Pandemic dampens mood for Gopher faithful as college football returns

Richard Reeve
Updated: October 24, 2020 10:50 PM
Created: October 24, 2020 10:32 PM

The first thing you notice strolling the Dinkytown streets on this game day is what’s missing. 

“I was not expecting this at all going into 2020,” says University of Minnesta sophomore Braden Berggren. “I think that’s the big thing about sports. I think when we all come together, makes it more fun when you’re with other people.” 

Sure, there were clusters of fans wearing the maroon and gold. But this year’s game day includes selfies, not stadium seating. 

“I’ve actually been season ticket holders with my dad for the last 15 years,” says Christian Lerch, a freshman. “It's really weird not being in the stadium right now. We used to go to warmups and stuff like that, so it's really going to be a bummer watching it."

Less than a year ago, there was a much different scene around TCF Bank Stadium. Thousands showed up for the Nov. 30 season finale against Wisconsin. 

Those big crowds, a part of gridiron glory at college campuses across the country. 

“We went to the Penn State game last year,” recalls freshman Olivia Yecker. “And it was like so many people, you're trying to drive through and it was like crowded." 

But in this pandemic year, the Gophers are playing in a stadium without fans. Instead, there are cardboard cut-outs. The streets nearby, eerily quiet. 

“You lose the sense of community when everyone can't gather together to support the team,” sophomore Grace McClure said. “Because we all love the Gophers.”

“I’m pretty bummed out,” Yecker added. “One of the biggest reasons I wanted to come here was I love watching live sports.” 

Some bars in the area allowed limited seating. Others had big screen TVs mounted outside. 

But most students say they’re cheering on the home team from home. 

"We're going to have a couple people over at our apartment and have a little viewing party in the living room on the big screen,” Carlson said. 

Some here, though, say they’re looking at the bright side. 

The university recently cut a trio of men’s sports, including men’s tennis, gymnastics and indoor track. 

Carlson says she’s glad to see Gopher football is back. 

"It's a little bit different this year, but we're really happy that they're playing at all,” she said. “And if we want, we can watch it at home, that we're even getting to root for our team again." 

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