Monday, September 18, 2017

Fleck is Here as Long as We Want Him

One of the favored canards of the non-Gopher fans I’ve interacted with is that PJ Fleck is a short timer here. Sometime in the next three years, he’ll win nine or ten games and then go make bank at whatever blue blood program is looking for a new coach – Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, maybe one of the top four SEC teams.

It’s an argument that’s not without some merit: I mean, I love this team like it was my unborn twin brother, attached to my kidney, surviving only by consuming my life force; but this hasn’t exactly been a destination job for the last, oh, say, 50 years or so. It’s cold, we’re as far away from fertile recruiting grounds as Kamchatka and the general buzz around the program in the community is “Oh, the Gopher season started?” Not exactly the sort of conditions that make a potential star coach want to try his luck after a breakthrough season.

He’s not going anywhere, though. This is going to come as bad news for the screechers who hate that ‘Row the Boat’ is the new mantra for the team, but those three words are the reason he might be here for life.

Think about it: do you reckon Notre Dame is just going to say “meh, let’s ditch ‘Play Like a Champion Today’ and change everything to oars for the new coach!” Totally, totally reasonable to believe Michigan would replace the GO BLUE banner with F.A.M.I.L.Y. as the players take the field. And it’s only playing at Alabama if it’s ‘Row Tide’ or some other monstrosity of the language – I’m looking at you Rhoda Boat.

No, none of college football’s royalty are going to let the head coach come in and re-brand their program. There would be blood on the streets and the heads of athletic directors on pikes in the stadium if they did.

And, truly, I don’t think he’d be willing to go to a school that wouldn’t let him prominently feature RTB. It’s the centerpiece of his culture and is seemingly tied directly to his life’s mission. You can’t have Fleck without Row the Boat.

My belief, and I’m strapping phone books to my belly in case someone tries to shiv me, is that Minnesota was the best school Fleck could go to that would let him feature RTB in its full, intimidating tumescence. Yeah, we had some branding, namely Ski-U-Mah, but who outside of us had any idea what it was or meant? Beyond that, what equity did we have that any Minnesotan with no existing affinity for the Gophers would think of? Beats me. Probably Goldy?

And that’s the point. We had no real brand locally and nationally the narrative was “Freezing up there 14 months out of the year.” So, frankly, we had nothing to lose by diminishing what little brand equity we had and allowing Fleck to run the show with RTB. I understand how it upsets some of the traditionalists that Ski-U-Mah has been supplanted – and it really hasn’t, it was never exactly something that was featured, and efforts to get the crowd to chant it were routinely panned – but the ends justify the means in this situation. Fleck wanted a Power 5 job, but wanted to take RTB with him. We were a Power 5 job that would let him go to town on branding the program.


I might be cracked, but that feels like a pretty unique situation to me. Coach for life. Or until he bombs out like everyone else.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Reminiscing about My First Car

You ever think back fondly on your first car? I do. It was a 1984 Plymouth Reliant. Yep, the old K-Car. Nitrowagon, I called it. She was a good, albeit rustic ride. Single speaker on the dash in front of the passenger seat, though, calling it a passenger seat is generous as it was straight-up 80's style bench seating, three in the front and three in the back.

I loved that thing. It was pretty far from sexy and certainly didn't win me any favor with the ladies, but it got me to work and school and was a hell of a lot better than walking. For ten years I walked to school in the freezing-ass Minnesota cold, trudging through snow and getting frostbitten ears because I was too cool for a hat (Narrator: he wasn't too cool in the slightest). It fucking blew. So when I got my license and my parents gave me Nitrowagon, I felt like my time had finally come. At last, I'd be removed from the penury of shitty coaching and wearing moon boots.

In retrospect, though, it was a piece of shit. I drove it for about six months before the CV joint blew (in the parking lot of the K-Mart where I worked no less), it was generally unable to get moving more than 50mph unless it was on a vertical decline and it burned through oil like the goddamned Bismarck.

If your first car had feelings, what would it do if it came back and saw your life today?

I don't have a fancy car, but it has more than one speaker and no bench seats. It moves and handles pretty well and I only need to change the oil once every 10k miles. That's pretty sweet. I bet Nitrowagon would be pretty salty that she'd been replaced by something so much better. I bet, if she were on Twitter, she'd cast shade on my new car, taking little shots at the rims and mocking it's catch phrases and high energy.

Nobody would be driving Nitrowagon anymore, of course, because Nitrowagon's receivers could never actually progress down field once they caught the ball. And no one's exactly sure what her qualifications to be a wide receivers coach at a Power 5 school actually were, other than being hitched to the right set of coat tails. No, Nitrowagon is left to tend to a pretty garden in Blaine, waiting by the phone for a call that will never come, casting shade on a group of coaches who teach their players to catch more than tennis balls. RIP in peace, Nitrowagon. Stay salty.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Who needs stats and facts when you see the game sober?

Well, that was fun, right? The offense kind of meh'd around a bit, but did more than enough to thoroughly impact the bowels of the Mountaineers, Blue Raiders, Humid Summers or whatever the hell MTSU's mascot is. And the defense was divine.

Also, I watched my first in-person Gopher game as an adult stone-cold sober. Eight days for me, if anyone has a token I can carry around. No idea how long I intend to keep that up, but I feel good about it for the moment. At any rate, since I'm sure you knobs were all straight blotto, I figured I'd share my thoughts to tickle the memories of your blacked-out asses in the morning.

