The notoriously thin-skinned Hayden Fry once denounced the Iowa-Minnesota football rivalry as "completely out of line." The former Hawkeyes coach griped that Iowans got more worked up over the annual game against the Gophers than they did for the showdowns with Iowa State.

Oh, and he didn't like the jokes, either. Which just goes to show you can't expect a Texan to understand this neighborly competition that runs as deep as the Mississippi River and 10 times as wide. Minnesotans and Iowans compete over which state grows the most corn (Iowa, by a margin of better than two to one in 2007), whose children earn better test scores (Minnesota has the edge with an average ACT score of 22.5 in 2007, compared to the Iowegians' 22.3), and which state fair is better (Iowa's pork dinners vs. Sweet Martha's cookies, too close to call).

For all the bluster, though, this rivalry typically generates more light than heat. In 2002, 49 people were arrested for rioting and looting near the Ohio State campus after the Buckeyes beat Michigan. Last year, an Oklahoma fan nearly castrated a Texas fan after they got into an argument in an Oklahoma City bar. The Alabama-Auburn "Uncivil War" took a 40-year cooling-off period in part because of violence on the field.

Iowans and Minnesotans tend to fight their football battles with jokes, slogans and sometimes-profane chants, with a most unusual icon at stake: a bronze pig named Floyd of Rosedale.

Actually, we have Floyd -- both the pig and his Minnesota namesake -- to thank for keeping this rivalry civil when tensions threatened to send it over the edge. Most fans know Floyd was the prize in a wager on the game made by Minnesota governor Floyd B. Olson, and the Hampshire hog later was cast in bronze to be passed over the border in perpetuity. But Olson's intent was a neat trick of diplomacy meant to defuse the ire over one of the Big Ten's first black stars.

Ozzie Simmons rode freight trains from a segregated school in Texas to the Iowa campus in 1933 in the hopes of playing college football. A gifted runner, he became a target of Hawkeyes opponents as quickly as he racked up yards. He was frequently punched, kneed and cheap-shotted by players who resented his skin color as much as his talent.

Simmons was knocked out three times against Indiana. The Gophers were just as merciless in their 1934 drubbing of the Hawkeyes. Simmons recalled in a 1988 Star Tribune article that the Gophers defense "came in with knees high ... What it amounted to was they were piling on, late hits."

He was knocked unconscious in that game, too, one of many batterings that forced Simmons to play injured for much of his career. The Gophers won 48-12, and Iowa fans were incensed at the treatment of their star back. The next year, Iowa governor Clyde Herring said the night before the game that, "If the officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used last year, I'm sure the crowd won't."

The fuse had been lit. With talk of mass revenge raging through Iowa City, Olson hit upon a novel way to soothe the anger. He offered Herring a prize Minnesota hog if Iowa won that 1935 game, and he would accept a prize Iowa hog if the Gophers did.

The Gophers won 13-6, and Simmons recalled in the 1988 interview that the game was "one of the best I remember ... Everybody played hard and crisp and honest." Herring delivered a Rosedale Farms hog, a brother to the boar that played "Blue Boy" in the 1933 film "State Fair." Floyd the pig died of cholera in 1936 and was buried in a field about halfway between the two schools.

His bronze likeness lives on, a perfect symbol of a rivalry between peaceful -- if occasionally prickly -- neighbors. This weekend, go ahead and debate whether IOWA stands for "idiots out wandering around" or "intellectuals of wonderful attributes." Tell the jokes: How do you make Hawkeyes cookies? Put them in a big bowl and beat for three hours. And did you hear that Tim Brewster will only dress 22 players for the Iowa game? The rest have to get dressed by themselves.

When it's over, make a toast to the brave Simmons, the insightful Olson and the porcine Floyd for their roles in promoting a spirited, lively and generally good-natured rivalry. Then shake hands with someone from the other side.

Oh, and a note to Iowans: it might be your final trip to the Metrodome, but please do your part to keep tensions low. This time, don't try to take the goalposts with you.

Rachel Blount •

CULTURE CLASH Minnesotans and Iowegians debate -- and joke and taunt -- about which state has it better, from fairs to college football. Proof of the latter each year is who possesses Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig trophy. Photos: Star Tribune file ROUGH STUFF Iowa RB Ozzie Simmons was one of the Big Ten's first black football stars in the 1930s, and had to endure racial slurs and cheap shots. Photo courtesy of Des Moines Register