Being an avid Minnesota sports fan, I'll admit I'm used to defeat. The Vikings, Gophers, Wild, Timberwolves and Twins tend to end their seasons in similar fashion year after year, never quite reaching the epitome of sports stardom with a victory dance as championship title holders and leave me hanging my head and stomping my jersey every time.
An Iowa State University alum graduating in 2010, I found quickly that my alma mater Cyclones faced a similar fate in athletics, never giving me a chance to travel for the NCAA men's basketball tournament or a big bowl game — with the exception of a trip out to Arizona to face, as irony would have it, the Gophers in the Insight Bowl in 2010 — during my four years.
This year's Cyclones were a completely different story. The football team had an amazing season, defeating top-ranked teams and crushing Oklahoma State's hopes of a BCS championship after handing the Cowboys their lone loss on an otherwise perfect season. It brought the Cyclones to New York in the Pinstripe Bowl to face Rutgers on New Year's Eve, allowing students to celebrate in appropriate New Year's fashion.
The Iowa State basketball team was equally stellar. Big wins over ranked Baylor, Kansas and Kansas State (to name a few) and an outstanding 22-9 record — thanks in large part to former Wolves player, now coach, Fred Hoiberg, and former Gopher baller, Royce White — pushed my beloved Clones in to the NCAA dance for the first time since 2005 as the No.8 seed, facing defending national champs, No.9 UConn in their first playoff game.
While of course I am still able to cheer ISU on, catching games on TV and wearing my colors proudly, it really isn't quite the same as being a student during all the celebrations. The excitement and passion fueled by the student section in each game is something that post-graduation I now miss. Work is harder to skip than class to travel for a game and rushing the field or court following a big win just seems plain weird now at 24.
So it's back to pinning my hopes on to our professional Minnesota teams (and Gopher hockey of course) and cheering on the Cyclones from the couch. Watching a winning season, two years too late.