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2019 Minnesota Golden Gophers Potluck #1: Is Minnesota a football school now?

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What does PJ Fleck need to do in 2019 to keep the momentum going?

Quick Lane Bowl - Minnesota v Georgia Tech
There was a wide-lens photo of this scene, too, but let’s be real—we’re focusing on the only face that matters in Minnesota football.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Welcome to Minnesota Week!

WSR has already fired the opening salvo for the week, with his usual dismissals of wisconsin and brash assertions that Minnesota’s got All-Heisman (or something) talent at every position in the Cocktail Party Preview. But now the rest of the OTE jackals get to swoop in, with their assessments of, well...we’d say Minnesota football, but we all know it’s really just of PJ Fleck.

So if you’re new, welcome! These Potluck portions of our B1G 201X series are a chance to incorporate a couple things you don’t get in the previews offered by our Minnesota writer:

  1. A smorgasbord of hometown cooking—from Cozy Dogs to Fat Sandwiches—to help us better understand the Great Midwestern Traditions of hotdishes, lutefisk, and Twinkies.
  2. The perspective/comments/criticism/barely-veiled trolling from our non-Minnesota Off Tackle Empire writers.

Plus, what could be more Minnesotan than a Potluck? No, no one died, no need to call the Funeral Luncheon Ladies from Sleepy Eye-St. Mary’s (they do a helluva ham roll, though)—but we’ll get you a nice spread of ethnic cuisine from across the Star of the North.

Today, we’re talking Italians, insensitivity, and improvements in Minnesota cuisine and football.

Question #1: East Side Pride, or Dated Italian-Plated?

Looking for a food-based controversy to kick off Minnesota Week? Stop by the East Side of Saint Paul, where the local Italian heritage has given us the glorious, spicy, delicious dish that is the hot dago:

A patty of varying proportions of Italian sausage (I prefer spicy) and ground beef (I prefer minimal), pan-fried (or baked), then usually served open-faced on Italian bread and drowned in spicy red sauce and mozzarella cheese. YUM. (Here’s a good, simple recipe.) My favorite was at Romolo’s on the northern end of Arcade on the East Side; since it’s closed, though, I’ll “settle” for a dago at Yarusso’s on the East Side or, of course, DeGidio’s on West Seventh, just a mile down the street from Xcel Energy Center. You can even visit Dusty’s Bar and Dagos in Northeast Minneapolis, where the signage certainly gets your attention.

Of course, as its name--and perhaps your cringe reading it--implies, the hot dago is no stranger to controversy. Every few years, the “dago” name comes up in some op-ed or when an out-of-towner visits and is outraged at its supposedly-offensive nature (these are Italian restaurants owned by Italians selling it, but never mind).

So we ask, “writers”: (1) Ever had or made a hot dago? Wouldja? (2) Give us one of those local, every-few-years controversies that pops every year or two.

MNW: I have a wonderful recipe for hot dagos that I’m sure I’ve shared in the comments at some point, but it really is a wonderful recipe. I go extra spicy on mine, and drown it in cheese--easy on the spicy red sauce for me. Mamma mia.

The local controversy that popped into my head was actually the Northwestern controversy of when, every 2-3 years, some hifalutin freshman or sophomore on the Daily Northwestern will write a haughty “It’s time to stop shaking our keys like a bunch of elitists” editorial. Fuck off, rookie. You’ll be fetching coffee at The New Yorker in four years’ time, let your hair down and have a little fun (while being a little elitist) while you’re in college. Plus, bullshit you haven’t trotted out the line “south of I-80 is downstate; south of I-70 is the Confederacy” line about Illinois despite never having been south of Joliet in your miserable life.

Andrew: I’ve not had this exact concoction, but in my impoverished college and post-college years i improvised plenty of bread-sauce-meat meals that sort of resembled that, but if a drifter with minimal cooking acumen had made it.

As for a local controversy, I can’t think of one exactly like that. However, here in Detroit, there is still a vocal minority of citizens who maintain the innocence of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, which is an interesting take on the hilariously condemning evidence that came out during his public corruption trial several years ago. I won’t bore you with the details, but given how long he’s been in jail, I’m mildly surprised every time the papers see fit to publish something about his latest gambit for release - the most recent was an appeal to the president. I’m sure Trump will get right on that.

Jesse: That looks delicious. Mainly because (a) protein that is definitely fat-heavy, (b) protein that is most likely fried, and (c) cheese. I’m cool with all of this.

As for a local controversy, I mean, there’s definitely a lot of “should Nebraska ever change such a grand tradition such as using Sirius as the tunnel walk song?” which… who really cares? I don’t know, there’s always outrage to be had, but that is one of the fun ones I see each year.

