Why I Go(pher) 2.0

Before the 2012 season, I wrote Why I Go(pher). The Gopher football team would finish that season 6-7. And under that coaching staff and administration, it never felt like they would be more than a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team.

Yesterday, 7 years later, we turned the corner I wrote about. And as I predicted, I was there.

At the time that I wrote those words, I had no clue that I would have a 3-year-old son and a 9-month-old daughter sitting next to me. Long gone are the days of drinking as much as I want because I had nothing to do on Sunday.

Our Gopher gamedays are decidedly different. In this special edition of TimTalks, I am going to hand the mic over to my lovely wife to give you a gameday-in-the-life as the wife of a Gopher fan:

 

It’s 5:30 am on a Saturday. Warm in my bed, I’m awakened by my husband’s alarm. I keep my eyes closed for a few minutes, considering trying to catch a little more sleep. I decide against it. Time to move. My husband looks up, surprised, as I walk into the bathroom. “I understand. I know this is the biggest game in decades. I’m up.”

Two hours later the car is packed, the kids are dressed, the baby’s been fed, and we are ready to go.

For the first time in years, I have convinced my husband we don’t need to make it in time for the open of the tailgate lots. Lots open six hours before game time or 7:00 am for an 11:00 game. On our drive in, at 7:45, we hear from my brother who has beaten us there. I can tell instantly my husband is disappointed at our late arrival. We pull up at 8:07 am. Three hours until game time. Our shortest tailgate of the season.

Growing up with three brothers, I spent my fair share of time at football games. However, I was more interested in talking with my friends than staying up to speed on the play by play. My first Gopher football game, in 2001, my future husband and I sat in the Metrodome as he tried to explain the basics of the game. I listened, not realizing as a 16-year-old girl that this would become a staple of my life.

Gopher football as a college student and twenty-something without children was A LOT of fun. I loved the social aspect. The chants, the traditions, and the beers. I cheered loud for the big plays but didn’t lose sleep over a bad game. But it got a lot tougher with one and now two kids. And I’ll admit, some days I get a bit salty.

Making it to a tailgate lot at 8:30 am with a three-year-old and an infant requires a lot of work. Arriving home a solid twelve hours later makes for some tired kids, and parents too. And some days I just wondered, could we maybe go at 9:30, or 10:00? Is it absolutely pivotal to the success of the team that we arrive for six full hours of tailgating? And the answer is, yes.

Yes, it does matter. Because it matters to my favorite human on this earth. It matters to him to show up for his team, week after week, some years loss after loss. And this moment, this day, was to date, the most important day in his lifelong journey as a Gopher fan. My husband has never missed a game in TCF Bank Stadium. His three-year-old son and 9-month-old daughter haven’t missed a home game in their lives. He’s been there for the electrifying wins and the heartbreaking losses. He always shows up.

So I show up. I nurse a baby in the sleet under a Gopher blanket to watch the team beat Nebraska. I stand in the pouring rain in Evanston to see the team suffer a truly unwatchable defeat by Northwestern. I’ve never been to Hawaii or Palm Springs, but I’ve been to Ohio State and Maryland.

But some days, like this beautiful November morning, I sit in the sunshine holding a sleeping baby, my hooligan three-year-old being a perfect angel, and watch the Gophers lead a top-five ranked Penn State team through not one, two, or three, but four full quarters of play to maintain their perfect season.

We lovingly refer to my husband as “Timmy Baby Pants.” It’s a lot of fun. On cue, Baby Pants shed a tear in the stands as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” played and fans rushed the field. Honestly, I shed a tear too. I’m so grateful for the husband and father that he is. And seeing the joy on his face while he hugged our three-year-old in the final minutes of the game, I’ll get up at 5:30 on a Saturday for that. I’ll stand in the snow and the rain to see those smiles on my two favorite boys’ faces.

And I know it’s only going to get easier, and better, as my kids grow up. I can already see the excitement and joy on my son’s face when he talks about “Minnesota.”

We are laying the foundation for a lifetime of tradition.

I’m a big Fleck fan. I love his energy and enthusiasm, and he’s easy on the eyes. Some people roll their eyes at the catch phrases and mantras, but I love them.

FAMILY. Forget About Me, I Love You.

