Sunday, November 04, 2007

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before....

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....

....eight tickets.

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.


Jon Marthaler said...

Sir - if we make no effort to create new Gopher fans when the Gophers are terrible, there will soon be no Gopher fans.

What I mean: keep the faith. Someday the Gophers will succeed again. Pure random chance suggests this. And you'll feel better having been on the bandwagon from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

Be a Gopher fan, but don't get hung up on football. Try Wrestling, Hockey, Swimming, Track&Field, Gymnastics, Volleyball, etc.

Anonymous said...

As an NDSU grad, I enjoyed my experience at the Gopher game this year, but I can't for the life of me think of a reason to go if I'm not there cheering on the other team.


SL__72 said...

Its going to get better. The reason the team is so terrible right now is that Mason either became the worst recruiter ever or completely quit trying. Everything I hear about the new staff makes me think they are headed in the right direction.

Once Brewster has his own recruits out there they will be fun to watch again. It just might be a tough year or two before we get there.

Next years recruiting class is already shaping up to be the best we've seen in a long time.

ubelmann said...

Watching the Gophers while I was at school gave me a first-hand look at Laurence Maroney, Marion Barber, Thomas Tapeh, Ben Utecht, and Greg Eslinger. For $5/game as a student, those were some fun offenses to watch. It was painful to see the defense blow those leads, but things were generally good when the offense had the ball.

That said, it'll be a miracle if/when the Gophers go to the Rose Bowl again considering the significant recruiting hurdles that perennially bad teams face.

Vikes Geek said...

It's en vogue to look at Mason's mediocre run at Minnesota and point to his recruiting woes. But if Mason's recruiting is to be used as an excuse for Brewster's problems this year, it should also be pointed out that, while Mason had the tenth-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten in each of his last three seasons, he also had the tenth-ranked recruiting class in every season he was at Minnesota, with the exception of one year that he crept up to number nine. Even with that recruiting, Mason did reasonably well against the same mediocre schedule against which Brewster's squad is now struggling.

And if we are going to pin our hopes on Brewster's purported recruiting acumen, and we are going to rely on the numbers to tell us that Mason left Brewster with consecutive poor recruiting classes, it's instructive to note that Brewster's current commitment pool ranks him tied for last in the Big Ten.


ubelmann said...

Huh, I didn't know Mason's recruiting classes were consistently ranked that low in the Big Ten. Considering that he averaged around a 6th or 7th place finish in the Big Ten during his tenure, and never seemed like an impressive in-game strategist to me--he was either really good between games or the recruiting rankings were just not very good.

I don't have too much trouble believing that the recruiting rankings are highly flawed, though. The vast number of high school players being recruited each year makes the idea of a comprehensive ranking system seem rather impossible to implement in practice.

SL__72 said...

What are you basing that on? has their current recruit class ranked 6th in the Big Ten and 40th overall.

We also have a 4-star commit, which we had 0 of in Mason's entire tenure.

ubelmann said...

We also have a 4-star commit, which we had 0 of in Mason's entire tenure.

Mason also had five picks in the top 200 in the NFL draft, and there seem to be roughly 200 4- and 5-star recruits in's lists. So how much do the rankings really mean?

John said...

Wow. Who woulda thought a Gopher football post would draw nine well thought out comments. Thanks everyone.

SL__72 said...

Sometimes a 6th round pick turns into a superstar but that doesn't mean 6th round picks are better then first rounders. It might not mean everything that our recruitment class is ranked higher then it was when Mason was here, but it certainly isn't a bad thing.

SoCalGophersfan said...

Mason's problem was he had no clue about recruiting defensive players. Or coaching it. Or caring about it. His success hinged on teaching undersized lineman how to cut block and finding diamond-in-the-rough running backs and turning them into stars.

Brewster came into a tough situation, but it's obvious he is learning on the job. Hopefully, he'll learn quickly. And if not, hopefully, Maturi won't wait as long to get rid of him as he did with Dan Monson.

The Gophers hired Brewster for his recruiting ability, so they need to be patient. However, this team has been getting worse, not better.

Anonymous said...

The lone highlight of taking my son to a Gopher football was riding the light rail from the MOA.