As a Minnesotan and alum of the University of Minnesota, I have long been a fan of the Golden Gophers.
Of course the Golden Gopher is not really a gopher at all, but rather a sort of … and I can hardly bring myself to type this… squirrel.
It is a Thirteen-Stripped Ground Squirrel aka Ictidomys tridecemlineatus formerly known as Spermophilus tridecemlineatus, or else aka Federal Squirrel, so-called because of the number of its stripes. Get it? Federal? Therefore most appropriate for 4 July, don’t you think?
I had never seen one… a real one. I have seen the Gophers, in particular the Hockey Gophers, often.
Meet Ictidomys tridecemlineatus. He has been munching under the feeder lately.
Far less troublesome than the other members of the Sciuridae family, this one can remain and munch as much as he likes.
For the others, all I have to say is “Ite, Rodentes!”
And on that note, I will ask you all to learn a song in honor of the Gophers.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are surely saying. “Isn’t this the fourth of July? Should you be more patriotic? I mean… national…. you know! Well?!?”
I am in a state’s rights mood today. Sorry.
Here is the Minnesota March, written by John Philip Sousa. I’ll bet your school doesn’t have a march written by Sousa.
CLICK to hear and sing along with the Minnesota March!
RAH! RAH! SKI-U-MAH! RAH! RAH! RAH! [SKI is pronounced like "sky". It just is.]
March on, march on to victory!
Loyal sons of the varsity.
Fight on, fight on for Minnesota
For the glory of the old maroon and gold.
March on, march on to win the game,
DOWN THE FIELD! [Or "down the ice" or... "down the ..." whatever.] Fighting every play.
We’re with you, team, fighting team,
Hear our song, we cheer along
To help you win a victory!
And now a special edition now of “What Does The Varsity Fight Song Really Say?”
There is a snappy and seemingly conscious rhythm, and even rhymes, which makes this song – a word actually mentioned in the text – singable. Coincidence? I think not. The music was composed for the University of Minnesota by John Phillip Sousa (+1932) and the words were by Michael Jalma, the UofM band director. The the ripping good yarn of how Sousa was persuaded to write it and how it had its first performance, the fight over the performance, the fight over the manuscript is here.
First, note the exclusion of inclusive language. “March” and “fight”, not to mention “win” and ”
victory” have a militaristic overtone, to be juxtaposed to “game” and “team”. This has, I surmise, something to do with strenuous competition in a matter of great importance implying also a collective effort. The ultimate goal if you’ll pardon the pun, is “glory”. But do not imagine that this glory is either a) everlasting or b) equally glorious in every game. Baseball must have a greater glory potential than, for example, football, because baseball is the game most loved by God.
We have to drill a little more at that word “varsity“. Suffice to say that the word “varsity” is an abbreviated form of “university” preserving an 17th century vowel shift from the e to the a sound, much as varmint is from vermin, … which of course makes this circle complete.
What we take away from this piece is the simple messages, “Play to win” and “Winning is better than losing.”