Before WSR and I talked about STRONG DISLIKE WEEK, I had the thought: is it just a matter of territory? Every time we both are desperately clawing our way toward respectability, it seems, Minnesota is circled as a win on Northwestern's calendar, and vice versa.
Taking that one step farther, I found myself thinking, "Goddamnit, every time one of our teams achieves the slightest bit of competence, every other team's success becomes some perceived or real slight to our accomplishments."
And that's where STRONG DISLIKE WEEK came in.
Because that's what Northwestern-Minnesota is: Two teams that haven't been jack shit since before we went to the moon, save for brief flashes of brilliance and other semi-stretches of competence, now desperately trying to claw their way to the point that people take them seriously, dammit, and as a result feeling the need to diminish the accomplishments of the other.
I feel a little torn here, having Grown up Gopher. On the one hand, I generally can't stand Minnesota sports fans (and that includes my own intense self-loathing): We're quick to throw our hands up and say "Well, here we go again!" the moment something goes wrong. My earliest sports memory is my childhood idol, Gary Anderson (shut up). Pain has become a part of my sports existence, and dammit if I haven't learned to embrace it as a way of being.
That translated to Northwestern: We're quick to embrace the Cardiac 'Cats, but we only want to deal with the positive cardiac -- the highs of Victory Right and Smith for Six. The moment 2013 and 2014 happen, it's "Here we go again!" Two tortured fanbases, one yearning for the success of the '50s and '60s, the other yearning for the flashes in the pan to become a real, sustained period of good football.
Will it ever happen for either? Can it ever happen for both? Right now, not without coming at the expense of the other. And I will continue to wish the slightest of ills on my home state's flagship as a result. But I decided to check in with a slow football-loving, moose-worshipping, maroon-and-gold-clad dreamer:
MNWildcat: Yo. Strong Dislike. Why do you Minnesota folk have such a problem with Northwestern? Is it our reliance on statistics? Our beautiful lakeshore campus? Our general good-looking popu--HAHAHA sorry, couldn't finish that last one. Seriously, though. What's the deal?
WhiteSpeedReceiver: I think some of it is the belief that you can't be smart and good at football, no matter how flawed of a belief it is.
You are justNorthwestern. You spend your time in the library when our good Midwestern boys are out in the fields.
MNW: Now let's be damn clear about one thing, sirrah. Iowa gets to use that term because it's cute when they get all riled up for losing to a school they consider below them (Corey Wootton says hi, cornlards). Minnesota, they of the 1-11 in the last decade, does not.
WSR: DO NOT BLAME US FOR THE "PERFORMANCE" OF "COACH" TIM BREWSTER!
MNW: Don't blame Minnesota for...the coach Minnesota hired. YOU WILL ACCEPT YOUR MEDIOCRITY, SIR.
WSR: That was badger plant Joel Maturi.
MNW: But then why do Northwestern fans strongly dislike Minnesota? As a Minnesotan transplant to Evanston, I still struggle with this. Was it the director of NUMB equating the Rouser to "carnival music" or lumping it in the same breath with Michigan State's fight song (now that's fucking carnival music)? Was it the mocking of my accent or our Minnesotan culture? There's an inherent disrespect toward Minnesota in a way that's not directed at Iowa/Nebraska (more of an urban elite snobbery), Illinois (HAT), or anyone else in the conference.
Do you get a feeling of what that might be?
WSR: Is some of it misplaced "dumb hick" syndrome? "You're from Minnesota? Do they even have indoor plumbing that far away from civilization?"
MNW: But that's the thing -- it never seemed to be "dumb hick"... That was reserved for Iowa and Nebraska.
WSR: Did they confuse you with an Inuit?
I honestly think there's a touch of both fanbases looking down their noses at the other.
MNW: Maybe that's what it was. In any regard, though, do Minnesota fans have a sense of why Northwestern dislikes their team? What basis does either one have to look down their noses at the other?
WSR: I honestly have no idea why we do it.
MNW: Like, there's so much stupid in the last 15 years of this series: Victory Right in 2000, #BrewFor2 in 2007, the Smith Pick6 against the ranked Gophers on HC in 2008...and then MarQueis Gray remembering he's a real QB in 2009 and torching the 'Cats at Ryan Field, Minnesota's revenge pick-6 in 2013, the slugfest-decided-by-KR-TD in 2014...these are two teams that can barely decide they want to win a game against each other and promptly mark the other team down as a win in 2015. That's not an uncommon mindset to an fan: you always consider the other team "below you," but it's so patently silly in this matchup.
WSR: And to be entirely honest, it's been a very fun series over that span too. Both earned and given victories for everyone.
MNW: So what I'm hearing, then, is that there's no reason for STRONG DISLIKE. Does this mean we put aside our differences, hug it out, and embrace what is a consistently competitive series over a nice tater tot hotdish?
Or, if Chicagoans prefer, a nice pizza hotdish from Giordano's? (Get it? Because it's not pizza?)
WSR: Sure, as long as we get that win that I fully expect Minnesota to get.
MNW: I see we've come a long way in this discussion. Happy STRONG DISLIKE WEEK, I hope you get a mildly uncomfortable hangnail today, and best of luck to your obviously inferior team the other 11 games of the year. Get that goddamn Axe back at the Great Minnesota Get-Together like it should be.
WSR: Happy STRONG DISLIKE WEEK to you too, and I hope your butler uses the wrong starch on your favorite white oxford.