Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Aggressive Rodents and Paul Bunyan's Axe

It’s about football.

If you’re paying attention to college football, you’re aware that many teams choose mascots for the image of great strength or irresistible force – thus, we have Tigers, Bulldogs, Hurricanes, and the like. However, in the Big Ten conference we have three teams named for … rodents. Admittedly wolverines, badgers, and even gophers are aggressive. The movie Caddyshack isn’t exaggerating all that much when it depicts gophers as ruthless and practically indestructible foes.

Still, I wonder if it might give teams an image problem to be identified with a tiny critter whose main accomplishment is causing destruction to lawns and gardens while looking cute.

Meanwhile, two of those rodent teams were playing against each other today, in one of the most long-standing rivalries in college football. I had the privilege of watching the Wisconsin-Minnesota game in a bar while seated near a heavy-duty Wisconsin fan and a heavy-duty Minnesota fan.

There’s more at stake in this game than just conference standings. For the past 115 years, the winner of the Wisconsin-Minnesota game has taken home a very special trophy: Paul Bunyan’s axe. OK, it’s not a real axe, and as far as anyone knows, Paul Bunyan never existed. But this big, wooden axe goes home every year with the team that wins the game, and the winner’s name is engraved on the axe handle.

This year, it looked like the Gophers were going to take the axe home. With only three minutes left in the game, they were leading the Badgers by 10 points. They worked hard at running the clock down, so as not to allow their opponents an opportunity to score.

But suddenly, the Badgers broke through the Gophers’ defense and scored a touchdown, cutting the lead to three points. On the Gophers’ next possession, the Badgers’ defense held fast, forcing the Gophers to punt from inside their own 20-yard line. The snap was botched, the kicker went scrambling for the ball, and then, instead of falling on it, which would have been the smart thing to do, he still tried to punt it. It bounced around all over the place, until finally a Wisconsin player grabbed hold of it in the end zone. With 30 seconds left, the Badgers had the lead. On the following kickoff, Minnesota fumbled the ball, Wisconsin recovered it, and the game was over. The Badgers got the axe.


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