People tend to mock what they do not understand, and no place in the sporting world is this more true than right here in the land of 10,000 lakes. And with no team is this more true than with my beloved Gopher football team.
To the average sports fan in Minneapolis, Gopher football doesn't matter. Around here it's pretty much Vikings... and then everything else. If the Twins are playing well, we'll pay attention, same for the T'Wolves. The Wild have a very loyal and passionate fan base as well, but the Vikings still rule this town. Gopher football hasn't mattered for a long time.
The Bank (TCF Bank Stadium) has changed some of that as the University campus has been revived on football game days, but, as a whole, there is still an apathetic attitude toward Gopher football. I have friends who are huge sports fans, and specifically huge football fans, and yet, they don't watch Gopher football games unless there is nothing else on TV. These same friends look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them I care more about the Gophers than the Vikings.
These are the types of people who don't watch Gopher football games, and maybe just catch the highlights on the 10 o'clock news, but they will refer to the team as the "Goofers." People who don't pay attention to the program will refer Coach Tim Brewster as "Punky."
To some, losing this apathetic attitude by local sports fans, who are already huge Vikings fans, is almost the litmus test for Gopher football success. While I don't subscribe to that feeling, and choose to believe that success on the field is the real litmus test (crazy, I know), this still got me to thinking: Are the Gophers close to getting over the apathy hump? Are they close to losing these nicknames with the local sports fan?
The Rivalry Esq's preseason Closing Argument on Minnesota.
A breakdown of Minnesota's passing game... breakdowns... in 2008.
Graham puts Adam Weber under the microscope.
Look, I don't know what kind of nicknames other schools have for the Gophers around the Big Ten, but if someone wants to make fun of the Gopher football program, you would think they would come up with something a bit more clever than Goofers. Bit I digress.
This is a nickname that was heaped upon my squad the 2007 football season, otherwise known as 1-11. The Gophers were nothing short of hapless during that season. In fact, they were more hapless than they had ever been in the history of the program. This lead the people that already had apathy, or even disdain, toward the program to start calling them the Goofers... great work.
Last year the Gophers started out 7-1 and the Goofer moniker seemed to have been retired... before dropping their last 5 games of the season, including the Insight Bowl. (cue "Send in the Clowns" by Frank Sinatra) Welcome back Goofers.
With a new stadium, a more mature group of players and a new group of coordinators, the Gophers entered 2009 prepared to "Pound the Rock!!!" Apparently our offensive line didn't get the memo. In any case, the Gophers beat an improved Syracuse team lead by Greg Paulus (Did you know that he went to Duke? Yeah, he played PG for Coach K... how about that?), and the scrappy Air Force triple-option to go 2-0 against two of the more difficult non-conference foes that the Gophers have faced in years.
As their weak non-conference schedule was one of the biggest knocks against the program in the past, would this tougher schedule finally relieve the Gophers of their goofy nickname?
Enter Cal. A team that nobody gave the Gophers a chance to beat. And while the Gophers did not beat Cal, and while we are not satisfied with moral victories, the Gophers did put up a fight against a very legitimate Top 10 ranked team.
This squad has a defense that appears to be prepared to roll with the best offenses in the country, and an offense that, while it hasn't been spectacular,at least has a guy like Eric Decker that should have the ability to get any red-blooded American male pumped up about football... even if that guy happens to be a Vikings fan from Minnesota.
This is actually a mildly entertaining nickname and pretty creative to boot. It also unfortunately somehow fits Coach Brewster, or at least, in my opinion, it did during the first year of Brewster's tenure. In the beginning the Coach had a tendency to let his words speak for his program, in spite of what his program was actually saying about itself on the field.
Coach Brewster is a bit quirky, a bit excitable, and a bit of a salesman. In and of themselves these aren't bad qualities. Mixed together in the same bowl they tend to bring strong reactions from people... both good and bad. He has uttered such phrases as "get'cher dad-gum chili hot," the aforementioned "pound the rock," and even "a pretty darn good impressive display."
Fortunately Coach Brewster's calling card when he came to Minnesota wasn't his ability to coin phrases, but his ability to recruit great players. While he hasn't always looked like a genius in press conferences, he has looked pretty impressive on the recruiting trail landing a top 25 recruiting class in his first full year on the job.
Despite the fact that a lot of people liked to bash the Gopher football program for it's poor non-conference schedule in the past, there were also a lot of people who found fault with Coach Brewster's desire to schedule a more difficult non-conference schedule in the future. But with a 2-1 start to the season against tougher non-conference foes, and the loss being a competitive match against a Top 10 program, Coach Brewster's team looks much more prepared to jump into the conference schedule, and perhaps he won't look quite so punky when the season shakes out.
So what are your thoughts? Is Minnesota on the verge of becoming a respectable program in the Big Ten?