A couple weeks ago I posted about fan loyalty and dedication as part of a Hyundai Fanthropology Sweepstakes. I asked you all to post your stories of fan loyalty and dedication, which can be particularly painful and difficult for Gopher fans. I then read through the comments and arbitrarily chose a winner. There were a few who made this a difficult decision but ultimately I went with Tim, aka 'timegan2' and his Gopher fandome journey.
Some of us were born into Gopher Nation, others were adopted and some actually made a conscious decision somewhere along the way to join this beleaguered bunch of fans accustomed to mediocrity with a few heartbreaking losses sprinkled in for good measure. Tim is not only one of those who made that choice, but he is raising a second generation of young Gopher fans. Why? Well how about a little background.
Tim grew up outside of Philadelphia in Delaware, never really having a college football team he cared deeply about. His parents were alumni of the University of Delaware, they don't really count, so he was content to be a passionate fan of the Philly professional teams. Until college, when he decided to make the move to Minneapolis and continue his education at the University of Minnesota.
The decision to move from Delaware to the University of Minnesota altered the course of his sports fandomeship (I made that word up) forever.
In terms of colleges, what stood out about Minnesota was how urban and cosmopolitan it was. I didn't want to go to U of Delaware because it was a small town with small town life. I wanted to be in the middle of a big city full of excitement, concerts, discovery, all that stuff. To me, Minneapolis looked like it was from the future, which I just loved.
Big Ten is full of tradition - really cool, ivy-covered tradition stuff. I liked it. The U isn't a stereotypical college town, and to me, that was its biggest drawing point. I don't think I would ever want to be in a place where there was the school and that's it. It was important for me to have a type of engagement with the bigger community.
And he quickly was acclimated to Gopher football, Jim Wacker style! His first game was the 1996 upset of Donovan McNabb and the nationally ranked Syracuse Orange.
For me, my first game was pretty awesome, but I didn't come from a background where tailgating was the norm. Delaware had tailgating but it was mostly for the big donors and rich types, which wasn't me. And all that southern football stuff might as well been in China or Australia as far as I was concerned because it was so foreign. For me, it was the experience of going to my first "real" college football game in my first week of college. It was a night game and we had to get a bus to the Dome, which I thought was so cool and urban (I was naive!). I got to be in the futuristic Dome, looking up at the Teflon sky. Got my first mini donuts from Wally the Beerman, which apparently was a very big deal. The game was awesome, Tyrone Carter was a beast, the offense (Cory Sauter/Tutu Atwell) looked very good, and they beat a nationally ranked Syracuse team to 4-0. But it was the little things that I fell completely in love with. Seeing the band, singing the Rouser, Goldy (GOLDY!!), the cannon, screaming "OUR NORTHERN STAR" at the end of the alma mater during halftime. It was being part of something bigger. And it was loud!!! The place wasn't a sell out, but it was absolutely thundering loud, which blew my mind. It's like the Dome was built by scientists to maximize noise. I loved it for football.
I'm not sure I should be excited with Tim or feel sorry for him. Eventually he would be beaten down like the rest of us, he was riding high early but he still "knew" something wasn't what it seemed.
I was young, I wasn't beaten down like other Gopher fans and I wasn't old enough to pine for the depression area greatness like the old heads in town. To me, this was all new and exciting. Also, when you're a Philly fan by birth, you become used to us-vs-them for your entire life. The fact that the Gophers had no real recent winning tradition, the fact that they would need to grow to beat Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, etc..., meant there was something to shoot for. Anyone can jump on to a winner's bandwagon, but those people are losers, aka Dallas Cowboy fans. I knew I was signing up for a life of disappointments, but that's okay, because when the victories happen, they will be all mine and mine alone. It became very personal, very quick.
Of course, the season didn't turn out well as the team fell apart. I went to all the home games and I got to sit in the Wisconsin student section in Madison, wearing my U of M hat and jacket, as we got smacked around. Friends in my dorm would come to my room to watch some of the 11 am games. The thing is, you knew the team had talent, and it was a like there was a force holding them back from getting over the hump. That force (negativity, pessimism, talent, whatever) is something I was familiar with as a Philly fan. Rooting for the Gophers became personal because you wanted to see them get over that hump.
