Friday, September 29, 2017

#MAGA Illinois!

Looks like it's not helping Tubby Smith and the gang, but the Illini are trying to channel a higher power.

Heart and Quit: The Maryland Game Prediction

Advanced stats in football seem to have exploded over the last couple of years and, to be honest, I don’t really get them. It seems like the people who put them together are pretty smart and stuff, but I’m not sure the dynamics of football are as conducive to statistical prediction as, say, baseball. Yes, things like efficiency and explosiveness are important and I can understand the desire to measure how many yards a running back gets on his own versus assistance from the line; but the sample sizes seem remarkably small given the need to categorize things like down and distance, field position, personnel groupings, when in the game a play takes place and the score. Yes, one can control for these things, but you’re left with some pretty thin data sets on which to make predictions.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fanfic: Ten Years of Brewball

I honestly didn’t think I’d stick around this long, but the decadence is just too much to give up on. Thumping bass from the 2500 speakers placed around the stadium. New 3’ expansions on the scoreboard every year to keep it the biggest in the country. Different offensive and defensive coordinators every year for the past seven seasons. Grass imported from the Rose Bowl every season. Yeah it’s effing year ten of Brewball.

Top 6 Reasons the Twins Made the Playoffs: You Won't Believe #4!


The Twins kinda sorta made the "playoffs" last night; earning the right to a one game wildcard playoff against the Yankees.  Sure, that always ends in disaster, but anything is possible in one game and these Twins are plucky.  Perhaps the pluckiest team on the planet.

The Twins managed the most incredible turnaround in solar system history last night after finishing last season with 103 losses.  How did they do it?  Let's take a look at the top 6 reasons:

Oh God NO! The Rose Bowl is a Playoff Game this Season

Look at that. I'm excited about the possibilities and it's not even October.

No, really, stop reading and look at that in its incandescent glory.

My goosebumps get turgid whenever I see that GIF. It's the promised land. A place I've always wanted to go, but won't unless it's to watch my own team play. To go, walk in and see emblazoned on the end zone: Minnesota.

So, here we sit in September and I'm trying to temper my excitement. Do we have a chance this season? Of course, there's always a chance. Look at Iowa in 2015 - they were a good, not great team, that ran the conference table and managed to get in despite losing the B1G championship game. Our schedule this season shakes out to be a bit more difficult than theirs that year, as, during conference play, they managed to avoid the two teams from Michigan.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fan Fic: Year 2 of the Claeys Era

Remembering back to January, 2017, when we thought we had a chance at landing PJ Fleck as our coach, becomes more and more difficult as we enter conference play in Tracy Claeys' second full season as Gophers head coach. The team is undefeated, but the pall of the sexual assault scandal and threatened bowl boycott still hangs over the team. Attendance is down, as a sizable percentage of season ticket holders opted to sit this one out. Some due to the scandal, others due to the belief that the U had once again opted for the less expensive path of mediocrity.

Your author and his cohort chose to not renew because the games just weren't fun anymore. The last home game of the 2017 season, against Northwestern, had the stale, musty feeling of a tomb. That the university made no steps to understand what fans wanted the game day experience didn't help matters; but in all earnest, attending the games wasn't a good time. Our offense had failed to progress and, while the defense remained a strong point, it's hard to get jacked about defensive football when the stadium is 30% vacant and quiet.

7-0 You Say? What about...wait is this right? Purdue?

So the Gophers are sitting at 3-0 going into conference play and have a legitimate shot at starting 7-0. Maryland is crap, MSU is beatable, and with Tubby Smith at the helm, Illinois ain’t beating no one. The wildcard to going undefeated in the first seven? Purdue. Effing Purdue.

I’m not really sure what to make of them. At times they’ve looked brilliant on offense and pretty disciplined on defense – not recent hallmarks of Purdue football. At other times they looked downright ordinary. They played Michigan pretty tight for three quarters, but the Wolverines weren’t exactly playing high-quality ball; whether that was due to the Boilers disrupting their plans or Team Pleated Khakis having a bad day is hard to tell.

