Sunday, November 07, 2004

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: Pregame

First-- the big game in the front yard:

Most boys don't become competitive until age 10 or so. My 6 year old nephew is competitive now. He kept a close tab on the score of the game. Luckily, his team won. Less chance of tears that way. I am tired and grass-stained. Perfect. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Off to the big game at Camp Randall Stadium:

Me and my brother and sister-in-law parked near a bike trail, and walked in for about a mile. We emerged near the corner of Regent and Breese, to a sensory overload of red clad fans, the smell of grilled brats and beer, plus that Autumn sunshiny smell, and the sight of Camp Randall off to our left, silhouetted against a clear blue sky. Also perfect. All of it.

To my knowledge, there's barely any parking close to Camp Randall. The stadium is bordered on the south by a classic gymnasium, now used by Wisconsin Wrestling and Volleyball. Soon beyond the gym is a few restaurants, and then residential housing. Across the street to the west is residential housing. To the north is a football practice field, with the UW campus spreading out just beyond. To the east is a bit of campus, and a neighborhood of restaurants and bars and shops, et al. The stadium is wedged into the middle of it all. On game day, the area all around the stadium is a sort of giant neighborhood/street party.

A bar is blasting music into the street: Head East, "Never Been Any Reason", circa 1978. I flashback to my freshman year at Baylor. Was in Austin at a campus party the night before the Texas-Baylor game. Was some beers into the night, away from home for the first time(for all of about 6 weeks), and was surrounded by women that-- Jesus Christ and Oh My God—they could not have been any more beautiful. They were dropped down from Heaven as God’s personal gift to man. And this great song with these driving lyrics was playing really loud. I was so happy to be away from home and at that party with that music and those girls-- I could’ve cried out in joy and gratitude.

Back to the sunshiny day. We moseyed up Breese and past the stadium, passing house parties filled with people-- except for one house party with poor turnout. We felt sorry for those guys.

Badger fans are unapologetically proud of their team and excited to root for them. I'm wearing red. I'm proud of the Badger team. I'm excited to be here. Yea! I've got about 80,000 new best friends.

We circle the north end of Camp Randall, and my mechanical-engineer sister-in-law begins describing a professional tour she took of the stadium with an engineering group:

She: Camp Randall has Field Turf, and the manufacturers had a dickens of a time matching the correct color red in the endzones. They applied various shades of red to the Field Turf, but it would not come out the correct Wisconsin color. The end zone red is still just a smidgen too dark.

The visiting locker room is very spartan. No need to lavish luxury on the enemy. There was controversy over the color of the visiting locker rooms. Red is an aggressive color. No need to help the visitors' aggression. Pink is a passive color, and they considered that. Pink apparently depresses testosterone levels for 2 hours after exposure. Wisconsin finally settled on baby blue, feeling that created a sufficiently pacifying environment for the visitors.

Me: Did you learn any engineering on that tour?

She: Really, we didn't. But we had fun!

We pass through the Camp Randall Arch and circle back towards Regent St. We pass the trombone section circling the stadium and playing "On Wisconsin." We turn into a mosh pit of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of 35-40 year olds in the beer garden of "Big Ten Pub". Its 90 minutes before game time, and who knows how many identical mosh pits exist within 500 yards of where we are? 10? 20? More? I've been to some fabulous pregame scenes. I've been to Baton Rouge and College Station, and lots of other places. This is as amiable and fun of a scene as you could find anywhere. I'm having a fine time.

Two beers and two brats for me. My sister in law is balancing a beer and eating a brat and chattering along happily with a girl friend. They notice Penn St. on a TV, and they begin earnestly discussing when Joe Paterno will be forced to leave his coaching position. I suddenly love both of them intensely: beer-drinking, football-talking women. Their husbands are lucky men.

Kickoff approaches, so we fight our way out of the mosh pit. There are still hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of beer drinking, happy, smushed together people in the beer garden. I'm a two beer kind of person. These Madisonites are way tougher than I am. As we leave, a police officer surveys the mosh pit and pronounces:
"This is ridiculous."

My sister in law begins the mile long trek back to the car because I'm using her ticket! She hiked a mile in and a mile out just to make the scene and visit with her friends. It was worth it.

Next Post: Ballgame!

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