Let us start here at the beginning with an exercise. Find a happy place. Picture your dream vacation destination.

See it? Hawaii perhaps. Or maybe some remote island with sugary white beaches and no shot at cell service.

You've saved up and waited forever for this getaway. Like, your entire life. Bags are packed. No work. No distractions. All you can see in your mind's eye is paradise.

Sorry, vacation is canceled. Postponed actually. Maybe you'll be able to go in seven months. But even that seems tenuous.

Pull up a chair. Fans of Gophers football are buying the first round.

What a kick in the pants for those patient souls. The Big Ten began playing football in 1896. Of all the seasons to be postponed by a global pandemic, it had to be this one?

The Gophers are coming off a historic season — one in which they won 11 games for the first time since 1904, finished with their highest ranking in the polls (No. 10) since 1962 and hosted "ESPN College GameDay" for the first time — sparking interest and enthusiasm, in this big-league market, not seen since the program's heyday in the 1960s.

I feel bad for Gophers fans. I really do. The die-hards have lived through geezo-beezo; Nebraska 84, Gophers 13; Michigan '03; 14 consecutive years Axe-less; Tim Brewster; a near boycott.

This fall in Dinkytown was supposed to be their version of Andy Dufresne's prison escape in "Shawshank Redemption." They crawled through 500 yards of foulness and came out the other side.

Then the world got turned upside down, and now Saturdays in the fall will be silent.

As one university employee so eloquently put it, "This stinks."

A quick dose of perspective interjected here. Obviously, football is irrelevant when viewed in the context of 166,000 deaths and millions unemployed. Nobody in his or her right mind would compare sports to that sad reality.

But it's OK to be disappointed as a fan that a source of enjoyment and personal passion has been affected. And from a local standpoint, this interruption has really bad timing.

P.J. Fleck has traction as the architect of a program on the rise. Recruiting continues to trend upward, and the program's brand is generating national buzz. One analytics meter put the Gophers' social media interactions in the top 15 nationally since mid-March. Football attendance has been a thorny topic inside the department, but the Gophers had the third-highest year-to-year attendance increase in FBS last season.

Translation: People care again.

In a profile of Tanner Morgan published one week ago, I described him as a top-five quarterback in college football, and not one reader e-mailed my editor to recommend that I be drug-tested. When is the last time that could be said — the first part, not the second?

Morgan and Rashod Bateman gave the Gophers one of college football's marquee QB/WR duos. Alas, Bateman, the most physically gifted receiver in program history, made a wise decision to opt out before the season was postponed, ending his Gophers career after two seasons.

"I was super pumped to see Morgan and Bateman," said fan Clint Kruger. "It's like, 'Man, this is going to be the year.' "

Kruger hasn't missed a home game since buying season tickets in 1998. Even on occasion when friends "made some bad decisions and got married on game day," he would come for a quarter before heading to the wedding.

Kruger used to beg friends to come to games with him. Now, they call him looking for tickets. His tailgate has become a festive party, the way college football is meant to be. Gophers football is evolving before his eyes.

"It's become a Saturday event," Kruger said.

His is just one example of disappointment shared by a fan base that anticipated something special this season. Kruger understands why the season was moved and supports the decision. It's still a bummer.

But, he also notes, he's not going anywhere.

"I don't care if they play in the middle of January, I'm going," he says. "I'm just going to dress warm, but I'll be there."

After all, this is just a pause, not goodbye. The program's momentum doesn't halt. It's just entering a weird space.

The Gophers and their fan base waited a long time to experience this level of excitement and anticipation for a season. It's cosmically cruel that they must wait longer.