It perfectly encompasses my Gopher experience. I love the energy and the party and the celebrations, sure. But I can’t tell you the score or even who we played in the opening game of the 2018 season. What I can tell you is what the face of a father looks like when his 2-year-old son walks into the stadium for a new season, looks out over the field with eyes full of wonderment, and unprovoked exclaims “row the boat.”

I can tell you about the pride on a first-time father’s face as he walks into the stadium with his son strapped to his chest for his son’s first game.

I can tell you about the sparkle in a father’s eye as he watches his wife unwrap his daughter’s first pink Gopher shirt.

I can tell you what a father and son sing on Fridays before gameday. (Les Mis  – “One Day More”)

I can tell you about the grin on a toddler’s face as he signals for another “Golden Gopher First Down!”

I can tell you how a tailgate lot full of strangers become friends (it takes a village.)

At the end of the game, win or lose, I can tell you about my husband and the amazing bond that he will forever share with our children over this team called the Gophers.

It’s why I Go(pher).

My First Baseball Season: A Story of Embarrassment

Baseball. America’s pastime. Endless opportunities for me to embarrass myself.

I did not have a long career on the diamond. I played until I was twelve years-old (skipping a season when I was eleven because of an accident). But, my first season in what is called “Bronco” league baseball was a memorable one.

I can remember pulling up to the baseball field for the first game.

The late, hot afternoon June sun drying out the grass along with the wind blowing infield dirt in circles. The ting of baseballs being hit in the batting cages echoed. Cheers from over zealous parents came intermittently as did the laughter of the little brothers and sisters running to the concessions stand to buy gummy worms for 5¢ a piece.

It’s amazing that I can look back on this with fondness.

I played for the Pirates. Our uniform consisted of a t-shirt that identified the team and had a number on the back. I cannot remember what my number was but, it most likely it was in the 30s since the numbers corresponded to the size. Mine might as well have said XL on the back (it still fit a little snug).

The rest of my uniform seemed reasonable when I got in the car with my mom. Black sweatpants, to match the shirt. Basketball shoes from the previous season and a hat with the logo of whatever team I was most interested in at the time.

One minute of scanning the field and batting cages showed that I was, once again, unprepared.

Kids wore baseball pants like the professionals have. New baseball cleats adorned feet all around me. Kids even had special bags to carry their bats, balls and gloves.

Don’t get me wrong, if I would have asked for these things, I would have gotten them. I just didn’t know to ask.

Besides, I had an awesome glove with Ken Griffey Jr.’s signature on the palm.

Now, what made Bronco baseball different from what I had played in the past was that the coaches no longer threw underhand to us. We would see real pitching from other players.

If I didn’t look so dopey in my sweatpants, I may have looked intimidating due to my size. But, instead I played the part of the tall, chubby, awkward wuss with over-sized feet that didn’t fit into the holes that had been dug into the batters box.

There is no way to sugar coat it, I was afraid of the ball. I don’t know why, I just was. I hate that I was. I am embarrassed because I love baseball, but I was flat-out scared.

I was as self-conscious then as I am now. I was scared of getting hit. I was scared of striking out. I was scared of everybody laughing at me.

My at bats were a coin flip between a walk and a strikeout. If the pitcher threw especially hard, I would probably not swing the bat. If they threw a little easier, I would take pathetic swings and strikeout. I can remember my mom telling me on the way home after games that I should never strikeout with the bat on my shoulder.

Easy for you to say, mom. You’re not on the field risking your life on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This is not hyperbole, I got one hit the entire season. One. Uno.

When I got that hit. I clapped for myself on first base through the first few pitches of the next players at bat. It was a big deal for me.

In the field, however, I was able to hold my own. The majority of the time I spent my time playing first base or right field (where the slow kids play).

For some reason, when we played the best team in the league, my coach decided that I should give left field a try.

There was a twelve year-old on the opposing team that I had only heard stories about. He threw the hardest fastball in Bronco history and was on his way to setting the record for the most home runs in a season.

I had enough to worry about stepping into the batters box against this freak of nature. Now I had to worry about trying to catch fly balls?

Not good.

See, when this kid played. All of the others kids hanging out at the baseball field wanted to watch him hit home runs.

