Football and Me Part II

This is the second post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.

All last week, I was on pins and needles. The Badgers had played UNLV and, especially on offense, were dominant in doing so but this was just an appetizer for the sacred cow main course that is the NFL and my beloved Green Bay Packers. During the course of the offseason, almost every time I found myself facing internal or external battles, I could make myself in at least a slightly better mood by thinking, “THE PACKERS WON THE SUPER BOWL!” in my head. Over and over and over again. More than occasionally, this merry sentiment would slip out into conversation, Facebook and Twitter.

As much as I love the Wisconsin Badgers and going to their games, my love for the Packers is far deeper. I have been a Badgers fan since I was 18 but a Packers fan since I was about 12 (before that there was a dark period in my life where I rooted for the Cowboys. I don’t know how or why my dad would let such a terrible thing like that happen but those are dark days that are not discussed with my family). I LOVE the NFL and I LOVE the Packers to a maniacal extent and could not contain my anxiety or excitement for the Super Bowl defense to begin.

I spoke at length about Will’s last week and, as dynamic as it is for Badgers games, it is an electric atmosphere when the Packers play. It gets packed (pun intended) shoulder-to-shoulder inside and out with Chicago residents who fervently bleed green and gold. In my illustrious sports watching career, I have never been in an environment outside of an arena or stadium that comes even close to comparing to that of Will’s during Packers games.

I had been planning on going to Will’s with my Uncle Johnny, Granny and their caretaker. I go to Will’s enough that I have the ability to reserve a table but feel guilty doing so and therefore generally try to get there early enough to nab one. This time was different, though, and I was stunned to see at 5:00, 2.5 hours before kick-off, that there was not one to be had. We decided instead to grab dinner at Big Star in Wicker Park. It was my first time eating at Big Star after hearing about it constantly and seeing it extremely crowded every time I ventured past and the meal did not disappoint. We got queso fundido for the table and I ordered a taco al pastor and a taco de panza. All three were stunningly delicious and I will write an in depth review accompanied by pictoral food porn for The Unvegan later this week.

I got dropped back off at Will’s at about 6:45 and it was a good thing I didn’t get back much later as it got filled to capacity around 7:00 and they stopped letting people in. To give you a mental image of how many Packers fans this means were there, Will’s has three rooms inside and an expansive patio that were all filled shoulder-to-shoulder. It isn’t always that full but it is usually close and the season opener was obviously a special occasion.

I was joined at Will’s by my friend Habib. If you recall from last week, I am giving my friends fake names so as to not jeopardize their careers in any way when this s— gets real. This pseudonym comes from our Iowa trip last year when a racially intolerant, sore loser on the sidewalk took exception to his happiness after the Badgers won. Although it was a blatantly offensive incident, we choose to use the nickname for irony and humor now. Habib is one of my best friends in the world and we love to partake in excessive quantities of football and food together. He will be a recurring character in this journal. My friends Bill, Stuart, and Rafael (once again, names are fake) were also in attendance in all their splendor. Bill grew up a Vikings fan but has converted from the dark side to become a Packers aficionado largely because of how awesome it is to watch games at Will’s. There was also a cute girl whose number I got last season but didn’t call because the timing coincided with the start of a since-ended relationship; I was honest about the circumstances and am graciously being given a second chance.

If you are still awake 700 words in, the game FINALLY kicked off. Aaron Rodgers, who has stunningly beautiful eyes, moved the Packers offense up the field methodically, culminating in a back shoulder touchdown strike to Greg Jennings. On the ensuing Saints possession, the Packers defense forced a fumble and Aaron Rodgers threw another dart touchdown pass, this time to Jordy Nelson. After a Saints touchdown, Rodgers connected with a long pass and run to my new man crush Randall Cobb. By the end of the first quarter Rodgers had completed 14 of his 15 passes (the one glaring incompletion was a throw-away) for 188 yards and three touchdowns. I’m no advanced statistician but I am pretty sure that is kind of good.

This night was especially unique because we were watching outside in the rain. For whatever reason, a lot of people have a strange aversion to rain. I have never understood this; when it isn’t cold, rain is refreshing. To the best of my knowledge, the Wicked Witch of the West was a fictional character and most people don’t melt. I would much rather that it be raining outside and warm out than not raining and cold but at the first sight of rain the percentage of awesome people in the crowd outside went up substantially as the people who were scared of getting wet headed inside. We collectively danced triumphantly all six times Bang on the Drums by Todd Rundgren blared over the soundsystem after Packers touchdowns and were euphoric at the 42-34 final score that was just a little bit too close for comfort at the end.

On Saturday morning, I went back to Will’s for the Badgers game versus Oregon State. It was a transcendently beautiful September day in Chicago and I was joined by my friend Ronald and later Habib, who was fresh off taking the GREs earlier in the morning. I ran into an old friend from studying abroad in London and generally had a great time basking in the sun, paying little attention to what ended up being a 35-0 destroyification.* Russell Wilson was incredible again but it is difficult to get a real bearing on where the Badgers stand nationally until they play Nebraska at the end of the month.

*Once again, not a real word but should be

Habib and I ended up grabbing Al’s Beef for lunch (it was delicious but we both paid the price later; we knew that would be the case going in though and regret nothing) and then headed to the Alabama bar in Wrigleyville, Houndstooth Saloon, to watch a little bit of Alabama-Penn State if for no other reason than to take in the game in the company of people who had a vested interest in the outcome. Once it became clear that Penn State was and would be outmatched, we headed off to catch the end of Federer-Djokovic and ultimately went home. Overall, it was a great week of football; the Packers and Badgers both went 1-0 and I am very excited for Badger Nation to descend on Chicago this coming weekend as Wisconsin plays Northern Illinois at Soldier Field. Heeeeeere we goooooooo!


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2 Responses to Football and Me Part II

  1. mweisburgh says:

    Ryan,

    You’re telling us you had a first date. You took her to an overcrowded sports bar, and sat outside with her in the rain with *your* friends during a football game? You gonna marry her? If not, can you pass her name on to Herb?

  2. ryan is a pro fan nut. he grew up w a team. i am a college football nut. i grew up w a team, alabama.

    i have said to all who’ll listen that the badgers belong in the sec. the badgers as now coached, and under alvarez as well, is sec; not big 10 football. powerful line play. power run game. QB who makes few mistakes, and can throw. very good defense.

    as you may know bama played penn state this past wk end. psu is not well coached, but has discipline w some play makers. jopa who is admired universally, should step aside so psu can get back to the football business.

    psu spent all 3 timeouts on its 1st possession of game. i’ve never seen such before. no one knows who the hc really is. jopa was in press box w no apparent communication w his sideline coaches.

    as to the pro game, cam newton threw for more yds than any 1st game rookie ever, well over 400. given time, he may prove special even tho he scored 7 on wonderlic.

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