Gophers will not be just another Minnesota letdown

Minnesota sports fans have been teased for years.
This is not a local phenomenon, of course. Cleveland, Denver, Buffalo and a handful of other cities have had teams that go to the brink of a championship, only to fall unceremoniously on their faces.
Our local teams, most notably the Vikings, are a prime example. Year in and year out, they seem to have above-average talent and below-average heart. They go 10-6, lose in the first round of the playoffs, go home and say, “We’ll get ’em next year.”
Expectations, however, always remain high. And with the Gophers, ranked in the top five for much of the season and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, there’s no exception.
But we’ve been through this before, haven’t we?
Sure, the Gophers are good, but there’s got to be a better team out there somewhere. Have you seen Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah or Wake Forest? There’s no way the Gophers could beat them.
Come on, this is Minnesota. They’ve got no stars. Maybe they’re too deep. Clem Haskins’ substitution pattern always seems to penalize the hot player by sitting him on the bench. The Big Ten is down this season. The Big Ten sucks come tournament time. Minnesota is overrated. They’ve played too many close games — they could easily have four or five more losses. The Gophers are due. Somehow, they’ll find a way to lose.
Excuses, excuses. Only now, instead of coming up with reasons why a Minnesota team got knocked out, Gophers fans are developing arguments for why a national championship is completely out of the question.
I call it anti-homerism. This, obviously, is the opposite of Homer: (n.) an individual who, no matter the performance of his or her team, pledges undying allegiance to the point of believing they’re actually a part of the team, using words like “we” and “our” to describe the team’s strengths or weaknesses. Ex: “Our offense is dominating. We’re going to win the Super Bowl.” See also face paint and cheering the failures of others and Green Bay Packers fans.
This movement has sprung up because of those years of being teased. But I guess it also has something to do with the average Minnesotan’s emotional make up.
University president Nils Hasselmo put it best earlier this week. He said the Gophers’ success has resulted in unprecedented emotional outbursts around the state. Ever the jokester, Hasselmo said he overheard several of his fellow Scandinavians exclaim, “Not too bad!”
Insert laugh track here.
It’s true, though. We Minnesotans are hesitant to cheer too loudly, lest we suffer the painful letdown of a loss. It explains why you’re sure to hear, “Will you PLEASE sit down!” every time you stand at a local sporting event for more than 15 seconds.
From here, it looks like a Minnesota trip to the Final Four is do-able. The bench situation is strange, yes, but Clem appears to have it figured out. The Big Ten is down, but the fact the Gophers have been so good has a lot to do with it. The close games could hurt, but they could help an awful lot, too.
The Gophers actually have a decent chance of winning the thing. Although their bracket is statistically the hardest of the four, there are some beatable teams there, including the Clemson team Minnesota beat in the preseason. If anything has been made clear this basketball season, upsets will be plentiful (which, admittedly, could be good or bad). Indiana coach Bob Knight said that if any team can beat Kansas, it’s the Gophers.
Either way, it’s going to be fun to watch, whether you’re sitting in the stands at Kemper Arena or on your rump in front of a TV somewhere.
And the Gophers appear to be a team worth cheering. The first Big Ten Championship in 15 years. The first No. 1 seed in the history of the program. The best record (27-3) ever. A Big Ten Player of the Year in Bobby Jackson. Coach of the Year, Clem Haskins.
Not too bad.