Caitlin Clark and Iowa Hawkeyes lift us all up with national championship hopes

Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes play for the national championship today. Their run raises all of us in the oft-overlooked Midwest. Photo: University of Iowa

The Iowa women’s basketball team plays for the national championship today.


Just typing that sentence feels great.

It’ll feel even better if I get to type “The Hawkeyes are national champions!!!”

I will use at least three exclamation marks, possibly more.

I am not an objective observer.

I love Lisa Bluder, the Hawks’ head coach, and her longtime assistants, Jan Jensen, and Jenni Fitzgerald.

Never forget: They were all Drake Bulldogs first. I covered them and became their friends. I love them even though they left us for greater things, maybe even the greatest things.

The spotlight, rightfully so, rests on superstar guard Caitlin Clark, the West Des Moines sharpshooter who swishes from halfcourt and dishes no-look bounce passes.

But I’m always looking for a glimpse of Bluder on the sideline, in her trademark white athletic shoes.

I watch for a camera shot of Jan and Jenni.

Look at them. Look at my friends. Look at those women with Iowa imprinted on their jerseys.

We’re on top of the world.

This is how it goes when people you love accomplish great things.

You feel so good it’s almost like you did it. It raises us all up.

Bluder is aware of this.

Iowa is an insecure state.

We call ourselves “flyover country.”

That’s silly.

Do you know what other states planes fly over?

All of them.

Why are we taking it so personally?

I’m being intentionally glib.

The media universe is set up in three spots: New York and Washington, D.C. in the East, and Hollywood in the West.

Sometimes the South gets attention, especially during college football season.

New York City is the capital of the world.

D.C. is home to the politicos.

California makes the entertainment.

The rest of the country doesn’t exist in the public consciousness.

Chicago gets some attention now and then, sometimes for a sports team and other times for grizzly crime.

But the rest of the Midwest is … what’s the word … plain.

That’s OK.

Plain is good. We are the peanut butter and jelly on white bread of regions.



Not spicy.

Iowa is good at some things: growing corn and selling insurance.

We are neither a hub nor a spoke in the sports world. We have no major league pro sports.

We are excellent at wrestling. Iowa and Iowa State have won a combined 32 national titles, but wrestling is a sport with a very loyal fan base, but not a very broad national appeal.

Football is the nation’s sport, but it is dominated by a handful of rich programs, most of which are in the South.

Basketball is more democratic and widespread.

There are about 350 Division I women’s basketball teams, from Holy Cross with 3,000 students to Texas A&M with nearly 73,000 enrolled.

Women’s basketball was once dominated by only a few teams, first the late Pat Summit’s Tennessee teams, and later Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut teams.

Both teams have faded as the depth and breadth of women’s basketball talent have grown in the last 20 years.

And now the Iowa Hawkeyes are a game away from the national championship.

They’re led by Clark. She’s one of us, a tall, lithe, hard-working, goofy, and immensely talented kid from Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines.

Five of the Hawkeyes are Iowa-born. All but one, Addison O’Grady from Aurora, Colorado, are Midwestern women.

To see these people, people like us, from the place we live, on the brightest stage in their sport, lift us all up.

Iowa is a small state, with about 3 million people. It’s just right for living and raising families, but too small to make much of an impact on the national discussion.

Trust Lisa Bluder and Caitlin Clark to change that narrative.

Now Tony Kornheiser and Tony Wilbon mention Clark and Iowa almost every day on ESPN’s popular “Pardon the Interruption.”

Clark and Iowa are the talk of the nation.

I don’t know how it’s going to go in today’s game. Louisiana State is tough. They must be. They’re in the championship game.

Whatever happens, the Hawkeyes should know how much they’ve lifted us up from the doldrums of Iowa winter, giving us basketball worth watching. More than that, they lifted us all up.

Iowans don’t seek attention by nature, but it sure is nice when it falls on us for something good.

Caitlin Clark is good. Lisa Bluder is good. Jan Jensen is good. Jenni Fitzgerald is good.

And those of us cheering them on feel good about it.

Here we are, right in the middle of the national zeitgeist.

What the Hawkeyes have done is lift us all up.

And that feels mighty good, no doubt about it.

We’re probably too humble to brag about, but every inch closer to that final buzzer, we’re whispering, almost like a prayer using the Smith’s lyrics:

“So please, please, please, let us get what we want.”

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.


  1. And here I jinxed them by purchasing the stream.


    1. Nah. That was a great team LSU sent out there. This was a season for the ages in Iowa. I’m sad they lost, but the journey was so much fun.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s