Football and Me Part V

This is the fifth 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.

As the dust settles on what was by far the most eventful weekend in this series, I am doing my best to figure out where in the world to start this post and what is relevant to include. I suppose it makes sense to start with a lofty goal I set for myself before the weekend. I wanted to gain five pounds. At least. This would be my benchmark for whether my Wisconsin weekend with meat, cheese, and beer had been successful or not.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself that this is something that I would never be able to achieve in a little over two days and that I was setting myself up for failure. That being said, I have always believed that if you work both tirelessly and intelligently toward your broader ambitions, anything can be accomplished. I weighed myself right before I left the door on Friday and right after I entered last night. The results are as follows:

Friday weight: 167.2 pounds
Saturday weight: 175.2 pounds

MY DREAM CAME TRUE!!!! Here’s how it happened:

Late Friday morning, I headed out to meet my friend Habib in Northbrook. We ate a sandwich at Jimmy Johns because it is always good to start what will be a disastrously unhealthy weekend with a solid base foundation in your stomach. About an hour into the drive, less than five minutes after crossing into Wisconsin, we HAD to hit up Brat Stop in Kenosha and walked out with cheese curds and beef summer sausage for an on-the-road snack. They were an outstanding welcome to God’s country.

When we got to Madison, we dropped our stuff off at Crest’s condo, picked up a 12-pack of Spotted Cow, and headed straight to the Memorial Union Terrace. Mario was already at the Terrace and was sitting with two of my old friends, Bryan and Ben. In what may only be interesting to me, Mario, Bryan, Ben, and I all know one another independently of each other and from very different realms of UW-Madison and life. We joined them at their table for a little while before they headed off in separate directions as Mario, Habib, Crest, and I remained at the Terrace. About 20 minutes later, we saw two Nebraska fans, who ended up being brothers, walking by and I called out something along the lines of, “I hope your favorite football team loses tomorrow.” They understood that I was just giving them a hard time and seemed like nice guys so we gave them two beers and they joined us at our table. A third brother joined a few minutes later but we had given his siblings our last two Spotted Cows. This unfortunate situation ended up working out quite well in our favor as the trio provided the table with six pitchers of beer over the next 90 minutes or so. It was a beautiful Fall day on the Terrace, there was a surprisingly good blues band playing right in front of us, and we were surrounded by great company. Life was not terrible.

After the Union, we split off from the friendly Nebraska fans and headed to the nearby Kollege Klub (KK) to meet my friend Dingo. I generally don’t like the KK (whenever I’m there, the implication is that I’m less cool than almost everybody else and this is by calculated design on the part of the bar in appealing to athletes and fratstars) but they have really good Friday After Class specials and it was on the way to anywhere else we would be going. We got two pitchers of Spotted Cow for $10.00 and settled at a table. Later, we realized that grilled cheese was a dollar. I bet Mario the next round of pitchers that I could eat mine in four bites or less and won the bet with a bite to spare. Pizza, which ended up being shockingly good, was also ordered.

From the KK, we headed briefly to Logan’s where we met up with my friends Leah, Sophia, Heather, and Alex before deciding to get late night food. Crest got Pita Pit while I pulled kind of shady move and bought Habib a Jin’s chicken sandwich, which he had never tried, before he could make his own decision of what food he wanted. For those that don’t know, Jin’s chicken was a food cart in Madison during my undergrad years. Like Mr. Burns once had every disease known to man and even some ones that were newly discovered, Jin’s racked up city violations and was eventually shut down for being a nuisance to society. They made a delicious fried chicken sandwich, though, and the recipe was sold to a food truck called JD’s after Jin’s was no longer allowed to operate. Accounting for my somewhat more refined tastes, I would say the sandwich is about 85% as good as it used to be. While 85% of absolutely amazing is still outstanding, the sandwich (and Habib and I are sure that it was this sandwich and not any of our other previously and later mentioned caloric intakes) would have lingering effects on our stomachs over the next couple days. Read into that as you see fit.

Having been drinking and eating heavily since 3pm, we decided to call it a night and head home around 11pm. On one hand, we were giving up three hours out in Madison, which is a scarce commodity in this day and age, but on the other we had had an early start and were strategically positioning ourselves to optimize the next day. Read: we are getting old and didn’t want to battle a hangover. Joined by Craig, my roommate from sophomore and senior year and a very interesting character who had just arrived in Madison unfashionably late, we headed back to Crest’s to recharge our batteries. Crest had a novelty plastic Madison Mallard bat in his apartment and we quickly realized how fun it would be to bash Craig in the knees with the bat. He would yell out in agonizing pain with each strike but never fight back. I don’t care how bad of a person this makes me seem like but I assure you it was funny and didn’t cease to be so throughout the weekend.