LOSERS? LOSERS? Hey just wait a secon....nevermind. I think that there encapsulates being a Gopher fan under the age of 65. It is easy to jump on a winner's bandwagon, it is easy to ignore this team but we have something to shoot for that will make our ride all the sweeter when (not if) a Rose Bowl ever happens.
Well, Tim was only at the U for a couple years before various factors contributed him to moving back home. From there he has been in Baltimore, Alaska, Lexington and finally a chance to move back to Minnesota. All along he was proudly
I ended up working all over the country, but I still watched my Gophers. I threw a party at a friend’s apartment in 2003 when Minn played Michigan on Friday night in prime time, knowing a win would all but slingshot Goldy to a Big Ten title. Just thoughts of that game throw me into a rage. I had to suffer through the Texas Tech game and the utter humiliation of the WIN FIGHT TRY era. Keep that chili hot, Brew. Fast forward to now, out of the blue last March I get a chance to come back to Minneapolis, now married with two daughters. I jumped at the opportunity and one of my first orders of business, after getting a place to live, was getting Gopher tickets.
And he wasn't living in a vacuum as he moved around the country, he had "friends" who just didn't understand. How could in 2010 he be rooting for a University where he went to school for 2 years in the 90s? His connection to the school now was "tangential at best." And his friends let him know how ridiculous this seemed to them...
"Hey Tim, you guys hired a coach whose never even been a coordinator? Really?" Then he would get right in my face, and accentuate each syllable, each one going a bit higher (co-ord-dIN-A-TOR? Now he's head co-ATCH of the go-PHERS?). And I couldn't say crap other than, "Well, he may have recruited Vince Young, allegedly."
With Mason, the ball busting was limited to, "I heard you got Northeast Louisiana St. A&M Tech today, should be a tough one!" There was ball busting, but it was almost pity. Why put any emotional investment into something that has no chance and you have, seemingly, limited connection to? That's a Gophers football fan though.
With friends like that who needs Iowa? But Tim stayed true. He endured the Michigan debacle, he suffered through the Texas Tech bowl loss, he stuck with us through the Brewster years and he is passionately supporting the U and raising the next generation of Gopher fans. As I mentioned he has two little girls who are already madly in love with Goldy.
As for my girls (4 and 3), Goldy sells himself, god bless him. I place a massive amount of faith and trust in the mascot. The Phillie Phanatic is the greatest mascot of all time, a delight to all humans and a benefit to Earth. Goldy is in that category. The Rouser is perfect tool for teaching my kids to spell. My oldest loves to clap along. I took my oldest to a hockey game this year and she was very excited to fist-bump Goldy. My youngest believes everything is Gopher. She loves the mascot, was happy to see him at the New Hampshire game. But more importantly, all football on TV is "Gopher!" They may not grow up to be sports fans, but damnit, they'll be Gopher fans, which is awesome. Goldy makes that possible. He is a friend to all. He can move his head (unlike some mascots). He is not plastic (ahem!!!). Goldy rules.
Also, they understand that going to a football game is fun. It's a fun college football atmosphere on campus now, with bands, cheerleaders, food and people enjoying themselves. There are no drunken fights in the parking lot and it's all love. My girls also see me watching the games, yelling at the tv, jumping off the couch as well, which is normally questioned with, "Uh, Daddy, why are you jumping and yelling?" But it's okay, because it's fun.
Sometimes on TDG or I'll read on other message boards, Gopher fans will have a ridiculous debate about who is a "true fan" or a "real fan". A pointless argument but I don't think there is any doubt that Tim chose the Gophers and fell in love. He's never wavered and like many of us he'll be
burning cars partying all night in dinkytown when we win a Rose Bowl. Smiling wider and never prouder to be a Gopher fan. Someday his loyalty and dedication will pay off...someday.
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