This is the last thing I thought I’d be doing tonight, after the drive back from TCF Bank Stadium… which was almost as ugly as the game we watched while there. I said it in my postgamer from a few hours ago… I expected to come home after the game, crawl into the fetal position, and cry myself into a coma; that was likely to last until whatever bowl game we eventually play in, sometime around the first of the year. You can read it in that piece. I was mad at PJ Fleck and his coaching staff, more than anyone else. The bland gameplay and lack of aggressiveness in their offense after the first drive was…. disappointing… which is the understatement of the year. I was ready to rip into my favorite football coach harder than I’ve ripped into a lot of other ones that I like a lot less…

But then, I went to his postgame press conference.

If you aren’t interested in PJ breaking down any of the game and you only care about him mending your broken heart, you can fast forward to the 6:40 mark, when he is asked about his message to the seniors on Senior Day. Everything is heartwarming from there, including some hopeful news on Casey O’Brien (who was at the game and on the field pregame), but it’s what Fleck says starting at the 8:22 mark that will make every Gopher football fan in the country, who has any emotional feeling whatsoever left in his or her body, feel better about tonight’s devastating loss.

The quotes that come out of PJ Fleck, in exchanges like this, are exactly why I am one of the only people in Minnesota that believes this man will be in Minnesota for the long term. He just fucking loves this place. Watch this video and tell me different. Read my blogs. There are hundreds of them on this website. I’m as cynical as anyone. PJ is real. That’s why he is successful.

“That’s what I want people to understand, is WE CAN. I know we didn’t tonight, but that doesn’t mean WE WON’T FOREVER.”

“We have the best fans in the world, the best fans in the country, and I appreciate and felt that. I know our players felt that. That doesn’t mean that, just because you have that, you will play perfect. You are going to fail. You are going to have successes. But, I think it showed the power of our state, the power of our fans, of what we CAN BE.. what we WILL BE, into the future.”

“We’ve had firsts. We’ve had nevers. We’ve restored people’s beliefs of what we CAN DO. Let’s not go back. Let’s not start thinking, ‘well, that’s typical [Gopher Football]… That has to be out of our system…. … because WE ARE NOT GOING BACK TO THAT. You don’t have to worry about that anymore… so let it go.” — goes on to bring up witty Frozen 2 mention

PJ then goes on to put the entire loss on his shoulders and takes full responsibility for the loss. He apologized to fans and promised to get it done in the future.

When PJ walked off of the stage, 67% of my sadness and near-depression, walked off with him. This man is many things but being a “hey, look at me” or a “all talk, no walk” guy, are neither of them. I do know two things about PJ Fleck, though. One, he’s a winner and as long as we have him, we will be winners too. Second, he loves with everything he has. I’ve never loved like PJ Fleck does and that’s without the type of loss he’s dealt with. To continue opening your heart as widely as he does, after losing an infant child… that’s not easy. That’s “Row The Boat”. This man loves his team and all of those who are there to help him and his program succeed, with every bone in his, overly athletic for his age and job, body. Neither of those attributes have an ounce of fake in them. He’s 100% real. So, say what you want… I’ll take PJ Fleck over any fucking coach in the country.

My oar never lifted out of the water but any paralysis my rowing was under, has been miraculously cured by the incessant positivity of OUR coach. So, let’s go win a bowl game and then make dreams come true next year… an/or the year after… or after that. Big things are coming fam… we just have to be patient a little bit longer.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan