As some of you may have seen from previous comments/posts, I am not a native Minnesotan. (Or a current Minnesotan, for that matter.) In fact, I'm not even from what is technically considered "Big Ten County." I come from the far away land of Missouri. I preface with this point because I want you to know that I didn't grow up listening to older folks regale younger me with old tales about the Little Brown Jug or Floyd of Rosedale. It wasn't until I was a little older that I knew about these crazy, beat up pieces of junk that college football teams often played for on crisp autumn afternoons. But when I first saw that gorgeous, wonderful, magnificent Axe, it was love at first sight.
I can't explain the hold Paul Bunyan's Axe has on me. I know the story behind the Axe itself isn't as cool as the Jug or Floyd or heck, even the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy. But there's just something about it and those old clips of watching last year's loser sprint across the field to rightfully reclaim their beloved tool and merrily chop down their opponent's goal post. Due to my obsession with this piece of hardware, along with my older sister having attended the University of Wisconsin - Madison and having actually met a few people from the dreaded state to the east, the Badgers quickly became my personal "most despised rival." And so my longing for the Axe, with each passing year, has reached maniacal proportions. It almost seems unobtainable at this point, like some golden ring hanging just out of the Gophers' reach.
The Big White Jug Story
The Big White Jug Story
But enough of my longing for the Axe. Let's get to the real meat of this editorial.
At first, I was puzzled as to what I should call this post. "Favorite" can mean a lot of things to different people. Furthermore, someone could love the Broken Chair trophy but not really care about playing the Cornhuskers all that much, making the rivalry "fun" but slightly less intense. Below, I plan to provide you with the criteria and ratings I used in making my decisions (I invite you to use them as well!) regarding which of the Gophers' prizes is my personal "favorite trophy." After the criteria and rating method has been discussed below, I'll give you a ranking of my favorites from "least" to most.
(Before I start, let me emphasize that none of this is based on facts. It is all an opinion of one person. I hope we have a great discussion in the comments about the pros and cons to all the trophies!)
In order to be considered and a part of the rankings, the trophy has to actually be played for in the current structure of Gopher football. Basically I'm saying, sorry, I love the Bacon but it's no longer played for and has been removed from the list of trophies under consideration. That's really the only differentiation I feel like I had to make when it came to the hardware the Gophers play for. I'm sure some of you traditionalists wish the Bacon could be a part of this but since I haven't ever seen the Bacon or a game in which the Bacon was played for, it will sadly not be included.
I came up with four factors to rate the trophies. Each factor receives a score from 1-10 (1 being the worst, 10 being the best). The trophy with the highest score is considered my "favorite." All four of the factors could pretty much be scored on opinion so the final score will relay heavily on your personal preferences and experiences.
The four factors are as follows
Coolness of the Actual Trophy - Ask yourself: how cool is the actual trophy? Do I think this particular object is interesting/fun/awesome in trophy form? A one rating would probably be reserved for this monstrosity. But, then again, different people might think different things are cool...
Origin Story of the Trophy - How did this trophy come to be played for? Is the story interesting? Most excellent? Historically important? Embellished so much that it has become urban legend?
Strength of Rivalry - Does the team across the field you are playing to obtain the trophy actually qualify as a legitimate rival? Would they be a rival without the trophy? How much do you dislike that team?
Personal Interjection - This one is up for the most interpretation and will yield the greatest variance among Gopher fans. Someone might hate Iowa more because they grew up there and despise the constant smell of pig feces. Another person might detest Penn State because their obnoxious drunk uncle went there and yells, "WE ARE" at every family gathering. Or someone might just be obsessed with a certain trophy, like yours truly.
Those are the factors I am using to compile and order my list of favorite trophies. So without further ado, I present to you...
Mowe0018's Official Favorite Minnesota Golden Gopher Trophies Rankings
5. The Governor's Victory Bell
Total Score: 0 out of 40 points
Opponent: Penn State
First Played for in: 1993
Applicable Movie Clip
I know I said would receive a score of 1-10 for each factor but 0 points just seems so right when it comes to the Governor's Victory Bell. Maybe the only redeemable quality about the Bell is that it doesn't have a coporate name attached to it. Instead, it basically rips off the history between Minnesota and Iowa and inserts the word Governor to attempt to indicate some sort of pseudo-sports-political conflict that doesn't exist. We won't be playing Penn State all too often since they reside in the East and I honestly have only met one Penn State fan in my life. We are all dumber for playing for this shop-class-project of an excuse for a trophy. May the football gods have mercy on our souls.
