Monday, August 23, 2010

It's too comfortable on the sidelines

Long time blog readers know that it is named after where I have watched much of the wrestling I’ve seen over the past 20+ years – Section GG, Row 12, Seats 1 & 2 in Carver Hawkeye Arena. When I started the blog it was meant to reflect the opinions of a fan sitting on the sidelines. Other than middle school intramurals, I never wrestled. Neither my brothers nor my daughters, nor any other member of my family wrestled. I have no official ties to wrestling in any way. I AM JUST A FAN.

The past few years it’s been hard sitting on the sidelines and watching what is happening to this great sport we all love, so a couple of years ago I started to act. My thoughts at the time were, “It might be meaningless, but let’s see if one fan can have any impact at all.” I started small and bought a few tickets to the NWCA All Star Classic when it was in Oregon. I sent them off to Rick Stewart and asked him to find some kids out there to give them to.

Later that season I stretched a little and bought 20 – 30 tickets for every Hawkeye home dual meet and gave them away to kid’s wrestling clubs or middle school teams. My logic was fairly simple – kids need idols. If I could get youngsters just starting in the sport to see the best college wrestlers in America, perhaps they would see something that would cause them to hang with it.

Last year I launched Tickets for Kids. My goal was to raise enough money to send 1,000 kids to a morning session of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships in Cedar Rapids. I didn’t make my goal, but, thanks to many of you, over 600 kids got to see some very exciting college wrestling. I’ve heard from coaches and kids since then and I think we, in some small part, accomplished what we’d hoped for.

I own and operate a small business and after last spring I wondered if I should continue with Tickets for Kids. I sent out surveys to some of the larger donors and asked them if they would continue to support the effort. Most said they would. But still, I couldn’t decide. It’s more work than I had imagined.

Then last Thursday, Eric Betterman, the co-founder of, threw out a challenge – “Let’s make it a goal to sell out every single (Division I) dual meet in the nation.” He pointed out that we didn’t actually need to attend if that was physically impossible – just buy them. I drew upon my experience and followed that with a challenge of my own, “Which fans of which school could raise enough money to buy enough tickets to send at least 20 kids to a dual meet at their favorite school first?” Then I called upon Hawkeye fans to bail my butt out after shooting off my mouth. They did. In three days I received enough pledges to send over 160 kids to Hawkeye dual meets. One Nebraska fan committed to sending 20 youngsters to a Cornhusker meet – and no one else responded. Apparently, they all prefer to sit on the sidelines as the “world’s oldest and greatest sport” is assaulted from multiple directions.

That flurry of activity answered the question – Tickets for Kids must continue.

Every survey respondent asked that we expand the scope – that we offer a greater variety of wrestling events for kids to attend. We’re doing that. Donations will be used to provide tickets for the NWCA National Duals, the Division III Championships in La Crosse, the NAIA Championships in Cedar Rapids and any college dual meet you select. If you have another event you wish to support email me.

I’m going to run two campaigns, the “Preseason Fan Challenge” and the “Championship Run”. The Preseason Fan Challenge starts today and runs to November 30. The basic premise is simple: which school’s fans will best support wrestling by sending kids to wrestling events. We’ll have five divisions and crown both divisional and an overall champion.

NCAA Division I
NCAA Division II
NCAA Division III

I still don’t have PayPal and can’t take credit card donations, but we’re working on it Please make your check to “Tickets for Kids” and send it to

Tickets for Kids
c/o Jim Brown
130 24th St NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-4936

or email a pledge to me at and I’ll send you a reminder as we get closer to the season (which can’t get here soon enough).

Please include the name of the school you want your donation credited to and the event you want to support. If you want to support an endangered program like Cal State Fullerton, but you are a Minnesota fan – I’ll credit your donation to the Gophers, but send tickets to some California kids who can attend a Titan dual meet. Once the tickets have been distributed I will send each donor a copy of the ticket purchase receipt and the name of the club leader or coach whose kids got the tickets.

In the interest of fairness, the Hawkeye and Cornhusker fans will start even with everyone else.

If you like the concept and want to join in the challenge – but don’t want to do it through Tickets for Kids – you can. Buy enough tickets to send at least 20 kids to an event, send me a copy of the ticket purchase receipt and the name of the club leader or coach whose kids got the tickets and I’ll credit your school with the donation.

Reminder: NCAA rules will not allow you to give tickets to high school wrestlers so focus on the elementary and middle schoolers.
If you really want your school to win, you’re going to have to get off of the sidelines. Email your friends and alumni and the people that sit next to you at wrestling meets. Post a link to this blog on your favorite team’s sites. Rally your fans on facebook. Let’s send 10,000 kids from all over the country to college wrestling events.

Here’s the real challenge. I’m almost certain that Hawkeye fans will win this in a cake walk. Which one of you is going to get mad enough to prove me wrong?

Or – you can remain on the sidelines and do nothing.

1 comment:

emaisey said...

Don't surf the net much so wasn't aware of the challenge that has been issued. Think it is great but amix the disappointing news of programs folding. My financial support has gone to a program starting back up this year at Minot State University in Minot ND. We wrestling fans need to step up! Thanks Jim Brown