You know what the best part about Saturday's open scrimmage was? It was football.
There I was, sitting in the stands at The Bank with Jeffrick. A faint buzz from the two Steel Toe Provider Ales lingering in my belly. The sun on my neck. A familiar plastic maroon chair underneath me. The sounds of pads clacking and helmets smashing, of referee's whistles being blown. It was all there. And it was a beautiful glimpse into fall Saturday's that are scant weeks away from actually being upon us.
What struck me on Saturday were some of the intangible things about the Gopher football program in general.
Things seem more organized around this football team than I ever remember. Players knew where they were supposed to be and when they were supposed to be there. The details of being a part of the team are now commonplace to this group. This team, and most importantly, this coaching staff, no longer needs to spend time directing players and groups where to go. Those things are old hat now. This team has the absolute capacity to be coached now.
The team looks different. This point has been made by nearly everyone, but Saturday was my first chance to see the team in person this year and it is noticeable that as a team this group is well ahead of past years from a physical standpoint. It's typical for a player or two to stand out physically in these early practices. It's typical to here, "Wow, so-&-so looks bigger," or "so-&-so has really been hitting the weights." But this team has that feeling almost across the board. Everybody looks stronger, more in shape, and more ready to handle the rigors of a college football season.
Something about the fans is different too. There were 3,000 fans there on Saturday, you guys. And we're not talking about football being months and months away so let's go to the Spring Game and get our football fix. And we're not talking about an overly hot and humid summer day, or a stormy summer day, so let's go sit in the Metrodome. We're talking about an absolutely picturesque summer Saturday afternoon which 3,000 people took time away from to go to watch college football players scrimmage each other. In Minnesota. In August.
Did I mention it was COLLEGE football?
Now look, you can still go to the Star Tribune comments section, or to the KFAN airwaves, and you'll still get plenty of negativity about this team, the coach and college football in general.
Or you can come here and get maroon colored glasses and MOAR MARYLAND-I'S and Free Floyd's and Who Hates Iowa's?!?!
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, and that's fine. As Gopher football fans we've lived battling these extremes for a long time.
But maybe the tides are turning.
While Jeffrick and I sat at Stub & Herb's over a couple of barley pops before heading to the stadium, I told him that sometimes I feel like being a Gopher football fan is the sports equivalent of being a hipster. We like something that other people don't necessarily like and sometimes that means we have to dig for information and sometimes it means we get funny looks and it almost always means we get into arguments about how we can possibly care about the Gophers more than we care about the Vikings. It means that we are all hoping against hope that one day we'll be able to say "pssshhht, I followed Gopher football before it was cool."
Hipster comparisons aside (because this will be the ONLY time I ever compare myself to a hipster), the beauty of a day like Saturday is that those of us that were able to attend know that there are 2,999 other people who got funny looks at work this morning when the words "I went to the Gopher football scrimmage on Saturday" came out of their mouths.