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The Imperfectly Perfect Heart of Fred Hoiberg

Steve Good shares his personal relationship with open heart surgery and how The Mayor's physical heart may need repair, but his representation as the heart of Iowa State beats strongly.

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A few years back while in the middle of a reception at a conference, I received a call from my father. My father and I speak often, but he normally doesn't call when I'm on the road and busy at work. When I saw his name appear on my phone, I immediately feared that something was wrong. I answered promptly.

In a manor only the calmest and humblest of people can maintain with such news, my father proceeded to tell me that during his annual physical, the doctors had identified extreme blockage to his heart - 95% in two arteries, 75% in two more and 50% in a fifth. He would need quintuple heart bypass surgery that next week.

Thinking back to the conversation, I don't remember how long the conversation was or what I said, but I do remember having one pressing question upon hanging up.

Why my dad?

I've always looked at my father as a beacon of good health. He maintains a healthy weight, eats wonderfully, whoops my butt in the exercise department, diligently visits the doctor for an annual physical and has no bad habits other than spending way too much money on his entertainment center.

How could this happen to my wonderful and healthy dad?

You're telling me that it's all genetics?

Man, could this happen to me down the road?

Should I put down this cocktail and plate of lil' smokies?

I don't think it really hit home until my father and I hung out the day before his surgery. He stopped over mid-day. There was no objective to his visit other than to simply spend time with me. When he left, I cried, hoping that everything would be ok.

The great news is that despite one complication and having to go back in a second time, my father's surgery went very well. He's as healthy as ever, and we continue to have to wrangle the snow shovel out of his hands.  He's even become a master of the well-timed bad heart joke, pulling nitroglycerin out of his pocket at the perfect moment.

The memory of my father's story flooded back into my life this week as our beloved Coach Hoiberg undergoes another open-heart surgery.

I had to sit back and think about why the emotion of my personal experience was so strong this week. Many people have this surgery, and I personally know others who have had heart surgery since my father's. I soon realized that it had everything to do with the fact that my father and Fred Hoiberg both have imperfectly perfect hearts, and it may just be the reason why I look up to both of them with such high regard.

That statement may sound odd to those of you who aren't a part of the Cyclone family. "Steve, come on, he's just your team's basketball coach."

Those within the Cyclone family know exactly what I'm talking about. He's more than our coach.

Yes, we love that he has brought us a winning team and pray that it continues long into the future. But it's so much more than this for most of us. He represents Ames, its people and their heartwarming qualities, Iowa State University and every one of us who is proud to be a Cyclone. We all secretly want to be a little more like Fred.

Look around you. People are wearing red today to support him. His players and colleagues are posting tributes on social media. We recently voted millions of times to support Fred's staunch advocacy (and his amazing red velour tracksuit and dance moves) for the American Heart Association during the Infinity Coaches' Charity Challenge. For the record, I still think that a computer science major at Purdue rigged it for Matt Painter.

Fred, and his imperfectly perfect heart, is a real-life symbol of our wonderful community and the fact that there is so much more to life than basketball.

And if you still don't understand, I'll let this letter that I received from him as an 11-year-old speak for itself.


We all know that despite its imperfections, that heart is also one of the strongest around.

Get well Coach. We'll be thinking about you.

Steve Good is a 2004 Iowa State graduate who occasionally dabbles with writing in between his full time jobs with Phi Delta Theta and being a husband and father. You can find him on Twitter @sgood.