past week. It will be interesting to see what Iowa State coach Steve Prohm does as far as maybe moving Burton into the starting five.
*So today I was checking out the "Bracketology"..hey, it's never to early for March Madness! It looks like most sites have Iowa and Iowa State in that 3-5 range. But what's interesting to me is seeing Des Moines as a host site. I mean, the thought of Kentucky, Kansas, and Michigan State all coming to the Well in March has me giddy. If all three (Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI) make the Dance and we throw in Des Moines hosting, it will be the biggest March, basketball-wise, ever in the state. March can't get here soon enough..but let's enjoy some hoops along the way, shall we?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Saying Goodbye

To all my North Dakota and Minnesota friends:

It breaks my heart to write this but I should let you know that I have resigned from my position at WDAZ-TV. It is not the ending I could of ever dreamed of, but all good things must come to an end.

Although it is not the way I wanted to end my run at WDAZ, it does not change these things:

When I first got the call from Pat Sweeney about the job opening at "the Z" two Novembers ago, I could not even tell you where Grand Forks was on a map. 17 months later, moving up here for the job was one of the best decisions I will ever make. Right away, Grand Forks and the entire region felt like home as the people were so welcoming. I had never heard of these towns or these teams but felt right away that I had known them my entire life. That is due to the people of the area and "North Dakota/Minnesota Nice." For that, Grand Forks and this region will forever be special to me.

From Kittson County Central, Cavalier, Thief River, Thompson, Grafton, and GGF, covering high school sports on a daily basis meant the world to me. I have always loved high school sports and especially with the small schools, it was a treat to spend my Friday nights on the football field or packed in a gym with you. I will never forget the teams or the athletes that I had the privilege of covering.

Going to a Frozen Four was beyond my wildest dreams but this year's North Dakota men's hockey team made it a reality. To be a part of North Dakota athletics, even just as a member of the media, was a treat. The trip to Philadelphia for hockey and to College Station for women's basketball was something I dreamed of when I was 7. Maybe not specifically UND but just to have a chance to do that, is amazing.

I would like to thank WDAZ for giving me the opportunity to cover sports daily and for the chance to grow as a reporter. Also, I must thank Pat Sweeney for hiring me and letting me work besides one of the best broadcasters in North Dakota history. Everyone at WDAZ was fantastic to work with and I will miss them dearly.

To every athlete, coach, parent, teacher, or concession sales lady I've ever interviewed or even just talked to: Thank you for letting me be a part of your life.

Best wishes,
Dan Corey