Saturday, September 27, 2008

#14 - Go Big Red!

Varsity! Varsity!
U-rah-rah! Wisconsin,
Praise to thee we sing!
Praise to thee, our Alma Mater,
U-rah-rah! Wisconsin!
- Varsity, University of Wisconsin Anthem

My Dad loved the Badgers. More importantly, he loved the University of Wisconsin. So every year he'd buy season football tickets to support the school he couldn't afford to attend but hoped his children might someday. And each September, as far back as I can remember, just as the leaves began to glow, one of my sisters or I would accompany him on the 90 mile journey west from Milwaukee to help cheer for his favorite team.

Football Saturdays in Madison were always cause for a celebration. Even during my childhood when the Badgers struggled to achieve a .500 record (considered by most as a "winning season"), Camp Randall Stadium remained sold-out and a spectacle for the senses to savor. From the sweet smell of bratwurst sizzling on an open fire from thousands of tailgater's barbecues, to the sea of frenzied red and white clad fans filing to their seats in rhythm to the raucous sounds of the UW Marching Band or the screaming stereo of a fraternity house across the street, these afternoons were experiences I'll never forget.

Later, when I realized newsphotography was my calling and I enrolled to study journalism at the UW, I managed to garner my first set of photo passes and witnessed Badger football from a whole new perspective. Roaming the sidelines of a Big 10 game was quite a coup considering this was my first opportunity to cover football (something I finally appreciated later in my career after shooting countless high school games by "candlelight"!). The atmosphere and intensity, not to mention the daylight starting time, of these contests seemed to guarantee photographic success and I took full advantage of the season to build a decent portfolio of pictures. But my fondest memory of covering Football Saturdays took place in the press room during the pre-game media luncheon: I loved that the menu always included a "Featured Dairy Product of the Week". I guess since Wisconsin is known as the "Dairy State" and Madison is its Capital, the university felt obliged to do this, but whatever the reason, I remember enjoying some wonderful home-made ice cream and snacking on packages of tasty string cheese down on the field -- it really was a treat!

So on this Oregon September Saturday afternoon, as the leaves begin to glow and the nation's college football scores trickle in over the radio, my mind drifts back to Madison and Camp Randall Stadium and a pair of bench-style seats near the south endzone and a proud would-be Wisconsin grad belting out Varsity during a third quarter break in the game. I smile because I know somewhere my Dad's smiling too.

Note: at press time of this post, The University of Wisconsin Badgers were ranked in the Top 10 on all the college football polls! Way to go Wisconsin! Go Big Red!