Wisconsin - Home of Fine Fine Beer
I've always wanted to see a game at Camp Randall so when it turned out that Nebraska was due to play their first Big Ten game I wondered if I'd get the chance to go. The chance becomes reality when I got a call from my cousin Todd, who farms near my hometown of Curtis. He's looking to get to the game and wants someone to go with him.
The plan is for him to fly into Minneapolis and we'll make the trek over to Madison - about a five-hour drive. Todd had reserved a hotel room so we stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites on Commerce Street, about 6.5 miles from the stadium, State Street and everything else. The rooms are $250 a night, but we're lucky to get a room that close to the stadium. Okay, so I'm lucky that Todd went ahead and booked the room early enough we found one.
We pulled into town around 3:30 - 4:00 pm and I immediately got a text from Andy of Wiscobadgers.com that he's at the ESPN College Gameday press conference and we should head down there. I'm still trying to figure out how easy it is to get a cab since we've already decided that we won't be driving anywhere. I'm not about to figure out logistics, and I'm sure as hell not going to worry about parking... not to mention, I'm pretty sure we'll both be partaking in that great Wisconsin beer.
If you're offended or angered by this shirt, I would recommend you never attend a B1G road game.
It takes a while to get a cab and by that time the Gameday event has ended. I head down to State Street and meet Andy at State Street Brats. There are some Husker fans around, but it's still early. The Wisconsin fans are cool enough, a guy at the bar starts expounding on the beers they have and buys me a couple.
We spend some time at State Street Brats for a while, and then Andy says we need to go to another bar, the Kollege Klub. We head over there for more beer, and as the night goes on, the place starts filling with fans. Todd meets us there later while I've mostly been roaming around talking to Badger fans. Husker fans are more plentiful now, some in red, some in black.
We need some food, so we head up to the Capital Tap Haus Tavern where the food was great, and Capital Brewery beers were featured. We have a few beers, decide to call it a night and a cab. The cab rides average about $25-$30 apiece depending upon how much the driver wants to screw around.
Saturday we don't get up that early. Todd likes his sleep more than I do. I'm okay, since the hotel sells single beers out of a fridge in the lobby. We never get to the College Gameday site. We head off to Regents Street a little after 1:00 pm and end up at Jordan's Big 10 Club. It's got a fairly good sized beer garden and plenty of TVs. There aren't a lot of fans there yet, so we grab a beer and kind of wander around, again talking to Wisconsin fans.
Then I see a dude with a badger on his head. No, really, it's a dude with a badger on his head. I walk up to him and say that - "Hey, there's a badger on your head!" and immediately a great kinship is born. The dude, Tim, explains that some friend of his found a road-killed badger, cleaned it up and gave it to him, apparently so he could put it on his head (which is kind of bizarre if you stop and think about it).
I spend the next few hours walking around the place, about every 10 minutes I walk up to someone and say "Hey, there's a dude in there with a badger on his head!" Fans would wonder what the hell I was talking about, so they'd follow me into the bar and end up getting their picture with Tim. It's great fun, mostly because, well, there's a badger on this dude's head. People loved it.
Badger Head Tim, Todd, Andy from Wiscobadgers
The place fills with fans. By mid-afternoon, it's pretty packed. There are gobs of black-wearing Husker fans everywhere. A Wisconsin student asks me if I need tickets. I tell him, no, I'm fine, but then I mention, "I thought your coach told you not to sell tickets to Nebraska fans." He responds with "Well, basically, I'm going to make money off you guys so you can go cry inside our stadium." I tell him that I think Nebraska will do fine, and he responds with "I hope the gas money was worth it" and heads off.
A bit later, the Wisconsin drum line startles me. They're marching through the place and a dude with the tri-drums stops in front of me. They're playing along and this woman next to me is just going nuts. She's jumping around screaming her head off. They stop for a minute to figure out what they're doing next, and she starts screaming at them to play some more. I swear she's about to rip all her clothing off and jump on one of them or have a seizure. It occurs to me that maybe this is a "Jump Around" I've never heard about.
As it turns out, women love a man with a dead animal on his head.
Finally, it's time to head off to the game.
Our seats were excellent - Row 67, Section F, right about the 40 yard line on the west side of the stadium. They weren't horribly expensive.... okay, well, I didn't have to sell my children. There are a couple Husker fans in front of us, but otherwise we're surrounded by Badger fans. We look around the stadium - there's some black, but there's not a lot. All in all - wearing black, not that impressive.
The game started well enough. Nebraska's first quarter was the game I expected. Our offensive line looked good against Wisconsin's defense, the Huskers were moving the ball. We're picking up penalties, but Nebraska overcomes them and we're all thinking - this might be one helluva game. Taylor Martinez looks decent throwing the ball. At one point in the early second quarter, Todd yells "Hey, I thought Martinez couldn't throw the ball".
She went nuts. I kept taking pictures, just in case.