I’m more troubled by the fact that I’m worried about Purdue. It’s Purdue for eff’s sake. What if Purdue beats us and keeps us from the incandescent glory that is 7-0? Are we okay at 6-1 with the “1” being Purdue? The couple of games after that, @Iowa and @Michigan are kinda important, particularly the former. Will our fans have the wherewithal to travel to Kinnick, tear down and steal the goalposts and duct tape Brian Ferentz to them right after a loss to Purdue? Pray we never have to find out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Why Being a Passionate Fan Effing Matters

It's 3rd down and short, Gophers are on defense, opponents are pinned at their own 15-yard line at the open end of the stadium. Gophers are up by seven late in the 3rd quarter, so getting a stop here would be huge. Me and my crew of three are up and in full throat, near the front of our section in the lower level. It's a huge play, I'm totally amped and I want to enjoy what the stadium looks like when all the fans are hyped to help the defense. I turn around to look at our section.

I see literally one other person standing, my road dog WCJ about 25 rows back.


/whispers Who Wants an Elite 2019 QB?

Unless you’re a complete recruiting nerd (I used to be obsessed with it, but decided not to allow my happiness in life to be dictated by 17-18 year old jocks), you may be unaware there are a couple of big 2019 visits coming up over the next two home games: Both QBs and both absolute studs.

This weekend, in fact, Hank Bachmeier is coming all the way up from California to see the Maryland game. Hank is a four-star with a composite rating of .944 and is oh, the 4th-rated pro-style QB in the nation. Maybe even the world. In addition to our club, he holds offers from UCLA, Ole Miss, Colorado, Utah and a few others. Word is he has some connections to the state of Minnesota, so let’s all pretend that’s super important to him and feel really good for a bit.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sawvel Who?

Three posts in one day! Your boy's either got a methamphetamine problem, a lot of extra free time lately or, potentially, both.

I, like many of you, I'm sure, was gnashing the hell out of my teeth and tearing at my collars when Fleck announced Robb Smith as the new defensive coordinator, letting God King of Defense Jay Sawvel loose. Sawvel and Snorlax gave us the best Gopher defenses we'd seen in the better part of a generation and the prevailing belief was that Fleck fucked up massively. He'd bring in his crazy-ass run-pass option offense and we'd score some points; but we'd be back to Year One of Brewball, where we'd score 40 and give up 60 and drink ourselves into a coma every Saturday night. It was a foregone conclusion. All hope was lost.

The Most Delicious of them All

Everyone does power polls these days. Some, like Jaundice Tooth Dienhard over at BTN use nothing more than history and a cursory look at a box score to set them while others, such as ESPN use FPI (Fapping Projectile Incident) to ‘mathematically’ determine the quality of the respective teams. It’s a crowded field and we at Still Got Hope don’t have much interest in swimming with the sharks. We look for fresh, clean ocean to don the water wings and float until dehydration from salt water consumption takes our minds and our lives.

Today, we introduce a poll that, barring new entrants into the B1G, will probably never change. We know you’ve wondered about this for a long time and now it is time for the reveal and discussion. Yes, friends, which mascot, given our druthers, would we prefer to consume for dinner tonight. The tastiest mascot in the conference. 

So You're Telling Me There's a Chance!

You ever wonder what the probability of us going undefeated in conference play, winning the B1GCG, going to the CFB Playoff and winning the championship is? Well, I hadn’t either until I was desperate for content to keep up this unprecedented streak of posting, so here we are. I assign a percent chance of victory to each game and then using MATHS, calculate (probably incorrectly – it’s been, like 40 years since my last math class) the chance the Gophers sweep the table and let us all die happy and fulfilled.

1.     Maryland: Will probably be facing their 3rd-string QB and we NEVER have problems against backup QBs. They looked like a solid team week one, but have since descended into a state of warm, fluid poo. WIN PROBABILITY: 80%

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Sorry, guys, I haven't pivoted to an all-porn theme, despite the somewhat racy title of the post. I'm not completely ruling out the idea in the future, though, so if there's interest, I'll start putting advertisements on Craigslist and we can make some smut money.

Nay, the title of this post refers to some t-shirts I made two years ago that a few of the Gopher faithful bought and still wear from time to time. The shirts were maroon, with a large, gold picture of the state of Minnesota on them with the caption underneath "This is totally the year." This, of course, shifts well into acronym mode, where it spells TITTY, which, classy gentleman that I am, featured as a hashtag on the back of the shirt.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

CTE and the Gophers Rose Bowl Runway

Quick little Saturday nugget to chew on while you're watching the only weekend of the college football season the Gophers can't ruin: any concerns about the rash of CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy - a degradation of brain function due to repeated head trauma/concussions) issues and what the means to the future of football?

