I don’t go looking for mascot controversies (promise), but somehow they keep finding me. The breakup and contract dispute between the Vikings and longtime mascot Ragnar was one thing, but this is something else: a question (possibly even a dispute) over who invented Goldy Gopher’s famous “head spin” move.
The genesis was a recent piece in the New York Times about Goldy and his signature move. Per the story, there is this:
“The tradition has roots in something acutely Minnesotan — hockey. Ross Bernstein, an author and board president of the Herb Brooks Foundation, said he invented the move while serving as Minnesota’s hockey Goldy from 1989 to 1991. Bernstein turned his experiences into his first book, “Gopher Hockey by the Hockey Gopher.”
Seems simple enough. Bernstein is even quoted in the piece in this amusing paragraph:
“I was trying to entertain 10,000 drunk people, just trying to do something to get some laughs,” he said. “Whenever I would do it, the fans would go nuts.” It quickly became part of the act.
But … an informal group of former U of M band members and former Goldy Gophers remember things a little differently. I talked with Brent Turner, a marching band member from 1986-1990, who says there is evidence of Goldy’s head spin that predates Bernstein’s time as the mascot. He and others of that era have been trading Facebook messages over the past several days and are convinced the head spin goes back at least to the early 1980s — and that it neither has its roots in hockey nor was invented by Bernstein.
“We loved the part about Goldy getting in the New York Times,” said Turner, who marched as part of the U of M alumni band during this year’s homecoming. “Really what we said in our little forum is that we need to correct that (information) and stay positive. Goldy is such a cool character.”
Turner said efforts are underway to produce video or photos from the early-to-mid-1980s to back up their version of history, noting that band members are first and foremost concerned about an accurate portrayal of the beloved mascot. He also said a few previous Goldy Gophers feel that “Goldy shouldn’t be speaking, anyway.”
Without that evidence, I guess this is just a “Goldy Said vs. Goldy Said” argument. Maybe we can all agree at least that it’s a great move?