This is the ninth 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.
Once again in running diary format…times are approximate
11:45 AM – Hop into Hot Doug’s line. I profiled Hot Doug’s and its owner/manager/cashier Doug Sohn last week and am bubbling with excitement. This is one of the few things in life I will gladly do knowing full well in advance that I am going to have to wait in line for an hour first.
12:45 PM - I order a Teriyaki and Mandarin Orange Chicken Sausage with Sriracha Mayonnaise and Kimchi, a Wild Rice and Asiago Smoked Bison Sausage with Smokey Bacon Sauce and Garlic-Cheddar Spread, and duck fat french fries. Habib orders a Rosemary and Garlic Smoked Chicken Sausage with Chipotle Dijonnaise and Carrigaline Smoked Farmhouse Cheese and a Ribeye Sausage with Fried Onions. Habib, his friend Roy, and I take our seats and receive our food a few minutes later. No words will be spoken in the ensuing half hour as we gobble down our sausages and allow for a period of silence to reflect on what just happened.
3:30 – We pick up Habib’s co-worker Jon and Jon’s friend Sam in Wicker Park; now en route to Cincinnati, where we will be staying the night before headed to Columbus for Wisconsin-Ohio State. Heeeeeeeeeeere we gooooooooo!!
9:30 – We arrive in Cincinnati and meet my friend Louis at Pleasant Ridge Chili, his recommendation for where we can get the best authentic, local chili in a city that’s known for it. Like last week at Culver’s, every adult male in the restaurant is FAT. For some reason this week this phenomenon makes me excited while last week it made me depressed. We all get chili and also order french fries doused in gravy and cheddar. Taking precaution to order the fries extra crispy, we are still astonished that throughout the duration of the meal they do not become soggy. We expected delicious flavor but a somewhat compromised texture and are pleasantly surprised that the fries never lose their form. These fries have transcended science.
12:00 AM – After briefly attending a Halloween pre-party, Louis, Habib, and I head to Louis’ friend Bill’s house in Newport, KY. The friend, who explicitly told Louis to hurry over, is not yet home so we head to Jerry’s Jug House, a neighborhood corner bar down the block. As we walk in, the bartender and six regular patrons cease their conversation to stare at us. The silence is deafening and we feel slightly unwelcome to say the least. My Wisconsin hoodie, which I had washed with Downy-laced Tide and dried with dryer sheets (well I guess this is growing up), will now smell like cigarettes for the rest of the weekend.
12:30 – Finally inside the house, I spot the Hulk Hogan Anthology on the DVD shelf. We pop it in and watch his bouts with Andre the Giant and the Macho Man as well as the formation of the NWO. The matches were unbelievably poorly choreographed compared to today’s WWE and the announcers absolutely shattered unintentional comedy records. During the formation of the NWO, Bill’s girlfriend, who has had more than a little bit to drink, interrupts to say, “Y’all know this is fake right?” I stare at her in disbelief for a second and deadpan, “No, Hulk Hogan grew to be too big of a star for the WWF, and is now leading his own faction to invade WCW…this was a seminal moment in professional wrestling history.” Louis joined my side of the debate. She continued to try to tell us that this was all scripted and we still aren’t sure whether or not she was aware that we were kidding.
10:00 AM – #ColumbusBound! This day is too nice outside to end in miserable, debilitating heartbreak, right?
2:00 PM – Arrive in Columbus, put our stuff down in the hotel, and head towards campus. After scoping out the expansive selection of food carts, we opt for a philly cheesesteak from a guy manning the grill that looks like he was put on Earth expressly for this purpose. “Everything I make is good,” he boasts in a tone so confident that the only way he could have been more persuasive would have been to insert the word ‘dank’ for ‘good.’ The meat is sublime but the sandwich could use more cheese. Just nitpicking here, though, as it was delicious in totality.
3:00 – We get a 100 oz beer tube at The Big Bar. The atmosphere seems very business-like–when we get there, there is no music on and all of the patrons are casually sipping drinks. I put $5.00 in the jukebox and during the second song they turn the volume down from pump-up level to drowned-out-by-conversation level. None of the bars around campus seem to be aware that there is a big football game later. We pass Eddie George’s Bar and Grille. “That ‘E’ in Grille is pretentious,” Jon notes. This is a good enough reason for us not to go in.
4:00 – We end up at a pregame party hosted by the ski club, which is consistently described to us by members as a drinking club that happens to ski. Fun times and nice people. We crack open our case of delicious Keystone Light which we purchased for $9.99. Nectar. Of. The. Gods. This will be our home for the next three hours.
6:00 – I ask a guy dressed as an Oompa Loompa with devil horns (odd combination) if he is supposed to be Herman Cain. He doesn’t see the humor. This is not to say that he was offended by the joke but, like everyone else within earshot, he did not know who Herman Cain was.
