Monday, September 21, 2009


Birthdays, even at my age can have their choice rewards. Penniless and poor I still dreamed of giving my kid the world. Having been raised on the joys and sorrows of rooting for the Wisconsin Badgers, one of my first wishes on moving back to Wisconsin was to share this history with my daughter. Rick was a lost cause where football was concerned. It's an acquired taste and football to him was like sweetbreads to me. On my birthday my sisters came through with two tickets to the Wisnosin - Wofford football game in Camp Randall Stadium.
Saturday morning Emmy and I rose, ate a hasty breakfast and tore through our still unpacked suitcases looking for whatever article of red clothing we could find. She fared far better than me. She came up with a red PaineWeber t-shirt. All I could find was a heavy canvas, long-sleeve, LL Bean shirt in a faded brick color. The forecast was for mid-seventies and lots of sun. I was already over-heating. We dressed as best we could and then headed out, my sister, Ebby, picked us up and dropped us off on the Capitol Square. Madison's illustrious Saturday Farmer's Market was in full swing as we snaked our way through crowds of health conscious, fit, fresh flowers in hand consumers buying organic heirloom tomatoes, fall rhubarb and anything made from cheese. The weaving was slow but we finally pushed our way through to State Street, the street connecting the politics of the capital to the academic halls of the university. About halfway down State Street, the pedestrians began to change from Birkenstockers with carrot smoothies in hand, to students clad in various red and white costumes exposing a much young skin as possible hefting plastic beer mugs at ten in the morning. The day was going to be hot.

The practical side of me had us stop at a hat shop where we picked up three-dollar Wisconsin baseball caps to protect us from the sun. Then the devil-may-care side went into the University Bookstore where we splurged on two authentic Wisconsin t-shirts. Mine said, "Wisconsin Badgers" and hers said, "Jump Around". For those uninitiated in Badger tradition, between the third and fourth quarters of each home game the stadium erupts in a crazy rendition of House of Pain's "Jump Around". Old and young flailing arms in the air bounce around like drunken revilers. Emmy, being the modest girl we raised her to be, went to the ladies room to change into her t-shirt. I, being the boy, just stood next to the cashier, doffed my heavy canvas shirt and slipped on the t-shirt. I had held it up when I bought it and it seemed plenty big but when I slipped it on it felt a little tight. When Emmy emerged from the ladies room I was ready to head on out, we were getting close to game time now, but I stopped in my tracks before we made it two steps from where I had stood. Her t-shirt said, "Wisconsin Badgers", mine "Jump Around". There was a reason the t-shirt I put on felt so tight. Time was a-wastin' so I wiggled out of her t-shirt, handed her the t-shirt she had bought, she slipped it over my t-shirt, maneuvered out of mine without exposing any inappropriate parts of her body, then handed me mine which I  barreled into, all to the giggles of the cashier. Now in our designated attire we walked on to the stadium blending in a bit better than when we started out.
The game was great. Wisconsin won big time. Emmy jumped around. We did the wave in regular, slow-mo and mock speed. We laughed. We bonded over the Wisconsin tradition. Good things can still happen in bad times.

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