Living Behind Enemy Lines: Madison

Stephen Dunn

As a Michigan fan first and foremost (regardless of what some other MnB contributors may think...yeah, you, Big House Jack!), and a Minnesota fan second, dealing with fans in Madison can be a challenge. Some are great, some experiences are fantastic, and sometimes you'll run into "the others".

Almost six years ago my wife and I moved from West Michigan to Madison for a change of pace (read: $), and prior to getting here I really didn't hate the Badgers. Of course, that will probably call into question my previous assertion that I am a Gophers fan, too. As a native Minnesotan, I'm supposed to hate Wisconsin with every fiber of my being. But, the reality is that they didn't really bother me as much as Iowa. I didn't like it when Bucky would beat Goldy, to be sure, but I knew it was coming and I just sort of resigned myself to that fact. I was always more upset if Wisconsin beat Michigan (as they did in 1993, and to a very tragic outcome for many UW students).

I was in Camp Randall when Ron Dayne rushed for 297 yards against the Gophers in '96, much to the dismay of the home crowd who wanted Dayne to break the single season rushing record of 304 yards. Minnesota's Cory Sauter, Tutu Atwell, and Ryan Thelwell were taking advantage of the Badgers' secondary, but the Gophers D was horrendous against the run--clearly. It was a very cold November day, but it got even colder as the day wore on and the score of the Michigan/Purdue game was shown on the scoreboard. Even though I was in Camp Randall to root for the Gophers that day, I was wearing a Michigan sweatshirt and jacket to show support for the team that means the most to me. As the score kept getting shown, I was pelted with frozen M&Ms by someone well behind me and out of sight. Once the final score of 9-3 (and the Purdue victory) was displayed, the locals "consoled" me with even more M&Ms and taunts. Later that night, at one of the various bars in downtown Madison, I was approached by some drunk guy who kept giving me the ol' stink-eye. He had been watching me for a while and finally said, "A Wolverine in Madison? We hate Wolverines with a passion. But, you know what we hate more than Wolverines? Buckeyes. At least you ain't a fuckin' Buckeye." Then he just walked away. My ass-kicking had been averted.

GoAUpher from The Daily Gopher (also a Madison resident) shared some of his experiences with me:

Well, I've found Badger fans to be a rather bi-polar bunch. On the one hand you've got my WI buddies. These are the fun loving UW fans. They're the guys who, every single person who walks by their tailgate, spot a brat and a beer regardless of what team they're cheering for. They dish out ridicule and good natured HATE with the best of them, but it's clear they view UW football as a great excuse to drink, eat, and hang out.

I was also in Camp Randall in 2009 when Tate Forcier really wasn't that bad, but the Michigan ground game was non-existent, and the D left Madison in the second half. Denard was actually the team's leading rusher with 36 yards on the day. Yup, 36. Michigan had a total of only 71 yards rushing. That's all I remember about the game itself (and more than I'd care to remember), as most of my time was spent listening to the guy who I bought the ticket from for the fabulously low price of $20. The other fans in the section called him "the drunk doctor", and it was the first time in 20+ years that they had ever seen him sell his other ticket. I remember "the drunk doctor" telling me a few hours before that he was glad to sell the ticket to me; he said, "It's clear that you really care about Michigan, and I'd rather sell this to you than to someone who isn't going to appreciate it." Hence the low, low price of $20. Just another example of the good fans GoAUpher was talking about.

Aside from the groovy feelings above, there is also a weird sense of superiority in this town, and it all comes from Barry Alvarez. There can be no denying that he brought this team out of the doldrums of the '80s and has made them what they are today. But in doing so, they have this over-inflated sense of self. Here's a man who scoffed at the idea that he would use a search firm to find a replacement for Brett Bielema:

I won't use a search committee. Most search committees use me.

And...

I get calls from coaches that call about athletic directors, I get calls from athletic directors about coaches. I get search firms that call me. I won't pay a search firm. I think that's what they pay me for.

What that attitude can do is bring out the other Badger fans. Again from GoAUpher:

That leaves the other Badger fans. The ones who think EAT SHIT FUCK YOU is clever, even though they are 45 with no hair. These ones...oh, these ones. This type of Badger fan will pour a beer on you for the crime of wearing a Minnesota shirt in a Fitchburg bar (not Madison, not State Street/campus) on a random Tuesday in June. This type of Badger fan throws beer at adult Purdue fans, but hits their little kid instead (and seriously, WTF are you doing bothering with a Purdue fan?). By the way, if you see a trend forming around the asshat section of the UW fanbase throwing beer, well, that's because it's a pastime for them. It will probably not surprise you that this is the section of the fanbase that doesn't know anything about UW football pre-Alvarez. Honestly , the only redeeming quality of this group is that when they throw beer, it's done via cups versus full cans (I see you Ohio State fans).

During this past season's NCAA basketball tournament, the following statement was made more than a few times by Badgers fans: "Well, at least Wisconsin was the last team to beat Michigan in the regular season." Whatever it takes to get you through the day, Badger fan. I can think of an infinite number of other teams that would have loved to lose their last regular season game, or in their conference tournament, for the trade-off of playing for a national title. Apparently a regular season match-up is more important in Madison than actually playing for something meaningful. That's also why the Badgers haven't won a football national title since the Helms Athletic Foundation gave them one in 1942, or a basketball title since '41.

Of course, as has already been stated, not all fans or towns can be lumped together as douchebags...but it sure can be fun. Right East Lansing? Seriously, though, Madison is actually a decent place to live and hang out. There's good food in this town, that's for sure. The beer in Wisconsin isn't all that it's cracked up to be, but you'll be able to find just about anything. Generally speaking, it's a pretty relaxed place, and the game day atmosphere is one of the best in college football. If you haven't been to Camp Randall, it should be on your list; you will not regret it.

By birth and fandom I am a foreigner in this town. I have not been accepted, but I am tolerated. What's funny, though, is that there are numerous Wisconsin license plates with frames that have the block M, Michigan Alumni, or Go Blue on them (Minnesota items are noticeably missing). Whether we are alums or just fans, there is usually a polite honk of the horn, a wave of the hand, or simply a nod. An unspoken "Go Blue!" So although I may be a foreigner, I'm not alone, and that is very comforting.

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