4. The $5 Bits of Broken Chair
Total Score: 19 out of 40 points
First Played for in: 2014
Applicable Movie Clip
What it comes down to for me and the Chair is there's something to be said for longevity and history. That's what makes the trophy games great, especially within the Big Ten. There will always be a part of me that wonders every year why the heck we're playing Nebraska and disappointed that realignment did, indeed, occur. I'm glad they're part of the Quadrangle of Hate and we will play them every year (barring any more realignment shenanigans) but this trophy's score suffered greatly from a lack of rivalry against the Cornhuskers and my personal lack of interest. While the backstory is definitely amusing and the trophy itself is alright, it's not really an important trophy to me because the rivalry, "never was."
3. The Little Brown Jug
Total Score: 24 out of 40 points
First Played for in: 1903*
*It wasn't technically "played" for but it definitely made its first appearance in this year.
Applicable Movie Clip
The story of the Jug, even the tamer version that HipsterGopher bestowed upon us, is amazing. For that, it got very high marks. Beyond that though, it suffered in its ratings. Michigan isn't really a rival. The fact that they have beaten us like a rented mule in the last 50ish years of the game hasn't helped. The fact that they have much bigger fish to fry in Michigan State and Ohio State also hurts. And lastly, we won't be playing them all that often due to not sharing a division. While Michigan fans can be insufferable when the Blue and Maize are really good, personally I don't really care all that much about Michigan. The Jug is awesome, no doubt, but the only reason I care about playing Michigan is the Jug. While some of you may scoff at my placement of the Jug, I feel I, "chose wisely."
2. The Floyd of Rosedale
Total Score: 35 out of 40 points
First Played for in: 1935
Applicable Movie Clip
Oh Floyd, you beautiful Pig you. The story of how Floyd came to be is part one part history, one part football, and two parts politics. Combine that rich yarn with the spectacular statue that Floyd is and the amount of animosity between the two states and you get a very high score. Our neighbors to the south are in our division and the rivalry has been very competitive for most of the recent past. I mean, there's a reason the student section enjoys a certain chant even when the Gophers aren't playing the Hawkeyes. The fact that a 98-pound bronze pig can incite such distaste and passion is why Floyd is not only a great trophy but a great symbol of the rivalry.
1. Paul Bunyan's Axe
Total Score: 36 out of 40 points
First Played for in: 1948
Applicable Movie Clip(s)
Sorry, had to put both in because... well, I think you know why.
Paul Bunyan's Axe is, without a doubt in my mind, my favorite trophy. Though it seems a bit plain, I think the activities surrounding it are the best. If a team "wins back" the Axe, you just get to charge over to the other side line and claim it right back. I wasn't a Gopher fan yet when Rhys Lloyd did his thing in 2003 but the clip of the ending of that game is everything that makes college football great. The fact we haven't seen the poor Axe in 11 years adds to its lore in my opinion. And while there have been plenty of blowouts, the games are often ferociously competitive. The fact that the two neighboring states have only one FBS football team each makes these two teams natural rivals. In 2008, I went to Madison for the game. It was a back and forth affair that of course ended in typical Axe heartbreak. We lost 35-32. As my friend and I walked back down State Street away from Camp Randall (we needed to get dinner and then catch a bus back to the Cities), a group of bro-tastic Badger fans literally walked about six feet behind us for several blocks chanting "GOLDEN SHOWERS" *Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap* "GOLDEN SHOWERS" etc, etc. We had done absolutely nothing to provoke them. We literally kept our heads down the entire time, just kind of nervously chuckling to each other hoping they didn't feel anymore humiliation was necessary. I hate Badger fans the most. And so I treasure the Axe the most. The rivalry is spectacular, albeit sliiiiiightly one-sided recently, and the trophy is my hands down favorite.
So you've read about 1500 words of my drivel. Now it's time to hear for you! Vote in the poll and discuss why your favorite is your favorite!