Amazingly, to me at least, TDG has been around for almost 7 years. And I was doing a little blogging before that for a couple years before TDG was formed. All told I've been at this for nearly 10 years and there have been a number of great memories and moments. Since it is the offseason, I want to give you my top 5 Blogger moments. Nearly all of these are TDG moments but one was from the old GopherNation blogspot days. Maybe some of you will remember these and hopefully these are enjoyable to read.
5 6 - Adding Our First Hockey Writer
I'll start with a "lesson learned the hard way story."
Way back in 2008, PagingJimShikenjanski and I kicked off TDG. Both of us had gained a small audience blogging on our own and decided that two of us makes getting out fresh content a little easier. The biggest problem we had, in our opinions, and the one area we figured we would need to grow was hockey. Neither of us knew a damn thing about hockey. So we put out the call to the TDG community, looking for a passionate and willing hockey contributor.
One raised his hand and was excited to join the tiny staff. And we were excited to have a hockey guy. Then we got this as his first preview...
I Thought i would start out the Gopher Hockey Section of the Blog with a Bang, Breaking Down the Roster Position by Position. Lets Start with the Goalies Shall We.
Capitalizing every word and really very little content or opinions in the post. No offense to Tony, but we didn't do our homework. This post cracks me up every time
Unfortunately we still can't seem to find a good hockey guy. Just kidding DK and Jeffrick! Eventually JG pitched in with some hockey content before we signed a Canadian to cover it and then eventually we added DarkKnight. I had a number of previews and other hockey related posts for a while but THANK GOD I don't have to write about hockey anymore (better for all of you).
4 5 - My Football NIT Bracket
Hi, my name is GopherNation and I am a "hits" junkie. Getting people to view what you write is kind of fun. I love tracking the traffic and watching big spikes when something you write gets a lot of action. When I first got my start blogging I was writing solo at a little blog I called "Gopher Nation." I would get somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-50 hits per day, which were mostly friends and family. Then one day after a particularly bad Gopher football season I came up with the Football NIT. It was a little sarcastic but it was something nobody had done. So the next day I look to see my hits and was speechless when I looked to see that all of a sudden I was getting something like 8,000-10,000 hits, all traffic generated by my FB NIT posts. A few national media sites linked to it, several other blogs linked to it and I was hooked!
Not terribly exciting for the rest of you, but my fascination with web traffic exploded and honestly I might be blogging today were it not for that early hit.
4 - Shits and Motions
** EDITORIAL ADDITION - this is very important and would have easily been top 5 had I not whiffed on it. Thanks to JD and the community for righting this wrong.
For a couple seasons JDMill was our Q&A guy. He should come back in August to resume, but that's another topic. So most weeks we get e-mails from that week's opponent's SBN blog and we will exchange questions to help both fan bases understand the upcoming opponent. Prior to our 2013 game against Penn State we exchanged questions with one of the massive SBN blogs...Black Shoe Diaries. BSD gets huge traffic numbers and has a very engaged and passtionate community.
Back when it was just PJS and I putting up articles on TDG the challenge was to write something that garnered 10 comments. Anything less was a fail, but really it was challenging to do. BSD, they could put up a picture of a tree, write no words and garner 200 comments. They have had a massive community for years.
ANYWAY...JD, as always took to the keyboard and warned the Penn State fans about Minnesota's virtually unstoppable usage of shits and motions.
BSD: I think all most non-Gopher fans know about Minnesota is that they sometimes run the Maryland I. What kind of schemes, offensive and defensive, constitute the Jerry Kill philosophy?
TDG: Well, you should know, it's no longer called the Maryland-I, it's called the Golden-I now [ed note: nope]. The Golden-I [ed note: stop trying to make Golden-I happen. It's not going to happen], along with the inverted wishbone, and other power-run formations, will be in play on Saturday. The scheme that Matt Limegrover is running right now can create a lot of confusion for an opposing defense. The Gophers will set up in these power formations, do a lot of shits and motions pre-snap and a lot of different things will be thrown at the defense.
This little typo was buried deep within and 1,100 word post. Hardly noticeable if you are reading kinda fast. But sure enough it was the very first comment made by an astute BSD member. And it only went downhill from there (cause we all know that shit runs downhill).
For those of you newer to TDG, expect to see this in every game thread next fall!