There's obviously been a lot of coverage over the last five years about a spate of former players who have killed themselves due to CTE - often by shooting themselves in the chest to preserve their brains for physical study. The latest case was Aaron Hernandez who killed himself at 27, but showed CTE symptoms more likely to be found in a 60-year old. This raises the specter the disease may advance more quickly, and at earlier ages, than initially thought.

The degree to which the CTE issue will affect the game is still uncertain. Both college and the NFL have instituted rules to penalize targeting of and leading with the head. While that's noble, it's not likely to lead to a dramatic reduction in head trauma: you might have two or three plays a game where someone gets drilled in the brain case, and the rules should help mitigate that damage; but it's the repeated shots, play after play, by offensive and defensive linemen, running backs and linebackers that take a toll over the long term.

And there's the rub. You can't penalize linemen for using their heads - getting your helmet into a defensive player is literally how you're supposed block certain plays. So to decrease the long term brain damage to these players, you're going to need to fundamentally change the way the game is played. Will football change to a 7-7 format? Or return to the days of leather helmets instead of outfitting ultra-athletes with body armor? Given the increasing coverage - and the scale of the issue itself - it's hard not to see the NFL and other organizing bodies, including the NCAA, make significant changes to the game in the next five to ten years. I mean, with as bad as things are now, it's not out of the realm of the imagination tackle football won't exist by 2030.

Which brings us to our beloved rodents. If we see the game materially changing over the next decade, will that help or hurt the Gophers competitive chances? I always say I'll see the Gophers in the Rose Bowl before I die, but that's predicated on me living to 90 and football still existing in 15 years. So help me God, if they kill the game the season when all of the starts are aligned for our run, I'll tear my house down and eat it piece by piece. That truly would be the most Gopher thing ever.

Friday, September 22, 2017

I'm Glad I'm Still a Gopher

As I intimated in the post announcing my glorious return, I almost quit Gopher football last year. Fandom of this team is a wearying experience at the best of times; but when you’ve got players running trains, boycotting the bowl game, coaches – at least – tacitly supporting the boycott, a half-empty, spiritless stadium and three hours of being blasted with advertisements during games, the fun was just gone. If Claeys had been back, I’d have given up my season tickets and probably traveled to a few of the premier college games around the country during the season. My thoughts were that if Claeys were retained, the athletic department more or less would have accepted our fate as a low-to-middling program, destined for a slow death not unlike the Gutekunst era. If they didn’t care, why should I?

That, of course, changed with the hiring of Fleck. We went all in, snagged our guy and are at least taking a chance. Giving up would have been easier – debt service on the new facilities could easily be covered by the general fund – but Coyle and Kaler eschewed the safe path for one with stratospheric upside. Again, Fleck’s not exactly my slice of pork, but you can’t knock the hustle and I like a lot of what I’ve seen on the field.

But reminiscing on the time I thought I was done gave me pause to think about why I’ve stuck with this team through the years. It would have been so easy to quit, to find a new team or a hobby. To forgo the disappointment that seems to be a hallmark of every season – that game that could have made the difference, gotten us over the hump, made us relevant. That one Sunday morning every year when you wake up and know with certainty the Rose Bowl won’t happen this year. That pit in your stomach.

It would have been easy, but I didn’t do it. Right, wrong or indifferent, I have an undefinable bond with this team. In some way they represent the part of me that is good – the belief despite all odds, the elation when something good happens, the recovery and commiseration with friends when the hopes are dashed.

I am still a Gopher because, at long last, it looks like we’re doing the things necessary to be successful. I’ve spent many practices at Gibson-Nagurski with its leaky roof and insulation falling onto the field with every punt, watched many coaches come through here with big talk and little results. Now we’ve invested in the program, with new facilities and a coach that, while he brings a lot of big talk, has very credible results.

I am still a Gopher because Minnesota is my state and that means something. Provincialism in the US is not as strong as it is in other parts of the world, but seeing ‘MINNESOTA’ spelled out on the seats of the stadium, in the end zones and chanting it at the end of the Rouser evokes feelings of pride in me. We’re a great state: highly educated, industrious, generous. The team may not have always been good, but when they’re on the field, they are our proxy, fighting for our state. Our pride.

