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Mike Downey

It's So Hard Not to Smell Those Roses

December 26, 1985|MIKE DOWNEY

They picked him up in Pasadena, at a disco, then brought him down to the station house for questioning.

"What's your name, kid?" the cop asked.

"Long," he said.

"Where you from?"

"I'm a student at the University of Iowa," he said.

"And what do you think you were doing, dancing in a disco out here in California?"

"Just having fun," the kid said.

The cop turned to his partner and sneered.

"Having fun! Having fun, he says. Look here, kid. The word's out on you. It just so happens we got a call last week from the Iowa football coach--this Fry guy. He told us about punks like you who wanted to have fun when they were supposed to be thinking about football."

"But officer . . . "

"Shut up, you. We got strict orders from the Chief. Matter of fact, so does every cop in the state. Football players from the University of Iowa are no longer permitted to have fun in California while preparing for the Rose Bowl. Those are Coach Fry's orders, son, and we're gonna enforce 'em. You read me?"

"Yes, sir." "Good. Now run along, Long. But listen to me and listen tight. If we ever, ever, ever catch you trying to have fun in California before a Rose Bowl game, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Got it?"

"Got it," Long said, and got up and left.

Two days later, a motorcycle patrolman in Malibu reported the apprehension of two Iowa linebackers. He busted both of them. He also made a phone call to the athletic director at Iowa.

"Yes, sir, we got 'em right here," the cop said. "You know what they were doing? Surfing! Do you believe that? They were surfing when they were supposed to be sitting in their rooms thinking about football. Imagine that."

"Did they try to give you an excuse?" the athletic director asked.

"Yeah. Get a load of this. They said it was 15 degrees below zero back in Iowa and it was 85 degrees in California and they just couldn't stand thinking about football anymore. So, they told Coach Fry they were going over to Cedar Rapids to buy some Gatorade--and then they got on a plane and flew to Los Angeles. Can you beat that?"

"Amazing," the athletic director said. "Put 'em on a plane and ship them back here, will you?"

"Sure thing, sir. I'm sure these are good kids and didn't mean to get into any trouble. They just said they were convinced they could still play good football against UCLA in the Rose Bowl, even if they did have some fun before the game."

"Well, you know how kids are."

"Yes, sir. We'll send 'em back in the morning."

But arrest reports began to pile up in every precinct in Southern California.

An Iowa offensive tackle was found at Knott's Berry Farm, riding a Ferris wheel again and again.

An Iowa wide receiver sat for 16 straight hours at a Venice cafe before the police came to get him. "Eating outdoors in December," he muttered in amazement, again and again, as they dragged him away. "Eating outdoors in December."

And a Hawkeye cornerback got busted at a shopping mall in Encino, where two local girls were attempting to teach him to speak their language.

"You're under arrest for having fun before the Rose Bowl," the cop said as he slipped the cuffs on the kid's wrists.

"Radical," the kid said.

There were widespread reports of University of Iowa athletes determined to act like tourists before the UCLA game, against the explicit orders of Coach Hayden Fry.

"This is very embarrassing," a Big Ten commissioner's office spokesperson told reporters. "It has repeatedly been made clear to Iowa football players that on New Year's Day, if they lose the Rose Bowl game by 25 or more points, they will not be permitted to use the excuse that they partied too hard in Beverly Hills or got a terrible sunburn in Redondo Beach."

It was the very next day that the 911 phone number in the Anaheim sheriff's office rang.

"Get over to Disneyland, quick," the voice said.

When they got there, the cops stormed the front gate, looking for trouble. They spotted nothing out of the ordinary.

A man in a giant mouse suit stood near the entrance.

"Have there been any Iowa football players around here, posing for snapshots with you?" a cop asked.

The mouse shook his head. No.

"Sure about that?" the cop asked.

The mouse shook his head. No.

The suspicious cop suddenly yanked the head off the mouse's costume.

"Hayden Fry!" the cop yelled.

"Yes, it's me!" the coach cried out. "I confess! It's me! I couldn't stand it any more! People are supposed to have a good time in California! It wasn't fair! Please let us still play in the Rose Bowl! We promise to lose the game! Just let us have some fun!"

"Come along with me, coach," the cop whispered, and the Iowa coach came along quietly, with his tail between his legs.

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