Column: The Minnesota Experience
As avid MSU football supporters, my father and I – season ticket holders at Spartan Stadium – travel to at least one away game every year to experience the environment of the towns and stadiums in the city. In years past, we’ve done Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Maryland, Northwestern, two Big Ten Championship games in Indianapolis and Pasadena for the 2014 Rose Bowl. Each trip, I try to write about my experience there compared to the scene in East Lansing.
This year, the destination was Minneapolis for the Minnesota vs. MSU primetime showdown on Saturday. A ten and half hour drive from my hometown, the journey with my dad is always an unexpectedly fun part of the trip. It’s a perfect place for bonding. Another pleasant surprise came when we realized it was peak autumn season driving through Wisconsin and Minnesota, making the drive much more beautiful.
On Friday night, we explored downtown Minneapolis. We used the “Skywalk” system, a system of closed bridges connecting buildings that spans for over 80 blocks and 11 miles throughout the city to eat at a food-court style Indian restaurant (it was delicious.) Overall, the downtown scene of Minneapolis was more impressive than I imagined. It was definitely more lively than Lansing. The night was capped off at a hookah lounge where I stole someone’s music credit on the jukebox to play “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood. There’s some cities with character and some cities without character, and Minneapolis is one of the cities with character. And I like that.
Saturday morning, we visited Minnehana Falls, a stream with a beautiful waterfall that eventually flows out to the Mississippi River. It was a little chilly but beautifully sunny and an unexpectedly gorgeous look at the natural wonders of Minnesota.
Later the morning and early afternoon of game day, we went to Dinkytown, an area in Minneapolis very close to the university’s campus that is quite reminiscent of Grand River shops and restaurants. It was a bit bigger, but it still was filled with stylish shops and college cuisine. We stopped at a restaurant called the Purple Onion and had a delicious breakfast sandwich – but that was only because we couldn’t get into Al’s Breakfast, a staple of Dinkytown.
At this point, it was about 1 p.m. We decided to head to Minnesota’s campus to check out the tailgating scene. Since the game was at 7 p.m., we assumed the tailgates would already be raging. At MSU, 1 p.m. is already deep into tailgating time. In fact, some people might be taking their post-drinking naps before starting up again in the afternoon.
There were no tailgates.
No, I’m serious. Six hours before game time and there wasn’t a soul grilling, drinking and socializing. The only tailgating tent I even saw was in the back porch of Buffalo Wild Wings right next to the stadium, and it was empty.
I will give it to Minnesota, though, as their campus was impressive. Just like MSU, there’s a nice mix of modern and historic buildings and they have nice grassy knolls that students hang out on. It seemed like a very pretty campus.
So, with several hours before the game and no plans in Minneapolis, we had to decide our next move.
We could have gone to the Mall of America, possibly the most famous part of Minneapolis. But no. I’m not that basic. My dad and I decided to visit Paisley Park, the home and recording studio of Prince, in a suburb just outside of Minneapolis. We took a tour of the studio and complex (I also bought a very androgynous “love symbol” shirt that I will definitely be wearing) and paid our respects to Prince. It was an amazing experience and definitely something I would recommend to anyone going to Minnesota.
After returning to the hotel for a few hours to unwind, we decided to head to TCF Bank Stadium for the main event. That’s when the rain started and the temperature dropped into the 40s. Layered up in four long sleeve shirts, a t-shirt, a hoodie and a raincoat, I was ready to go.
I’ll forgive Minnesota just a little bit. When we arrived at the stadium about an hour before scheduled kickoff, there were several tailgates going on in the parking lot adjacent to the stadium.
Once we got in the game, the rain started coming down. After a 44-minute lightning delay, the game finally got off to a start. We all know what happened in the game – one that stressed me out immensely towards the end – so I don’t need to describe that to you. But what I will describe, though, is how awful the attendance was at the game.
You would think since highly-touted coach PJ Fleck entered the Gophers program that the excitement for Minnesota football would probably be high, but nope. Of the 50,805 people that can fit into the stadium, it was reported that the attendance was 47,541.
That’s a damn lie. By my eye count (which is in no way accurate) there looked to be about 20,000 people there at most. The entire east end of the upper deck was empty and you could see the “MINNESOTA” and block M painted onto the seats on the south side of the stadium. By the end of the game, there had to be less than 10,000 people there.
I get the weather was poor and Minnesota has struggled this year but come on. I’ve been to some pretty bad teams’ football games, and the only fan base as pathetic as this that I’ve seen is Northwestern.
Overall, Minneapolis was very impressive. The University of Minnesota’s definitely a cool location to attend college, as there’s a lot to do and a lot to see on campus.
However, the school spirit was atrocious! It was so surprising. A huge letdown for me.
Despite the disappointment from me regarding the lack of fan spirit, the trip was still another successful one.
And just like every trip ends, I still have the same feeling.
I’m so glad to be a Spartan.