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Pilgrims, Football, Culture

I think the thing I enjoy most about the holidays is the fact that it gives me the chance to exercise my historical knowledge “chops” so to speak, and share with the younger ones how our traditions came into practice.

Of course, this is the time of year when we celebrate the Pilgrims' discovery of America and their subsequent meal of “Thanksgiving” after years of war with the local savages from the southeast conference.

We commemorate con-temporarily by gathering our families to eat the same meal that the Pilgrims and Eskimos ate on that fateful day: high fructose corn syrup, turkey, and Chinese food. That November meal has become part of our culture.

Let's not forget how fortunate it was that the Indians at that time introduced “us” to corn which led the new country into centering its agricultural practices around growing food so important for cows, cars, and diabetes . . . Listen, if a Catholic can tell Catholic jokes, an Iowa guy can make fun of corn.

Okay, I'm joking. They didn't eat Chinese food.

They ate Indian food. Curry is good for you. Thanksgiving is awesome.


Have you ever had a pair of pants that you like, but it's just to snug? You still wear it, correct? You force them on? By the way, I can't figure out how to refer to “pants” because a “pair” is only one thing of pant(s). Do I say “them” or “it” when putting “them” on? Do you put your pant on in the morning?

Now, I'm going to tell you (one of) my favorite Iowa stories . . . I'm also going to try and make it “fit” a health letter just because I want to tell the story. Maybe I'll fail, but just maybe, you'll be forced to remember it for the rest of your life because you keep putting on pants that are too tight. We'll see.

Anyone my age from Iowa already knows this one because it's part of the biggest game in the history of Iowa football.

In 1985 Iowa was rated #1 in the nation and the first team they played after the ranking was released was Michigan, coached by legend, Bo Shembechler.

This game would have been big enough, but Michigan was ranked #2, and for over twenty years no team had won the conference not named Michigan or Ohio State.

The head coaches were friends, but nobody frustrated the legend Bo, like Iowa's coach Hayden Fry. Hayden liked to play head games because his psychology degree told him that's a necessary part of turning a losing culture around. Nowhere is this evidenced greater than the visitors' locker room at Kinnick Stadium. Hayden painted the room pink in 1980 believing that the color makes you passive.

This pink locker room frustrated Bo so much he would bring black paper to cover the walls every time Michigan came to Iowa.

So, on a Saturday in 1985 the imposing Wolverines came to Iowa city. They were no strangers to the big game. On the other hand, this was not only a unique circumstance for Iowa, it was singular, and the enormity was distracting.

To get an idea, picture Missouri in 1985 ranked #1 with Nebraska coming in at #2, but eliminate the Chiefs, Royals, and the Rams and Cardinals tandem in St. Louis to appreciate the focus.

So, during warm-ups, before the game, Coach Fry told the kid that was hiking the ball to the punter to snap it wild, miss the target every time. So the kid flew it over the punter's head, into the ground, wide right, everywhere. The ball went all over the place.

Coach Shembechler couldn't help but notice what was going on, and walked over to coach Fry. Coach Fry cut Bo off and immediately asked him for a stick of gum. Bo obliged and handed Hayden the pack while not taking his eyes off the calamity between the long-snapper and the punter.

Bo turned to Hayden and said, “coach, you can't let that kid snap the ball during the game”.

Hayden inserted a stick of gum into his mouth and put Bo's pack of gum back into his own pocket. Without taking his eyes off the snapping circus Hayden replied, “coach Shembechler, it doesn't matter.”

Bo looked bewildered.

Hayden continued, “We don't plan on punting today”, and he walked off.

Honest to everything holy, Iowa won by a field goal that day with 2 seconds left on the clock and remained number one for 5 weeks.


That's my story. That's why Iowa fans love Hayden Fry.

Here's my parallel: you may have heard about studies that show that if your friends gain weight you're waay more likely to gain weight yourself. We get into habits and we're part of a culture now that's pretty unhealthy.

