When approaching this article, I decided initially there were two possible avenues I might attempt. The first was to attempt a one-up of last season’s rival write-up of Minnesota. A treatise of vitriol, contempt, disdain, and sheer hate woven together in a fashion so lucid, so compelling, and so accurate so as to earn not simply the description poetic or my eternal admiration, but also to make me realize that I myself could not hope to express antipathy in a manner so eloquent. A repeat of last week’s expression of disgust that is losing to Indiana remained as an option, but in reality it wasn’t.
Since college football began in 1993, the Goofers (an epithet as churlish as it is damningly appropriate) have managed a whopping four victories against the flagship university of the Grand Ole’ Badger State, with zero coming in the period called 2004-present. For that reason alone I am confident stating I have forgotten what losing to Minnesota feels like, consequently sapping whatever rancor I may have once held in the depths of my Muenster-encrusted heart for that other august institution. I still hate- but this no longer describes my feelings for Goldie. Pity best expresses those sentiments. Why?
Because Minnesota is a safety school.
Not a place where you learn CPR or first aid (although one imagines you could learn those valuable skills there). But a back-up plan. Second fiddle. Not my safety school, mind you- I had no need for such things. As we entered senior year of high school, discussion invariably turned to where we were applying. Top-tier students submitted applications to Madison and Madison alone; second-tier kids hedged their bets and sent an insurance plan to the Twin Cities. But this happened not only back home in southeast Wisconsin- it also took place in Brooklyn Park, Minnetonka, Rochester, Duluth, and Minneapolis-St. Paul itself. Minnesota’s best and brightest, flee their home state to bask in the glory, superior campus, and grandeur that is Madison. In return, we send you B+/B students.
Did you assume my rant was about academics? In part. But the description above applies just as much to the sad state of University of Minnesota athletics, particularly football. Think of this as, in part, an open, back-handed thank you letter to the University of Minnesota for being so inept for so long that they’ve not only taken up permanent residence at the very bottom of the conference (and by take up residence, I mean they broke into the cellar, squatted, were awarded the deed after residing there for a fixed period of time, and now charge Purdue rent), but they cannot even convince their in-state talent to stick around. And, as a result, Bret Bielema (whose decision to publicly humiliate The Tight Ends Coach with a 2PA should be lauded in Minnesota quarters, not condemned) and Barry Alvarez (as well as Bo Ryan and Mike Eaves) have sat back and reaped the benefits.
So, thank you. And thank you. And thank you some more. And thanks again (sort of). Thank you for Jamie McBain and for Derek Stepan. This thank you letter could continue, but reminding the Goofer Nation of the playmakers it lost to those evil cheeseheads from the east explains only in part why I no longer feel such hate towards Minnesota. Even though Eric Decker kicked Jack Ikegwuonu in the balls. Even though at that same game some moron sucker punched my brother in the back of his head (to be fair, if he’s anything like me, he probably deserved it). These feelings of pity, almost bordering on compassion, well up inside of me as I think of all the things the U-M family has been denied over the years: until recently a decent stadium (which, while better than that joke of a multi-purpose room used before it, still hardly managed to operate for the one thing it’s designed for in December), or a rightful spot for Laurence Maroney on Bill Simmons’ pantheon of faces.
I’m not here to call U-M Bucky’s personal whipping boy. Despite the pangs of pain I feel for the moribund Minnesota football program, I cannot help but think of the many similarities our two great states share. The terms "Minneosta nice" and "Wisconsin nice" are interchangeable. The economic, demographic, geographic, ethnic, and cultural makeups of our respective homes are practically the same. And both have a recent history of electing dimwitted, incompetent hacks to gubernatorial office. Whether the alumni of our schools wish to admit it, we’re like family. But how to define those ties that bind?
Minnesota is like the Chicago Blackhawks (four Stanley Cups ever) to Wisconsin’s Detroit Red Wings (four Cups since ’97). Like Bud Light to a cool, refreshing Leinie’s Red. Like Brooks Bollinger as a Minnesota Viking to Brooks Bollinger the Rose Bowl-winning quarterback. Similar, but not nearly as good.
And in the family that is Big Ten football, Minnesota is that guy you can whip the crap out, that guy you can force to cry out ‘uncle,’ the guy who will always try to be as cool as you, but can never hope to keep up with you. The guy who knows his place. But you can’t hate him. So, that would make Minnesota Wisconsin’s….
(Also, your campus sucks. And just for the hell of it, remember this?)