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It’s Axe Week: Giving thanks for the Gophers

Rivalry Week + turkey = glorious

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Minnesota
Are you hyped? I’m hyped.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thanksgiving, Badger Nation.

This week, across the country, families will gather around the table and drink, argues and cry give thanks for all that they have. It is a chance remember the good things in the world and to celebrate the vast bounty of life.

And what a bounty it is.
Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Wisconsin fans have much to be thankful for this year. Our beloved Badgers have ridden a monstrous defense, excellent coaching and a resurgent running attack to the No. 5 spot in the AP Top 25 and No. 6 in the playoff rankings. It is beyond anything we expected from this year and, in the case of the defense, may be beyond anything we can expect for years to come. It is a unique and singularly delightful season. For all this, we should give thanks.

As we polish off the pumpkin pie and push aside the dregs of Aunt Lucinda’s Extra-Special-Triple-Marshmallow-And-Maple-Syrup-Sweet-Potato-Casserole (the “triple” being equal parts delicious and growth-stunting and tooth-enamel-erasing), we should also stop and give thanks for the greatest (lakes) rivalry in our lives.

We should give thanks for our dear friends, the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Minnesota
He has to tell them to clap, otherwise they would not know when to do so.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Why show gratitude for our furry, bucktoothed rivals to the west? Why give thanks for a team that, given the chance to knock off the I just love saying it NUMBER FIVE Badgers and ruin Wisconsin’s playoff chances and take back our precious Axe, would want to do so beyond anything else in the whole, wide world?

Because irrational and beautiful sports hate, in its vibrant colors and regional disdain, is breathtaking, intoxicating fun. Everything and nothing separates the two fan bases (I suppose there’s a river there too) and in a world that seems horribly jumbled, it’s darned nice to know that those guys and gals in maroon and gold are the bad guys (and gals).

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Illinois
Yep, there they are.
Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Because just like old Uncle Frank and his interesting views on the body politic, these Gophers are (literally and figuratively) family. They have been with us since eighteen-g-d-ninety, and we cannot imagine life without them, even as we simultaneously wish to murder them and turn them into delicious, delicious sausage.

Well, that metaphor escalated quickly.
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Because it’s not just the football team and our beloved Axe that make this week so special. No. 3 women’s volleyball gets into the act this weekend as well with a huge road match in Minneapolis on Saturday against the No. 2 Gophers. It’s a match with giant stakes on the line: a possible Big Ten championship, No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament, sweet, sweet revenge.

Choose the form of the destroyer.
UW Athletic Communications

Because sometimes we have to go through them in order to be the best. Our women’s hockey team beat Minnesota last year for a WCHA tournament title, but was eliminated in the NCAA tournament semifinal by the Gophers in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss. Vengeance surely is on the mind of the Ann-Renée Desbiens and the No. 1 Badgers when they meet up with defending national champion Goldie later this season.

UW Athletic Communications

Because someday soon, the Kohl Center is going to return to its rightful place as the center of the hockey universe. Tony Granato’s boys have a ways to go before they will challenge the No. 11 Gophers for Midwestern supremacy, but for those of you who have never experienced the invigorating feeling of 15,000-strong basking in the glorious schadenfreude of a sieve Gopher goaltender, know that those days are not far off.

The once and future king.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Because sometimes it’s nice to have a break in the schedule.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We are thankful for you, Minnesota. For all of the joyful hatred you bring into our lives. For having a true rival based on over 125 years of mutual loathing (and not based on shared abbreviations and accidental conferencing). For your garish maroon and gold and famed icy distaste warmth towards strangers. For all of this. And, what the heck, for this too.

(Note: we are not thankful for your inevitable targeting penalties and your gelatinous rehydrated fish.)

We wish for nothing but your spectacular failure and your continuous presence in our lives. Like the two sides of the Axe we all love so dearly, you complete us, Minnesota.

See you Saturday.