I was lucky enough to make the trip out to Wisconsin this weekend for the game. Although it was painful to watch, I had a great time in Madison (until about the middle of the second quarter). Here are some observations I took away from the atmosphere at Camp Randall:
- The city of Madison is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been to most Big Ten campuses, and aside from Penn State, none of them come close to Madison. The campus is right on Lake Mendota, and every building on campus looks like it’s brand new. Student apartments were massive and immaculate. The capitol building looms over the city and creates a tremendous atmosphere. And, if you need any more evidence, their student union building has a fully stocked bar inside overlooking the lake. Check and mate.
- The party scene was very similar to Happy Valley. Like Penn State, there are several main streets lined with bars and fan shops near campus (including many familiar chains like Five Guys, Pita Pit, Campus Candy, Jimmy Johns, etc). I personally enjoyed the State Street Grill’s triple cheese “Sconie” cheeseburger complemented with a milkshake from the local creamery.
- Wisconsin fans are brutal. Although I met a few that were genuinely interested in the Penn State situation, walking through downtown Madison and the tailgate lots on game day wearing Penn State gear was asking for trouble. Insults ranged from a simple “boo” to being offered a bratwurst and asking how it compared to a particular part of the anatomy of one of our former defensive coordinators. Although this was expected, I would have never thought that Ohio State fans were classier than Wisconsin fans, but that was unquestionably the case.
- On that note, I witnessed one of the most disgusting fan displays I have ever seen at a sporting event on Saturday. One of Wisconsin’s players was injured on a kickoff during the second quarter, and after being examined by team physicians, the ambulance was called out onto the field. While this player was laying on the field motionless, Wisconsin students started the wave. The entire stadium was cheering for the wave while their own player was being whisked away by an ambulance. I was sitting in the Penn State family section, and everyone was in disbelief at the apathy shown by fans toward the situation.
- Camp Randall is situated in the middle of suburban Madison with the basketball arena and hockey rink packed in right next to it. There didn’t appear to be may lots to tailgate in and most people set up in paved parking lots a mile or so away from the stadium. The stadium was massive yet it still felt somewhat intimate. Unlike the menacing steel of Beaver Stadium that can be seen for miles, Camp Randall is tucked away in a neighborhood that you can’t full appreciate until you go inside.
- The famous Camp Randall “Jump Around” before the fourth quarter is no joke. The game was over by halftime, but thousands of fans waited around to “Jump Around” only to leave right after. The place was rocking for a solid two minutes. Kudos to Wisconsin students for all coming back early after Thanksgiving break to pack their student section (even if they only got loud on third down plays in the first quarter).
- I never want to hear the “On Wisconsin” fight song ever again. Much like Penn State sends the Blue Band trumpets around in the second half to play “Hail to the Lion,” Wisconsin sends a half dozen regiments of instruments around the stadium to play “On Wisconsin” constantly for the entire second half. There were not thirty seconds in the last two quarters where “On Wisconsin” was outside my ear shot.
- As a result, there was not much piped-in music at all. The only time I can even remember where there was music during the game was a Guido-esque “Seven Nation Army” rendition that didn’t last very long.
- Wisconsin’s team entrance video and music was simply epic. The music included gong beats as coach Bret Bielema walked down the ramp leading the team. It was truly intimidating.
- I will never forget to wear warm socks to a game ever again. It didn’t stop raining all day, and by the time we were down 28-7, my feet were drenched. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper for most of the second half.
The next observations post from your favorite and regularly scheduled observationalist John Tecce will (hopefully) be coming from sunny Florida or Arizona at the bowl game. Until next time, Go State!