You’ve likely heard the joke, though I won’t blame you if you’ve forgotten it.
A guy brings his family to the stadium to watch his favorite, but terrible, sports team. But he accidentally leaves the four tickets on his car dashboard. When he returns to the car, he finds the windshield smashed and in the spots where the four tickets were he finds....
That’s the joke I thought about as we walked back towards our car at halftime of the Gophers-Illinois game on Saturday night. I was walking with The Voice of Reason™ and The Boy™, and another family with two boys, age seven and nine. The three boys were about as excited and energetic as they had been all night. Because we were leaving.
I don’t know the last time I went to a homecoming game for the U. My impression? I think it’s probably a pretty good place to sober up, and that’s good, because there were a fair amount of college students who could use precisely that kind of help. Not that I blame them. I don’t think I’ll make the mistake of attending another Gophers game without some serious toxins in my nervous system.
Otherwise, it’s just too painful. I took our family and our friends to the game because the tickets were free. I treated the kids to popcorn and some pop and the beautifully occupying magical malt cup. And I STILL felt like I was torturing them.
It was that bad. The score was 7-0 before we sat down. It was 14-0 before I brought them the popcorn. When the Gophers pulled within 11 points, it felt like a moral victory. Within fifteen minutes, the boys started spacing out, which meant they missed out on both opportunities to cheer. The Boy™’s favorite part was watching the Illinois cheerleaders do their pushups and flips.
I mean, I’m dealing with grade school boys here. There is absolutely NO WAY to interest them in a football team that is perennially terrible. Which is why I’m barely a Gopher fan, because I was in their shoes thirty years ago. And why I feel so silly writing this. The stadium was half empty for its homecoming. We now have several generations of kids trained in apathy. Do I really think anyone is going to be reading this?
With two minutes left in the first half, I realized that every minute longer was another minute too many. This wasn’t a nice family outing. This was the 21st century equivalent of the endless wood-paneled station wagon treks with the family across Nebraska. The high point was going to be the end. And the low point was going to be every single minute before the end. And if you add up all of those single minutes, I think we’re going on something like forty years.
So as we walked back to the car, I reflected. I had spent my Saturday night introducing my son and his friends to the joke that is U of M football.
I won’t blame them if they do their best to forget it.