October 31, 2012
My visit with the Little Brown Jug
It's Jug Week! The last time Minnesota won the Jug, I got to hold it. Here is my story from 2005:
Yesterday I was determined to see the Little Brown Jug. Nothing would stand in my way. I intentionally did not go to see it on Monday because I knew it would be crowded and I wanted to take my time with it. So, at around 11:00 AM Tuesday I set out from my office for the Gopher Football Hall of Fame at the Gibson/Nagurski Football Practice Facility on the East Bank of the U of M. I thought it would still be on display.
I was wrong. When I got there people were setting up for Mason's weekly press conference and the HOF was filled with tables. Some people from Famous Dave's were also there setting up a table of food. I turned to the first person I saw and asked as calmly as I could, "Where is the Jug? Do you know where the Jug is?"
He answered, "Dude, I work for Famous Dave's. You'll have to ask someone else."
Man! I was ticked. I thought, "I should have come on Monday! Idiot!" So I stood there stewing a little bit.
Then I looked across the HOF and saw Pam Borton, the women's basketball coach, standing at the top of the stairs. I don't know why, but this prompted me to walk up the stairs. "Maybe Pam knows where the Jug is," I thought.
When I got to the top of the stairs she began talking with someone else, but I noticed I was at the doors to the football program's main offices. I could see some of the football team milling about through the glass doors and a student secretary sitting at the front desk. My determination knew no bounds! I walked into the offices and strode right to the front desk like I owned the place.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw in a side room the box that houses the greatest trophy in college football. My heart jumped! "It is in here somewhere," I thought. So, I turned to the student secretary and said, "Do you know where the Jug is?"
She answered, "Do you want to see it?"
"Oh yes," I said, "Very much."
So, she got up and went into the side room where I saw the box. Ah, but instead of reaching into the box, she reached under the table the box was sitting on and pulled out the Jug. I thought to myself, "Now there is Minnesota ingenuity! If a thief came to steal the Jug he would think it is in the box. He wouldn't even think to look under the table! Good thinking Mase! Under the table! Genius!"
She brought the Jug out and set it on the reception desk. Oh man ... words cannot describe the feeling of seeing this piece of history just sitting there right in front of me. So many games, so many players, so many memories. It has its own aura around it that you just can't escape. So, I started to take some pictures:
I asked, "Can I touch it?" and she said, "Sure!"
I couldn't believe it. So, I spun it around and found the most recent score:
From an office down the hall I heard a voice, "We just painted the score on! Don't mess up the paint!"
Does anyone else think this is as weird as I think it is? I mean, this Jug is literally priceless! It is irreplaceable! If it was ever put up for sale at an auction what would a Michigan or Minnesota booster be willing to pay for it? Millions I would wager. And here they are letting me, a total stranger, touch it and spin it around seemingly without a care for its safety. I was in heaven!
So, I asked, "Can I pick it up?" The student secretary looked at me kind of strange and said, "Well sure. Go ahead. Do you want me to take a picture of you with it?"
"Yes!" I answered. I gave her my camera and I picked up the Jug. The words of Lloyd Carr, the Michigan head coach, repeated in my head:
"I don't hold it up in front of the team ... I don't trust myself," Carr said. "I certainly don't want to be remembered as the guy who destroyed the Little Brown Jug. Anybody that handles it needs to be careful with it. Sometimes I worry after the game about the players."
I can't believe they let me pick it up. I can't believe they let anyone touch it! It is amazing to me. And yet, pick it up I did, and here is the picture to prove it:
I may not look "giddy" but I was really, really "giddy." Holding the Jug is something not a whole lot of people get to do, especially if you are from Minnesota.
Anyway, I put down the jug, thanked the student secretary and I walked through the door. A football player near the door saw me and my goofy grin and he gave me a goofy grin of his own. I laughed and walked out the door.
It is truly strange how happy this Little Brown Jug can make people. 19 years of frustration wiped away will do that I guess. Now the Golden Gophers will play for the Axe, but for me the season is already a success. It would certainly be nice to beat Wisconsin, don't get me wrong. I will trudge back to the HOF and ask to see the Axe, too. I may even pose with it like I am smashing the Jug! (Or maybe not). But having the Jug ... that is enough for me. It has been a while since I have been so happy to be a fan of a Minnesota sports team. I thank the Golden Gophers football team for that.