Holiday Road Wisconsin Badgers Part 1 of 2

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By Paul M. Banks

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When University of Wisconsin extra-curricular activities are discussed, two things quickly come to mind: a party town with a passion for sports and a bastion of liberal thought/activism. In other words, my vision of UTOPIA!  The University located in Madison, Wisconsin was ranked the #1 college sports town in 2003 by Sports Illustrated and the #1 party school by Princeton Review in 2005. And at a “football school,” their basketball team is 99-6 at home during the past six years under Coach Bo Ryan. The Kohl Center may just be the hardest place for an opponent to win in all of college basketball. Wisconsin has a 135-18 record there since the facility opened in 1998. The city of Madison itself is an open-minded, free-spirited and forward thinking community. No geographic area should be allowed to have that much going for it all at the same time. That’s just not fair. It’s like the famous, rich, and supermodel dating New England Patriots QB Tom Brady if he were a campus and town instead of a person.

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 Pregame introductions
“State Street that great street:” Campus Culture
 
I was a huge fan of the vegan restaurants and vegetarian friendly cuisine found within campus town. They’re easy to find; look for any establishment with a hippy sounding name like “sunshine” or “moonbeam” café. State street is the main thoroughfare of campus town and it runs all the way through to the Capitol building. Much of it is shut down for automobiles, making it even more eco-friendly. The “Grateful Red” is a clever name for a student cheering section, drawing upon the city’s reputation for “rebelling against conformos man!” The 2,051 student season ticket holder section was created in 2002-03 and is just about impossible to get into. I wonder what’s up with that weird clapping-and-changing-positions-while-still-standing-thing that Badger fans do. This ritual takes place while the band plays a slower and more melodramatic version of their fight song. This song manifests itself as a hybrid of “On Wisconsin” and Strauss’s “Thus Spake Zarathustrah.” (theme from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001’) To me all that dancing around, clapping and stuff seems like way too much work, and I think Badger nation is just trying way too hard to be creative and distinctive. I get tired from just looking at it. So for a group of supposed hippies wearing tied-eye, they are much more dynamic than the typical hippy stereotype. The average attendance at the Kohl Center has been in the top ten nationally every year since 1999. It is almost always in the top three of the Big Ten.

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The Wisco Dance Team practicing about three hours prior to tip-off

One interesting custom of Wisconsinites is their religious devotion to tailgating. Supposedly, both tailgating and homecoming were invented at the University of Illinois, but residents of the badger state seem to think that they do it much better. They take it very seriously in every Wisconsin city at every single Wisconsin sporting event. There is an unofficial set of rules for tailgating too. And trust me if you violate their interpretation of the tailgating protocol, you will hear about it.  And it’s a good thing that their fans do their tailgating; with a lot of adult beverages. It’s mandatory given the boring, slow, and low scoring style of basketball they play.
 

Ambien…in Basketball Form

The Badgers are usually quite effective yet very bland and dull with a horrendously yawn-inducing game plan. Both Dick Bennett’s and Bo Ryan’s teams have been college basketball’s answer to Ambien. Their swing offense and their defensive schemes give us a result similar to the old Mike Fratello Cleveland Cavaliers “stall-ball.” Maybe sometime I’ll tell you how I really feel about watching their basketball team! The Badgers do win with it…in the regular season quite a bit, in the tournament not so much. The hellacious defense they play forces their opponents to score even fewer points than they do. The lowest scoring Big Ten tournament game in history featured Wisconsin, of course, and occurred on Friday as Bucky beat Michigan 51-34. In 1999, the Badgers scored fewer points in their tournament game (a first round 32-43 loss to SW Missouri St. in the first round) than the football team did in the Rose Bowl that same year! During the Michigan State University title run in 2000, I really got sick of having to see Wisconsin and their hypnotically slow paced on both ends of the floor team.  The fourth meeting of the season occurred in the Final Four. The national semifinal game matched the stall ball style of Badger ball against MSU resulting in a halftime score of 19-17. As Homer Simpson would say: “BORRRRRRING!” With three minutes to go in the national semifinal game, the Badgers had garnered a whopping 29 points. To their credit though, they did hold MSU’s “Flintstones” to just 2 of 16 combined shooting in the first half. Losing four times to the same team almost never happens; there’s hardly ever a chance to play a team four times in the same season. One team beating another three times in the same season is pretty rare itself. Five years later, Wisconsin would face Illinois in the Big Ten conference tournament title game and shoot just 25%; on their way to 41 total points for the title game. You get the point. If you ever hear someone describe Wisconsin basketball as flashy, sexy or riveting, check their medication. They’ve probably been using the same substances that the Grateful Dead were known for using.

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