I am still a Gopher because I’ve met some of the kindest, most genuine and fun people in my life through my fandom. These aren’t people I talk to seven times a year. They are among my best and deepest friends and we speak almost daily. We have come to support each other not just through the slings and arrows of a Gopher season, but through the real hardships of life. But for my love for this team, they never would have been part of my life and I would be a poorer man because of it.

And finally, I am still a Gopher because it WILL happen. We will beat Wisconsin, we will win the B1G West and we will go to the Rose Bowl. It might take a Tychean run of good luck – a bounce here, a broken play there, a well-timed torrential downpour or blizzard – but we will get to where we’ve waited to go all these years. The destination we could see, but never visit. Everything is in place right now. It might not happen this year, next or maybe even the year after; but it will happen. We’ll be driving in a convertible on our way to the Rose Bowl, top down, smiling broadly, looking in wonder at the sun shining off the San Gabriel Mountains.

I’m glad I stuck around and did my part. I’m glad I’m still a Gopher.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Helping Out an Old Gopher Coach

Hi, BA,

It's your hater. The old coaching staff sure seems to have a lot to say about Fleck and the current state of the Gophers. Especially you. You've always got something salty so say. I figure it's probably because you're unemployed. Usually I wouldn't malign someone for that, but you just can't seem to keep the ol' Twitter fingers silent! So I thought I'd give you a hand and point you in the direction of some jobs you might be especially qualified for. Maybe one will resonate and you can change your Twitter description from 'Coach: TBA' to one of these fine options.

Tennis ball inspector
Everyone who ever attended an open practice left mystified why you were using tennis balls to coach your wide receivers. I mean, it's football. Why not use footballs? Anyway, given your affinity for the fuzzy green things, perhaps there's a future in working at Wilson or whatever other tennis ball companies are out there. I know of a dozen or so Gopher fans who would happily attest to your expertise in this domain. And during breaks, you could teach some of the folks in the manufacturing plant how to catch them. Sounds like a win-win to me!

St. Paul Saints outfield coach
Think about this: all you have to do is teach them to catch. That's it! No pesky yards after catch to worry about. They just catch the ball and the play is usually over. You seem particularly suited to that part, but I think I speak for most Gopher fans in expressing some concern about the catching element. Fortunately, the players get to wear a big web on their hand AND a baseball is pretty similar to a tennis ball, so you wouldn't even need to change your training routines. Plus it's local! And the season isn't that long, so you'd still have plenty of time to be salty. I'd think seriously about this one.

'Do that.' Executive Coaching
There were rumors, thoroughly untrue, I'm sure, that your coaching approach more or less boiled down to showing wide receivers film of NFL wideouts and saying 'do that.' I played football for a bit and never had a coach do that as a means of instruction, but I never made it to the FBS level, so maybe things are different there. Anyway, I feel like there's a future in this for you on the corporate circuit, perhaps executive coaching. CVS not doing as well as Walgreens? Have you stroll into CVS headquarters with Walgreens' financial statements, toss them at the CFO and say, implacably, "Do that." Sky is the limit there financially. If I were a "do that" kind of guy, I'd look into it.

WR Coach: Army
If you're really going to insist on staying in football and, again, I'd advise against this, Army might be your Jesus. They had 54 completions last year. 54! And some of those were probably to RBs or TEs, over which you'd have no responsibility! Like, we were a wet diaper through the air and we had 181. And they threw for only 967 yards! The expectations there would be mostly consistent with what we saw the last few years here, so it might be your lifeboat.

Give it some thought, man. Put down the Twitter, try a flavor other than salty (there are so many!) and focus your energies on your next job. We Gophers don't wish you any ill will. We just want you to go away.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shitposters in the Mist

Shitposting: A deliberate provocation designed for maximum impact with minimum effort.

Memetic warfare: a modern type of information warfare and psychological warfare involving the propagation of Internet memes on social media.

Two of the most amusing developments in internet culture over the last few years have been shitposting and so-called ‘memetic warfare.’ I’ll get into specifically why in a moment; but for those not in the loop these are two ways to basically ways to trash an idea, person or discussion, online, without really doing any work at all. Think political tactics used by the alt-right during the 2016 election: Pepe the Frog, #SickHillary, #Pizzagate, etc.