What SoberSwan liked

1. Antoine Winfield will be a fixture here until he decides to go pro or become God Emperor. Guy is (SAT WORD ALERT) ubiquitous in pass and run coverage and, for being pocket-sized, lays the damn thunder. He had one missed tackle that I saw, but even that was a diving attempt where the likelihood of success wasn't high. Also, it seems like, based on the last two weeks, teams are very reluctant to throw at him. God bless that little midget and Fleck for getting him back here after Trainghazi.

2. Koby McCrary was a big swinging dick - henceforth referred to as BSD - out there today, which was good since Brooks was Here, uh, wasn't here for reasons unknown and RS1 apparently got ganked via pre-CTE syndrome. He's not a sexy runner, but he's big, beautiful and has just enough wiggle to find the seams. MTSU were doing a nice job of clogging up the middle, so it was good to see one of the non-featured backs plow some field.

3. Nate Wozniak has been my least favorite Gopher all the way back to his recruitment. What the hell good is a 6'10" beanpole? OH HE'LL FILL OUT AND PLAY TACKLE they said. Well, unless he's Elasticman, he ain't getting leverage on any DE worth shit. So we have a giant TE with hands of stone who is a serviceable blocker. Yippee. Well, shut your mouth, FrothyGopher, because that colossus rumbled down the field for what seemed like a 170-yard gain and even juked his way around a would-be tackler. That player should have that film tattooed on the small of his future wife's back to remind him he ain't no player. Anyway, props to you, Wozniak for moving Jerry Gibson into the least favorite Gopher spot.

4. As I said, the defense was sublime. Gave up a few big plays, but mostly over the middle where the risk of interception was higher a la Six Foot Dick Jacob Huff's pick six. I'm not having the best period of my life at the moment, but that pick definitely made me feel the sweet soup of life course through my sclerotic arteries. Pass rush remains a bit of a concern, but it also looked like pretty vanilla packages with little in the way of blitzes. I still maintain our linebacking crew is the best of my lifetime. Thomas Barber will be an All American by the time he's done here.

What SoberSwan didn't like

1. I'll take some guff from you for this, but since you can't respond in real-time, fuckyas. I think the pre-game intro seems weird. Like, they do the whole Fleck Row the Boat monologue, then play some thumping bass while the team comes down the tunnel, then there's the heartbeat..that...goes...on...forever. It concludes with Dr. Dre's finest work 'Next Episode' but I'm genuinely perplexed by the length of the heartbeat. What are we supposed to do? The fans just sit there, waiting to cheer for the team to come out. It's like we've taken Iowa's WAVE AT THE SICK KIDS shtick one step further and just transmit the final heartbeats of some poor sap at the U's hospital and the players can only come out when he cacks.

2. I'm concerned our offensive gameplan isn't ready for B1G play. That's probably by design, but at this point, there's not enough diversity to challenge some of the better defenses we'll see. I recognize Rhoda is about as far away from a prototypical RPO quarterback as I am being a samurai, but do we have another layer of plays we've been keeping in our back pocket? I'm not sure we've had a long pass - not counting YAC - this season. The few times we've tried along the sidelines, our receivers fail to get separation. My issue is that if we can't RUTM - and we won't be able to against about half of the remaining teams - the game rests with our WRs and Rhoda and, aside from Tyler Johnson, my hope does not spring eternal.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hello, Friends

The hardest thing is remembering the damned password.

Hola, amigos. It's been a long time since I rapped at you; but now that I've sent myself to a Twitterless Siberian gulag it turns out I have about six extra hours in the day for more productive stuff, like...blogging about the Gophers, I guess.

Still hard to believe we got PJ Fleck as our coach, isn't it? During the death spasms of the Claeys regime - yes, his whole tenure could be deemed a death spasm, but you know what I mean - when one well-known Gophertron mod indicated the U's Board of Regents voted against firing Claeys, I actually told a friend I was so pissed that at that moment, I had become a Wisconsin fan. I said something in the vein of "I hope the [EXPLETIVE] Badgers beat the living [EXPLETIVE] out of this [EXPLETIVE] [EXPLETIVE] team every [EXPLETIVE] season. Bunch of [EXPLETIVE] [EXPLETIVE] cowards!" I damn near bit my tongue off.

Of course, that proved to be #fakenews, Claeys was gone and we had Fleck shortly thereafter. I was thrilled with the hire. He built up a fairly moribund Western Michigan squad and was a monster on the recruiting trail. Further, as one of the hottest coaches in this year's cycle, he wasn't going to come cheap. But the U stepped up, maybe for first time in my life on a non-infrastructure spend, and decided to be a player.

I like Fleck, I really do. He's clearly good at motivating a certain type of player, develops and enforces an, er, unique, culture that seems like it could be consistent to success on the field and he seems to bring in coaches who share his philosophy and maximize the abilities of the players that buy in. Yes, he's only coached two games here, so the last assertion is a bit tenuous; but there's no doubt he produced talent at WMU, so let's roll with it.

It's been no secret to my 15 friends that I'm no big fan of his constant explosion of FLECKNESS in everything he does. Listening to him is sometimes like opening a envelope full of SURPRISE GLITTER where it manages to attach itself to every surface within a square mile and bits of it will still be there in ten years. Ten-year old girls might like to receive the SURPRISE GLITTER envelope, adore it even; but a lot of people want to stab their faces upon realizing they'll have glitter on their faces seven months later.

