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Holt: Dear Gopher fans: Traditions not born on Facebook

first_imgOne of the best things about college football is all the tradition. No other major sport has as many 100-year rivalries and traveling trophies as the NCAA gridiron.We’ve been blessed here at Wisconsin with the most-played rivalry in FBS: the battle with Minnesota for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. We’ve also got a few of the better traditions in the Big Ten with the Fifth Quarter, Camp Randall’s version of the wave and our beloved Jump Around. All three are part of what make Badger football games the events that they are.Obviously UW isn’t alone in that respect, as pretty much every other school has its own famous traditions: Penn State’s white-outs, Script Ohio at Ohio State (which I hate), running Ralphie the Buffalo around the field at Colorado, racism at Florida State. Missing from any list of NCAA football’s best traditions is anything that has to do with Minnesota, which Gopher fans seem to be fine with.Until now, apparently.While browsing Facebook yesterday, a former Herald sports editor brought this little nugget to my attention: There’s a Facebook group created by Minnesota students called “New 3rd Quarter Tradition.” The goal is to pick a song to be played at TCF Bank Stadium between the third and fourth quarters to get the student section pumped. Sound familiar?Oh, Minnesota. You go and get a shiny new stadium and then embarrass yourselves like this. To be fair, they do acknowledge Jump Around is our thing, so it’s not like they’re oblivious to the fact that this looks like a lame rip-off. And I do tip my cap to the effort. Best of all, it involves no dotting of any “i’s.”But the biggest problem I have with the whole thing is the mission to start a tradition. It’s as if they think it’s like deciding to order a pizza or picking out what to wear for the day. You can’t set out to start a tradition; it just ends up happening.Our own Jump Around started at UW’s 1998 Homecoming game against Purdue. With little going on during a boring game, a marketing guy decided House of Pain was just what the stadium needed to amp them up — and he was right. A little more than a decade later and Camp Randall still sways and shakes prior to the beginning of every fourth quarter.The great thing about this was that it wasn’t planned; it was spontaneous. More importantly, it had enough of an impact that it was repeated through the years until Jump Around became ESPN’s favorite thing to talk about ad nauseam anytime they televise a Badger game.Back to the Minnesota student section’s latest endeavor: I can’t blame them for trying, nor can I blame them for not having any great football traditions. They did play in the Metrodome for 26 years after all. The only thing that has less personality than that building is Ben Stein.I do understand where those guys are coming from, though. The Gophers can feel like a “real” college football team now that they have an awesome new outdoor stadium. There’s a real drive in the Twin Cities to show TCF Bank Stadium can create its own legacy comparable to other Big Ten venues. But Minnesota fans have a lot of catch-up to do as far as tradition goes (for the sake of this argument, forget that cheerleading was invented at Minnesota; every team everywhere has cheerleaders now). But with little more than the school song and “Ski-U-Mah,” in the way of unique traditions, this newest generation of Minnesota fans has its work cut out for it.There’s another detriment to the cause too — the fact that you need a Minnesota student ID with your ticket to get into the student section. What’s the point of cultivating a great student fan base if you don’t let outsiders enjoy it? Part of what makes the student section fun at Camp Randall is bringing friends and family along to enjoy the madness. I’ve even seen grandparents yelling choice words as part of a certain call-and-return chant for which Madison is infamous. If you have something good, share it with the world.And not that it’s the biggest factor, but sharing these kinds of traditions can go a long way toward attracting students. As a native Minnesotan raised by a Gopher and UMD Bulldog, I always figured I would end up going to the U of M. But a November trip to Madison my senior year in high school that included a football game changed a lot of that. No small part of it was the fact that I was allowed into the student section. Seeing the wave split and reverse, singing oldies in the stands, the novelty of yelling “beer!” after every “we want more” chant — it all gave me a great sense of community. I mean, where else can you get on the 81 on a Friday night and have the entire bus break out into a spontaneous rendition of “Build Me Up Buttercup?” True story, by the way.It’s the little things like this that give a school its personality. And that’s the thing about a personality — you develop one, you don’t go on Facebook to create one. Same thing applies to tradition.As enthusiastic as Gopher fans may be about outdoor football, you can’t force tradition, nor simply will it to start. Facebook, of all things, seems like an unlikely catalyst for a long-lasting legacy. How will Minnesota alumni feel telling their kids that the reason they play (insert whatever song they choose here) during every game was because of a Facebook group? Of course, they’ll then have to explain to their kids what “Facebook” was and it can only go downhill from there.As much as I love bashing Minnesota, I do have to give them this: They are nurturing a budding tradition that is actually pretty legit. Prior to home games now, the team has a “victory walk” from the McNamara Alumni Center into the stadium, allowing fans to cheer them on before the stands themselves are filled. It’s a pretty neat concept that they should make sure to carry on.But for now, Minnesota football tradition is a work in progress. For a few years at least, people will probably have more fun at other Big Ten venues where the customs are already established (even if they’re overrated, like a certain OSU band formation). Take heart, Gophers — you’ve got the stadium, you’ve got the enthusiasm, you’ve got a newly-electrified fan base. The tradition will come on its own.Adam is a junior majoring in journalism. Did he mention he hates the dotting of the “i”? Are you annoyed with Minnesota’s attempt to create a tradition? Seriously, dotting the”i” sucks. E-mail him at [email protected]last_img read more