This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011
This is post #1 in a six-part series of posts about our fandom. I'm posting about how I became a fan of the Golden Gophers and my hope is that you will follow suit. Use the fan post feature or simply comment below, but I want to know how you came to love the Gophers.
Being a lifelong Golden Gopher fan hasn't been easy.
The notion of Gopher Nation is ironic and comedic to not only fans of other Big Ten teams but even Gopher fans understand the irony. We do not travel particularly well, we rarely sold out the Metrodome, we have one of the smaller stadiums in the Big Ten and at best Gopher football is the third best show in town each and every fall. But what people should recognize is that those of us who are still fans are as passionate as there is in the country. Being a Buckeye fan is EASY. And even being a Badger or Hawkeye fan can't be too difficult when you occasionally have a shot at or even win the Big Ten. But I'd like to see how well those programs would travel and how empty that Horseshoe might be if they were to go 48 years without a trip to the Rose Bowl. Gopher football deserves plenty of heat, Gopher football fans deserve a medal.
As a kid I wasn't aware of the Gopher's history of futility. All I knew was that I lived in Minnesota and the Golden Gophers were our team. Why would I cheer for anyone else? If you want to know how I became a Gopher fan, it was easy. They were my team from the beginning, it only made sense. I grew up outstate Minnesota and occasionally made it up to the Twin Cities for Gopher games. I learned very early that we didn't like Iowa and we didn't care much for Badger fans either.
My parents weren't exactly Gopher fans and there was really nobody in my life who steered me in that direction. I did not choose to attend the U so I'm not even an alumni. But in our state there is one division one school who represents all of us. I don't feel that alumni have any greater claim to the Golden Gophers than the rest of us have. We are all Golden Gophers.
The first game that I remember attending was the 1987 homecoming loss to Indiana. It was an 18-17 loss that saw Chip Lohmiller miss what should have been the game-winner. From my perspective that ball was between the uprights but what does a third grader, sitting in the cheap seats know.
As a kid I was old enough to know a little about the Holtz years and the Gutekunst years, but the years I came to really "know" the Golden Gophers began during the Wacker years. My most memorable Wacker era games were the Purdue shootouts in 1993 and 1995. The '93 game was a 59-56 defensive battle that ended with a Gopher game winning field goal. The '95 game saw Chris Darkins run for 294 yards while Purdue's Mike Alstott ran for 133. Both had 3 touchdowns but it wasn't enough for either team until the very end. With less than 2 minutes remaining Cory Sauter ran 1 yard for six points, but the Gophers still trailed by one. Wacker decided to go for the W rather than the tie and Sauter connected with Ryan Thelwell for the game-winning two-point conversion. Both games were a blast and solidified my Gopher fandom for life.
Sure those teams were not exactly successful but those were some teams that were fun to watch. But for me, as a Gopher fan, that isn't what it is all about. I love this team and I'll root for Ski-U-Mah for life. Decades of futility have seen the fan base dwindle and the pessimism grow. From my perspective this is why I loved Tim Brewster's attitude and defining the Rose Bowl as a goal. Previous staffs were afraid to say Rose Bowl and had excuses lined up telling us how hard it was to win here at Minnesota. Brewster isn't perfect and he has a lot to prove but I like his positivity because I too want to see this team in the Rose Bowl.
Just imagine with me, Gopher fans. Imagine getting into your seat in Pasadena and watching YOUR Golden Gophers running through the tunnel to face the Pac-10 Champ. I has been a couple generations and you may not know anybody who even remembers their last Rose Bowl appearance. But there isn't a fan base in the conference who will appreciate their next Rose Bowl appearance like we will. I'm waiting for that day. But even if it doesn't happen I'll be there rooting for Ski-U-Mah and this is my team for life.