Few things can match the passion of my sports fandom. You don't find yourself writing on a sports blog about a team that has gone without conference titles in the Big 2 for multiple decades without a slightly unhinged amount of passion and dedication. But one thing I do find myself (almost) equally as passionate about is the world of film.
A cynic might say that Hollywood has become bloated with blockbusters, super heroes, over-sexualized explosion-fests, and one too many Fantastic Four reboots. I like to focus on the positives instead. I like to go back and watch To Kill a Mockingbird when I feel as if my moral compass has lost it's magnetic north or lose myself in the Lord of the Rings trilogy for umpteenth time. Heck, I even like to indulge in the occasional foray into the world of Marvel Cinematic Universe, if only to be entertained with some fancy CGI and amusing dialogue. Movies allow us to lose ourselves in a story, even if that trip only lasts for two hours and change. I could go on and on with lazy cliches and half-attempted extended metaphors about how fantastic the world of cinema is but this is a Gopher blog and we must get down to business.
My Gopher fandom extends as far back as my association with the University. When ole Timmy Brew sauntered onto the hallowed grounds of Dinkytown, I was also meandering my way onto campus for the first time. Sadly, our timelines will be forever intertwined. I preface with this note to explain why this post focuses on less than a decade of Gopher football history. While my first-hand experience may be only limited by time, the emotional gamut I've run in those years makes me feel like I've cheered for the Gophers for much longer.
So without further ado, I present to you the last eight years of Gopher Football as explained by movie quotes (disclaimer: some of these clips contain adult language and content).
January 17th, 2007
Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse.
- Frank Abagnale, Sr. from "Catch Me If You Can"
Both Frank and Timmy were the ultimate snake oil salesmen. Frank Abagnale, Sr seemed like a smart guy with a plan, making an inspiring speech about mice. Tim Brewster seemed like an up and coming football coach with the ability to motivate people, making an inspiring speech about Pasadena. Abagnale was soon to be divorced and arrested by the IRS. Brewster, well..., I suppose we'll get to that.
September 1st, 2007
You're gonna need a bigger boat.
- Brody from "Jaws"
After making a ferocious comeback against Bowling Green, the Gophers lost the season opener 32-31 and Brewster had dropped his first game as head coach of the program to an obviously inferior team from the MAC. It was at this point in time when I thought we (as a fan base) and Brewster (as a head coach) might be in over our heads.
November 17th, 2007
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
- Michael Corleone from "The Godfather, Part II"
Sure, we had just finished up a 1-11 season but we had taken our hated rivals the Wisconsin Badgers to the very brink of an upset, losing only by seven points after a valiant battle. We had been blown out a lot that year but we had kept our greatest enemies reasonably close. Should have known then, just as Michael should have, that things weren't that simple.
October 25th, 2008
I'm the king of the world!
- Jack Dawson in "Titanic"
As lame as Leo looked and sounded in this brief scene, in hindsight, Gopher fans might have looked worse. After starting 7-1 against cream puffs and shooting up to 20th in the AP Poll, we felt like we were kings, if only for a little bit. Poor Jack and Timmy would meet similar ends before all was said and done.
September 12th, 2009
Welcome... to Jurassic Park!
- John Hammond in "Jurassic Park"
The opening of TCF Bank Stadium was a fantastic celebration of awe-inspiring beauty and spectacle. We defeated Air Force in an exciting, tightly contested game. Jurassic Park was similar.... at first. The possibility of a park full of dinosaurs sounds awesome, much like John Hammond believed. Unfortunately, things began to go south. While the Gophers didn't get devoured by a T-Rex or ripped apart by velociraptors, there were certainly horrors awaiting us for the next few years with Brewster at the helm.
November 14th, 2009
Mediocrities everywhere.... I absolve you.... I absolve you.... I absolve you... I absolve you... I absolve you all!
- Antonio Salieri in "Amadeus"
As Salieri speaks of mediocrity and the realization of his lack of talent in such twisted fashion, the same could have been said for the Gophers and the hideous performance against South Dakota State on a frigid day in November. Winning by a score of 16-13 in a season that would see the Gophers finish at 6-6, the understanding that we were mediocre couldn't be any clearer. As it was for Salieri, it was for Minnesota's football team.
October 9th, 2010
Jefferson's really gonna make Lincoln pay for this...He's gonna totally destroy them. Annihilate them. You know what I mean?
- Spicoli's friend in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"
Not so much referenced for the quote, more so for the montage of Jefferson wrecking havoc on Lincoln. This game just made me think that we were Lincoln and Wisconsin was Ridgemont. Right on down to them sharing the same uniform colors. It was another depressing defeat in a string of depressing defeats in the game I circled first every year on the Gopher football calendar.
(feel free to skip to 4:15 for the quote or watch all of it because Shawshank is the best)
November 27th, 2010
We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. Hell, we could have been tarring the roof of one of our own houses. We were the lords of all creation.
- Red in "The Shawshank Redemption"
A funny thing happened when we fired Tim Brewster. A seed of hope was planted again. And it started with an unexpected victory against the hated Iowa Hawkeyes. Much like Andy's strategic victory over Captain Hadley, the Gophers upset victory brought joy into a dark place. The convicts' reward was beer. The Gophers' reward was a pig.
