The Big Ten is known for trophy games. Iowa and Minnesota play for a bronze pig. Ohio State and Illinois play for a wooden turtle. There's the Old Oaken Bucket, the Little Brown Jug, and the Land of Lincoln Trophy. Both Minnesota-Wisconsin and Michigan-Michigan State play for Paul Bunyan-related artifacts.
Each comes with a story of how it came into being, generally set in pre-war times and based on an event that has taken on mythical status.
In recent years, though, the conference has attempted to append trophies to every newfangled rivalry and add trophies to longtime trophy-less games.
Iowa and Wisconsin, which had played without a trophy since 1894, added a bronze bull in 2004. Iowa added something called the Heroes Trophy to its new rivalry with Nebraska in 2011. Two weeks ago, Wisconsin and Nebraska announced they would play for the Freedom Trophy. Fans rolled their eyes in unison. It looked like the days of organic, fun trophy games were dead.
And then the Internet intervened. Two days later, Nebraska and Minnesota had what everyone hopes is an honest-to-God new trophy game.
Step 1: The proposal
The entire thing began with Goldy the Gopher, Minnesota's mascot who somehow operates a Twitter account despite having enormous thumbs. Goldy wanted to make a wager with Nebraska (Minnesota-Nebraska was the Big Ten's only Heartland game without a trophy) and, as a Twitter user, went to Nebraska's most prominent Twitter figure: @FauxPelini.
Hey @FauxPelini, how about a friendly wager for this weekend's game? Team that gets the most points gets a conference win? Seem fair?— Goldy Gopher (@GoldytheGopher) November 20, 2014
@GoldytheGopher OK how about if we win you give me $5, if you win I get to smash a wooden chair over your back— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 20, 2014
.@FauxPelini just as long as we can turn that $5 or bits of broken chair into a trophy for next year's game— Goldy Gopher (@GoldytheGopher) November 20, 2014
With Goldy's help, Reddit got involved.
The first prototypes surfaced soon after.
Everyone had a good laugh and assumed this skit had come to an end.
Step 2: Escalation
If it was over, nobody told Minnesota, which MADE THE ACTUAL TROPHY.
Step 3: Public acceptance
Almost immediately, the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy had two things that none of the other new Big Ten trophies had: A story beyond "a regional business gave us money to come up with a trophy," and acceptance, particularly from Nebraska fans.
A poll on The Daily Gopher found that 94 percent of fans wanted the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy. Even fans from other teams showed support.
Faux Pelini at SB Nation
Step 4: Team acceptance
Minnesota won at Nebraska Saturday, and look what was being carried off the field:
The $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy also made an appearance at Minnesota's basketball game later Saturday.
It was probably important that Minnesota -- the only team with a semi-official representative advocating the trophy idea and the school that actually built the trophy -- won, as Nebraska might have ignored it. As it is, the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy Game is now a thing, and probably the best thing to come out of the Big Ten since the first wave of expansion.