Thursday, September 17, 2009

An account of Opening Day at The Bank

If you've read this blog for a while, you may have seen me talk about my aunt and uncle.  Dave & Lynda, and several of their die-hard Gopher fan friends, used to attend Gopher games in Memorial Stadium.  When the Metrodome opened in 1982 their group decided to get season tickets and have had them ever since.

Throughout the years there were games when Lynda would decide to stay home, so my cousin would get to attend games, and several times there were extra tickets available in the group, so I was able to attend as well.  While many people complained about the Metrodome, it was really all we ever knew.  Gopher football games, Twins games, Viking games... who knows how many hours I spent in those unforgiving blue chairs.

In 1998 I moved to the Twin Cities and my era as a Gopher Football tag-along ended.  I started attending more Gopher games with friends, but I always made it a point to try to make it up to section 207 to talk with my uncle about the game.  He was always in his seat for kickoff, he was in his seat when the second half started, and he was still in his seat as the last seconds ticked off the clock.  He never left early... no matter what the score was. (Yes, even for the 55-doughnut debacle.)

There are Gopher fans who have been to more games, who have had season tickets longer, who have traveled to more away games and bowl games, but nobody has more passion for Gopher football than my uncle.  

The excitement for bringing Gopher Football back to campus started a few years ago.  Unfortunately I didn't get to attend the Gophers first game in The Bank and I didn't get to see my aunt and uncle on game day.  So I asked my uncle to give me his thoughts and an account of the day Gopher Football came home.  Enjoy.

Saturday September 12 was an amazing day!  Actually the entire weekend from Friday AM thru Sunday when we arrived home was amazing.
We arrived in the Cities around 10:30 Friday morning to attend the Goal Line Club luncheon at the DQ Club Room.   Nice digs.  Coach Brewster, #98 Eric Small, and #99 Garrett Brown were there and talked.  I have attended several of these luncheons and this was the best attended by far.  We were surrounded by Gopher faithful including sitting next to Judge Dickson.  This started the weekend off right and got us excited for the activities to come.
Friday night we attended the dedication of the veteran memorial.  This was very well done and was a moving tribute to those who have protected us in the past, currently, and into the future.  This memorial also ties the old Memorial Stadium to the new TCF Bank Stadium in some ways.
Staying right on campus was great!  The place was crawling with Gopher fans young and old.  Several of us "senior" fans even enjoyed a little libation at Sally's before hitting the sack so we were well rested and able to enjoy fully the day on Saturday.
Saturday morning......What a beautiful day for some OUTDOOR Gopher football!  We eased into the day with all of the other Gopher fans staying at our hotel.  The atmosphere was more like a bowl game than any of the bowl games we had attended in the past.  It was GREAT to see all of the Gopher fans dressed in their maroon and gold.  The excitement was electric!  The Alumni put on a great experience at the Alumni Center.  If you get to a game be sure to take it in.  You can attend for free and get your fill of food and drink (not free) and watch other games inside on the big screen televisions.  (Even after the game we were able to watch the ending to the Ohio State/USC game while enjoying a celebratory brew and brat.)  At about 3:30 PM my wife and I headed for the stadium to get a good spot to watch the victory walk at 4:00 PM.  

This was palpably exciting!  The sidewalks filled.  As the 4:00 PM hour approached the crowd spilled into the streets, traffic was stopped, and the coaches and team were visible in the distance.  The crowd pressed even closer only allowing one person to pass at a time.  Coach appeared to have a tear in his eyes and be very touched by the fans enthusiasm.   
The band followed close behind and disappeared through the gates into the stadium.....   The game was not far off now....  (How long have we all waited for this day to come anyway?)  Anxious to experience all we could we headed for gate "B" to be among the first to get inside and enjoy the night.  Lines were long and moved slow but everyone around us was patient but excited.... 
As the game approached the student section filled and began cheering and chanting.  Gopher football is back on campus!  All of the pre-game activities were special.  Brewster's attempt to connect the current to the past was evidenced by the 400+ ex-players in attendance on the field before the game.  Everything was tastefully done and the teams lined up for kick-off.....   
From then on it was a dream like experience......  I had forgotten how much better outdoor football is.  (Saying that makes me think.....  Would my wife and the other wives we attend games with have been such Gopher football supporters and fans if they had NOT experienced 28 years of Gopher football in the Dome?  That at least allowed them to grow into fans and not have to worry about the weather.  Now I think my wife for sure is sold on Gopher football and would support it no matter what.)  Well we enjoyed all of the evening especially the final score!  Now we can be proud of our stadium, or team and what the future holds for Gopher football.  Things are looking up.  The future is bright and I hope we can all expect a return to our championship years.

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