When the Gophers take the field against Nebraska this weekend, it may or may not be for the first trophy truly born in the 21st Century: The $5 Bits of Broken Chair.
Yes, there are newer trophies, but none came to life purely through the passion and creativity of people from the Internet. A Twitter parody account, a college mascot and the denizens of Reddit joined forces in a way not possible when Floyd, the Jug and the Axe were conceived. People that had never met, and may still only know each other through message boards and other digital media, created something
Technology facilitated its original birth and it lived for two seasons in real life before quietly disappearing a few years ago. The circumstances of its status are unknown, but it's fairly safe to say the administrations of neither Nebraska nor Minnesota approved and mutually decided to pretend it never existed in the first place.
But there has been a rebirth. Once again, a group of Internet people have come together out of passion and in the spirit of tradition and charity to give this trophy a second life. It celebrated its coming out party last week in Nebraska and will be unveiled to Minnesota fans this Thursday at my favorite campus haunt, Stub and Herbs (6PM - 9PM and I'm told there are door prizes too).
One of the catalysts behind its resurrection was charity - to gain acceptance from the universities, it would need to serve the greater good. Thus the organizers have been fundraising for the Team Jack Foundation and the Univerity of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. As of today, they stand at $4,000 dollars raised out of a $5,000 goal. With a good push over the next few days and Saturday, there is no reason to believe they won't reach it.
What remains in doubt is whether the trophy will be allowed on the field on Saturday. Both administrations have remained mum on the issue, but it's hard to believe it will be allowed in the stadium without explicit approval from the University of Minnesota at the least (alas, it's a bit too bulky to shove down one's pants with your trusty flask.)
I wonder why the schools have not embraced this. The trophy seems to embody everything that college football is supposed to be about. During his weekly radio show yesterday, Coach Fleck saw the trophy for the first time and summed up better than I can why this trophy is special: "I heard rivalry, I heard fundraising, charity, tradition...and I'm in."
You can't say that about many of the trophies in college football, particularly the newer ones. Here is one born of passion, oriented in tradition and founded on charitable intent. Fans did this because they care. Fans embrace it because they care. Fans want it to survive and be part of our program story for generations to come.
It's time to let the first trophy birthed from 21-Century technology live. It's time for both schools to make the Chair legitimate.