8:00 – In for $30 per person (I used Bernie Mac’s negotiating methodology in Bad Santa with the scalper), Jon, Habib, and I take our seats in the Ohio State student section. We are in the comparatively smaller student section (I would describe it as the South or North end zone but have never figured out how to tell the difference). Despite Columbus’ lack of drinking acumen, the Horseshoe is LOUD. If this is what it gets like when they are unranked and hosting mid-ranked Wisconsin, we can only imagine what volume levels it reaches when the Buckeyes play Michigan with the BCS on the line. It is a majestic atmosphere and in all honesty the third best football stadium I’ve ever been to behind Lambeau Field and Texas Stadium. Definitely better than the Big House, Rose Bowl, and *gasp* Camp Randall.
8:30 – After the teams trade punts, Wisconsin goes up 7-0 on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Montee Ball with a little under seven minutes remaining in the first quarter. Quieting this raucous crowd will be imperative and Wisconsin is on its way to doing so.
10:30 – Skipping WAY ahead, Ohio State is now up 26-14 with 4:39 left to play in the game. Along the way, Wisconsin has had another punt blocked–leading to a 1-yard Ohio State touchdown–and can’t seem to stop the Buckeyes even though their only two plays are running up the middle and quarterback keeper. Mildly frustrating.
10:40 – Wisconsin scores in four plays and less than a minute. 26-21 Ohio State. FOR THE LOVE OF CHEESE GET A STOP. SPOILER ALERT: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS OHIO STATE PASSING.
10:50 – Ohio State faces 4th-and-1 on its own 27 with 2:49 remaining. I scream at the top of my lungs, “DO NOT CALL TIMEOUT!!!!!” because two minutes remaining with one timeout left is MORE than enough time to score in college football where the clock stops for first downs and I fear the Badgers’ scoring too quickly as they did last week. Bret Bielema uses Wisconsin’s last timeout.
11:00 – Wisconsin scores on its fourth play, a 49-yard touch down pass to “He Went To” Jared Abbrederis. Two-point conversion good. Wisconsin up 29-26 with 1:18 remaining. As I feared would happen, the Badgers scored too quickly but at least the WORST case scenario here is overtime.
11:10 – It turns out that the worst case scenario was NOT overtime but was, once again, HELL. Ohio State receiver Devin Smith somehow gets behind both Wisconsin safeties. Braxton Miller scrambles right, staying jusssssst behind the line of scrimmage and tosses a ball that seems to hang in the air for 45 minutes as we realize Smith is open by a good 10 yards. We collectively scream NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO in slow motion. Smith catches the ball in the back of the end zone a split second second before he is closed on. I am thinking and yelling existing swears and ones I just made up that don’t have a formal definition but are the only phrases to adequately convey how I feel. afslkjaflsd;jkfalds;jk faljkafsj;afsdjafdsjkl ofewoiuafh;adjkladfsnkl
11:45 – Despondent, we decide to walk back the three miles to our hotel instead of staying around campus to try to find a cab. It helps that Ohio State also wears red so we don’t stand out conspicuously as fresh bait; we are still taunted a little bit but it could be worse. After exiting the campus area and getting downtown, we try to find food. We ask the concierge at the Hampton Inn if there is anywhere we can find something fast and cheap. “This is the arena district. Everything here is sit-down and quite expensive,” he condescends, explicitly judging us as people who are not classy enough to buy a $10 sandwich. Enemies abound.
11:55 – A quite intoxicated Ohio State fan mockingly yells, “Good game!!!” at us. We put our heads down, ignore him, and keep walking. As we continue, we hear him screaming obscenities at us for at least another 30 seconds: “F— you guys! I was just saying good game!” His current tone is not one that makes us believe that he was originally being sincere and gracious. One would not expect such boorish behavior in the prestigious Columbus arena district.
1:00 AM – Pizza ordered and delivered. Night at the Roxbury on TV. Wisconsin’s season a tremendous disappointment. Left trying to pick up the pieces and wondering what might have been. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. Not as consoling as it should be. Two straight weeks we have gone into enemy territory, erased two-score deficits in the fourth quarter, and proceeded to lose in regulation in the most painful way possible. With Russell Wilson at quarterback, with Michigan and Ohio State down, THIS was the year that Wisconsin needed to strike. Yes, everything that could have gone wrong did the past two weeks. The best teams, though, don’t have field goals and punts blocked. They break up hail mary’s before they are caught for touchdowns. They manage the clock like they’ve played video games before. The Badgers didn’t do these things. It hurts. It will hurt. Dreams of Indianapolis, of New Orleans, and of playing against Andrew Luck in the Rose Bowl are shattered and we have to wonder when the next time the Badgers will have a legitimate shot at these dreams again. On one hand, being in this position is a testament to how far Wisconsin’s program has come. Unfortunately, this makes it hurt more, not less.