But, frankly, it's really only the ten-year old girls that matter here. Ten-year old, glitter-obsessed girls being a metaphor for highly-rated Power 5 football players and recruits, of course. They're the ones the FLECKNESS is for, not cynical and embittered middle-aged men like me. He gives them glitter and most of them love it. They put it on their clothes and throw it in the air when they score or make a big play. When Demry Croft (RIP in peace) ran in that long touchdown, he started rowing the boat. All I saw was glorious maroon and gold glitter pumping like ejaculate out the holes of his helmet. Of course, he's been launched into the sun since then, so maybe he didn't love glitter as much as I thought he did at the time.

I don't know if Fleck can win here, but I think he's got as good a shot as anyone since Holtz. The cultish approach to culture really can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, while hopefully not killing all of our players with poisoned Kool Aid. Regardless, it's going to be a fun ride.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Questions Abound for Gopher Football Matchup vs Oregon State

Is this thing on?

Went to this site this morning for the first time in a long time. Took me awhile to get into the SGH control room and find the breaker box to power it back on. Paid homage to our shrine to Frothy's Former Twitter Existence; may he rest in peace wherever he is in the interweb ether. Then I cleared away the cobwebs and dust (both from the control room and my brain) to try this here thing called Gopher Football blogging.

Game #2 for the Fleckites of Cult Fleck goes tomorrow night late on the west coast- assuming the wild fires allow- as Minnesota makes their FS1 debut for a 9pm central kickoff vs the Beavers of Oregon State and former Sconnie coach Gary Andersen. As you likely know by now (especially if you listened to this week's Taken All Wrong podcast), the Beavers are 2.5 pts favorites (give or take) despite getting pasted by Colorado State and barely surviving 1-AA Portland State in their first two games. They have been less then impressive and yet...the Gophs are road dogs? 

Minnesota survived their opener themselves with a 17-7 win over MAC school Buffalo. While the Gophers failed to cover the 26 point spread, or decide their QB battle, or inspire any confident in their offensive or defensive lines or...well you get the idea. A win is a win (PJ was the first Gopher coach to win his debut since the 1980's) but we enter week 2 with still more questions than answers about how good this football team can be in 2017. Here's a few of the questions I'll be pondering tomorrow night...

WHY DOESN'T FLECK NAME DEMRY CROFT QB1?


We've been over this, like, a million times already so I'll be brief: Prior to the season my argument for Demry over Conor Rhoda was that if you have two QB's who are apparently this close in a battle for a starting job, you take the younger player. Or the player who has far more upside. Or athleticism. Or a better throwing arm. When one of your QB's has all three of those things AND is only a sophomore compared to a 5th year senior?!?!? Again, how is this even a question?

The week 1 win over Buffalo only further solidified my position. With the offensive line looking less than stellar, and with Croft's ability to run both when pass protection breaks down and as a keeper on the read-option, it seems even more like a no-brainer. Except Fleck stated we were going with the QB job share again this week. I don't get it but hopefully game #2 brings some clarity.

IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR THE O-LINE?


It was jarring to watch how much they struggled against a MAC school. While Oregon State is far from a juggernaut they're still a P5 school with P5 athletes. They've also struggled mightily thus far giving up more than 500 yds of offense in each of their first two games. If the Gophers struggle to run and pass block against this group...it does not bode well for the offense going forward. Ed Warriner is quite literally one of the best O-line coaches in the country so if anyone can work some magic, it's him. The fear is, if they don't look much better this week then it means the line depth and talent this year is worse than we feared, and real improvement isn't coming until 2018.

HOW GOOD ARE THE RECEIVERS REALLY?


Sophomore Tyler Johnson had a breakout debut with 6 catches for 141 yards, which included a 61 yard TD catch (WIN A PIE FOR IT!). True frosh Demetrius Douglas also 6 catches but for only 36 yards. Senior Eric Carter and redshirt frosh Philip Howard had one catch each. And that was it. Last year's returning catch leader Rashad Still did not catch a pass and is not starting for the second straight game. Jr Melvin Holland Jr continues to have some serious ability and yet cannot get on the field. Will we see anything from those two? Can Johnson dominate vs a P5 opponent? Does Douglas get more room to run on these short throws, or do they look to get him the ball downfield more? Do we see any other new names jump into the lineup? A lot of questions at receiver right now, but assuming Johnson's breakout is real, at least there's a legit #1.

WHERE IS THE PASS RUSH?


As JD and I discussed on the pod this week, it's becoming more difficult to judge a pass rush as more and more and more offenses go spread and try to get the ball out quickly. There were few QB hurries and no sacks vs Buffalo, but the Blue Bulls struggled to run all game (as a team they averaged only 2.3 yards per carry) and they weren't much of a threat passing or running in the second half. The D tackle rotation remains a strength and the ends remain a question mark. Will we see a more effective pass rush vs another spread opponent? And how do they hold up vs the run?

I HAVE NO CONCERNS ABOUT OUR LINEBACKERS


Fine that wasn't a question, but still thought it was worth mentioning. Jonathan Celestin and Thomas Barber were everywhere. Kamal Martin looked good for a true soph. Do we see more of Blake Cashman or Cody Poock? Nice problem to have when your starters are outplaying two returning productive upper classmen.

HOW MUCH DO WE SEE WINFIELD, MCGHEE AND HUFF ON THE FIELD TOGETHER?


