Badgers/Spartans Preview: Manners Of Difficulty

Have you ever been to a home Wisconsin Badgers football game?

 I would assume that for most that read this sporadically-produced column (sorry about that, lots of things have been coming up – you can watch Maury for all the grisly details), the answer would be “yes.”

But if indeed the answer is “yes,” then the follow-up question would have to be “are you a fan-friendly fan at home Wisconsin Badgers football games?”

Don’t worry, if you’re smart enough to have been able to unearth this column, which is often buried like the last remnants of Pompeii on the very busy web sites (yes, I said sites) on which I am honored to appear on, chances are you’re not part of the problem.

But chances are the guy or girl next to you in the red-and-white striped overalls probably is, so please feel free to share with him or her my “Camp Randall Code of Conduct”:

1. No getting up during play. This is an easy rule to adhere to, yet it is the one most often broken. Look, there is a lot, a lot of dead time in a college football game. There is no reason, short of suffering a massive heart attack or being pooped on by a low-flying bird, that anyone needs to get up as an actual play from scrimmage is in progress. There is nothing more aggravating than missing a crucial first-down pickup because someone in your row decided that they needed a licorice rope at that very second

What makes this situation worse at Camp Randall is the extremely tight quarters that ticket buyers are squeezed into. If a couple in your row decide to shuffle past you on their way to the concession stand, others in the row can’t get away with just standing up, as everyone has to also do the awkward 45-degree turn inwards, lest any of us run the embarrassing risk of certain body parts becoming way too familiar with each other.

In short, if you are with children that tell you they need to go to the bathroom during an in-progress play, tell them to wait. By the time the words are out of your mouth, the play will be over and you can go. If you are an adult, wait, preferably for a media timeout, of which there are no shortage.

The reason why number one on this list has become a bigger problem is because number two has become a big problem, limiting the number of people who actually realize that a play might be in progress.

2. Put the smartphones away. Back in the day, people used to come to games with portable radios to ostensibly listen to the radio announcers call the play-by-play, or, if the game got dull,  to listen to the hot new Hall & Oates single. (Hey, I said “back in the day.”) That was fine.

Then some people started bringing portable TVs to the game, which were less cool and subsequently made less relevant by the advent of videoboards that could spit out instant replays as fast as any TV production crew could.

Nowadays you look around at a crowd at a sporting event – and certainly Camp Randall crowds are far from the only mass gatherings guilty of this, as this is a true social epidemic – and seemingly a third of the people at any time are busy playing with their smartphones.

Now, is this behavior inherently annoying to other patrons? Not as much, but look at it this way: Home teams feed off the energy from their home crowd. They perform better with a crowd that reacts, that cheers a great tackle or a great catch, that tries to drown out the opposing quarterback as he attempts to call a play at the line of scrimmage. It’s tough to be invested in the game if you’re instead invested in managing your virtual farm on FarmVille. 

Look, I’ve been guilty of violating this rule myself. I know how distracting the phones can be once you pick them up. That’s why you should just leave them in your pocket until after the game when you need to order the night’s big UFC match on pay-per-view.

3. Know your section, know your row, know your seat. The rows in Camp Randall are poorly marked, but fans sometimes don’t take the extra time to make sure they are in the correct one. Squeezing even one extra body into those bleachers is like Jack Tripper trying to squeeze two dates with two different women into the same evening. I don’t know how it’s like that, but it is.

4. When it’s time to “Jump Around,” jump around. If Dr. Oz isn’t embarrassed by going on national television and doing something called the “Banish Bat Wings Dance Workout,” you shouldn’t be embarrassed to jump around for a few measly seconds.

5. Adult diapers, yes. Kiddie diapers, no. Camp Randall ticket policy states that children two and under do not need a ticket. My policy states that children two and under need to be kept home.

I’ve made the mistake of bringing my son to Camp Randall when he was under a year old. Yes, there are a couple of cute pictures on some hard drive somewhere in my house, but the scars remain from that day that I carried him around and around and around the concourse for nearly four hours, missing the entire game in the process. It’s not fun for the baby, it’s not fun for the football fan or fans in charge of the baby, and it’s not fun for the patrons sitting near the understandably squirmy baby.

Yes, you want to show off the baby in his or her Badger red and take some pictures of the baby with Bucky Badger. But that’s what the spring football game and corresponding Badger Kids Fair are for.

Fortunately, this weekend brings with it the start of Big Ten conference play, the time of year that tends to bring the more serious Badger football fan to Camp Randall. But the more serious football means that the above five tips are even more important during October and November. I’m pleased that with the Badgers playing Michigan State on the road Saturday at 2:30 p.m., local fans will have a week to absorb my guidelines before the Badgers return home on October 10 to play the Minnesota Gophers (which, given the Gophers’ putrid start, may not be too far off from that Austin Peay laugher).

Let’s look at the top three storylines heading into Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m. CST in East Lansing.

1. It Don’t Come Easy. Despite the fact that most preseason pundits picked the October 16-October 23 back-to-back scheduling of Ohio State (home) and Iowa (away) as the Badgers’ only true test of the season, Michigan State should prove to be a very tough out for Bret Bielema’s team.

If history repeats itself, the Badgers are headed for trouble. They haven’t won at East Lansing since 2002, and even though that span only includes two losses, both defeats stung badly: A 49-14 beatdown in 2004 during which the Badgers allowed the Spartans to pile up 551 yards in total offense. That loss ended the No. 5 Badgers’ 9-game win streak to start the season, a stretch that tied the best start in school history.

Four years later, in the middle of what turned out to be a four-game conference losing streak, the Badgers squandered a 24-13 fourth-quarter lead and lost to MSU in the final seconds 25-24.

If those memories don’t scare Badgers fans, perhaps this should: Since 2005, the Badgers have lost every Big Ten road opener, except for last year, when they opened their conference road schedule at unranked Minnesota. The 2010 Michigan State Spartans, currently ranked 24, will be a lot tougher to beat than the 2009 Minnesota Gophers.

2. Vertical Men. After holding some key players out over the last several weeks due to injury (WRs David Gilreath and Nick Toon, tackles Josh Oglesby and Ricky Wagner) and limiting stud RB John Clay simply because they could, the Badgers look to be – save LB Chris Borland, out the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury suffered in the close victory over Arizona State – remarkably healthy.

That’s crucial, since the Badgers are going to need healthy bodies not only on defense but also on offense if they’re going to match the Spartans’ incredibly efficient and balanced offense — MSU is averaging 233 passing yards and 231 rushing yards per game so far.

If the game becomes a shootout similar to last year’s 38-30 game at Camp Randall, it will be interesting to see how TE Lance Kendricks, who has stepped up huge over the last two weeks in the absence of Toon and Gilreath, remains part of the gameplan.

If Kendricks is able to come close to matching his production so far even with Toon and Gilreath on the field, that will be the proverbial silver lining for the Badgers being without their top two wide receivers for much of this young season.

3. Mark Dantonio’s Recovering Hearts Club Band. Saturday’s game will be Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio’s first game back since suffering a mild heart attack after MSU’s emotional overtime victory over Notre Dame on September 18. 

Dantonio’s return – he is scheduled to sit in a coaches’ box high above the field – is the sort of intangible factor that could spur the Spartans to pull off the mild (Badgers are favored by 1-1/2 points) upset. But I (mostly) doubt it.

Final score prediction: Wisconsin 35, Michigan State 33.


2 Responses

  1. Right on!

  2. I’m sure they’d appreciate the classic rap song. (But please, no “Baby Got Back.”

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