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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 18, 2018

Warm memories can shorten a dismal Iowa winter

By BROOKS TAYLOR | Jan 08, 2016

Iowa winters can be long; no arguments here.

Glancing out my office window as I write this on a cold January morning, I see snow, ice and barren trees. A moderate south wind has the U.S. flag nearly fully extended. Not too much to get excited about, correct?

If I were a gardener, I would spend some winter evenings looking through seed catalogs and planning my garden for next summer. If I were a vacationer, I would start planning that summer trip. Just thinking warm can do much for the attitude during a cold winter day. But I’m not either — I don’t have a green thumb, or funds for an extensive summer trip.

So, that reduces the list of options to battle winter boredom. I have a friend who usually begins his winter lament about this time of the year, wondering why his mood is so weather dependent.

Another friend shares my enjoyment of University of Iowa sports, but I sometimes question whether he has unwavering loyalty.

Dr. Tom Davis, former Iowa men’s basketball coach, once said that in order to maintain equilibrium one cannot get too high after a big win or too low after a heartbreaking defeat.

I think about that statement often, having the tendency to get too high after big wins than low after tough losses.

My friend, however, is like many of the posters I read on message boards. They are the ones who have to be told to move away from the cliff after a difficult defeat. If you are a message board reader, you know that there are many more posts after defeats than wins.

For instance, following Iowa’s one-point basketball loss to Iowa State (after the Hawks blew a big lead), there were many Iowa fans questioning whether Fran McCaffery was the right man for the job. After the Hawks beat then top-ranked Michigan State, McCaffery was being nominated for sainthood. Reminds me of the saying, what have you done for me lately.

Why do we take defeat so hard? Is it that much easier for us to identify with success? I, like everyone else, wants to be successful, but I have learned that more lessons can be learned in defeat.

I don’t know why, but the winter of 1979-80 sticks in my mind. I was living in northwest Iowa at the time in a four-room apartment. It was without question the worst living conditions I ever experienced. At night, I could hear the roaches running rampant in the basement.

At first, I didn’t know what that sound was that I heard nightly. Then, I opened the door to the basement (I didn’t use the basemen so never had opened the door) and saw those creatures trying to escape the bright light. I sprayed my living quarters, never opened the basement door again and the bugs stayed in their quarters.

That winter was a particularly harsh winter. Northwest Iowa has a lot of them and having grown up in South Dakota, it wasn’t anything new, just more of the same.

Lute Olson was coaching Iowa basketball during the 1979-80 season. It was about the time I saw the light and traded my Iowa State allegiance for Hawkeye pride. I have never regretted the decision.

The 1979-80 Iowa men’s basketball team was the school’s last Final Four team. The team was led by Ronnie Lester and included the twin towers of Steve Waite and Steve Krafiscin, Vince Brookins and Kenny Arnold. The team didn’t boast a lot of depth, but it had Ronnie Lester. Enough said.

Back then, we didn’t have the Internet nor social media, so there wasn’t nearly as much hype as today. I really can’t remember what was expected of the team when the season began, but I know they were not thought of as a Final Four contender.

It was also the year Lester was hurt in the national semifinals. The injury broke the hearts of Iowa fans because with a healthy Lester, Iowa may have won its first national title. But it was not to be.

Probably the reason I remember that team much more than other teams is because it brought warmth to a cold winter.

Now, as I look out my window, I see the sun shining. See what warm memories can do for the attitude?

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