To some extent, I’ve been surprised that these approaches have largely stayed in the political domain. I mean, there’s occasional shitposting on GopherHole, but that’s more shit posting – posting that’s just shit - than it is what I’m referring to here. But why don’t we hear more Fortune 500 companies shitposting each other’s Twitter feeds or the Amish going after the filthy Mennonites with dank memes? I’m sure it happens, particularly the latter, but it hasn’t made its way mainstream like it has for politics and the culture wars.

Or hasn’t it? What if we’ve had our own shitposter here in the Twin Cities for years?

Consider the following online content, regarding our distinguished Coach Fleck:

“He’s a cartoon character. No wonder the rational Oregon boosters said, “Keep him away from here,’’ when Fleck tried to barge into the picture for that job last December. They like the Ducks out there, but apparently not Daffy Duck.”

Or: “Mottos for 2017 Gophers: 1-Row the Boat; 2-Sku U Mah; 3-Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em”

Or: “Hearing Gophers might now be having a problem with ''agricultural sustainability.''

Or: When asked about what would drive him back to drinking “Spending 5 minutes in same room as P.J. Fleck.”

These are shitposts. I will not hear otherwise. They a) were posted online, b) intended to debase Fleck’s standing and, with incontrovertible certainty, c) required the barest minimum of effort. Ergo, Patrick Reusse is a shitposter.

It’s truly a testament to the state of media in the Twin Cities that not one but two outlets employ him to shitpost. Yes, I understand columnists are supposed to be pithy and have opinions that drive discussion and occasionally ruffle some feathers.

But Patrick’s commentary concerning the Gophers, and particularly Fleck, are shitposts. It’s not thought out. It’s not well written. Even attempts at humor are something you’d expect to see as a joke on a desiccated 20-year old package of Bazooka bubble gum. His takes are trite and appeal to the lowest common denominator. Score points by attacking Fleck/the Gophers, go back to dreaming about the sweet taste of bourbon. Shit. Post.

That’s fine. He can keep shitposting. But we’ve got memes, friends. The dankest of memes. And with his shitposts, we must unleash the memetic war.

Could it be Winnesota?

I was thinking earlier this summer as the Twins continued to surprise and win that we may be on the verge of something that has never happened in Minnesota major sports history.  Well, at least since the Wild came into existence. (Fuck Norm Green).

When have all four of the major professional sports franchises gone above .500.  Or even better, when have they all made the playoffs?

I went to the googles and pored over the history of each of our home squads and made a beautiful (read: ugly) chart to visualize:

The Wolves: Yikes

Just once since the Wild have come into existence have all four teams eclipsed .500.  In 2003, the Vikings went 9-7, the Wild 30-29-3, Twins 90-72 and the Wolves 58-24.  This is what amounts to a good Minnesota sports year.  However, only the Twins and Wolves were in the playoffs.

Let's go back to a better time when I was only partially on my way to a life filled with misfortune and terrible life choices.  Let's go back to 2003.  

For the 2003 Vikings, we were in the midst of the Mike Tice era which should carry its own set of bad memories if you were there for it.  In fact, you can probably play his dumb laugh in your head.  The Vikes looked like world-beaters out of the gate winning their first 6 games, but floundered in their final 10; going 3-7.  Do you remember the last game of that season?  You should...4th and 25 pass to Nathan Poole to win it for the Cardinals 18-17 and murderkill the playoffs for the Vikings.  Paul Allen screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

We did have some fun that year.  Randy Moss had 17 touchdowns and over 1600 yards receiving.  We had Culpepper, we had Moe Williams, we had rookie Kevin Williams and his 10.5 sacks, we had Brian Russell(!) with 9 interceptions.  Good times... but no playoffs.  As an aside, in Minnesota, we seem to have a disproportionate amount of seasons where one of our squads starts out strong as hell and then ends up pooping the bed, no?  Maybe that's just my Gopher football goggles... thank you sweet non-con.

The 03-04 Wild were 30-29-3.  (For the purposes of this exercise I'm going by the year the season started for NHL/NBA)  They were 10th in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs.   This season followed an 02-03 season that was one of, if not the best in Wild history.  That year, the Wild beat the Avalanche in 7 in round 1, then defeated rival Vancouver in 7.  In both series, the Wild were down 3-1 before rallying and winning the series.  Alas, J.S. Giguere and the Ducks weren't having it in the Western Conference Finals and swept the Wild.

