Minnesota’s fans need to wake up and support teams

Apathy has become an all-too-common thing at Minnesota.
I admit it, I’m a part of the problem. I can’t stand cheerleaders because I have no “school spirit.” How can we be compelled to cheer for a team, or just be excited about our school in general, if we’re paying around $2,000 a semester to go to school?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a free education. I just find it hard to get excited about school when I feel like I’m getting screwed with parking, books and all the corporate merchandising around campus.
But maybe there’s a ray of hope.
After the football team lost Saturday, garbage rained down from the stands onto the field. Throwing garbage at most schools would be a sign of a jerky student section — at Minnesota it’s a sign of life.
Fans need to care again. Granted, it’s kind of difficult to care about a team that has broken hearts for so long. How many teams have come tantalizingly close to beating Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan in the last three years?
The Gophers are always on the verge of being mediocre. But this year’s team feels different. A few weeks ago, I challenged the team to exceed their own expectations. They should concentrate on beating the teams they should beat and find a team to upset.
Unlike other years when Minnesota has dropped a big game, there doesn’t seem to be a big drop in optimism. I’m not just talking about the team. For once fans seem mildly optimistic about the team’s chances.
And why not? Minnesota has something called Illinois on its schedule Saturday and finishes the season against Indiana and Iowa.
But the optimism still in the fall campus air will be quick to go if the Gophers don’t stay competitive. With tough games against Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State on the Minnesota schedule in successive weeks, the football won’t be easy for the Gophers.
Football fans are a small part of the overall fan base. If there’s anything we could use more of, it’s people that actually care about the sports.
Sure, everybody cares (or cared) about men’s basketball — it’s the one sport that has a consistently boisterous fan base. It’s time other sports pick it up too.
Specifically, when was the last time a riled-up crowd sat through a game at Mariucci Arena? The crowds have gotten progressively less rowdy since I started school in ’96. They’re more concerned with wearing the right Eddie Bauer flannel or Structure T-shirt than the fact that the score is 3-0.
All the hockey fans I’ve ever known are gruff, foul-mouthed, die-hard hockey fans.
Where have they gone?
Sure, there are probably some of the old-guard fans, but the crowds have gone to the yuppies.
Less prominent sports sometimes have the most vigorous crowds. The volleyball team can have one of the most boisterous crowds, given its typical size of around 1,000.
Wisconsin fans are always saying that Minnesotans aren’t die-hards. Maybe all the fans should throw that stuff out the window and get into the sport they’re watching.
As long as there aren’t any cheerleaders there.

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