"It was another very good step in the right direction for our program."
- Wazzu soccer head coach Matt Potter after the Cougars defeated Montana on the road in their season opener.
"Special teams we had a few glitches."
- Wazzu head football coach Bill Doba speaking about the blocked punt that was salvaged by Darryl Blunt and the fake punt that was not – against Wisconsin.
"It's their environment. We're visitors to it. All we can do is try not to look like food."
- Ohio attorney Harvey Miller who fought off a shark attack in Hawai'i last month while foreshadowing the Cougar football team's trip to Madison.
Driving through Wisconsin in the middle of the night reminds the Lounge of that movie – you know the one – where the giant Swedish cows with three eyeballs leap [yes, leap – these are gigantic, mutant, leaping Swedish bovine – hide the children] onto unsuspecting Chinese toy factory workers who have been recently fired and yearn to become German farmers with three kids and an unlimited supply of brats. Or was that a giant squid that leapt [yes, these were the type of mutant squid that had leaping powers] out and sucked unsuspecting Portuguese tourists dry of their cheese? Well, one of those two. All we know is that there is only one certainty on our journey to Wisconsin to view the alleged football game between Wazzu and Bucky – and that was the early morning smell from Monona. It was an indicator that something unsettling was going to happen.
The Lounge arrived in Wisconsin in full regalia after a long day spent on the airplane [during the Labor Day sale at Penney's!] during which we noticed from 35,000 feet aloft that Eastern Oregon looks a lot like Western Idaho which looks a lot like Northern Utah which, in turn, looks an awful lot like most of Wyoming. Also, we had never heard of Lamar's Doughnuts before but it was a perfect breakfast snack to pass out on a trip to the Midwest.
Upon arrival in Wisky, the unmistakable signs of Buckiness were everywhere. First, there were the guys riding their ATV's and motorcycles in the swampy muck followed closely by the inevitable helmet-shaped Green Bay Packers mailboxes and ubiquitous cheese signs all the way up to the unauthorized skeeters – Wisconsin mosquitoes. Oh sure, they were authorized to be in Wisconsin – but not near us. We had specifically paid extra to have a clean swath through to Madtown so these were obvious rebel skeeters skirting the law.
Somewhere between Milwaukee and Madtown – perhaps on our temporary detour to Beaver Dam – all hands were raised toward Buddha or the squirrels or whatever entity people believe is in charge of Earth, for the invention of satellite radio. We really don't care about the name brand of the particular service – just the concept of straight music, no chaser - that eliminates the inane chatter that frequently clogs up typical local radio stations.
By the time we arrived in Madtown, we were ready for a Madtown martini or two or 337 and thought we had discovered the Lounge's alter-Lounge in the Blue Velvet advertising 2-4-1 martinis Thursday through Saturday just like any self-respecting lounge would do [although some might consider the merits of the tough Monday-to-Wednesday work week]. Alas, it was too early for even the Blue Velvet and we were forced to consider the alternatives up to and including what we have determined is the official state liquid of Wisconsin – beer. Whereas Minnesota has those thousands of lakes – and there are a few grand in Wisky too – America's Dairyland knows what to do with their water. They combine it with hops and barley and store it in a refrigerated place every 30 feet or so. Of course, that is only a rough estimate.
Beer is plentiful on State Street but the smell of brats-a-cookin' is mesmerizing. It effectively puts one in a brat trance and keeps one staggering around in search of brat nirvana – the perfect brat. The quest for the holy brat is a quest which is never fulfilled because no sooner does one locate what one thinks is the winner – when another variety turns up to take its place in the brat continuum. But to those engaged in the chase, there is never a downside to the funk.