We got up around 9:30 on Saturday and headed to meet my dad and family friend at the Farmer’s market. Here, we gorged on cheese curds as an appetizer for what would be an outstanding breakfast at Gotham Bagels where I randomly ran into my good friend Nicole. Like Jimmy Johns, Gotham would provide a good base layer for the bodily degradation that would later ensue. Around noon, we headed over to Crest’s friend Brandon’s apartment on Spring Street to start pregaming and to watch the Brewers game. About 1.5 blocks from Camp Randall, this location was optimal because it meant that there would not have to come a time later in the day where we would have to embark on that buzzkilling half hour walk towards the stadium. Preventing this walk was a major step in avoiding the dreaded third quarter hangover of which the only remedy is a greasy Camp Randall brat and a Diet Coke.

The pre-game was outstandingly fun. Even though it is standard, I continue to be amazed by how quick and easy it is to make friends and become integrated with Wisconsin fans of all varieties. Our friend Katy commandeered the kitchen and made allowed me my first opportunity to sample her famous hashbrowns, entitled “Katy’s taties.” She was offended that there was no garlic in the kitchen and lamented that this was “not my best work,” but I still thought they were delicious. There was also an abundance of cheese and sausage as well as potato chips with french dip.

About three or four hours after we got to Brandon’s, an adult made his way up the stairs from the parking lot below and informed us that there was a very serious problem. “We have WAY too much food and not enough people to eat it. Can you help us solve this?” the man, who would later introduce himself as Red, asked with a huge grin. Habib and I took less than a second to oblige and saw a glorious spread of pulled pork, turkey, beans, and chili. Going by Craig’s standard rule that everything that tastes good tastes good together and not wanting to miss out on any of the individual components, I crafted a holy sandwich creation with all four. For dessert, they had chocolate chip cookies and butterscotch bars. The butterscotch bars were a secret recipe of one of the fans’ mothers and were a sublime concoction that, along with half-cooked brownies topped by raw chocolate chip cookie dough that Crest discovered at an adjacent tailgate, revolutionized what I thought dessert was capable of. I sent my dad a text describing the tailgate spread and saying that it was “better than it sounds,” and he came by and had a sandwich.

I headed into the game with my dad’s friend Rob and his friends Harry and Kevin. Thanks to Kevin’s extreme graciousness, we had great seats on the 35-yard line, midway up the stadium and about two sections away from the student section. This was only my first or second time watching the Badgers outside the student section and, while I definitely waxed nostalgically at not being a part of Build Me Up Buttercup and other student section hijinks, it was nice to have a firmer grasp on the game. Somehow, Russell Wilson is even better than everyone thought he’d be. He is more than living up to his #BlackJesus moniker. I swear I saw him walk on water on Saturday. Every time he drops back to pass, I think it’s going to be a first down and statistics show that I’m usually right. This man is a viable NFL starter and a huge reason why Wisconsin has the chance to contend for a national title this season. The Badgers made the #8 team in the nation look like one of the cupcakes from their first four contests and the extent of their domination just can’t be overstated. This is happening.

After the game, I met back up with Habib, Mario, Crest, and Craig and we headed towards State Street to skip around and revel. Along the way, we sang NBA on NBC, the Monday Night Football theme, Bang on the Drums, Go Pack Go, and NFL Primetime background music, doling out high fives and generally being merry. Despite Craig’s going into four-year-old tantrum about the line, we went to Ian’s on State for a nightcap.

The next day, I was supposed to go to Packers-Broncos with Rob and my dad but we received news that my Granny, who had been taken to the hospital the day before, had taken a turn for the worse. It was very hard to see her at the hospital but based on the extent of her feistiness in trying to remove her IV and oxygen mask and trying to get out of the bed, I have faith that she can win this round. If anybody can, she will; she has beaten cancer something like five times and certainly isn’t going down without a fight. I hope that this toughness gene doesn’t prove to be recessive when the health battles caused by this weekend and others like it present themselves to me.

Granny ended up being at Masonic Hospital, which is just a few blocks from Will’s Northwoods Inn, so my dad and I headed there for some Leinie’s, burgers, brats, and Packers for a three hour respite from the hospital. There really isn’t much to say about the Packers’ destroyification of the Broncos except that the Packers are now 4-0 and, for the first time this season, fired on all cylinders for the whole game. The lasting impression for me from yesterday’s game will be what I saw from Donald Driver. On an Aaron Rodgers rushing touchdown, Driver got caught up in a collision, injured his knee (ankle maybe?), and had to be carted off.

The look on his face as he was being driven off the field was plaintive and reflective, expressly implying that he thought his outstanding career could be over. Throughout his tenure with the Packers, Driver has not only been an excellent receiver–the all-time leader in Packers receiving in catches and receiving yards–he has carried himself with grace and class both on and off the field and has been a visibly vocal leader for the young Packers roster the last several seasons. We know that all good things must come to an end–he keeps himself in impeccable shape but nobody’s body can hold up forever–but knowing that and the hurt that comes from actually seeing it unfold are quite different. It was therefore incredible later on when Driver returned to the game, caught a touchdown, and leaped into the adoring Lambeau crowd, providing a moment that I can only hope will be a perfect metaphor for Granny’s impending miraculous recovery.

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