The University of Iowa has a PR nightmare on its hands. Hawkeye fans love Ed Podolak, and they feel Ed was forced into retirement. Truth is he wasn’t forced, he chose walking away over Iowa’s conditions. One of those conditions, I’m told, was alcohol counseling. Ed felt insulted and never really considered treatment or classes. Fact is Eddie loves being Eddie, and he’s not willing to change. Many fans don’t want him to.
Let’s be real here. The recent pictures of Podolak partying in Tampa may have been the final straw, but the University has been concerned about Ed’s drinking for a long time—at least as far back as his arrest for public intox. Any Hawkeye fan who attends Iowa football social events has seen Podolak tipsy on many occasions—and many loved him that way. Ed was the life of the Hawkeye party, surrounded by enablers. He loved partying with people, and people loved partying with Ed. Bad combination for relative sobriety.
It’s a new era. The Internet era. The PC era. The hypocrisy era. The University of Iowa has been through two years of embarrassing arrests, most alcohol related, in its football program. Podolak doesn’t work for Iowa, but he does represent the University. The U wants to clean up its binge-drinking image. Podolak doesn’t fit those plans.
Like many people, I see those pictures, and I see a guy celebrating an Iowa bowl trip in a bar. He looks like he’s had too many drinks, but most of us have been that person. Podolak told the Des Moines Register he was embarrassed by the photos. A 61 year old man looking down the blouse of a young woman who doesn’t seem to mind isn’t flattering, but I’ve been around enough partying people in environments like that to guess that Ed was being asked to pose, and as always, he was accommodating. It’s bad judgement, but as far as we can tell from the pictures, nothing illegal happened and no one was hurt.
I digress. Ed Podolak didn’t retire solely due to that night. It was his body of out of the booth work over the years. I think many people feel bad because Ed was just being the guy they wanted him to be. Iowa football is, for many, an excuse to party. Tailgating, Hawkeye Huddles, bowl trips—it’s one big party. Think of all Iowa football activities with no alcohol. Really think. What do you think happens to attendance? Donations? Passion? That’s the rub, alcohol fuels the engine, and in many ways, pays for it (beer sponsors Iowa football). Ed Podolak is the poster boy for all that partying. ‘He overdid it. And it won’t be the same without him.
I know Ed enough to know he loves his life. One of his close friends tell me he’s not ready to change his hard-drinking ways. Perhaps he needs to, I’m not really qualified to say. On one hand, I’ve seen him stumbling around drunk in public many times, on the other, I’ve never seen him hurt anyone. I do know this: If Ed needs to drink less, he should retire, because everywhere he went in Iowa, people handed him drinks from the moment he walked in the door. Surrounded by enablers, including the U of I.
It’s better reading when the writer firmly takes a side, but I get both points of view on this one. I see why Iowa felt it was time for Podolak to stop drinking. I also see why Ed said see ya.
The Hawkeyes just lost a great radio analyst, and a hall of fame partyier. Fans will miss both.