There was a noticeable difference- and improvement- in the second half in the defense when senior FS Duke McGhee returned from a first half suspension (a targeting call penalty he committed in the bowl game). It could be argued that Minnesota's three best DB's are Antoine Winfield, Jacob Huff and McGhee; the issue that all three are safeties and in a base defense, there's only room for two of them on the field. With McGhee back in the second half we saw DC Robb Smith move Winfield around, including to slot corner to get his 3 guys on the field together. Coach Fleck talked this week about how talented Winfield is and how they're going to move him around a bunch. I'm interested to see where and how much tomorrow night. Redshirt frosh corner Kiondre Thomas could be great but he's only a freshman, and the rest will be a work in progress all year. The more Minnesota can get Winfield, Huff and McGhee on the field together, the better the defense will be.

FINAL SCORE?

Gophers 20- Oregon State 17. Go Gophers. SKI-U-MAH! And #RTB.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

3 Things about Firing Tracy Claeys and the Minnesota Gopher Football Coaching Search

1. FIRING CLAEYS WAS THE RIGHT DECISION

And clearly one AD Mark Coyle has wanted to make. There were national reports as far back as August that Coyle wanted to select his own coach. This article from SI.com's Pete Thamel looks downright prophetic now:
Look for new athletic director Mark Coyle to execute the same game plan he did in his last year at Syracuse. He'll keep an extremely low profile, quietly observe the football program and then make a change at the end of the year... The bottom line here, however, is that the entire industry expects this job to open and it would be stunning if it didn't. New athletic directors aren't brought in to keep the status quo, and Claeys's contact affirms the perception he's a placeholder.
Emphasis is mine but the point stands: Claeys was never Coyle's guy, and as many have already said, the whole boycott fiasco opened the door for Coyle to make a move. Otherwise, there was zero chance he was firing a coach after a nine win season. Still, firing Claeys was the right decision, and frankly, I can't believe it wasn't made sooner. By all accounts, Claeys agreed with President Kaler and Coyle about the suspension of his 10 players. While I have no idea what exactly was said in that meeting, I have a very hard time believing reasons weren't given to Claeys as to why. Regardless, Claeys then went to his players and went completely against his bosses and his own decision and then supported his players in their boycott. That is insubordination at shocking levels and I can't believe he was even allowed to coach the bowl game.

This is not to say Claeys is a bad person or even a bad coach- the defense he brought here has been the best since the glory years of the 1960's, and his ability- along with Dbacks coach-turned-DC Jay Sawvel- to turn little-known defensive recruits into serious stars was impressive.

The defense can't help but take a step back now, but hopefully the next coach improves the offense and talent level to offset that. Bottom line though is Claeys showed his inexperience with the way he completely mishandled the boycott, and there's not an employer who would stand for that kind of insubordination. That said...

2. BOTH THE COACH AND THE ADMINISTRATION ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PLAYER BOYCOTT

Things got bad for the university because of the player boycott. The players were frustrated because they were blindsided by the news that 10 teammates were being suspended indefinitely and the administration (and their head coach) gave them no explanation for why. They boycotted because they felt their teammates were being treated unfairly and were not given due process. Once the report leaked out, they backed down and went back to practice, but the stain was left on the program and the university that the entire football team threatened to boycott a bowl game...because their teammates were accused of sexual assault. Regardless of the reason, that's a terrible look for everyone involved.

My gut feeling after this happened was that a veteran coach like Jerry Kill never would have allowed the boycott to happen. And while I've never been a big supporter of either Dan Barreiro or Glen Mason, the former Gopher football coach was on Barreiro's show Tuesday night and confirmed my suspicisions. You can listen to the entire interview here (interview with Mase starts about the 90 minute mark, this comment is about 106:40) but what Mason said is this about he would have handled the boycott situation:
"If Mark Coyle would have told me, 'hey listen based on this investigation we're going to suspend these players', I would say I want to see the investigation, I have to see the investigation, I have to see the facts. I have to know the facts to know where I stand on this whole thing...
...If you think your players are in the right, you have to go to the wall for them. But if they're wrong?...If I would have seen that report that subsequently came out, that information, I would have gone in there and told those players 'You're not boycotting anybody. I'm not going to support it.' ...If I would have read that report there's no way that (I) would have endorsed that boycott and I would have taken control and say to them 'you're not going to dictate to us. I don't care who you are- Wolitarsky or anybody- I've got the facts and you are wrong. And you can choose not to practice, and if you choose not to practice then you're not going to play in the bowl game.'"
Barriero then asks an excellent question, basically that even though it's a Title IX investigation, does that entitle the head football coach to need to see the report? Mason's response:
"If Kaler is privileged to that information, if Coyle is privileged to that information, why wouldn't I (as the head football coach) be? And if they said I didn't have the correct title I would tell them well change my title because I have to see it because this is important."
It's a really good conversation, and while I don't often agree with Mase, I did here. Claeys failed his players by not getting the necessary information and by not being informed himself, which did not allow him to help his players make an informed decision so that the boycott never happens. Title IX or not, privacy laws or not, the head football coach of a B1G institution needed to know what was in the report and Claeys didn't do enough to find out and did nothing to take control and educate his players about what was happening and why. Even if he didn't totally agree with the findings (and I'm not saying the players are guilty. Sawvel and others have stated at least one player wasn't even there), you still need to explain to your players what is happening, why it happened and how the process plays out from here. He let the players be in control and it led to an ugly boycott. Not only that, he went against his bosses in a decision they all agreed to make. Mason wouldn't have allowed that to happen, and I believe neither would have Kill or a more experienced coach.