Camp Randall Stadium was formerly a Civil War training ground that now seats north of 81,000 and the Lounge was not impressed upon learning that they stuck their students in the horseshoe end zone. The Lounge consensus is that students pay X amount per year, with the "X" usually being a four or five-digit figure, and the least the schools could do is give them some good seats for a few weekends during the year seeing how much they rake in from the football program. The formula we would like to see used is cost of tuition=number of student seats in a good section. That might not work so well as places like Stanford, but then again the Treescan use their evidently larger mammalian brains to figure out a suitable solution while the rest of the nation's students watch football from their nifty new seats.
The student section at Camp Randall was slow to fill up – understandable since they were only going to be in the end zone – but they make up for it by jumping around in between the third and fourth quarters. If you need a visual then here it is with music courtesy of House of Pain. It is quite the visual spectacle when witnessed in person and performed in unison by thousands of red-clad [or in some cases, red-and-white striped clown overalls] by seemingly crazy people. The students even do a fairly good choral version of You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling the 1960s smash hit from The Righteous Brothers [half of whom consisted of Beaver Dam-born Bobby Hatfield] and were equally impressive finishing the lyrics to Build Me Up, Buttercup from The Foundations - well after the PA system music had ceased and desisted. The students may not have the best seats in the house, but they know how to carry a tune.
Then there is Bucky the Badger. The Lounge would like to go on record stating that – not for one second did we think Bucky was one of those real, monkey-head badgers we had heard so much about – just a guy in a badger suit to us [the biped walking style was a dead giveaway]. The band came on the field dressed in their red polka sweaters and white CYO basketball shorts and were doing a lot of the usual band stuff but giving a good chunk of time to their alumni band – some of whom looked as if they were still using their instruments from their 1967 heyday.
The game? Oh yes, there was one of those – apparently. But before we get to that, we must address Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema. At first, it all sounded straight out of the Disney movie mold – former Midwestern grocery stock boy walk-on linebacker makes good and signs a free agent contract with an NFL team [the Seahawks, no less] before becoming head coach. Fine…but then it starts to get weird. Bielema not only has an iPod, but claims to have 1000 songs on it, says he likes to cook and Napoleon Dynamite is his favorite flick. Obviously, we are not dealing with a normal behind-the-times, head-in-the-cultural-sand head coach here. So, okay, the guy has qualities that relate well to the modern world [who knows, he can probably perform behind-the-back texting too] but we are beginning tto question his mammalian status. Bielema came out on the field clad in a long sleeve sweater on an 80-degree humid day. That folks, smacks of reptilian roots. Maybe he is some sort of weird monkey-headed badger-reptile hybrid who has learned to mask himself with a humanoid appearance. Whatever he is, he is not a normal head coach and he is now 8-0 at home.
The game was considerably less mysterious. Much as they have done in recent years on the road against strong non-conference opponents [Notre Dame, Auburn and now, Wisconsin], the Cougars came out strong but could not sustain the effort and gradually faded away – in this case to be finally put out of their misery when yet another special teams fake punt attempt went awry. Wazzu has a new special teams coach this year but some of the same problems. After Wisky had built up a two-touchdown halftime lead, the crowd was lulled into a false sense of complacency. Wazzu took advantage of the crowd's cheesy slumber to briefly close the gap to seven, but it was the last time WSU would score and Wisky mercifully held up from scoring at the end, choosing not to score and pour it on to make it a 49-21 game, content to leave it at 42-21.The bright moment of the second half after the score came when Wisky fans booed the promo of the Big Ten network on the big screen – showing their sports savviness is beyond reproach.
A rebel faction from the small sliver of Cougar fans and well-wishers who made the trip and were mostly wedged into Section X began chanting "Tony Bennett" near the end of the game, causing some amusement amongst the larger Wisky contingent who, from the Lounge's perspective, seems to have approached the game confident they would find themselves "1-0" but curious as to how much of a game the Cougars would give them. In the end, likely not as good as the men's hoop team would have given the Badger men's hoop team.
But if Cougar fans and well-wishers were only considering coming to Madtown based on whether or not the football team had a good chance to win or not – then they missed out on one of the best experiences of a lifetime or a chance to see a real monkey-headed badger. One of those two.
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