By Roz Koff
Unigo Campus Rep at UW-Madison
Nov. 1, 2008
This past year, one of ESPN’s most popular SportsCenter announcers, Scott Van Pelt, declared Madison, WI, “The best college sports town in America.” Nothing made Badger fans happier than to read in print what they already knew.
The most accurate description of the city of Madison is from a former governor, claiming that Madison is an 89.4 square mile area, “surrounded by reality.” Within that space - especially in the downtown campus area - is a surreal, little universe in which red and white are the only acceptable colors. Up and down State Street, in lecture halls, in the dorms, and at the gym, one would be hard-pressed to find someone not wearing an item of Badger gear.
On game days, whether home or away, State Street is flooded with an infamous “sea of red”. Down University Avenue, the entire city hikes to Camp Randall where our football pride is seen in full force. From the slow-motion wave, to jumping around to House of Pain, to the Section O taunts of underclassmen, our football games are bursting with excitement from students and alumni alike. Each touchdown, our adored mascot, Bucky the Badger, is lifted up above the crowd to do a push-up for each point our team has earned. Once the game is over, half the crowd stays for the Fifth Quarter – a giant choreographed singing, dancing festival led by the marching band.
Badger pride does not solely revolve around football though. During basketball season, the red-and-white tie-dyed masses of the Grateful Red flood the city. With a whole new series of dancing and songs to learn, the more exclusive arena of the Kohl Center reverberates with cheers across the court.
Hockey season is unique in Madison, as the state lacks a national hockey team, so any enthusiasts invest their efforts into the Badgers. “It is really cool to see the families who live in the area come to games. They are so invested in our college hockey,” says Sophomore Jessica Halpern.
Favorite game-day traditions vary among students, but one of the most spoken-of is the wave at football games. “The wave is impossible to describe. After my first time experiencing the wave, I was a changed man,” said Senior Adam Rose. The upperclassmen, in Sections O and P begin a traditional wave around the stadium – with Bucky’s assistance, of course. Once the wave has made its full round across the stadium, the students continue the wave in slow-motion, accompanied by slow-motion hand movements pointing in the direction the wave is to be continued, and shouting out a dragged “g-o-o-o” to supplement the theme. Once that round is finished, the students begin a super fast round, which takes about a quarter of the time as a traditional wave. Next, the students split the wave down the center, sending two sections in two different directions around the stadium. “The cool thing about it to me is the teamwork in the stadium. Every person in this huge stadium works together and cheering and pointing together in one great tradition,” said Sophomore Allison Frankel.
Alcohol is definitely present on an average game-day, but is not by any means a necessity. Some students choose to drink before attending a game, but many students choose to stay sober. Rose remarks sarcastically, “I am not sure why or how, but many of our cheers relate back to alcohol.” With the cheerleaders leading a “WE WANT MORE” cheer, students affectionately add the word “BEER!” to the end of their chants. In the Kohl Center, students request the “tequila” song by screaming “JOSE CUERVO!”
“No schools have three sports that are as incredible as our [teams] are. Usually you have a good basketball team, or a good football team, or a good hockey team, but you rarely have all three,” said Halpern. “However, with that being said, this pride and respect really only applies to our male sports.”
Noticed, but not discussed, is the fact that women’s sports receive little or no attention from the students. While each woman’s Varsity team on campus is equivalently ranked, if not superiorly, to the men’s teams, students make no effort to cheer their women on. “It is really frustrating,” explains Women’s Varsity Soccer athlete Sarah Boberschmidt, “because we play so hard, and practice even harder, and we have to practically beg people to come to our games.” The ticketing for women’s sports is a twenty-five dollar pass that allows entrance to virtually all women’s matches, with that single payment. Men’s sports, however, require applications for season tickets and lotteries of students competing to pay several hundred dollars for a single sport.