That said, as Mason also states in the interview, Kaler and Coyle are to blame here too. You cannot expect to give this kind of ruling and suspension and then give ZERO explanation for it to the players and not expect a mutiny. Title IX rules or not, they needed to work together with Claeys to get the team a clear message of what the results of the investigation were, why it's different than a legal proceeding, and what happens from here. Nobody did that.

The players needed an adult in the room and nobody- not Claeys, Coyle or Kaler- stepped up and filled that void. That's a failure of leadership across the board, and the stain of that boycott on the University falls on all of them, not just the football coach. I believe Coyle and Kaler made the right decision in suspending the players based on the report, but they could not have presented that decision in a worse, more damaging way.

3. ROW THE BOAT

I'll be disappointed if Fleck isn't named the new Gophers head coach by the end of the week. Joe Schmit of KSTP confirmed the following yesterday...
Fleck's not only the hottest name available, but the best fit too. And while mouthbreathers who believe Fleck is the next Tim Brewster do not deserve your time or attention...I can't help it. Fleck has a real, actual track record of success as a head coach. He's 30-22 in his four years at WMU, with the conference title this year, two division titles in 2015 and 2016, and was also named MAC Coach of the Year this season and in 2014. Just as importantly, he's recruited well at a place that is difficult to recruit. Despite going 1-11 in 2013 in his first year at WMU he still pulled in the best recruiting class in the MAC. His class in 2015 was ranked 36th in the country (!!!) by 247 sports.

That matters a lot at a place like Minnesota which, in my opinion, is the most difficult P5 school in the country to recruit at since we have so few D1 recruits in-state, and no P5 school is farther away from good recruiting states than we are. Sure, coaching up players once you get them here is vital (as the current staff showed), but why not start with better players and coach them up from there? And that's just it; Fleck not only out-recruited everyone else in his conference (and some in the B1G too), but he got results out of those recruits too: since the 1-11 start in 2013, he had two 8 win seasons in 2014 and 2015 (if you haven't heard, 8 wins seasons at Minnesota are a HUGE deal so) before running the table in the regular season this year. I know Fleck's "Rah rah" style may rub some folks the wrong way, but we need that kind of enthusiasm and positive energy for the program. There's zero guarantees he works out, but he's not just the hottest name, but he has the best qualifications to succeed here of any of the names being thrown out.

That said, if Fleck doesn't end up being the guy, all is not lost. I hope. Pete Carroll was like the 5th choice to be the head coach at USC. Jerry Kill was at least that far down the list at Minnesota, and while his recent comments are boorish and completely and totally self-serving (wait, a coach at another B1G school is trashing the Gophers? What a surprise!), I'm still glad Jerrysota happened and he was the football coach here.

But seriously, just get PJ Fleck signed already so we can start rowing the boat.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Fan of this Mess

This piece isn’t about my reaction to the alleged sexual assault (which is awful). This piece isn’t about my reaction to how the University has handled it (which is also awful). And this piece isn’t about my reaction to U of M football players boycotting team activities (I’ve experienced a range of emotions on that).

This is about my reaction to being a fan of this mess.

Information about this situation has come at us in varying ways at random times. It’s been long. It’s been drawn out. And it’s been a little bit of a roller-coaster. There have been moments of “ugh… again?” And there have been moments of “oh thank goodness it’s over.”

As I’ve considered the possible scenarios of what might come next, there are very real moments where the thought runs through my mind: “Can I keep doing this? Is this football team something that I want to continue to hitch my wagon to?”

Look, I have other hobbies. I have other interests. But the thing that has been most startling to me through this entire situation, and really through this entire season, is just how much of my life I have tied up in this football program.

From a sports standpoint, I don’t follow any other team or sport nearly as closely as this one. Don’t get me wrong, I watch Vikings games, I watch TWolves games, I watch Gopher basketball and hockey, and I dabble in Twins baseball. But I experience those teams when it’s convenient.

Gopher football isn’t a convenience for me. I never miss a Gopher football game, and if I do, it’s a major situation.

I’ve skipped the weddings of two of my wife’s friends to attend Gopher home games, and I’m currently in negotiations with a third couple who is threatening to have a wedding next fall. September 23rd would be best. I would also begrudgingly accept October 7th. Outside of those dates, all bets are off.

Once in awhile somebody will ask me why I cheer for the Gophers. Why do I care? It's hard to explain to people that in the same way you don't get to choose your family, I didn't choose this team.

You're born. You grow up. Your family is there. They are just there. They are a part of your life since before you even knew what your life was. They are there. They are part of it. That's Gopher football for me. 

I’ve got family that is tied up in this football team and the team comes up in conversation at every gathering. One of my biggest wishes is for my uncle to see us play in a Rose Bowl in his lifetime. I think I'd be more happy for him than for me.

The friends that I speak to most often are people that I experience Gopher games with. 

My mood shifts depending on what is going on with this team.

I legitimately cannot conceive of a life where this football team isn’t a massive part of how I go about it.

And then comes the guilt.

How can I care about a football team so much? 

How can I put this much energy into something that is actually so meaningless?

Why am I completely open about the fact that I will cry my eyes out if the Gophers ever beat the Badgers again?

I heard economist Stephen Dubner say that he actually thinks it’s a GOOD thing that people get so caught up and emotionally invested in sports because as a society it may very well be keeping us from acting out in other ways that would be more problematic.

