Iowans reclaim lives _ and their sports

DES MOINES, Iowa | Greg Holland stood helplessly on the muck-covered track that circled the high school football field and gazed out toward the river. He looked dazed. He still couldn't believe his eyes.

He pointed to the spot past the woods, where sandbags sat on mounds of earth, where the levy hadn't been able to keep back the swollen Des Moines River. The air smelled like sewage. Garbage and muck covered the grass.

"It's unbelievable," he said.

When the flood came, the water covered North High School's football field, filled the locker room, moved across the street and surrounded the school and then headed toward Second Avenue.

For the past month, tornadoes and floods have battered Iowa. Homes were flooded. Businesses wrecked. Lives set back. And its sporting touchstones tarnished.

The very fabric of what it means to be an Iowan seemed cast aside.

This is the place where they built a ballpark in a cornfield because they believed people would come. This is where Zack Johnson learned how to defeat Tiger Woods and claim his own green jacket. It's where a guy named Kurt Warner worked at a grocery store before becoming the 1999 NFL MVP and leading the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl.

It's a place without a major professional franchise, where the sports may not be flashy or famous or nationally known. Which is why they matter so much.

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