The Wild entered that off-season with a tight checking defense and an anemic offense.  They selected Brent Burns with the 20th pick of the first round.  (Burns by the way, is now in his prime with the Sharks; he has 56 goals and 151 points over the past two seasons and usually sports a tremendous beard.)

In that 03-04 season, Alexandre Daigle led the Wild with just 20 goals...other names you may remember that were top scorers were Marion Gaborik, Andrew Brunette, Pascal Dupuis and Antti Laaksonen.  Filip Kuba, Nick Schulz and Willie Mitchell were defensive leaders with Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez in between the pipes.

The 2003 Minnesota Twins won their division by going 90-72.  In the prior off-season the Twins released David Ortiz and forever broke my heart by keeping Doug Mientkiewicz instead.  (HE SAVES SO MANY RUNS WITH HIS GLOVE YOU GUYS)

A major turning point in the season was when the Twins traded for Shannon Stewart and formed SOUL PATROL in the outfield alongside Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter.  Stewart hit .322 for the Twins down the stretch helping to lead them to the playoffs.  Hunter led the team in HR (26) and RBI (102).  Pierzynski hit .312...Mientkiewicz hit .300 with 11 homers...Corey Koskie led the team in OPS (845).

The pitching was not great... Brad Radke let the team in ERA with a 4.49 mark.  Guardado and LaTroy were kicking ass in the bullpen. The big bright spot the transition from bullpen to starter for Johan Santana.  Santana won his last 8 decisions down the stretch and started the first game of the ALDS against the Yankees.  The Twins won that first game and then were subsequently destroyed in the next 3.

BTW, found this tidbit on wiki

"Due to Santana's early major-league success with the Twins, a young minor-league pitcher in the Anaheim Angels' farm system also named Johan Santana changed his name to Ervin Santana in 2003 and has also achieved major league success"  

The circle is complete.

The 2003-04 Timberwolves season was the best in the franchise's existence.  MVP Garnett with 24.2 pts, 13.9 rebs, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.2 blocks per game.  Sam Cassell making big shots and running around holding his imaginary gigantic balls in front of his shorts.  Latrell Sprewell flying and angrily dunking while yelling "motherfucker".  It was the best.

The Wolves finished first in the Western Conference with a 58-24 record.  They beat the Nugz and then won an awesome seven game series against C-Webb and the Kings.  The lost in 6 games in the conference finals to Shaq, Kobe, Old Man Karl Malone and Old Man Gary Payton-led Lakers.  This is the last appearance by the Wolves in the playoffs....until this year?


Our Twins are currently in line for one of the two wildcards in the American League this year.  Their opponent will be the Yankees in New York for one game if everything bears out as it is today.  The Angels are only a game and a half behind the Twins though and what's more fun than a total collapse?

If the Twins do make it though... revenge for 2003 in the making?  I mean, probably not, but a man can dream.  These bats can get hot, but the Yankees have some quality pitching that can stymie the best of offenses.

The Vikings are the biggest questions mark out of the four major squads in my opinion.  Before the year, I would have said its the Twins, but they seem to have proven me to be an idiot once again.  After week one, the Vikings looked like a strong squad with playoff potential written all over them.  Week two comes along and Sam Bradford's trick knee starts acting up and the wheels eject off the wagon.  The season's playoff chances come down to that knee being okay and okay soon.  There is the ghost of a chance that Zombie Bridgewater rises from the murky depths and takes over mid-season, but it may be too late by then.  Dalvin Cook looks like a beast.  The defense is fun and makes plays.  The o-line... well, they have to be better than last year, right?

The Wild are coming off a season where they were 2nd in the division to the Blackhawks and were seeded 2nd in the conference in the playoffs.  However, because nothing matters, including home ice in the NHL playoffs, they were bounced in the first round by the filthy St. Louis Blues.

Coming into this season hope springs anew for a good season and a better playoff run.  Last years points leader with 69 (nice), Mikael Granlund returns to lead a second line that seems to keep improving with Nino-Granlund-Zucker.  Eric Staal had a nice bounce back year in his first withe Wild last year and will likely center the top line with Parise and Chuck Coyle. The Wild shipped out under performer Jason Pominville as well as Marco Scandella for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foglino (Fog-LINE-oh).  Ennis was a 20+ goal scorer before being hurt all the damn time, so maybe he can do something on the third line with Koivu.  Devan Dubnyk is back in the net to kick some ass too.

