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Updated: March 24th, 2013 3:11pm
Reusse's Reality: Spring practice ... hip, hip

Reusse's Reality: Spring practice ... hip, hip

by Patrick Reusse

The Gophers open spring practice this week. The loyalists' fondness for coach Jerry Kill remains strong and there are hopes that the April 27 spring game will exceed last year's crowd of 1,500.

I'm not sure if it was being able to match the 2-6 Big Ten records of the previous two seasons in 2012, or the come-from-ahead loss to Texas Tech in the Meineke Who Cares? Bowl, or finishing strong to gain a virtual tie with Illinois for 11th place in Big Ten recruiting rankings, but we are now more convinced than ever that Country Jer is the coach to end this little 45-year slump that Gopher football has endured.

OK, here's an admission: The fact that anyone not eligible for senior discounts at the movies could give a damn about Gophers football confounds me. I'll make an exception to this puzzlement for current and ex-players, and close relatives of said players, but beyond that, how can anyone under 60 really care?

Let's say you're a 35-year-old with no connection to the program and yet claim to be a Gophers football fan. How can this be possible? Never in your lifetime have the Gophers reached November as a relevant factor in the Big Ten race. Never have they played in a bowl game that held a modicum of national significance.

Even worse, there's this: If you have a couple of pre-schoolers, say ages 4 and 2, take a look as you tuck them in tonight.

It's sad enough that if you live to a ripe old age, you will never get to see the Gophers win a Big Ten football title. But when you realize that those beautiful toddlers will also live to a ripe old age without seeing the Gophers win a Big Ten football title ... now, that should be depressing.

This assurance comes from Scott Korzenowski, a lifelong Gopher follower, a reformed sportswriter and occasional host of sports talk shows. Korzo has seen enough to say this with full conviction:

"The Gophers will never again win a Big Ten football championship. I'm not saying in my lifetime. I'm saying as long as football is played - another 30 years, another 50, until the 22nd Century ... the Gophers will never win another Big Ten title.''

That's hard to argue with. When you have a program where the fans rush the field after a victory over a moribund Iowa team, when you have a program where the home team blows a lead against a subpar, disinterested Texas Tech bunch in a nothing bowl game and your fans claim a moral victory ...

When these are the standards, then Korzo's probably right: It is never going to happen.

For me, the question isn't as much about the future, as to how people who were born more than two, three years after me (October 1945) can take any interest in this team?

If not for being employed as an objective journalist, I would have an excuse for putting on a maroon jacket and waddling over to TCF Bank Stadium on Saturdays, in the hope this would be more than a season going nowhere ... even while knowing full well that such a dream was destined to turn into a nightmare.

I go back to the 1950s, when Gophers football was a statewide crusade. I go back to 1960, when the Gophers defeated Iowa in the grand showdown at Memorial Stadium, tied for the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl. I go back to 1961, when Ohio State turned down the bid, and the Gophers went back to Pasadena and gained Rose Bowl redemption.

I go back to 1967, when we still had legitimate expectations and Murray Warmath's team managed a three-way tie with Indiana and Purdue for the Big Ten title.

We senior citizens with Minnesota roots have that resume to draw on when it comes to Gophers football. But to those of you between ages 25 and 55 claiming devotion to what happens to the Gophers on the gridiron, I have one question:

What in Hades is wrong with you? You would be better off rooting for the Timberwolves.

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse