Origins of a Gopher Fan

I debated for a while what to do with my first official story as a front pager. I knew I wanted to give a quick intro into my background so that I wasn't a complete cipher to you all. The quick rundown I came up with? My name is Chris. I grew up in northwestern Minnesota. I played basketball in HS and part of college. I'm a fan of all Minnesota sports, but the Gophers didn't become my #1 team until college. I live am marooned in Madison, WI. I am a season ticket holder for football. I own way too much Gophers gear and rock Zubaz to games. That's right, Zubaz are back and they're still ridiculous, hideous, fantastic. You know you all want to join the movement.

As I pondered what to write after that brief intro it hit me...One of the best things about sports is all the different ways that folks become fans of a team. For some it's because of their parents. For others it's because of where they grew up. Some people pick a random team to follow and make it their own. And while many of us probably share some common themes in how we became Gopher fans, each of our stories is unique.

As I considered that idea I began to group and define my own roots as a Gophers fan. In fact, I think I've come up with a pretty good set of categories that anyone could use to classify how their origins as a fan of the Gophers. I'm sure that I've overlooked some good category ideas, so please suggest your own in the comments! Also, I think it needs a snappy name (possibly one that can serve as a nice acronym). If you've got any ideas on that, please share them too. Once I've listed the high level classifications, I'll introduce you (as concisely as I can) to my own origin story.

Origins of a Gopher Fan:

Geography

Pretty self explanatory. You'd fall into this category if the primary reason you became a Gopher fan was that you grew up or lived in Minnesota.

Relationship

I made this one pretty generic because I feel there is a lot of different relationships that can lead to fanhood. The most common is family, particularly parents, but friends or a significant other could also fall into this category. If the primary reason you became a fan was via your relationship (whatever kind that might be) with someone else then you'd fall into this category.

Alumnus

Again, self explanatory. This describes folks who became fans primarily because they went to the U.

Experience

I'd describe this as anyone who became a fan because of a Gophers game or event. Perhaps you went to your first game at The Barn and loved the atmosphere. Maybe you watched a thrilling Gopher victory on TV. You could have met and loved Goldy as a kid. Or maybe Ray Christensen's iconic voice drew you in and was the soundtrack of your favorite Gophers moments. Whatever the reason, this category describes anyone whose primary reason for being a fan is an experience (or set of experiences) that made you care about the Gophers.

Random/Other

This is the catchall category. Perhaps you weren't a big college football fan but decided to get into it and the Gophers were the team you selected. Perhaps you were a fan of Jerry Kill's from Northern or Southern Illinois and you've adopted the Gophers. Heck, maybe maroon is your favorite color. If your primary reason for being a Gopher fan isn't any of the 4 choices above you might fall here.

Combo

Also self explanatory. Many folks can't point to one primary category or reason that they are a fan. If you were born in MN, grew up in a Gopher household, and went to the U, there is a good chance you view all of those factors as equally important sources of your fanhood. In that case, the Combo category is for you.

One important note. I'm not trying to imply that any of these categories makes someone a "better" fan of the Gophers. I've also tried to stay away from classifications of how deep anyone's allegiance to the Gophers is (though I will mention it when I talk about myself). Both of those concepts (quality of fan, strength of fanhood) are especially subjective and frankly I think going down that road only leads to negative classifications. As I said before, each of us has a unique story and I've always felt that those stories are the most interesting part. In then end, we're all fans.

Follow me below the jump if you want to know how I categorize myself. I've also put up a poll where you can select the category that best describes you.

I classify myself as a Combo, with geography, relationships, and experiences forming the core of my Gopher fanhood. So what does that combo look like for me?

Geography: I was born in Michigan, but I moved to MN at age 4 before building any attachments to MI teams. Growing up I was a Twins fan above all, with the Vikings as a close second and Gophers sports (mostly basketball) as a distant third.

Ever since HS I've had sort of a reverse geography thing going too. As experiences turned the Gophers into my #1 sports team being away from Minnesota definitely played a role. I went to college at a D-III school in WI so I could play basketball. It was a great decision that came with some negative consequences as a MN fan. Specifically, being surrounded by Packers fans and Badgers fans. Unsurprisingly this made me hate our rivals even more and in turn strengthened my love for Minnesota teams, especially the Gophers. By the time I moved to Madison after graduation I was an extremely visible and vocal Gopher fan. Being stuck around skunk fans for years will do that to you. =) In my mind, the worst insult any MN friend could give me is to call me a Sconnie.

Relationship: I've had 2 relationships that have primarily impacted my growth as a Gophers fan. The first was my girlfriend during my senior year of HS and into college. She grew up in a rabid Gophers household and went to the U. It was through her that I got the chance to see the Gophers play in person for the first time. The second is my wife. By the time we met I was already a huge fan of the Gophers. But she embraced that and for as long as we've been together she's encouraged and enabled my obsession with the Maroon and Gold. I know that it's not always the case that a spouse is supportive of sports fandom so I consider myself lucky.

Experience: Getting the chance to go to games is what sealed the deal for me and seeing the Gophers in person is what renews my energy as a fan. Up until that college I wouldn't have identified the Gophers as my #1 team. But once I'd had a chance to see the Gophers play in person I was hooked. I fell in love with The Barn. The Dome was as blah as ever, but I loved being a part of the student section and all the cheers and traditions that went with it. As painful as it's been to be a fan in the subsequent years, it's the awesome experiences I've had going to games that keep me coming back each season. Especially now that football is back on campus. I'll never get tired of walking from our tailgate lot on the West Bank to TCF, especially on a crisp, cool, sunny day.

But that's enough about me. I want you guys to share how you became fans. What does your origin story look like? Are you a Combo like me? Or can you point to something more specific that turned you into a Gophers fan? Vote below and then share some more details in the comments!

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