By Randy York
In the avalanche of analysis about Friday's first-ever Nebraska-Iowa Heroes Game, both Big Ten Conference schools are proud and thankful that there will be a Wednesday morning news release, announcing the names of each state's hero. Their names will be engraved on the long-awaited trophy that will be presented to the game's winner and stay in its possession until the result goes the other way.
This much is certain, however. One hero's name will love Herbie, Hail Varsity and Cornhuskers while the other will favor Herkie, the Iowa Fight Song and Hawkeyes. The Heroes' names represent the valor part of the trophy, and the scores of each year's game represent the victory part of the trophy ... the action on the field, yearlong bragging rights and all that goes with that joy and fun and at least one full season in the sun, rain or shine. December though the next November.
The Heroes Game will be Iowa's third Big Ten Trophy Game. Floyd of Rosedale was its first, launched in 1891. Three years later, Iowa and Wisconsin began battling for the Heartland Trophy. In 1977, the Hawkeyes added another Trophy Game, battling in-state rival Iowa State for the Cy-Hawk Trophy.
Believe it or not, this is not Nebraska's first Trophy Game rodeo. The Huskers and Missouri Tigers battled from 1892 to 2010 for the Victory Bell, but unlike the Big Ten, Nebraska's conference partners didn't cater much to trophies, let alone any pomp and circumstance that might go with them. We have it on pretty good authority, though, that the 118-year-old Victory Bell has found a permanent retirement home at a still undisclosed location in Nebraska's Athletic Department. And unless the Big Ten and Southeast Conferences merge, that Victory Bell most likely will remain forever in the Cornhusker State.
The Heroes Game: Big Ten's Trophy Game No. 14
Both Nebraska and Iowa are excited about unveiling the new Heroes Game Trophy and becoming Big Ten "Trophy Game" No. 14 that will alternate between Lincoln's Memorial Stadium and Iowa's Kinnick Stadium. Nebraska is certainly happy to join the ranks of such traditional games as Paul Bunyan's Axe, the Little Brown Jug and the Old Oaken Bucket. Three years ago, after 63 years of Illinois and Northwestern competing for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, both schools must have decided that it was time to, umm, bury the hatchet. I've never been big on these kinds of games, but I will admit that since Nebraska is now co-owner of The Heroes Game in a league that celebrates such things, I'm more than mildly intrigued, mainly because Nebraska and Iowa worked so well together to make all of this happen.
Fortunately, Nebraska enters into this more than century-old lineup with the second best name of all the Big Ten Conference Trophy Games. I give all the credit in the world to Nebraska's Michael Stephens and Iowa's Rick Klatt, the marketing leaders from both schools that redefined communication, cooperation and collaboration. I asked Stephens this afternoon how everything has gone, and he smiled immediately, saying he was pleased with both the process and the result. And here's hoping that once fans from both schools see photos, videos and get up-close-and-personal looks at the Heroes Game Trophy, they will be as pleased and proud as I am.
Oh yes, how could I forget? After teasing you that Nebraska and Iowa now have the second-best trophy in the Big Ten, I know what you're thinking: Who has the best name? Well, sorry everyone, but that honor is jointly shared by perennial Big Ten powers Michigan and Ohio State, and they also battle this weekend in Columbus.
Since 1897, the Wolverines and Buckeyes have called their showdown "The Game", and you must admit it's hard to get any more succinct than that. However, 50 years from now, when Nebraska and Iowa honor Heroes Nos. 99 and 100, I reserve the right to change my mind about what game has the best name. Only time will tell.
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