I'm a Timberwolves homer and I always have been.  If you're in the Ukraine you've probably read my 2011-12 Wolves preview on this site many times for some reason, wherein I urge you to "come aboard" because "it's happening" and so forth.  It didn't happen, you guys.  BUT NOW ITS REALLY HAPPENING

If you are a Wolves fan, you can already probably taste the playoffs.  The acquisition of Jimmy Butler along with young studs Karl Towns and Andrew Wiggins makes this Thibs-run squad something to watch.  Rubio was shipped off and pick and roll maestro Jeff Teague was brought in as well.  And while I'll miss all that Rubio brought with his magician-level passing and under-appreciated defense, I am excited to see a PG that can get and make a shot and force the defense to be a little more honest instead.

Look, Butler and Towns are both top 15 players with Towns' star on the rise and no limit to its metaphysical heights.  Wiggins, for all his flaws elsewhere is an exceptional scorer and has put the team on his back at times.  Free agent acquisition Taj Gibson is a gritty defender at the power forward spot and will help lead an run this Thibs defense.  Gorgui is still here and if he's off the bench with Jamal Crawford and Shabazz Muhammad and Tyus Jones you have the makings of a solid second unit.

Vegas has this team around 48 wins for an over/under which puts us solidly in the 4-5 seed range for the playoffs.

So to recap:  Twins - pretty much already in.  Wild - should be in.  Wolves - we're back baby! Vikings - inject all of the platelets into Sam's knee.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Holy shit, the Chair is back.

I’d heard some rumblings about its potential return from some peeps of mine in the Gopher Deep State (the Gopher illuminati is absolutely real, btw, and magnificent), but didn’t think much of it. I mean, this was a trophy that came to be after a parody Twitter account threatened to smash a chair over the head of a university mascot. It was a fun shtick, but I reckoned the schools’ respective brass – particularly Nebraska’s - would rather walk on the surface of the sun than sanction the return of an icon emblematic of a former coach’s, uh, tendencies toward the mercurial.

Well, suck choade FrothyGopher, because the ghosts of the innertronz (read: Reddit and a few highly-enterprising Gopher and Husker fans) made it happen. It’s not abundantly clear yet whether it’s officially sanctioned: aside from the banner pic from a game, there’s no Minnesota or Nebraska branding, so I suspect this is being done with tacit permission, but no direct engagement from the universities.

That’s totally fine with me. I guess I’d rather have the players grab it after the game and tote it around the stadium; but we do that with all of our other trophies we never win. Plus, I think the idea of a fan trophy is pretty rad. It could live in a campus bar between games and fans could drink from it or dry hump it like NHL players do with the Stanley Cup.

I spent about 15 seconds on Google looking for examples of fan trophies and I came up with nothing, so we may really be breaking new ground here. Our existing rivalry trophies are tits compared to most other teams’, so adding a brand new fan tradition into the mix will make us the most interesting kinda shit program in the country. I’m kidding. We’re going to be great this year and mark down 2019 as #TITTY. See y’all in the ‘Dena on 1/1/20.

I do wonder about the exchange of the trophy. Say it’s kept at Sally’s or Sterb’s In years that we’ve won it. If we lose, will Husker fans go rampaging across campus to pillage our watering holes and take their bounty? That could be fun. Or are we thinking some ceremony where the trophy is presented to the winning fans by representatives of the losing team, like a king who just lost a war and has to give his daughter away to some Hun warlord? My current vote is we dispense with the game itself and have a massive knife fight for it every year.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention there was a Chair-ity (GET IT?!) component to this resurrection. There’s an effort to raise funds for the U’s Masonic Children’s Hospital (which truly does life changing work) and Nebraska’s Team Jack Foundation to research pediatric brain cancers. Two awesome causes so if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, peep this link.

I’m genuinely excited about this, so will probably revisit the topic a few times in the coming weeks. With the corporatization of college sports, grassroots, fan-driven movements like this breathe fresh life into the game we all love. Whether you’re waiting for your chance to grind your crotch into the chair or couldn’t care less, we should be genuinely grateful to the squad that brought back that beautiful broken chair.

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...


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.


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 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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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