Football 1001: Learn to be a Gophers fan

OK, you decided not to attend Wisconsin or Michigan: good choice. However, opting not to go to either of those schools doesn’t mean you can’t act like you do — at least at football games.
No, I’m not suggesting you deck yourself out in Badger red or Wolverine blue. I’m telling you to act as insane as a Wisconsin or Michigan football fan while rooting for the Gophers.
It’s a strange form of amnesia that infects the majority of the freshman who step onto campus each year — they forget Minnesota has a football team.
Just because the Gophers were the laughingstock of the Big Ten since you were in nursery school, and just because they play off campus under an umbrella, doesn’t mean you can’t immunize yourself against this disease.
It’s an easy cure. All you have to do is become a Gophers football fan. Attend the games. Learn the names Karon Riley, Asad Abdul-Khaliq, Ben Hamilton and Thomas Tepah. And have fun.
Big Ten college football is just about as good as it gets. Every Saturday in the fall, as you wake up wishing you didn’t do whatever you did the night before, you can look forward to watching your school’s team.
And while in past years — most of your life, in fact — Minnesota hasn’t been a powerhouse like Notre Dame or Nebraska, things are beginning to look more and more promising these days.
In the past two years, the Gophers have actually proven worthy of being called a Division I football team.
Last year, Minnesota football was one of the biggest things on campus. But it wasn’t big enough.
If you want one word of advice, take this to heart: You can change this problem. You, as a freshman, can help turn the upperclassman above you into fans.
What you will learn when you first step into the Metrodome in September for your first football game as a student is that your fellow Minnesota students aren’t the best fans in the country.
They aren’t the loudest — oftentimes the Dome sounds like West Bank’s Wilson Library (a place I haven’t been to since my freshman orientation).
They aren’t the most loyal — they’ll wear their Bucky the Badger T-shirts and their GoBlue sweatshirts.
And they aren’t the most knowledgeable — they are known to cheer for good plays, not knowing they’re good for the opposing team and not the Gophers.
That’s where you young freshman can step in. You can change the tradition of Minnesota football fans. You can make the Metrodome look and sound like it did during the 1991 World Series. You can make the Dome a place opponents will fear playing in.
Over the past two years, the Dome has seen signs of life. A big Gophers win against Michigan State on Homecoming two years ago was the first step.
Close calls against Wisconsin and Ohio State last season almost put the Dome on a Rand McNally map that reads “Gopher Country.”
But now, it’s time to put it over the edge. After reaching their first bowl since 1986 last season, the Gophers are ready to make a run at going further.
They can’t do it alone. I’ll sound like Uncle Sam, but they need you. They need the freshman to fill the Dome and cheer them on.
After all, after your first semester at college you’ll be dying for a vacation. What better places would you like to choose from to spend your New Year’s than Miami, Tempe, New Orleans or Pasadena?

John R. Carter loves a Hawkeye, but is still loyal to the Gophers. He’s the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]