Then came the interceptions. You kind of expect a turnover here or there, so at first the interceptions don't upset me all that much. The defense, however, pisses me off no end. You know, I know, everyone in the stadium knows that Wisconsin is going to run play-action when they get into scoring position. Apparently the only people who didn't get that memo is our defensive secondary. The 36-yard touchdown pass to Jared Abbrederis - off play-action. The 46-yard touchdown pass to Nick Toon has to be one of the most ridiculous plays I've seen in a while. Even without the benefit of instant replay or a great big screen, you can't help but notice four Nebraska guys chasing him as he's wide open RIGHT BEFORE HALF TIME. How you let someone get behind you when it's nearly the end of half - no idea how that happens.
The second half starts. As the Huskers take the field, I stand up and yelled "We'll be much better this half! We won't be throwing the ball to the other team!"
Less than a minute later, Martinez stepped back and threw the ball to the other team. Wisconsin fans around me had a great deal of fun with that one. I couldn't believe it for one simple reason - the two interceptions in the second quarter had killed us and I couldn't honestly believe that we came out in the second half throwing the ball.
And you know what happened. It was an ass-kicking. The Wisconsin fans are mostly nice to us, with the exception of one drunk guy directly behind us. We high five them when they score, congratulate them on having a good team and spend most of the second half watching the student sections' antics. The slow motion wave is just bizarre - like you're on drugs for a few minutes. Of course, there was the "eat shit, f*ck you" cheer that apparently is done between two different student sections, historically freshmen and seniors. The ‘Jump Around' is fun - the stadium shakes, I try to jump around, but after standing all day long, I'm into it for about 30 seconds and then I'm done.
Great fun going on here just before game time.
You had to hand it to the Badgers and Russell Wilson. They made the plays. Wilson was everything they said he'd be. In the second half, it's clear that Wisconsin is going to impose their will on our defense, and the Blackshirts (can I call them that?) are not going to stop them. The Wisconsin fans around us tell us this is all about Big Ten football, blah de blah. I point out that our defense is done. It's pretty clear we don't have much fire left. Wisconsin scores. Then they score again. And again. Maybe they score 20 times. Does it matter by now? Nebraska kicks a completely meaningless field goal, which I still don't understand.
Todd was ready to go, and honestly, so was I. I normally don't like to leave games early but it was clear the game was out of sight and I really didn't want to sit around and watch Nebraska give up another touchdown.
We wondered about getting a cab, and a Wisconsin fan told us that if we walked down Regents street we'd see cabs driving up and down the street and could flag one down.
It didn't work out that way. We walked for quite a ways, and then decided we needed some food (and a beer, of course). Every place was packed until we see a Chinese place. There are no lines, so we head in and get a table. My first words are TSINGTAO! And poof, there's a chinese beer. The food is excellent. Unfortunately, the entire time we're sitting there we see only one cab go by. We're seriously wondering if we're going to spend all night figuring this out, so I ask the chinese dude, Uncle Timmy. He says "You pay?" and I say, "Sure, we pay", so they line up a driver for us. Uncle Timmy says it's $20.
So the guy gives us a ride. We chat along the way, and when we get there, I go to pay him. I go to hand him $20 plus a tip.
"No, $40" he says in broken English. I look at him and I'm so damned tired, I don't argue. I hand the guy a wad of cash and thank him for the ride. As Todd and I walk into the lobby the guy at the counter explains that he's not a Wisconsin fan, then says "Why did you guys stop running the ball?" Todd and I look at each other. The guy says it again. I contemplate how many different ways I can kill him. I'm thinking that taking a sharp knife and making many cuts in him and watching him bleed to death might be the right choice here.
Oh, to be young again.
It's the question of the day, isn't it? WHY DID YOU GUYS STOP RUNNING THE BALL? Son of a bitch might as well have put up a neon sign.
I don't know why we stopped running the ball. I don't know what the hell got into Tim Beck's head that he thought he should throw the ball 15 straight times. Doesn't Barney Cotton sit next to him in the booth? Aren't these guys all connected by headsets? Couldn't a single damned one of them maybe say, "Hey, Tim, maybe we should run the ball here.... or here... or here..."
I don't know why we have three talented freshmen running backs who have barely touched the ball this season, yet have burned redshirts. Where is Aaron Green? I don't know by Rex Burkhead doesn't get more carries.
Oh, we had penalties, that's it. Penalties put us in bad situations, and we couldn't run the ball because apparently we've never heard of a draw play or because we believe our guys can't make first downs on the ground.
I don't know why our secondary can't cover anyone. I don't understand why Ciante Evans looked pretty decent last year and looks like he's lost now.
In the end, it was a good trip with the obvious exception of the game itself. The Wisconsin fans for the most part were awesome. They were welcoming, friendly, and some bought me beer.
I spend the trip back to Minnesota with that damned "Jump Around" song stuck in my head.
It's a really really long drive.