While this site is dedicated to writings about the Minnesota Vikings, the Vikings' bye week offers more than ample time and space for reflections on Minnesota's other purported state football team, the Minnesota Gophers. And after the obligatory pasting at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers, this year to the tune of 48-12, the timing couldn't be better for such reflection.
For those who continue to apologize for the short-comings of the Minnesota football program, the refrain has become routine. Darryl Thompson, former Golden Gopher turned WCCO broadcaster now auditioning for homer of the week, attempted to explain the Gophers' loss this way: "The Gophers came into Camp Randall Stadium, always a tough place to play, but especially tough this weekend. This was homecoming weekend in Wisconsin, the crowd was really into the game and that made it tough for the Gophers from the beginning. Then the Gophers, after moving the ball very well during the opening drive, had a turnover returned for a touchdown and it made it that much more difficult for Minnesota."
Thompson was attempting to excuse the Gophers' horrible play against Wisconsin by arguing the snowball effect--one bad thing leads to another which leads to another until the effect is irreversible. But, while the snowball effect certainly is appropriate, Thompson misidentified the catalyst.
The catalyst for the snowball that ate up the Gophers on Saturday was not that Wisconsin plays outdoors (something that the Gophers' broadcasters seem to believe will change the Gophers' fortunes in 2010). Nor was it the fact that Wisconsin scheduled the patsy Gophers for homecoming or that Wisconsin fans cheered the home team.
What the catalyst was today, was the Gophers lack of preparation prior to the game for a game against a good, not great, opponent. That combined with poor personnel decisions by the coaching staff--both in the form of recruitment of players and use of the players--began the Gophers' Saturday slide well before Saturday's game.
Sunny Side Up
But while most Gopher loyalists are bemoaning the Gophers' latest loss, albeit privately so as not to let on that they don't support a program going nowhere, they should actually be rejoicing the Gophers' latest accomplishment. Because the Gophers' latest defeat ensures that yet another Big Ten will look good to pollsters the day after playing Minnesota and yet another Big Ten team will move closer to playing in a big bowl game a day after playing Minnesota.
For the Gophers, making other teams look good, helping other teams qualify for bowl games and get closer to bowl games that pay big, that's what "big time" football is all about. Because, for the Gophers, playing in the black is only possible these days by not spoiling the cash cow that is their opponents.
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