So that made me feel a little bit better for awhile.

But that was before this week happened. And now I’m questioning myself again.

Suddenly last week's angst of talking about whether or not our current football coach should still be our current football coach is akin to the memory of a warm, fuzzy blanket. 

The reason I can’t think of my life without this team is because it’s not just about the team for me. I have trouble thinking of my life without this team because I have trouble thinking of a life without the people I interact with about and because of this team.

Gopher football is the thing we talk about. It’s the thing we have most in common. It’s the thing that we rally around and the thing that we commiserate over. It’s the thing that we get together for.

And in many cases, it’s the only reason we know each other.

Last night my wife and I had dinner and drinks with people who, quite literally, I would have no idea even existed if it weren’t for Gopher football.

During that dinner there was a brief discussion of what you would do with all of the time, energy and money if you weren’t spending it on Gopher football. In hindsight, that discussion ended abruptly. I’m not sure we had it in us to really consider that something like that could happen.

If something super drastic happens, and for some reason we are forced to have a life without Gopher football, I feel pretty confident that I’ll continue to be friends with these people. And of course, my family is always my family. They aren’t going anywhere.

I just don’t know what the hell we’ll talk about. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Week 4: Arbitrary B1G Power Poll

Week 4 y'all! I feel refreshed after that bye week. Conference play kicked off this week. Arbitrary power poll below, blah blah blah, you know the drill.

1) Iowa (Last Week: 1): Remember when you were in elementary school and you’d get in trouble for throwing a spit-ball or setting a bathroom on fire? For my 5th grade teacher this meant you had to sit on a stool in front of the class for the entire day. No dunce cap. No beatings. Just sit there on a stool up front and let everyone look at your stupid ass all day long. This is the same treatment you’re getting, Iowa. Losing to NDSU is one thing, but struggling the very next week with BUTTgers? To top it all off, because you couldn’t adequately take care of your business, now the Iowa/MN game in two weeks is an 11am kickoff. Dicks. To the head of the class for you, Hawkeyes.

2) ASSgers (LW: 10): So I says to the guy, the guy I'm dancing with, “What kind of a bar is this anyway?!?!”

3) Indiana (LW: 12): Here’s the thing with dirt track racing, according to my friend that actually races dirt track Modifieds: It’s not necessarily the fastest car that wins, it’s the car that has the best traction. Every once in a while a car that doesn’t usually win much will suddenly be in a series of races, or maybe in a particularly big race, and suddenly their car will be unbelievable. When this happens the speculation always comes out that maybe that guy “soaked his tires.” Now I don’t know enough about it, but apparently you can literally soak tires in something that will make them more tacky on a dirt track. Anyway, I think Indiana was soaking their tires for a couple of weeks, but now their back to being shitty again.

4) Purdue (LW: 3): What color is that, honestly? It’s not gold. It’s not really yellow either. What’s that supposed to be? Sort of a cross between piss yella’ and puke green, ain’t it?

5) PSU (LW: 5): At 5:30 in the morning on a Saturday when you're still drunk from the night before there's a certain novelty to being awake. But at 6:45 when you're an hour from home and you're driving and you're still drunk from the night before, somehow the novelty wears off. Especially when you realize that normal, non-elderly, people are actually waking up around that time.

6) MSU (LW: not ranked): You had one job.

7) Northwestern (LW: 2): I once knew a guy who won enough money to build a deck on his house by winning an online Blackjack tournament. This was in like 2001 when we barely realized that online gambling even existed. And we’re talking like three grand this guy won. He wasn’t trying to win the money to build the deck. He just won the money and then decided his wife might like it if they used it to build a deck. I would assume he’s still a much better human being than I am.

8) Minnesota (LW: 4): You know that thing you do? Yeah, that thing. That thing where you just suddenly completely change? Yeah, that’s a little tough on the ticker for some of us. I mean, don’t get me wrong, having an offense that kind, like, actually do some stuff is cool. I enjoy that part. But the part where you were supposed to have a strong defense and then… well, yeah. Shit. This is about the beer sales again isn’t it?

9) Nebraska (LW: 9): There are two things that my wife hates that I would put into the category of “Stuff Lots of Other People Like or At Least Are Indifferent To.” One is Led Zeppelin and the other is Corvettes. She says Corvettes are like assholes, everybody has one. Which is funny because between us we have two assholes, but we have zero Corvettes.

10) Wisconsin (LW: 14): DIAF.

11) Michigan (LW: 8): I’ve lost interest for this week.

12-14): OSU, Maryland, Illinois. /fart noise

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On the Preference of Death Over the Red: A Gopherist Manifesto

StillGotHope.com has acquired several pages of a manifesto written by an unknown author.
Opinions are not our own.  Here's the first installment:


INTRODUCTION

Struggles under full communism will be genuine. What will we do with our days? Will I one day be a warrior-poet and another a carbon-engineer? And the unlimited plenty - how will I channel my inner competitiveness? I was reading earlier about the use of money as a tool of the bourgeoisie and how they use money, power, wealth, and scarcity as wedges to drive us, the proletariat, apart. Separate from each other, we fight. We struggle. We make our talents thin and our hearts stone. We identify with the politics of division that keep us apart. It is the struggle of all true socialists to break down these barriers and join as one multi-national working people.

Also, it is my opinion that Wisconsin must be destroyed.

