They get us every time. No, not on the football field, where the Badgers 37-21 victory managed to increase their win-loss record to just 12-48 all time against us (and just their 5-21 at home). It's in the war on the streets. It's in the bars, the pubs, and the restaurants that Madison manages to outshine the rest of the Big Ten. Make no mistake, they will out drink you, they will out eat you, they will out party you. And they don't care if they win or lose, or if there is even a game.
You may find yourself posing as an extra in a reality version of Beerfest, neck deep in a liter mug of authentic German swill at the Essen Haus, thinking that no one is possibly having more than one. But when you order your second, someone from Madison has just guzzled their fifth to chase three bratwurst and a brick of cheese. Those liter mugs...the dishwashers can't get them clean fast enough. On the night we arrived, they were out of "the boots", which hold what I would estimate as twice as much as the liter mug.
You may also find yourself exploring the scene that is State Street. Nothing like the Ann Arbor version, Madison's State Street is more akin to Bourbon Street. I can only imagine what goes on when the weather is warm. But based on the outfits of your average coed, which were just north (or south, depending on where your standing) of naked...my imagination doesn't have much room to move around. They must hand out skirts at orientation...and neglect to warn people of the dangers of frostbite. There are lines at every establishment, and they appear long. However, the speed of the lines is uncanny, most likely due to the fact that there is amazing turnover of customers going to other bars. The options are nearly endless. You are only limited by your imbibing abilities. And no matter how well you think you handle the bottle...you are not ready to go toe-to-toe with these people.
Once you have filled yourself to the brim with cocktails, you may long for a little something to soak it up. In comes the street carts. They are everywhere, and there is a variety of cuisine, from Afgan Mediterranean to fried chicken and fish. It looks as if a street fair moved in to town. So many carts, all with lines, turning out food from midnight to 3am, and probably doing enough business on Friday and Saturday nights to make a living. Actually, though I've never spent a Sunday through Thursday in Madison, I doubt that it is all that scaled down...they probably do well every night.
The real evidence that drinking is the number one varsity sport at Wisconsin? It's the student attendance at the other varsity sport, football. With 11 minutes to go in the first quarter, about 50% of the student section sat empty. And while you may think they were all weak and nursing hangovers, the truth is that they were still drinking from the night before. Friday night bar hopping rolled over into early morning tailgating, and (gasp!) an 11am local kickoff. Nice.
Also inexplicably absent from the game...the Michigan Wolverines. Whether it was looking ahead, missing Mike and Chad, or a general lack of care about a game that meant little with regards to post season aspirations...it was a loss. And while it is disappointing that we are not going to be a recovery story for the ages, there is still peace of mind available to us next Saturday. In a year marred by the worst loss ever, that's going to have to be enough.
The Tailgate...nice and quick and simple. Having been discouraged by the "alcohol free zone" at our usual Madison site, we managed to find ourselves a new tailgate spot due to some cunning undercover work at the Essen Haus. The beanbag game made a road appearance as we filled up on kitchen sink breakfast burritos with sour cream and salsa, cheesy potatoes, brownies...and beer.