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Football fever — in Minnesota

September 7, 2009

by Matt Kane

Where am I?

Am I still in Minnesota — The Land of 10,000 Lakes and sky-blue waters?

I ask this question because, with the excitement that is surrounding Golden Gophers and Minnesota Vikings football this late summer, I’m beginning to thing I am in the south somewhere.

The Vikings always get some attention once camp starts, and they are the talk of the twin towns all fall, but I don’t remember ever experiencing an overall excitement for pro and college football like I’ve seen in recent weeks.

Instead of being just fly-over country for the rest of the nation, Minnesota has become a destinations state for football this fall.

Minnesota has become relevant again for two reasons — Brett Favre and TCF Bank Stadium.

One is a grizzled-faced landmark and the other is a fresh-out-of-the-womb bundle of excitement. You figure out which is which. Both, though, have raised the excitement level in the state from a low, embarrassed hum to a cocky and confident roar.

Sure, before Favre decided to show up on Zygi Wilf’s private jet and take that O.J. Simpson-like ride with Brad Childress from St. Paul to Winter Park in Eden Prairie, there was a lot of talk about the Vikings’ quarterbacks. Those talks, however, revolved around whom of the two in camp — Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson — was the lesser of the two evils to start.

Now, with Favre running the show, we can just ask which of the two, between Rosenfels and Jackson, looks better in a baseball cap, holding a clipboard.

All I know is Favre looks better under center wearing purple than anyone the Vikings have had in a decade.

I don’t understand how some Vikings fans were against the Favre acquisition. Because he was once a Green Bay Packer? Come on, that’s exactly why you should want him with the purple. Favre wants revenge on the Packers, so why wouldn’t we Vikings fans want to be on his side when he gets that revenge against the hated cheeseheads? Also, I don’t remember fans complaining when Darren Sharper left Lambeau Field for the Metrodome.

I think we can all admit the excitement over the Golden Gophers has more to do with TCF Bank Stadium than it does the talent that will step between the lines of the stadium. But a crowded house every game can only help the team on the field, and Gopher fans know their team can use a little help.

I must admit, I too am caught up in the hype of Gopher football more than I have been in past years, and that has a lot to do with the stadium.

I have attended maybe a half-dozen Gopher games in side the Metrodome, and some of those actually had decent crowds. Still, though, a full Metrodome will not come close in comparison to a full TCF Bank Stadium.

The other reason I am more into the Gophers this season is because a local boy, Nate Triplett, is playing his senior season at the stadium. Triplett is listed as one of two starting outside linebackers, and I can’t wait to see him buzzing around the football field under the sun or stars this season.

Triplett won’t be the only former Delano High School stars to play at TCF Bank Stadium this season. Remember Dominique Clare? He’s a sophomore running back at South Dakota State University, and he and the Jackrabbits visit the Gophers Nov. 14.

Favre in the Metrodome, and Triplett and Clare in TCF Bank Stadium — now that’s exciting. And it’s happening right here, in Minnesota.