#26: Gophers football

Posted by Megan on November 2nd, 2011

 

I dislike football. My husband loves it.

This is the only sticking point in our marriage, and it’s only minor; about as sticky as a knock-off post-it note. It has always seemed fraught with egos, violence and machismo. I strongly believe the only selling point is the spandex. 

Unlike many football super fans, Brad is very respectful of his obsession. He always spends time with me on Sunday mornings, he takes frequent football breaks to do work around the house, and he usually allows a bit of  TLC to sneak onto the TV at some point on Sunday. Regardless, I think it would be easier on everyone if I just decided to like football. This conclusion is extremely unlikely, but I’ve been inching in that direction thanks to some gentle nudging.

The key to my afternoon adventure. Would it be fun or torture?

For the past two years I  have participated in a “pick-em” league with my work friends. This means I (and by “I”, I mean Brad) select the winners of each NFL game. Last year I won the league and earned the Golden Football trophy along with a $120. This has helped me earn a passing interest in the outcomes of games, but I’m still flabbergasted by the allure of the seemingly barbaric game.

In a thinly veiled effort to support a positive relationship between me and the pigskin (not to be confused with pork rinds) Brad suggested we go to a Gophers football game together. “It will make for a good blog!” he urged.

Brad got four free tickets to the Minnesota vs. Iowa game from a work friend. Brad also invited his parents to join us. The weather was beautiful, which certainly helped the ambiance. I hate being cold almost as much as I hate football. If I ever get kidnapped, the most effective way to torture me would be to force me to watch a football game in the dead of winter like those crazy Packers fans.

Not surprisingly, I’ve never been to a “real” football game. I attended plenty of high school games, where I mostly gossiped, drank coke and ate pixy sticks. I also attended a few University of St. Thomas games back in my college days, but again I didn’t pay attention or stay for more than a few quarters. Tommies Football games were essentially just an excuse to start drinking at noon. By halftime it was off to play tippy cup!

You’d need to pay me several hundred dollars to get me to attend a Vikings game. I seriously can’t think of many worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. Based on the hairdos of the mass majority of Vikings fans they feature on TV, I just don’t think I’d have much in common with the Vikings community.

Sorry Vikings fans, it’s not you – it’s me. I just don’t think we have much in common.

Brad assured me that a Division I college game would be different. Since I’m obligated to spend this year trying new things, I decided to open my mind and give it a try.

We arrived about 90 minutes early and I instantly realized that it was going to be a different experience than I expected.  Tailgating tents spotted the campus, music blared and college kids shot-gunned beers. Since it was a few days before Halloween, there were dressed up fans everywhere. Gumby, gorillas, slutty nurses, you name it – they were making their way towards TCF Bank Stadium. The marching band was performing on the plaza prior to the game.  The 300 person band played several songs as the color guard twirled, threw and danced along. I was especially impressed by the gun twirlers. It was very entertaining and reminded me of a different more simple era where marching bands and football where the height of entertainment.

Nice moves!

After taking in the band we went into the stadium. It is only a few years old, so I expected it to be pristine. It had a great vibe. It wasn’t quite as polished as Target Field (another newMinneapolisstadium), but it was exactly the right finish. It wasn’t glossy or overdone – it was a well executed practical stadium.

I consider myself something of a stadium hotdog connoisseur, so I had an obligation to try one at TCF stadium. It was tasty, but not outstanding. In my opinion, Target Field still has the best dog in the city. 

Yum! (sort of)

The stadium seemed intimate. We had a great view of both scoreboards and the ever-entertaining student section. Even Goldy Gopher (the mascot) got into the Halloween spirit. He donned three different Halloween costumes: Buz Lightyear,  a Ninja turtle and a gladiator.

Goldy Gopher got into the Halloween spirit.

It’s no surprise that Goldy was named to 2011 National Mascot of the Year. He received his honor at the game.

As we settled in, the marching band made their way to the field. They are artists and athletes in their own right. They spend hours practicing and it shows. There music was energetic and their marching patters were precise. The band really turned my attitude around. Instead of resolving to endure the upcoming football game I was, dare-I-admit-it, excited! Although the Gophers aren’t that great, by the time the football players rushed out of the tunnel through a cloud of smoke, accompanied by fireworks, I was feeling myMinnesota pride! 

We were surrounded by a sea of maroon and gold.

 

M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A! Minnesota, Minnesota. Yay Gophers!

I was shocked to realize how different the experience was from watching football on TV. The players seemed so much bigger, more athletic and somehow more human. Our seats were on the 20 yard line about 15 rows back. Although I couldn’t follow the ball on every play, seeing the entire field really helped me understand the importance of every first down and how far one yard can be. Also, the lack of commentary by the obnoxious play-by-play announcers that monopolize televised games with endless jabbering was a welcome relief.

I could enjoy the spandex even from the 15th row!

One of my biggest contentions with watching football games is the frequent breaks. For every minute of action you have to suffer through three minutes of down time. That’s when the commentators swoop in and infiltrate the game with their pure annoyingness. At the game, these breaks were filled with band music, fan dancing, cheerleaders that can actually do tricks (unlike the NFL variety who are useless) and T-shirt cannons. This created the perfect atmosphere for kids, and the easily entertained. (Read: Me!)

Before I knew it I was yelling and cheering like a super fan. I’m pretty sure my enthusiasm was the pivotal piece of encouragement that helped the Gophers win the game – a huge upset as Iowa was heavily favored to pulverize the Gophers.

I enjoyed myself far more than I ever expected. While I don’t think I’ll ever be dying my hair maroon, or painting a big “M” on my stomach, I would love to go to another game.

Now, since I gave you zero details about the actual game (because I understood basically zero percent of the game), I’ve enlisted Brad-cakes to give you a real summary.  Here is the Brad-breakdown:

Heavily favored Iowa physically controlled this game for three quarters.  The Gophers were able to hang around with the quintessential “bend but don’t break” defense and a little luck. 

Iowa was stopped on downs on the first drive of the game, which gave the Gophers an early emotional boost. Iowa’s offensive line and tough running back Marcus Coker (252 yards on 32 carries) dominated all game, but the Hawkeyes saw some long drives stall when they went to the pass.  They also had consecutive missed field goals in the first half, which kept the score tied 7-7 at halftime.

Iowa built a 21-10 lead early in the fourth quarter and it looked like Minnesota would fade.  Then the Gophers unexpectedly controlled the ball for the next 11 minutes, with an onside kick recovery sandwiched between two touchdowns.  Iowa’s passing game failed them once again when they couldn’t complete a pass on their last possession of the game. 

The Gophers ran out the clock to keep Floyd at home for another year with a  22-21 win.

Floyd stays in Minnesota! Photo by: Mark Vancleave

 

 

 

  • © 2011 Megan Steil