April 26, 2014

Madison Revisited

At the "Continue reading" link below, I have recreated an old article from The Cleveland Fan...a little photo-essay from my trip to Madison, Wisconsin in 2010, for a night game between the then No. 1 Buckeyes and the Badgers. It didn't end well for the good guys, and the original article didn't survive the shift to the new home of the TCF archives, so it lives here, if only for my own reference...

Madison Notebook

Author John Feinstein has a book about golf called A Good Walk Spoiled. I thought about that title on the 500 mile drive back from Madison on Sunday after a football game spoiled for me an otherwise spectacular weekend of college football in Wisconsin. If you're up for some bad digital photography and some travelogue about game day (and GameDay) in Madison for Ohio State-Wisconsin, carry on. (If revisiting that day is just not where you want to be, consider sleeping on it for a few more days and coming back.)

I was a little late with the motel reservations, so I ended up staying in Janesville, about 40 miles south of Madison. That got me into town about noon local time on game day, with six hours to kill before kickoff. They parked the OSU media about a mile away, but at least the walk is along the Regent St. strip of bars and restaurants that host a good portion of the pregame frivolity. As you'd expect, by noon the party was well on. I'd revisit Regent Street later for a couple hours after checking out the stadium.

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Approaching Camp Randall from the south on Regent, you're confronted first with the imposing Field House building, the former home of the basketball team before they moved to the classy Kohl Center, and now host to several non-revenue sports. It abuts the stadium's south stands, as you'll see here..

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Inside the gates above are statues of two Wisconsin icons. I need a closer look...

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On the left, the great Pat Richter. What Badger luminary is that on the right? Maybe Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch...or Alan Ameche...or Ron Vander Kellen. Nope...you can tell from here, it's Barry Alvarez, a man about whom no one in Madison has a critical word to say. These people loves them some Barry. Note the candy-striped banners around the statues. Everything in Madison is candy-striped on game day.

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Sports Illustrated was having something they were calling a College Football Experience, which as far as I could tell from my brief foray into their tent, consisted of giving away some free copies of their special issue and moving a few Nissans, while one guy with a microphone played a video trivia game with a couple of fans. Next door was a giant canopy and seating for a few hundred for the Lee Evans and Ron Dayne autograph session. Missed that.

On the north end, ESPN people were everywhere, as the GameDay set at midfield was being dismantled and hauled to the trucks. They had cleared out the public at about 11:30 a.m. when the show was wrapping up, so when I got my first look inside, it was pretty much just me and the roadies as I walked down the end zone ramp...

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The shot below gives you a little better look at the new tri-level luxury suites which stretch from endzone to endzone on the east side and the new combination scoreboard-parking deck-office complex (?) between the boxes and the Field House

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Oh, yeah....right outside the stadium...the obelisk....or is it The Obelisk? Near as I could tell, just a Phallic Feast of Footballs.

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I asked some Wisconsin fans sitting there if it had a name they could say in mixed company. They said it was just The Obelisk. They asked an artist to give them a sculpture, and this is what they got for their money. So be it. This one gives you some sense of the scale of it...maybe 40 feet tall?

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Meanwhile the party is getting rolling. Did I mention it was a perfect day?

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I watch the early games at Lucky's, a place I now know to be better at beer than they are at burgers. I ask this guy if he'd be kind enough to let me take his picture...profile please...The wife acted like this happened to him all the time...

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Three hours from kickoff, and weary of lugging my heavy computer case around, I'm one of the first to arrive in the press box. From my seat on the far north end...

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Good thing I had lots of time before kickoff, because my laptop decided to get temperamental on me and it took me 90 minutes to get connected. Below is a shot looking at the north end of an empty Camp Randall...

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The place fills up as the band does its pregame thing....

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The less said about the actual game the better, I guess...at least in this space, but by the time the media were allowed down on the sidelines, with five minutes to go in the game, there were a lot of long faces on the Buckeye bench...

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Someone asked me on the message boards during the game if it was really loud there, and from behind the press box glass I couldn't really tell. But once we got down on the field, and with the fans smelling an upset, the scoreboard and the PA announcer exhorted the fans to "get louder!" It was sheer bedlam. One of the loudest venues I've ever been in.

Here a couple of Badger DB's walk back upfield after a long Pryor incompletion in OSU's last minute comeback attempt...

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Below, a dejected Dane Sanzenbacher walks off after the Buckeyes turn it over on downs...

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With the game seemingly out of reach, your correspondent is momentarily distracted. Nice megaphones!

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The postgame celebration continues for what seems like forever. Media types are already on their cell phones canceling hotel reservations in Arizona. A good portion of the country and certainly 99% of the people here are delighted with the outcome. Good for the game, some say, when No. 1 gets beat.

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It's a somber interview session with the Buckeye captains afterward, and I bolt for Janesville to write my game story in the motel room.

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Aftermath:

Driving home Sunday, I'm on the Ohio Turnpike around Sandusky, and just picking up a late 4th quarter Browns score on the radio, when a State Highway patrolman happens to pull up behind me. I'm thinking...first the Bucks...then the Browns...no way this guy wants a piece of me too. As he flips on the lights I envision my weekend being further trashed with a ticket for...whatever his problem is with me.

I pull over. He tells me my tags are expired...like three weeks ago, and by the way where am I headed. I say I've just driven 400 miles from Madison, Wisconsin where I covered the Ohio State game. He says, "Oh. Sorry. I listened to the game on the radio last night."

That was more sympathy than I'd gotten in Wisconsin. He wrote me a warning.

The game itself notwithstanding, it would be hard for me to imagine a total college football experience outside Columbus being any better. And in a bizarre, semi-sacrilegious way, I had to admit the experience was probably better because the home team won.

It's okay to say that. Isn't it?

Posted by dan at April 26, 2014 6:13 PM