Pigs in the Gym:
Luther Rivalry in the 1980s
Most Wartburg alumni and fans have come across the glorious Wartburg pranks of the 1990s: e.g. crashing the Luther College Homecoming Parade and the aerial “bombing” of the Luther campus with pamphlets. There was one prank from the 1980s, when I was a student, where Luther almost got the better of Wartburg … until the Knights’ Sports Information and News Bureau director got the last laugh at the expense of the local Decorah newspaper.
On a brisk winter’s night, Feb. 9, 1980, old Knights Gymnasium was standing room only for the rivalry game between the Norse and the Knights with both teams well represented in the stands. It was time for the National Anthem, and I had just wrapped up my pregame show for KWAR with Jon Gremmels, ’83.
It had been custom for Wartburg Athletic Director John Kurtt, ’53, and perhaps even before, to darken Knights Gym for the playing of the National Anthem. A solitary light was left on over the American flag hanging by the scoreboard on the west wall.
The Wartburg Pep Band struck up the Star-Spangled Banner and we went to commercial on radio. The lights popped back up at the end of the anthem and all Hell broke loose on the basketball court.
I looked up from my notes to see a tiny pig skittering across center court. It had a small blanket attached to its sides. One side said “Wart” and the other “Sucks.” Somehow, Luther fans had snuck the piglet into the gym and let it loose when Knights Gym was dark.
The poor pig was frightened out of its wits and ran off in every direction possible while the Knights were trying to take their final warm up shots. Security, physical plant workers, and student employees gave chase. It was a unique experience to explain to my listening audience why tip-off was being delayed before student Denny Anderson, ’80, caught the pig and sprinted to the locker room.
The crowd was in an uproar, but the officials took control and the game started a few minutes late. To the best of my knowledge, it was never determined who in the Luther crowd pignapped the poor creature from a Winneshiek County farm, smuggled it into the game, and then let it loose during the National Anthem.
For the record, the Knights had no trouble dispatching the Norse, 71-60. The game seemed anticlimactic after all of that.
There was one permanent result of the incident. Never again did John Kurtt or any other Wartburg game manager turn off the lights during a basketball game.
So, what happened to the piglet? Duane Schroeder, Wartburg’s Sports Information Director and my dad, told me later that winter that it had been given to a local Bremer County pork farmer who would try and raise it to market weight.
That was not, however, the last laugh. The following summer break during a slow day, Duane concocted a press release for the Decorah newspaper. He claimed the pig had been raised to market weight, given the name Floyd of Calmar (like Floyd of Rosedale), and that it would be the guest of honor at the September Wartburg Booster Club’s pig roast….and by guest of honor, I mean main dish. Oh, and by the way, Norse, thanks for the free pig, wrote Duane.
He attached to the press release a picture of a recent Iowa State Fair prize-winning boar. As a proud son of a Wisconsin farmer that raised a few pigs, he knew that ribbon-winning boars did not make good pig-roast entrees; he wondered if the editors at the Decorah paper also knew that.
As it turns out, they didn’t. The story ran the following week with the picture.
It can now be revealed, tragically, that the little piggy that ran the court did not survive the winter. 1980 was an incredibly tough winter in northeast Iowa. Between the frigid weather and Duane’s suspicion that the pignapping took the piglet away from its mother too soon, Floyd did not survive the winter.
But nobody in Decorah knew that.
The last laugh and oink were had by the Knights, Duane, and Floyd.