3 - Getting on TV when we won Floyd
Really this has nothing to do with being on TV and everything to do with being able to experience this win up close and personal. I'm going to assume that many of you are familiar with Dan Cole The Common Man talking about being on the field slapping Jack Morris on the back after Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. This is my "slapping Jack Morris on the back" moment.
Since 2008 the University's Athletic Communications Dept has granted TDG access to the press box and various other press conferences and general stuff like that intended for media types. My first game? The pick-6 by Northwestern in the Dome. That was followed by watching Michigan dominate and the final game in the Metrodome a thrilling 55-0 drubbing by Iowa. 2009 was better simply because the accommodations were a shiny, brand new stadium but I had to miss the best win of the year (Halloween romp over Michigan State) due to family stuff.
So 2010's win over Iowa was something kinda special. The first rivalry trophy won since 2006 and a pretty impressive upset for a team that was just riding out the season with a lame-duck coach.
When things started to look like a win was actually going to happen I took my camera, walked down to the field and planted myself behind Floyd of Rosedale (have I ever mentioned my middle name is Floyd?). I stood and waited, even waited through the BS timeout that Ferentz called to require us to take another knee. Several minutes later I received this text from a buddy with my smiling face behind Floyd as the Gophers brought him home.
2 - Gopher Football Is Closing the Doors
This actually happened. TDG's press credential, my chance to see great Gopher moments up close and personal; and my opportunity to report those from a fan's perspective...almost lost because of this. The day following a humiliating monkey-stomp at the hands of Michigan (0-58) in 2011, Jeffrick posted this satirical piece stating that the University had decided to shut down the football program...
after losing four of their first five games, the latest a 58-0 embarrassment to Michigan, he will not get the chance to turn around the Gophers. Not because he's (Jerry Kill) been fired already, but because the University has essentially fired the football team, disbanding the program effective immediately.
Jeffrick went on to included completely made-up quotes from Kill and Maturi.
"It's just not fair to our kids and coaches and great fans of Minnesota to have to watch this every week," Maturi said. "Coach Kill is a great coach- he's a Tubby Smith-like hire you know- but it became clear today that even he can't turn this around. And if he can't do it, then nobody can. Plus with this god-awful team gone, it'll really help me win the Director's Cup."
Asked to clarify just what the hell exactly the "Director's Cup" is, Maturi quickly responded with "uh, nevermind."
Maturi spoke to reporters via a telephone conference call, as he was not at "The Big House" in Ann Arbor to see the game in person because he was busy giving equal time to the diving, badminton, and equestrian teams at the U.
BUT THAT'S NOT THE BEST PART.
Sunday afternoon I get a call from a former senior level member of the Athletic Comm Dept who basically said, "um? WTF?" (that is technically another made up quote but the sentiment is basically the same). I responded saying I have no idea what he is talking about. He then proceeded to tell me that the football offices were receiving calls from recruits and alumni asking if this was in fact true. You really can't make it up. I mean Jeffrick ended the post with a line about tiddlywinks, C'MON PEOPLE!
I would love to get more information on what happened and what was said in the football offices, maybe someday. I quickly added the first line to alert people to the fact that this was sarcasm and we all moved on. I very nearly put this as #1 but I enjoyed the next moment for a couple of reasons.
1 - NCAA Tournament Press Conference
This was a great day for a couple reasons. Much like my Floyd moment in 2010, I was given the privilege to head to Milwaukee to watch the Gophers in NCAA Tournament in 2010 (I guess technically this happened before beating Iowa later in the year). But this being my favorite blogger moment has nothing to do with getting to watch some first round NCAA action from press row (which was about mid-court about 2 rows up) and everything to do with the following press conferences.
First was Minnesota's post-game press conference. The Gophers had just lost to Xavier and their season was finished. This, of course, meant that for the seniors on the team it was over for Damian Johnson, Devron Bostick and yes...Lawrence Westbrook. It was Westbrook who had media members looking at each other in disbelief when he thanked himself for his career and his ability to stick through the tough times.
Me, myself, personally, I like to thank myself for sticking through it. I've been through a lot here. This is a lot of good times. And there's just as many bad times as well with distractions or other people saying stuff, when you read stuff and the paper and other stuff. I think a lot of people probably would have broke down, but I just like to thank my family and just thank God that I stuck with it and I never let anybody break my spirit.
That was kind of funny but the press conference got better from there.
