Men’s basketball fans need to stand by team

If you’re even vaguely affiliated with the University, you’ve heard it.
“Where do you go to school? Oh, right, Minnesota. That whole basketball scandal thing. What’s the deal, the whole team was cheating?”
Think you’re tired of hearing about the tutoring scandal? Put yourself in the players’ shoes for a minute.
After the Minnesota men’s basketball team played its first game of the year, Kevin Burleson sat alone in an interview room while Dusty Rychart and Joel Przybilla were mobbed.
“I’m just tired of hearing about it,” he said.
So are we.
The entire Big Ten now has a reason to make fun of the Gophers. From the Final Four in ’97 to cellar-dwellers in 2000. Or are they?
Minnesota started out hot, winning eight of its first nine games. The Big Ten started well, too — the Gophers started 2-1 before dropping its last three games. So here they are with a 2-4 Big Ten record seemingly on the threshold of dropping a few more games.
If ever there was a time to pull behind a team, it’s now. Anyone who was ever the fat kid people made fun of in school or who had too many pimples or didn’t fit in one day at school should relate to this team.
These guys took a pounding from the media for six months before the season started. After the University handed down its one-year postseason ban, pundits scoffed. Sports Illustrated called the ban “a joke.”
And then the Gophers went 8-1.
Any other year (ANY other year) you would have seen Minnesota in the top 25, or at least pick up more than a few paltry votes.
Now the team’s on the road and taking a pounding from opposing fans.
At Madison last week, the fans came up with such original chants as, “Do my homework,” “Where’s my tutor?” and “Do your papers.”
Great stuff, really.
Let’s get one thing (and just one thing) straight about all of this. The guys left on the team are not cheaters. They’ve been through hell all just to play basketball at this university.
But don’t cry over any of those name-calling, elementary-school barbs. Minnesota is going to be the butt of jokes for years to come — accept it.
But of all things, don’t give up on the men’s basketball team now. The fat kid, the kid with pimples, the outcast — most of us have been there.
There are murmurs that the U should get rid of men’s basketball altogether.
Don’t give in to that jaded sentiment.
You should feel good every time Terrance Simmons does a 360 and hits a layup. You should be happy when Joel Przybilla gets above the rim and jams. And you should cheer every time the Gophers win.
Yes, the team is on a losing streak. They haven’t played well. But Minnesota has played some gritty basketball this season, and the fans should get behind them.
Sometimes it seems like the fans are all they really have.

Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected].