Pre-game festivities have always been an integral part of the Wisconsin game day experience. Every Saturday, students summon the strength to rise (as early as 7 a.m.) to greet the morning with a shot of whiskey, a keg stand or, for the classier types, a box of Franzia’s finest red wine. It’s no secret that “Wisconsinites” pride themselves on their beer, bratwurst and sports teams. When all three converge on Badger game day, they create a spectacle unlike any other.
I still remember my ticket-less freshman year at Frederic Ogg dormitory. I would gape out my window, as masses of red shirts stumbled toward Camp Randall as if it were some great beacon of hope. While en route, you could witness to an older generation of Badger fans standing idly around portable grilles, reminiscing about the “glory days.”
As an impressionable young man, I was enamored with the pageantryl. From the parties to the food, and from the actual game to the famous fifth quarter, it all seemed so crucial to my collegiate experience. So the following season, I dropped $250 for the student season ticket package, a small price to pay for what I assumed would be an excellent addition to my catalog of memorable college moments. This proved correct, but not in the way I had initially foreseen.
[Keep Tailgating: Baton Rouge Gameday Experience]
The two elements I overlooked the most was the amount of alcohol I would consume over the course the season and the recklessness in my approach. Now even though taking a shot of Mr. Boston’s vodka at anytime of the day can be a daunting task, but first thing in the morning is nearly impossible. However, I managed to soldier through this liver-killing ritual before every game and even went so far as to sneak home-brewed “jungle juice” (a grotesque mixture of Everclear and fruit punch) into games via a camelback placed strategically beneath my sweatshirt.
Many of my scholastic peers had similar ideas, which made watching the game in the student section quite the extravaganza–for at least the first quarter that is. By halftime, the buzz provided by cheap liquor and Rose Bowl aspirations had all but withered away, replaced with a roaring headache and deep desire to take a nap. Depleted, many of us would return to our respective residences before we could even partake in the famous ‘Jump Around’ after the third quarter. Many people were not even be lucky enough to make it home and found themselves confined to the dreaded Dane County Detoxification Center.
Although the debauchery I found my classmates and myself engaging in was a bit disconcerting, that’s not to say that the 2010 season didn’t offer any highlights, but quite the contrary. When the Badgers came out victorious against the then-No. 1 team in the country, Ohio State, the ensuing ruckus was electrifying. I rushed the field along with the rest of the student section, nearly fracturing a limb as I fell over the barrier diving the stands from the turf. Attaching my hoodie to a flagpole and raising it up for all to see will go down as one my favorite sports memories.
When I look back at that season, I am flooded with some of the craziest, most absurd memories as well as the disappointment of losing in the Rose Bowl (something Badger fans are now becoming more familiar with). I doubt that I’ll ever return to that form of sports fan-dom ever again, but I will always mark it as another landmark on my path toward adulthood.
Season kickoff for me this year was certainly a lot different. I stilled donned the ceremonial red t-shirt, but more as a source of nostalgia from a yesteryear not so far removed. Yes, I tossed a few Pabst Blue Ribbons back with my roommates, but this time around I did not achieve a BAC that rivaled my GPA. Instead of grilling bratwurst and burgers for the umpteenth time, we paid a visit to ‘The Taste Of Madison,’ an annual event held at the capital square, where one can meander the block and sample a variety of local establishments. Between ‘Pedro’s Mexican Ristorante’ and ‘Tubbs’ Taco Shop’ I was unable to find any latino food up to the level I am accustomed to in my Abuelita’s kitchen, but there were still some excellent selections.
After gorging myself on a variety of different ethnic foods, I placed myself on a stool at a local dive bar to watch my beloved Badgers begin their unprecedented quest for a third-consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. The bar was far from crowded and most of the patrons were pretty demure for a group of Sconnie’s watching their Big 10 title hopes almost shattered by a less-than reputable Northern Iowa squad.
After few intense hours , Montee Ball and company managed to eek out a 26-21 victory and I was able to return home without the usual mob of freshman, pushing or shoving their way out the gates. Yes, it was a far more serene way to spend opening day than I am used to, but the benefits seem to far outweigh the negatives as I’ve now entered a new (and probably more mature) phase of my fan experience.
I still plan jumping around, yelling obscenities at coaches, referees and players that will all fall on deaf ears, but now it will be done with more clarity and restraint. I leave the six-foot beer bongs and early-morning double shots for the lower-class men; tailgating is a young man’s sport, and it is time to pass the torch.
Video: Tailgating for Nebraska @ Wisconsin
[ezjw url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBn2gEYBiw8" ]