Leading up to the game with 6th seeded Xavier local columnist, Jim Souhan, writes a column about how embarassing it is for the Gophers to be considering this game as one where they are anything but massive favorites despite being the lower seed.
This is a wonderful script, as long as you don't think too hard about the Gophers' self-proclaimed underdog status. Because if you think about it, embracing them as underdogs requires the same willing suspension of disbelief as watching an M. Night Shyamalan flick.
Why? Well because We are a Big Ten program for one and this...
Xavier is coached by a rookie who got his job only because his predecessors bail out for bigger paychecks as soon as they can. Chris Mack's salary is probably supplemented by free Skyline chili. Friday, for the first time, he'll be a head coach in an NCAA tournament game.
He'll be facing Tubby Smith, who makes millions of dollars a year and has taken four programs to the NCAA tournament. In fact, he's taken four programs to the tournament at least twice, and he won it all with Kentucky in 1998.
There was so much more but Xavier went on to win (because they were a good team coached by a good coach) and then Chris Mack went on to thank Jim Souhan at the post-game press conference for helping to motivate his team by blatantly disrespecting his team.
"We're tired of being the little engine that could. We're a really good program. And our kids aren't scared of anybody. We don't always win, but we're not afraid to compete. And Jen and Jim Souhan -- however you pronounce his name -- from the Star-Tribune, thanks for the motivation to tell our kids that we should be fodder against Minnesota. Our kids are used to this stage. We played a lot of NCAA tournaments. We've been very successful. It's my charge and our kids' charge to continue to do that."
Jim, in true "Souhan fashion" didn't bother to back away from this after being called out...nope he doubled-down and continued to go after Coach Chris Mack with another column.
You're welcome. I know that you don't have the force of personality of coaching chops to inspire your players by talking to them about, you know, playing in the NCAA tournament in front of millions of fans, trying to bring glory to your school and perhaps even improving your fugure (sic) career options. Nope, you need a guy writing about your opponent to rally your players.
Obviously, they don't listen to you, or you might have been able to inspire them by asking them to win one for you, the first-year, overmatched coach. So you needed a newspaper columnist to do your job for you.
I will expect you to send me your paycheck for the week for handling your job for you. I hope there's a columnist in PIttsburgh (sic) who can help you this weekend. More likely, Jamie Dixon, a real coach who actually motivates his players all by himself, will eat you alive. Maybe some day you'll be big-time enough to do your own work.
And I was there to witness the beginnings of this, first hand. Souhan was noticeably uncomfortable at the press conference, as would anybody when being called out like that. But his reaction to being called out was predictably petulant and petty. PJS took to the TDG pages and chronicled the entire saga.
The Gophers lost that game but there is no doubt about the memories created that afternoon. A tremendous opportunity.
There are many great opportunities I have been afforded because of TDG and what has been built here. Other honorable mentions for top moments include
- Sid Hartman yelling at Joel Maturi to hire Jeff Horton after the 2010 Iowa win.
- Sid Hartman swearing in the press box when the Gophers do something poor on the field.
- TDG tailgates have been a lot of fun, getting to meet some of you.
- Every time I got to stare deep into the eyes of Adam Weber.
- The relationships built in the press box with the Gopher Illustrated, Scout and 247 guys.
- Buying a whisky and chatting with Amelia about college basketball (OK that hasn't happened yet but it will be fun).
- A few trips to Madison to sit in the press box and watch the Gophers lose The Axe.
- Being at the basketball win over #1 Indiana in 2013.
- One-on-one interviews with MarQueis Gray (maybe my favorite post I have written) and a former men's gymnast who was a great kid.
- A community member who alerted me to a George T. Stagg being available in Grand Forks.
I'm lucky and grateful, no doubt about that. The SBN network has given us a great platform. The University trusted us with access that in 2008 was unprecedented. I get to write with and have hilarious behind the scenes conversations with a great TDG staff (they really are a lot of fun). And honestly (this is sincere) the absolute best part is interacting with other passionate Gopher fans to will debate the things that I (we) write. The conversation and the comments are the biggest driver for putting in the work that gets put into this. Thanks to you guys more than anyone else.
This wasn't supposed to turn into a lifetime achievement post or an acceptance speech or anything like that. Hope you enjoyed reading some of my favorite TDG moments. Some are kind of funny and others are worth reliving. I look forward to altering this top 5 to bump everything down after being in the Rose Bowl press box and seeing the Gophers in Pasadena.