Chapter 1: #FEELINGSBALL

And so we turn to the National Football League, an organization dedicated to “merit”, where disagreements are settled on the gridiron under the sleety mist of fall. Our country has taken it as our pastime, the violence of the game reflecting perfectly the violence of our lies. But under full communism, is there a place for football? Is there a place for the insanity of competition for the sake of competition? Our society would no doubt be a better place if instead of beating each other for entertainment, we instead worked cooperatively to create new wonders in front of an audience of our peers. Imagine, if you will, a group of comrades working together to engineer castles and towers in our stadiums, rather than working against each other to destroy our very minds, bodies, and indeed, souls on the football field. The National Football League truly is in the business of “feelingsball”, as they say. Envy. Hatred. Violence. These are the feelings of the NFL. They must be destroyed so that we can flourish as a people, as must Wisconsin.


Unknown Gopherist Manifesto is a recurring(?) piece on Stillgothope.com. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Week 2: Arbitrary B1G Power Poll

Well SURPRISE SURPRISE! I made it a second week! 

1) Iowa (Last Week: 8): Seriously already so sick of you. Congrats on beating up two kids on the short bus. You're a real bully. I think the thing I’m most thankful for is that most of your fanbase still hasn’t heard of the internet so I don’t have to hear from your dumpy asses as often as the Bagder fans.

2) Northwestern (LW: 2) : What in the actual hell was that? I'm not sure what's more embarrassing: losing to an IN-STATE FCS school, or having said FCS school dwarf you in attendance. Fan bases are supposed to be excited after 10 win seasons. Must have been a wine-tasting Saturday. Seriously, pull your shit together.

3) Purdue (LW: 9): I actually feel bad for you. It occurred to me that your entire existence probably feels like the Tim Brewster era. I can’t even make a joke about that. It’s awful. 

4) Minnesota (LW: 6): I forgot my flask so I had to drink your $8 beers again, but it was such a nice day that nobody came to the game so the lines were short. Our fan base is the f**king worst.

5) PSU (LW: 12): I cannot even believe how good of a fit Pat Narduzzi is for your program. A hard-nosed, defensive minded coach. Just the perfect personality for your program. And add to that the fact that he's never covered up for a child molester? 2018 is going to be so awesome. 

6) Maryland (LW: 14): Boring

7) Ohio State (LW: 4): Boringer

8) Michigan (LW: 5): Putting up 50 points on Florida is quite an accomplishment. I mean, that’s a solid opponent from a decent conf… what’s that? Oh. CENTRAL Florida. You mean, the Central Florida Knights who went 0-12 last season? THAT Central Florida? Boringest.

9) Nebraska (LW: 11): Maybe you could try to wake up in the first half against Oregon this week?

10) Rutgers (LW: 3): Hi. Remember that time you were down 14-0 to Howard? (Also, I LEGITIMATELY forgot to write about you until I couldn't figure out why I only had 13 teams listed. You're like the Big Ten's version of flossing.)

11) Illinois (LW: 10): Fedora’d

12) Indiana (LW: 13): This has seriously gotten so boring. I can’t even write about Indiana. I can’t wait for the conference schedule to start. I think next year I’m just going to start doing this once the B1G games start. Next year. Yeah, that’ll happen. I’m already taking next week off.

--) Michigan State (LW: 7): If you're not even going to bother to play a game you're getting moved down 6 spots but I won't even give you the satisfaction of a number. Still, you're not getting last place because Wisconsin still exists.

14) Wisconsin (LW: 1): Beating Akron is pretty exciting right? That win over LSU is looking less impressive by the day. I don’t know anybody who is sold on you… except you. Also, I’m putting you 14th because I just learned about someone called TSpeth5 on Off Tackle Empire. He’s like a perfect microcosm of every one of your smug fans and I now hate everything and everyone because of him.

You can find me on Twitter @jdmill

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Week 1: Arbitrary B1G Power Poll

I'm going to try to do this every week but I'll probably forget next week. Week 3 the Gophers have a bye, so don't expect anything that week either. Boredom may set in halfway through writing it following Week 4 so expect maybe half of a power poll that week. By week 5 I expect to be gargling asphalt and you're on your own after that.

So by "every week," I mean every week that is this week. This was a lot easier when there were only 11 teams.

