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The golden palace

September 21, 2009

by Matt Kane

I got my first taste of TCF Bank Stadium Saturday afternoon, and, man, did it taste delicious.

I looked up several times just to keep reminding myself that there was nothing between myself and 50,000 other people and the sky.

Just pure blue goodness with a bit of haze from the 80-degree weather that blessed Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota campus.

That’s right, the University of Minnesota campus. That’s where the Golden Gophers play football now. Not in the Teflon covered Metrodome, which turned people’s moods as blue as the seats from 1982 to 2008.

The mood of Gopher fans was upbeat for much of Saturday’s game against the Associated Press eighth-ranked California Golden Bears.

Cal’s Heisman hopeful running back Jahvid Best ran for a school record five touchdowns, and Cal won the game 35-21, but the Gophers always seemed like they were in the game in the second half, and most fans stuck around for most of the fourth quarter. That was unusual at the Metrodome.

Outside the new stadium was as frantic as it should be at a school with a football field on campus. The sidewalks around Dinkytown were packed with maroon-and-gold clad fans of all ages. And, before the game, everybody was excited to watch the Gophers in their new home.

There is one problem the Gophers brought with them from the Metrodome. Parking.

I knew I was running late when I crossed the new I-35 bridge to get to the East Bank just before 9 a.m., but I thought I would scour the neighborhoods in hope of finding a random parking spot. No luck.

So, I headed back over the bridge and headed to the West Bank, where I found plenty of open spots. I opted to walk back across the Mississippi instead of hopping on one of the shuttles, and I’m glad I did. My walk took me through the heart of the Minnesota campus, a place I hadn’t been since I resided in Dinkytown during the 1995-96 college year.

I wasn’t as happy to be walking back to my car after the game, as the sun had drained me of most of my strength and turned my neck red, but I survived.

My main agenda Saturday, while at the football game, was to gets some photos of Delano’s own Nate Triplett for the feature story in this issue.

I will admit, I’m not a huge Gophers fan, but, because I know Triplett, I am much more interested in Gopher football than I had ever been in the past.

Watching Triplett, I realized he really belongs there, butting heads with the big boys of college football. He led Minnesota with 10 tackles, and always seemed to be in the area when he wasn’t in on the stop.

I’m lucky that I have been to some of the best college football stadiums in the country. Of course, I graduated from Penn State, so the 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium was a common stop, but I’ve also been to Memorial Stadium, Illinois’ home; Camp Randall, Wisconsin’s home; Spartan Stadium Michigan State’s home; The Swamp, the home of the Florida Gators; and Notre Dame Stadium, the home of the Irish. I can’t say TCF Bank Stadium is better than any of these buildings, but it can certainly go on the list of fun places to watch college football.

The walk through campus, Triplett playing, and the blue sky made Saturday’s game one to remember for me. Once the Gophers start winning on a regular bases, things will get a whole lot sweeter.