He batted right-handed. I was playing left field. I knew enough to understand that I was going to have balls hit at me in left field.

Luckily, I had gotten little to no action through most of the game. Then, he stepped in to the batters box.

My heart started to pound.

It stopped every time the pitcher released the ball.

Ball. Strike. Ball. Ball. Then…

Ting, a high fly ball was head my direction.

Oh, dear God why?

I took two quick steps forward for some unknown reason. Spun around awkwardly and started retreating toward the fence.

You can do this. You can do this.

I was running full speed and the next thing I knew I was laying on my stomach with my foot caught under the chain link fence.

I focused so hard on catching the ball that I forgot about the outfield fence.

I was running after the fly ball with my hands in the air (looking extremely athletic, no doubt) preparing to try to make the catch when I ran into the fence, which came up to my chest. My arms flung forward over the fence then recoiled and flung back over my head. By some cruel miracle, my glove managed to swat the baseball and stop it from clearing the fence for a home run.

Now, I lay staring at the ball 15 feet in front of me as I make labored wheezing noises since the collision with the fence had knocked the air out of my lungs.

I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. My foot is stuck. Get up. GET UP!

Over my wheezing, I heard the laughter. It came from the crowd, from the opposing dugout and from my teammates.

Don’t cry.

I struggled to my feet and got to the ball as the batter rounded third on his way to an inside the park home run. I made a weak, off target throw to the infield as he crossed home plate.

The embarrassment was too much. I started to cry and faked an injury (not my most proud moment). My coach came out to my aid and luckily was sympathetic enough to replace me in the outfield.

I shouldn’t have been in left field anyway. 

My teammates continued to giggle as I made my way to the dugout.

I hated baseball that season. But, looking back, I learned some real valuable life lessons.

Don’t strike out with out swinging.

It doesn’t matter how you look as long as you give it everything you’ve got.

If you give it everything you’ve got, you’ll eventually get a hit.

And, most importantly, if you find yourself in an embarrassing situation… start crying and fake an injury.

Cheers.

Is Tiger Done?

Is Tiger Woods done winning majors?

On a day after he posted an 80 on the first day of the US Open (a score I would frame on my wall) the easy answer is yes. But, that is not the correct answer.

The odds are that he will not chase down Nicklaus for all time major championship victories. But, he is not done yet.

There are a lot of kinks that he needs to work out. Mostly from the tee. Yesterday he looked like an amateur trying to battle the tough Chambers Bay golf course. He battled all day, but he could not slow down his hips forcing him to try to cut the ball on every hole. He missed everything right and gave himself little to no opportunity to score on a very difficult links style course. Continue reading

AP Back with the Vikings: A Fan’s Reaction

Adrian Peterson is “back” with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings played this situation perfectly from the start and now are going to reap the benefits. All signs point to them starting the 2015 season with the best running back in the league in their backfield. Despite Peterson’s numerous bluffs and blunders, the Vikings held their ground knowing that Peterson really only had one option.

From a football standpoint this is the best case scenario.

What about for the fans? Continue reading

Why I Go(pher)

This season marks 20 years for me being a dedicated, die-hard fan of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Attendance is down this season and I want to share why I continue to spend the money on season tickets and go every weekend. First lets just take a look at the history of what I have experienced…

Record (‘92 – ’11) – 100 Wins – 138 Losses… This surprisingly didn’t sound as bad as I thought it would. Their best finish was a tie for 4th in 2003. There have been 4 head coaches and 1 interim head coach in this period of time.

I have seen them win Paul Bunyan’s Axe from Wisconsin 4 times (2 in person) out of 20.

I have seen them win the Little Brown Jug from Michigan once (on my birthday) out of 16 match ups.

I have seen them beat Ohio State once, the only time they have beat them since I have been alive.

I was there when Iowa won the Big Ten and took down the goal posts and tried to remove them from the stadium (they are from Iowa, not sure where they thought they could take them).

I was there for the 4th quarter collapse against Michigan when they scored 31 points in that quarter alone (you remember – Navarre pass back for a touchdown, the pick six Khaliq threw, etc.).

I was there for the muffed punt snap and subsequent block for a touchdown against Wisconsin with less than a minute remaining to lose 34-38… Why Kusek, why? Continue reading