1)    Wisconsin: Best win of week 1 and it’s not even close. Anybody who tells you they saw an LSU letdown coming is lying. Revisionist history. LSU isn’t going to be as good as a lot of people thought, and maybe Wisconsin isn’t a team that’s going to set the world on fire, but for one week, they made the B1G proud. Also, I still hate them, so don’t at me.
2)    Northwestern: I mean… a one point loss to a MAC team isn’t the worst thing you can possibly do. But considering you are the only B1G team to lose a game in Week 1 except for Rutgers, and your fan base has been claiming you’d challenge for a division championship this year… this isn’t a good look. Having said that, it couldn’t have happened to a more self-aggrandizing bunch. You’re number two because I’m still giggling.
3)    Rutgers: Says here you managed a field goal in the first half to go into halftime down 34-3. Now Washington is ranked in the Top 10. Do you see what you've done? I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that you had to fly across the country and the time change and whatnot. Right? Oh, I’m sorry, what’s that? You scored the last 10 points of the game? Here, you’ve won the Tim Brewster Dumbest Sports “Well Actually” Award.
4)    Ohio State: I always enjoy that thing where we’re supposed to be overly impressed by a 50+ point win by a great Power 5 team over a G5 team. Just like nobody should be patted on the back for sticking around to raise their kids (because that’s your damn job), nobody should be patting OSU on the back for beating Bowling Green by 67 points (again, that’s your damn job.) But you get number 4 because I said so.
5)    Michigan: See “4) Ohio State.” You beat Hawaii. That and a nickel will get you a gumball. A gumball that your creepy coach will probably just hand off to some starry-eyed recruit which you’ll defend by saying he’s going above and beyond. Reminder: the phrase “strangers with candy” is not a term of endearment.
6)    Minnesota: Knock that shit off. Seriously. What the hell? Could we just win a game that we are supposed to win by a margin that doesn’t make me want to fall over in the fetal position sucking my thumb? At this point the only thing I can come up with is that you’re keeping these home games close to keep the beer sales respectable. Well, JOKE’S ON YOU… I’m bringing a flask to the next game. FACE!
7)    Michigan State: You’re box score reminds me of a “Friends” episode. (Pat yourself on the back if you get that joke.) You struggled with freaking Furman. Listen, I know a few people who went to Furman and they don’t even like to admit it. Their greatest athletic achievement, prior to giving you fits, was having equal numbers of men’s and women’s sports.
8)    Iowa: I’ll admit it, you looked good, and I was going to give you a Top 5, but this business with Kurt Ferentz and his contract extension is amazing. I mean, this is the Joe Mauer contract extension of college football. If Iowa gets out of Kurt, going forward, what the Twins have gotten out of Joe Mauer, I look forward to his transition to Defensive Backs coach. 
9)    Purdue: Nice win. It means nothing. Hazell has never lost a home opener and we know what kind of omen that has been. And by the way, you guys talk about how great of an engineering school you have. I recently met an engineer in Indiana and when I asked him if he went to Purdue he laughed at me. Heartily. It was embarrassing. Turns out Purdue isn’t even the best engineering school IN THE STATE OF INDIANA. Something called Rose-Hulman kicks your ass. I wonder if they play football.
10)   Illinois: Weeeeelllll. Look. At. You! A 49-point win in Lovie Smith’s first game back in college. Pretty slick Illinois. Great for you to get off to a good start. Feelin’ good about yourselves I bet. But seriously, I can’t even fathom how bad Murray State must be.
11)   Nebraska: All I’m going to say is that lining up without a Punter in tribute to Sam Foltz was a damn fine gesture. Good on ya.
12)   Penn State: The inaugural game of the 3rd Annual It-Seems-Like-This-James-Franklin-PSU-Team-Should-Be-Better campaign started a little slow, but you came around. There’s no shame in only being up by a FG to a MAC team at halftime, especially how you finished. Now, continuing to hang onto Joe Paterno’s legacy? That’s shameful.
13)   Indiana: Your defense was directly responsible for almost half of your 33 points. You were losing to FIU at the beginning of the 4th quarter.  Things seem to be going according to plan?

14)   Maryland: There’s literally nothing worthwhile to say about your win. You crushed probably the worst team that the B1G got to play in week 1. Howard won a single game in 2015 and the team they beat (Savannah State) was a 1-win team as well. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bear With Me

I’ve got some random thoughts. If you continue reading from here you are agreeing to bear with me. You’ve been warned.

* Tracy Claeys

DO YOU, CLAEYBRO!

Remember a few months ago when everyone was pissy with Matt Limegrover for poor play calling and poor offense in general? There was discussion about how he should be let go, but that Jerry Kill would never pull the trigger.

Then the unimaginable happened. Jerry Kill retired abruptly and the whole empire suddenly looked shaky.

Here’s the question. Let’s say Kill never retired. Let’s say that the season continued to play out exactly as it did, but that Kill was still the head coach. Same outcomes. Same wins. Same losses. Same struggles.

And then let’s say it was Jerry Kill who fired Matt Limegrover and Jim Zebrowski.

What then?

Wouldn’t we all be saying “well, yeah, it was time for a change.”

I was a proponent of hiring Claeys, but I had some concerns on Claeys assertiveness. Would he be a leader, or would he be a wallflower? Would he make the tough decisions, or would he wait for things to come to him?

Well folks, I no longer have that fear.

For better or worse, ClaeyBro made a big statement. He’s going to run this team. He’s going to blaze the trail his way. Carried around town on the shoulders of the fans or ridden out of town on a rail, when it’s all said and done, make no mistake, Tracy Claeys just pronounced: “I’m the captain now!” (h/t @MVofDT & @FrothyGopher (R.I.P.))

* Reusse

My favorite thing about Reusse is how he’ll constantly use the word “we” when talking about what’s going on with the Gophers, and then he turns around and calls the fans names (most recently: Maroon Wearing Zanies. I think we should all adopt #MWZ on Twitter, but I’m only one man.).

* Bowl Bid

Speaking of Reusse, I actually agree with him on something.

“You cannot say, ‘Our kids worked so hard; they deserve a bowl game,’ when the work produces completely negative results.

You should not say this. If you are saying this, you should not be saying it and you are being an idiot.

However, saying the Gophers deserve a bowl game isn’t the same as saying that the Gophers should accept an invitation to a bowl game.

They most certainly do not deserve to go to a bowl game. But should they accept a bowl bid if they get one? HELL YES.

And don’t give me any BS about pride and how we shouldn’t be willing to accept a “reward.”


It’s not a reward. It’s a glitch in the system. It’s an outlier. It’s not a normal circumstance. And the Gophers should take advantage of the opportunity if it presents itself. 

In the words of Steve Miller “Take the money and run.”