Reusse: P.T. Barnum would love U football fans

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 15, 2011 - 2:24 PM

Gophers football fans are funny. They are this way because of a combination of delusion and amnesia.

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Corey Kibbel danced to the music before the home opener for the Gophers against New Mexico State at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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This is the state of the fan bases of Minnesota's major half-dozen sports entities, as evaluated by an astute veteran sports reporter:

• Vikings fans are hopeful. They were fatalists for a couple of decades, but that changed with the arrival of Randy Moss in 1998. Since then, the Purple crowd has been dominated by a rowdy, devoted group that makes a case for success at the start of every season and rationalizes failure.

• Twins fans are angry. The idea they were following a collection of mid-market overachievers ended with last season's move to Target Field. Disillusionment arrived with another sweep at the hands of the Yankees last October. And that has festered into anger over the course of a 2011 season that stands as the No. 1 flop in franchise history.

• Wild fans are happy. They were that way for the home opener in 2000 and nothing has changed. They make no demands on performance. They shrug off the team's failures. They celebrate all changes in administrators, coaches and players as positives.

• Timberwolves fans are lonely. There's never been a significant hunk of the local sporting public that lives and dies with the Wolves. They certainly were trendy during the playoff run of 2004, but long-term emotional involvement? All you need to know is the Wolves home opener wasn't sold out the next fall.

• Gophers [men's] hoop fans are worn out, just like Williams Arena. When much younger, the faithful would turn the Barn into a snake pit for visiting teams. Now, the voices croak, the din is gone, and there's no snake left, simply a pit.

• And then there is the fan base to which this column is dedicated: The loyal followers of the University of Minnesota football team.

Gophers football fans are funny. They are this way because of a combination of delusion and amnesia.

The stereotype is that Gophers football has the same demographic of golden agers as in hoops. That's partially true, but a sizable group of 25- to 45-year-olds has sprung up.

My theory is they have embraced maroon and gold in a search for individuality, rather than to be devoured in the mass of Purple devotees.

Some members of the younger generation of Gopher boosters might have cut their teeth by joining in the students' occasional "Fire Mason" chants during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

For sure, the bulk of fans seemed all for it when President Robert Bruininks and athletic director Joel Maturi suddenly pulled the plug on Glen Mason on Jan. 1, 2007, following the historic blown lead vs. Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl.

Here is where it gets comical:

Maturi hired Tim Brewster, a tight ends coach with the Denver Broncos, in mid-January. He never had been a head coach or coordinator above the high school level, but that mattered not to Maturi and other university officials.

They were looking for someone to sell the Gophers to the public and to recruits. And it worked, temporarily, since every single new-age Gophers zealot swallowed whole Coach Brew's sales pitch.

They went to their fan sites and exchanged lofty predictions on what Brewster was going to do with "the program."

You can deny it publicly, Gophers fans, but you know in your heart you believed everything Coach Brew told you.

You blamed it on Mason when Brewster's first team went 1-11 in 2007. You demanded apologies from the skeptics when he started 7-1 in 2008. And when the collapse came later that season -- climaxed by a record Big Ten loss of 55-0 to Iowa in the Metrodome -- you still tried to blame Mason.

"Wait until he gets his own players," was the excuse.

And then Coach Brew did, and things got worse, until he was fired last October. You were so relieved, because you had amnesia for all those words of praise that you aimed at Coach Brew.

And now there's a new coach, Jerry Kill, and we're all hoping he's going to be fine after last Saturday's seizure.

When he is, and he starts working his plan, you just know Country Jer is the guy to get it done, because he's a real coach, not a phony like Coach Brew.

Please, Gopher fan, keep those theories coming, because you and your buddies are a hoot.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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