Thumpasaurus: Hey Jesse, you know where Sirius as entrance music comes from, right? ...AAAAAAND NOW, the STARTING LINEUP...for YOUR CHICAGO BULLS! I didn’t even realize that Sirius was what they used for it, but it’s great to keep drawing comparisons to other things that were great in the 90’s and are so far removed from greatness that people who didn’t experience that era will vote in the next presidential election.

Anyway, that looks delicious. I should probably stop eating everything. I haven’t weighed myself since getting married a month and a half ago, but I’m sure I’m at an all time high, nearing 3-4 nose tackle territory.

I honestly can’t think of any similar controversies around the University of Illinois.

LPW: Ok, this is complicated. My paternal grandfather immigrated from Calabria 100 or so years ago to western New York. I’m proud of my Italian heritage. I love the fact we all live on a continent named most likely named for Amerigo Vespucci that was found by another Italian, Cristoforo Colombo [ed. note: You want to talk about complicated; you just credited a dude with “finding” a continent...]. I take pride in the accomplishments of Enrico Fermi and Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini.

I also strongly dislike the bad rap Italians in Chicago have gotten from criminals like Al Capone and Tony Accardo and various ethnic slurs like Dago and Wop. I really wish movies about those scumbags and criminals weren’t made. I’ve never watched all the Godfather movies, don’t really care for the Sopranos, thought Goodfellas was excellent, and would rather drink gallons of Malört than watch the Jersey Shore.

That being said, I’ll give the hot dago a pass. I think it looks quite tasty and I’ll make it. I might call it another name. When I was younger, I’d probably raise a massive stink about the name, but as I’m nearing 40, there are so many better things to get upset about than something stupid like that.

BrianB2: I have never even heard of that culinary feat in excellence, but hell yes, I would eat one, who wouldn’t?

I guess this isn’t necessarily restricted to a “local controversy”, but I find the roller coaster of a ride that is people’s investment in caring about the Washington Redskins and to what degree it should offend them mildly amusing. (I am not a Redskins fan FWIW).

Other than that, we are really good at intermittently caring about the state of the Chesapeake Bay from time to time.

Creighton: I’ve never made a hot dago, but I would gladly eat one were it placed in front of me because that looked like one delicious pile of grease. Also, I’m not sure “dago” is even in the top-5 most offensive things you can call an Italian.

Every few years somebody leads a crusade against Kinnick Stadium’s pink locker room and how it perpetuates negative stereotypes about women and sexuality. I’ve never paid much attention to it because the locker room was never painted pink to send some subliminal message to the other team calling their masculinity into question, it was painted that way because Hayden Fry (who had a master’s in psychology) believed that the color pink had a calming effect that would make it more difficult for opposing teams to pump each other up before kickoff. Plus, every few years someone like Jim Harbaugh comes in and makes a big stink about the locker room and has their national title hopes dashed.

An excerpt from Hayden Fry’s book: “When I talk to an opposing coach before a game and he mentions the pink walls, I know I’ve got him. I can’t recall a coach who has stirred up a fuss about the color and then beat us.”

Poll

Wouldja?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    YES, no questions asked.
    (98 votes)
  • 16%
    Yes, but it’s a little [/tugs collar].
    (20 votes)
  • 3%
    No, I’m not eating racist salad.
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    No, because I hate good things and find this unappealing because I’m crazy.
    (3 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now

Question #2: Is Minnesota a football school now?

Who would’ve thought that, 4-5 years ago, Gopher football would be the most stable revenue program at the University of Minnesota, with a coach and a vision for the program and some semblance of progress. While Minnesota basketball has settled into comfortable mediocrity under Richard Pitino and Minnesota hockey is firmly rebuilding for all 1500 people who are showing up at Mariucci Arena to watch the Pride on Ice in a playoff game, is Minnesota football the program at the U now? What does PJ Fleck need to go in 2019 to keep that momentum going?

Bonus: Speaking of name changes and 3M Arena at Mariucci, what’s the official name change--sporting or otherwise--you refuse to acknowledge?

Dead Read: I think a great milestone would be to simultaneously hold both the Axe and Floyd. If Peej can knock of Iowa this year, he will have both of those trophies for at least two weeks. Throw in CHAIR, and it would be a great success.

As far as renamed venues goes, I have no idea what they call the stadium where the White Sox play, and I still think of Kaufman Stadium as Royals Stadium - so you can say I curmudgeonly resist just about every sponsored venue /shakes fist at cloud/.