December 6th, 2010
I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT!!!!
- Brick Tamland in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy"
On this date, Minnesota hired Jerry Kill as their new head coach. This choice was met with a variety of responses, just like the hiring/promotion of Veronica Corningstone. In the movie some responded as misogynists, some with straight confusion (good ole Brick), and some were already deeply in love (Ron). These contrasting responses were similar to the community reaction at TDG about Jerry Kill's arrival in Dinkytown. Collectively, we didn't really know what we had yet. Some people were frustrated, a few people were much more positive. Personally, I wasn't really sure, much like Brick.
September 10th, 2011
I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!
- Howard Beale in "Network"
The situation made you want to pull your hair out just like Howard. We had this coach who said all the right things, was doing all the right things, and seemed to have the team working hard. We had barely lost to a vastly more talented team at USC. Things seemed to be headed for a brighter future. Then we lost to New Mexico State and our new head coach had an epileptic seizure on the sideline at then end of the game. This was before we knew much about the condition. I wasn't mad at Coach Kill. I was mad that we lost the game in the waning seconds and that this man who seemed to show such promise had a condition that would make his job an even bigger challenge than it already appeared to be. Luckily, my anger at the game's result and the fanbase's hand-wringing about his condition have since proven to be misplaced, unnecessary, and downright silly. But at the time, I was extremely frustrated.
October 29th, 2011
Cinerella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!
- Carl Spackler in "Caddyshack"
During an adjustment season under a new head coach, highlights were few and far between. But just as Carl Spackler was pretending to be an underdog at the Masters, the Gophers decided to play spoiler to the Hawkeyes, retain Floyd, and make Jerry Kill a winner in his first ever trophy game. This after Brewster went winless in 3+ years. And just like Spackler, it seemed like it came out of nowhere.
September 22nd, 2012
Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
- Rick Blaine in "Casablanca"
The Golden Gophers and Jerry Kill had just defeated Syracuse in a highly anticipated night game at TCF Bank Stadium. The defense looked hungry, the night time crowd was electric, and the record for the season stood at 4-0. Things were going swimmingly and according to plan. All seemed well. This was when I officially got on board going forward. It was the beginning of something beautiful.
December 28th, 2012
After all, tomorrow is another day!
- Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind"
I was mind-numbingly sick when I was watching Minnesota's first bowl game under Jerry Kill and I actually fell asleep for part of it. When that short Texas Tech field goal sailed through the uprights and the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas was los, all I could think to myself was, "we'll get 'em next year!" It was easiest to put the defeat behind me and just look forward to what I believed was going to be a bright future.
October 26th, 2013
I run six plays, split veer. It's like Novocaine. Just give it time, always works.
- Coach Boone in "Remember the Titans"
Just like Coach Boone, Coach Kill had the feeling the jet sweep would work. And work again. And again. And again. And so my feelings after the surprise victory over Nebraska had me feeling as giddy as when I would hear this line in Remember the Titans and give a good chuckle. A smile on my face then. A smile on my face now just thinking back on it. The Gophers were off and running for good after their victory over a ranked Nebraska squad.
November 23rd, 2013
Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown.
- Lawrence Walsh in "Chinatown"
I had made the long trek up to the Twin Cities from St. Louis to watch the Gophers finally, FINALLY take down the team I most despised: the pesky Wisconsin Badgers. Sadly, it wasn't to be. As I stood and stared at the field watching the Badgers chop at the goal posts with our Axe once again, my friend gave me a gentle tug on the arm to indicate we were leaving. It was as if he almost wanted to utter the words, "Forget it, Mark, it's Wisconsin."
September 27th, 2014
Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
- Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"
When we had won back the Little Brown Jug for the first time since 2005 and started the conference season off with an away victory, which are few and far between even for the best teams, I was ecstatic. But I will admit, I was also greedy. I thought the team was good. I thought we could make some noise in the division and cause some trouble. I thought we could accumulate some wins in Year 4 of the Jerry Kill's rebuild. It turned out I wasn't completely wrong but I was definitely greedy when I saw the players hoist the Jug above their heads. I definitely had my eye on another, more valuable possession...
November 29th, 2014
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
- Michael Corleone in "The Godfather Part III"
I'll admit it. I thought we had it. We were up 17-3. We had forced Wisconsin to punt. The game had settled down a bit and the crowd appeared to be hunkering down for the long haul. I thought we'd be parading the Axe back to Minneapolis with a division title in hand as well. Every time I think we'll finally retain that beautiful piece of lumber, those Badgers pull me back into the losing streak. That depressing, long, summerless 11 year streak...
January 2nd, 2015 on through the current day
Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
- Andy Dufresne in "The Shawshank Redemption"
I've been filled with hope since the Citrus Bowl. I guess the best way to explain it is to paraphrase from what you can probably tell is a movie I hold in high regard. It would go a little something like this:
I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a Gopher fan can feel, a Gopher fan at the start of a long Jerry Kill-led season whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope we can make it across the border of Iowa with Floyd still under our arm. I hope to see our Jug and shake its hand(le). I hope the Axe is as maroon as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Feel free to make more movie quote-Golden Gopher football comparisons in the comments!