It's said by people much older and wiser than me that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and so it is that I'm going to borrow an idea that ESPN.com is running right now for college football with its "Villians" segments. Adam Rittenburg ran a piece about some of the biggest villians of the Big 10, and it makes for an interesting read.
What I'm going to do is tweak the idea a little bit and give you the 5 most hated schools/people for your Minnesota Golden Gophers right here and right now. No surprise at who starts at #1...
1. IOWA HAWKEYES
Good lord almighty do I hate Iowa. I've watched a lot of sports in my time, and have hated a lot of teams (if you're wondering, and obviously you are, my most hated teams after Iowa look something like the Boston Red Sox, Duke hoops, Notre Dame football, Dallas Cowboys, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, Toronto FC, and any other team, sport, club, or sports person associated with the city of Toronto. And I especially hate all three Toronto "national" sports networks), but after sitting through last year's 55-0 thrashing to close out the gawd-awful Metrodome at the hands of the Hated Hawks, well, Iowa is #1 on my list of hated teams and should be for every Gopher football fan. And it's not close.
Not only have Iowa kicked the crap out of Minnesota on the field, but their fans are the worst. The absolute worst. They should rank near the very top of the most passionate fan bases in the country (although honestly- what the hell else is there to do in Iowa? Exactly) and at the very bottom rung for class. The Floyd of Rosedale, or any swine for that matter, have more class and dignity and probably smell better than Hawkeye nation does, especially the throng that showed up last year at the Metrodome. I can't decide whether they were a-holes or d-bags, but I think the answer is yes. They're obnoxious, arrogant, classless, and also seem scared by tall buildings and electricity.
Of course what they're not afraid of is the Metrodome or the Gophers- and as much as it kills me to say it, they have every right to be. I hate the team and their fans with every fiber of my being, but they've earned the right to act like jerks because they have out and out owned Minnesota for the last 3 decades. Since moving from Memorial Stadium to the Metrodome in 1982, the Gophs are 8-19 against Iowa. Let's hope the TCF Bank Era is whole lot better for this rivarly than the Metrodome was. WHO HATES IOWA? WE HATE IOWA!
2. WISCONSIN BADGERS
The last two decades the "Border Battle Rivalry" for Paul Bunyan's Axe hasn't been a rivalry at all- the Gophs are a staggering 4-14 since 1991 and after last year's 35-32 heartbreaker at Camp Randall, have lost five straight in the series. I feel like this SHOULD be our biggest rival and most hated school (a la the Vikings/Packers rivalry) but because the series lately has been more one-sided than a fight between Brock Lesnar and McLovin, it's been tough for either side to get that real deep-seeded hatred going. Badger fans, who are like the polar opposite of Iowa fans, treat us like their annoying little brother, and Gopher fans can't help but think we're doomed before we've even reached kick-off. Not only that, but because Badger fans are the opposite of Hawkeye fans and the Camp Randall stadium experience is one you have to see in person, they're a tougher group to hate. I also just married into a Badger family, so I might be a little biased too.
With Scony coming to TCF Bank stadium this year with QB issues (they need to name Curt Phillips the starter and be done with it), and a suspect front 7 on defense, there won't be a better time for the Gophs to end the five-game skid and put a whoopin' on Bucky Badger. But of course I'm already assuming the worst.
3. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
Another Gopher Trophy Game, another lopsided series for the Maroon and Gold. If you thought the Badger rivalry was bad, mutiply this one by ten. Thousand. Since 1967 the Gophers and Wolverines have played for the Little Brown Jug 39 times. The Gophs have won it three times. Three. 1977, 1986, and 2005. And that is it. 3-36. Michigan fans are like the quarterback and captain of the football team and we're the band geek who plays World of Warcraft- they don't even know we exist. While the Rich Rod Era has been a Lance Harbor-like fall from grace, the Gophers have a LONG way to go to be Jonathon Moxon.
Minnesota had their best chance in years- and possibly EVER- to knock off Michigan last season. The worst Michigan team in school history limped into the Metrodome as the Gophers were staring actual, real, possible New Year's Day bowl hopes square in the face. Instead of finishing off the wounded Wolverines and taking back the Little Brown Jug, it looked like Lloyd Carr Era Michigan all over again as they rolled to a 29-6 victory, outrushing Minnesota 232-83, and outgaining them 435-188. The loss was a kick in the groin for the Gophs and their fans, and was their second of five straight to end the season. I remember all too well sitting in our end zone seats with Jer, both of staring out onto the field with a bewildered look on our faces (part of that could possibly have been the Miller Lites. Possibly), wondering what in the world had just happened.
We've always hated Michigan because they've been, well, Michigan, and now, just when they're rebuilding and vulnerable, they're off the schedule the next two seasons. The hatred and loathing will have to wait til 2011.
4. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
You cannot argue the top 3 but the next two are wide open for debate. I'm going with Purdue here because of the history during the Joe Tiller ERA from 1997-2008. The teams met nine times in that span, with the Boilermakers winning all but once, including six straight from '97-'02, but it's that one win, a 42-35 double OT thriller at the Metrodome in 2005, that I remember well. I remember sitting with Jer and his uncle and family in their section in the upper deck, watching the unranked Gophers fight like hell against a Purdue team that came in ranked #11 in the country. I remember the jubilation and joy we all felt after knocking off Tiller and the Boilermakers, and what a program-changing win we all thought it was (2005 is the same year the Gophs went to Ann Arbor and beat Michigan).
Looking back now, it was arguably the best year Mason ever had, and all it resulted in was yet another middle-of-the-road bowl. Still, while I don't have the hatred or distain for the Boilermakers that I do for the three aforementioned schools on this list, when Purdue rolls into town it feels like a rivalry game and one we SHOULD win- but seemingly never do. I think it's because before Tiller they were pretty much the Duke football of the Big Ten, and to see them rise to prominence with Tiller and Drew Brees and go to the Rose Bowl and bigger and better bowls- it just feels like that should be us instead of them. They became the Jonathan Moxon I want the Gophers to be. With Tiller retired the Boilers could finish last in the conference this year, but new coach Danny Hope is hitting the recruiting trail hard down in Florida, and with former high school All-American QB Robert Marvre transferring in for 2010, this matchup should heat-up again soon.
5. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
The Gophers have almost no history with the Irish, as they haven't played them since 1938, and yet I still hate them as much as anyone, and I don't think I'm alone here. The next time they play Notre Dame, you can be sure Gopher fans will be getting their "hate on" for the Golden Domers.