The interesting thing is that we live longer than ever (not as long as other developed nations, but longer historically) so it seems like how we take care of ourselves doesn't matter. Most believe this to be true.

If I've given this scientific example before forgive me. The 5 “hot-spots” of longevity in the world have three things in common: 60% of their diet is vegetable, those vegetables are grown locally, and they are active. Oh, and they pay pennies on the dollar compared to us for healthcare.

To give you an idea of why healthcare costs so much, here's what fast food does, but first: two things that age us are oxidation and inflammation. Those two clot our arteries, harden our cartilage, cause pain, shrink our brain, wreck our kidneys, and foul up our gut so bad that our immune system can't tell the difference between foreign proteins and your own pancreas - for example.

Know this: when your immune system goes off it tells something inside your cells, called NF kB, to kick in, and send your inflammation system into overdrive. Google NFkB and cancer just for fun.

So, a study demonstrated that after an 1800 calorie meal from McDonald's (quarter pounder meal w/ a pie) on an empty stomach increased oxidation, NFkB and mononuclear cells (the cells that start artery problems when they interact w/ cholesterol) over 50% for two hours. It continued to progress for 3 hours in overweight subjects (because fat cells cause inflammation by themselves).

In other words, eating poorly makes your body think it's under attack.

The by product of your body defending itself is accelerated aging and chronic disease. Stress tells your body it's under attack too, so it does all the above as well.

Now, vegetables don't do that. Not only don't they do that, all vegetables are prebiotics meaning they feed the good bacteria in your gut which they, in turn, increase the health of your intestinal lining. The “good” bacteria also create something called Butyrate. Butyrate makes cells less resistant to insulin. Good bacteria converts 20% of your thyroid hormone to its useful form . . . Thyroid runs your gall bladder, and estrogen ties up the transport of thyroid hormone. Fat cells produce estrogen. Know any overweight women that had their gall bladders removed? Could these things be recognized earlier? I digress.

Bad bacteria are lined with lipopolysaccharide. In short, lipopolysaccharides are the Iowa State Cyclones or to you Missouri fans, lipopolysaccharides are the Jayhawks of your body.

So why aren't you taking my probiotics now?

“But Chris, I eat vegetables”. You also eat cinnamon roles, biscuits and gravy, and gluten filled, insulin spiking carbs which wreck your gut whether your “sensitive” to it or not.

“Oh Chris, why don't you go ????? yourself, if it's not tasty it's not worth it” . . . that my friends, is what our culture has become over the last 55 years thanks to food marketing. That's the truth. I ate a stuffed pan pizza from Pappa Murphy's last night and that's the truth too.

We're already living longer. What would we do if we felt good too?

Here's the real parallel: Hayden made it a priority to never hire an assistant that didn't want to be a head coach. His staff in 1985 is considered the best in coaching history. You already know one of them around here: Bill Snyder. Some say Bill performed the best coaching job in history at Kansas State (boo) . . . the defensive coordinator was Barry Alverez who went on to take Wisconsin to 4 Rose Bowls, Terry Allen who now coaches SW MO, Bobby Stoops at Oklahoma, Kirk Ferentz now at Iowa, and four others coached division one teams along with countless players now coaching at division one schools.

Culture. It can change.

We've developed this idea that we're either sick or healthy. Hate to break it to you, but if you're in bad shape at 60 it started at forty when you were “healthy”. Your health didn't suddenly go bad the day your doctor prescribed Lipitor.

No, it accumulated over years of eating too much sugar, not exercising, and getting mad at your neighbor's dog.

So how can you tell twenty years before your sick? For one, you can see the patterns in blood work. Bring yours in or we can order it and look at your trends.

The labs have to be thorough. You can't, for example, just look at cholesterol and ignore thyroid, or look at testosterone and ignore sugar, adrenals, and inflammation markers, etc., and think you really know what's going on in your body.

Merry Thanksgiving!!!


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