MNW: I think the most amusing part for me has been the grudging acceptance with which the Twin Cities sports media has had to take PJ Fleck’s incremental progress in the Twin Cities. Sure, his wife will still get in Twitter spats with local spittle-flecked (sorry) curmudgeons like Patrick Reusse, and his incessant boosterism and sloganeering will always be cloying, but the wins over wisconsin and Georgia Tech shut critics up for a while and earned Peejus a lot of goodwill. (Hell, I’m excited to go see the Axe at the State Fair.)

Now, as Dead Read notes, it’s time to make some noise with that potential. Pick a QB (more on that tomorrow), win a couple trophy games, and avoid those head-scratching losses. Expectations will continue to go up (justified or not) in the Twin Cities, and with the talk PJ talks, he’ll need 8 wins (even if the 8th is in a bowl game) to show he’s walking that walk.

Anyways, renamed venues: It will always be Camp Snoopy, not “The Park at MOA” or “Nickelodeon Universe” or whatever other corporate bullshit they trot out. Now shut up, let’s go eat our body weight in food court food, play a round at Moose Mountain mini golf, and ride the Pepsi Ripsaw Roller-coaster.

Andrew: Do something to remind everyone who brought hype back to the West. It doesn’t have to be winning the division, though that would certainly help, but both Brohm and Frost have pulled ahead in talent acquisition. Grabbing the axe and shoveling the last dirt onto Paul Johnson may have lent more of a positive lilt to this thing than is really warranted, so prove to doubters like me that those two games weren’t a mirage.

The hockey arena in my hometown was renamed the Dow Event Center like 20 years ago now, but in my heart and often when I refer to it out loud, it remains the Civic Center. Why exactly the old name sticks so firmly when it’s kind of an unremarkable barn, I can’t say, but it does.

Jesse: Starting with the naming thing first, it’s still the Century Link (ironically, the second vendor) in Omaha, and my pro-allegiance is showing but it’s Rich Stadium in Buffalo and you can’t tell me otherwise.

As for Minnesota, I’m with pretty much everyone above. It’s about winning the rivalry games you can win and making people forget that you got murderdeathkilled by Frost for his first win. Changing a defensive coordinator seems to have been the magic bullet, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. I will say that I’m fairly confident in Fleck. I think he’s a load of bullshit when he talks, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good coach. So yeah, go do the damn thing and win some games and we’ll chat about stability in Minnesota… of course, that also means he’s that much more desirable for another role so be careful what you wish for.

LPW: If I were a White Sox fan, I’d refuse to call Comiskey Park Guaranteed Rate field. I’ll just call it Sox Park. This year I’d love to see Peejus get Floyd or the Chair.

Thumpasaurus: LPW isn’t down with The GRF. Neither is anyone else. That also turns the name into a 5-syllable monstrosity, four of which are the sponsor. I’ll say “Guaranteed Rate Field” around the time I’ll recognize Chicago’s tallest building as the Willis Tower. Also, LIttle Caesar’s Arena will always go by its unofficial name, the Dough Louis.

BrianB2: Maryland football embarrassed Minnesota last year, and beat them in Minny with Max Bortenschlager quarterbacking two seasons ago. Maryland doesn’t beat football teams, thus I fail to acknowledge that they have any “positive momentum”, even if they actually do.

Moving on, the University of Maryland has recently changed the name of both of their primary sporting venues. Our basketball arena went from the Comcast Center, to the Xfinity Center, for obvious reasons. I am indifferent to this change, maybe someday referring to it as “the X” for short will catch on, just in time for us to sell the naming rights to someone else.

More controversially, our football stadium went from Byrd Stadium, to simply, Maryland Stadium. I still find myself referring to it as Byrd, mostly because of the familiarity and the fact that “Maryland Stadium” is dumb. No, for those of you more well versed in why the name change occurred, I am not defiantly still calling it Byrd Stadium because “you can’t erase history! Rabble Rabble Rabble!” It just is what it is I suppose.

Stew: Hey, no mention of Minnesota wrestling? They’ve got that freshman phenom Gable Steveson, and….wait, uh, nevermind. Welp, I guess congrats to the premier Minnesota revenue sport, the 7-5 football team.

Otherwise, what Creighton said. The pink locker room. For a while the Victory Polka came under scrutiny due to the lyrics. But they lost that war.

Poll

Is Minnesota a football school?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Yes! Row the Boat!
    (46 votes)
  • 39%
    Yes, which is damning with faint praise.
    (88 votes)
  • 1%
    No, it’s basketball.
    (4 votes)
  • 38%
    No, it’s still hockey.
    (85 votes)
223 votes total Vote Now

There you have it! Let us know your hot dago takes, your manufactured controversies, and whether Minnesota is, in fact, a football school in the comments.