This is my 65th birthday. From age 9, when I attended a Gophers game for the first time and saw a thrilling 22-20 victory over Iowa in the 1954 season finale, to age 17, when I joined Minnesotans in screaming over the thieving referees that gave Wisconsin a 14-9 victory over the Gophers in the 1962 season finale, the fate of the U of M football team was an extremely important occurrence in the autumn.

That's not really a long time -- eight years, nine seasons -- to have been a Gophers football fanatic, but it did cover Minnesota's only two Rose Bowl appearances, and involved such greats as Bobby Bell, Tom Brown, Sandy Stephens, Bill Munsey, Carl Eller and Bob McNamara.

It was McNamara who brought back the kickoff to upset Iowa, and it was Bell who was called for a bogus roughing penalty against Wisconsin quarterback Ron Vander Kelen that upset Minnesotans from border to border, and, yeah, I really cared, and then life got in the way.

My first day of work at a newspaper was as a copy boy in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune's sports department in August 1963, and I knew from that first shift this was where I wanted to spend a working life -- inside a sports department.

Night by night, I learned from men such as Bob (Sorehead) Sorensen, John Wiebusch, Bill McGrane, Bud Armstrong, Bob Fowler and, most particularly, the great Ted Peterson that it wasn't which team won or lost but what you could get in the next edition to tell the tale.

That was the jumping-off point for me and the football Gophers -- the transition from fanatic to observer.

I've made the journey through Minnesota sports with untold thousands of other baby boomers, and along the way have been amazed to see these young adults, and then middle-agers, and now senior citizens, bedecked in the maroon and gold garb on those autumn Saturdays.

For sure, I would like to have 10 bucks for every time one of those folks said as I walked into Williams Arena or a football arena, "Hey, Reusse, write something good about the Gophers."

The response (usually silent) was, "That's not up to me; it's up to the Gophers."

The duty changed from beat reporter to columnist in 1979 at the St. Paul newspapers, and from that corner of the sports section, you have to call it as you see it.

There have been a half-dozen Gophers football coaches in that time as a Twin Cities sports columnist: Joe Salem, Lou Holtz, John Gutekunst, Jim Wacker, Glen Mason and Tim Brewster.

Smokey Joe was a hero as a backup quarterback on the Gophers' first Rose Bowl team. Early, there was promise, and then his last two teams (1982-83) fell off a cliff.

Holtz arrived with such gusto that I soon was referring to him in print as "The Music Man." Minnesotans loved him, and he was building impressively from Smokey Joe's ashes, and then he was gone 23 months after his arrival.

Gutekunst was a capable assistant and a great guy, and he had Rickey Foggie to win a few big games, and then after 1991, it was time for Gutey to be an assistant again somewhere.

Wacker was a sincere version of Holtz -- an enthusiastic salesman -- but there was never a hint in five seasons that he could get the job done.

Mason lasted a decade. He brought a degree of competitiveness, along with a handful of unimaginable losses. We took some shots at his arrogant nature, but there was no one in the mainstream media calling for his job. And then he was whacked after another unimaginable loss, in the 2006 Insight Bowl.

Career assistant Tim Brewster got in front of athletic director Joel Maturi and his committee members and dazzled them as if they were a collection of two-star recruits.

And now he's 1-6 in Year 4, and there were reports Saturday night that Coach Brew was told he won't be back next season. Confirmation of this is expected Sunday.

Boomers in their maroon and gold still tell me, "You never gave Brewster a chance," and I don't argue.

At his inaugural news conference, I listened to the least sincere pile of verbiage ever heard in Dinkytown, and that's what I wrote, and never saw a reason to change.

I couldn't help it. That's the job.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon to 4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. •