This is the eighth 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.
I am going to try doing this in a Bill Simmons running diary format. I’m interested in seeing how this ends up and whether people prefer this style to paragraph form. Times are inexact, approximated to the best combination of logic and my recollection.
1:45 - Habib, who took the day off from work, arrives at my apartment in Roscoe Village for a trip to Kuma’s Corner. I have reviewed Kuma’s in the past – it is a heavy metal bar in Chicago and makes the best hamburgers that I know of, which is not to say that it is the best burger restaurant I know of. This was something that we had been planning and looking forward to all week and officially signified that a Dank Weekend Alert was fully underway.
2:30 - We arrive at Kuma’s and are told that the wait will be 45 minutes to an hour. Seeing that two people at the corner of the bar already had their burgers, we sidled up and sat on the radiator behind them in hopes that their seats at the bar would open up before our table. About 10 minutes later, a different group leaves the bar and we snatch these seats quickly. This was extraordinarily fortuitous because we were both starving and the combination of blaring death metal and other people eating delicious burgers right in front of you makes Kuma’s far from the most fun place to spend an extended wait. After gaping at the menu and wishing I could order one of everything and just take a bite of each, I decide on the Pantera which is a 10 oz burger topped with roasted poblano pepper, tortilla strips, house made ranchero sauce, bacon, cheddar, and monterey jack.
2:50 - Burger arrives. It is glorious.
3:00 - Burger is finished. I normally eat pretty fast but at Kuma’s I do my best Kobayashi impression because a) the flavor of the burger is so outstanding that I physiologically crave the next bite before I finish the last, and b) of the opinion, which may or may not be logically flawed, that I need to finish before I get full because leftovers are for the weak.
3:05 – Food coma. Hurts. So. Good.
7:00 – We meet Mario at O’Hare. He weaves through traffic, bursting through holes like Adrian Peterson.
9:00 – Obligatory fast food stop in Michigan City, IN. Culver’s narrowly edges out Steak and Shake. Mario’s greatest achievement in life is that he has been to every Culver’s in Wisconsin. I’m not sure how many this is but it’s a lot–it must be tough to peak at age 23; he may have a hard time accomplishing anything from here on out that will surpass the fulfillment of this feat. Every adult male at Culver’s (sample size n = 20), with the exception of a uniformed police officer eating dinner with his family, is FAT. Not necessarily surprising but glaring and moderately depressing nonetheless. Still full from Kuma’s, I decide to eat ice cream for dinner. As I point out the physical flaws of others it must be noted that I am a paragon of balanced, nutritional living.
11:00 – Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey:
12:00 AM – We arrive in East Lansing, walking around their main State Street-esque ara for about 20 minutes–enough time to stop at the liquor store–and don’t see any other Badgers fans. In retrospect, we should have seen this as a precarious sign; in Iowa City on Friday night last year there were some people wearing red and then a bunch more undercover Badgers fans who approached us but were otherwise incognito (note: undercover Badgers are weak). There wasn’t even any of that on this Friday night.
12:30 – We get to our destination. We are staying with a family friend of Dr. Nacho, in med school in St. Maarten in body but with us all season in spirit. She and her friends had spent a long time making green and white ESPN letters with poster board (if I had a thousand tries, my letters wouldn’t come out as precise) in anticipation for College Gameday but their enthusiasm wanes when Habib tells them the morning sacrifice that briefly getting on TV entails. The letters will go unused.
1:00 – I ask nicely if we can watch Aristocats (the Disney movie, not the long dirty joke), which the girls have on VHS. They oblige. Channeling the mom in this movie, the next day we tell girls that they are being “un-ladylike” when they taunt us for rooting for Wisconsin. Also, O’Malley is a P.I.M.P.
9:30 - Mario and I wake up. Habib has been up for two hours, showered, gotten coffee, and put on some Bollywood movie with an indistinguishable plot and worse graphics. I will never understand morning people.
11:30 – We head to Beggar’s Banquet for a breakfast sandwich and Irish coffee. The highlight of this meal, shockingly, is the crinkly fries which I have in the past derided as irresponsible. These, though, are seasoned with kosher salt, celery salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and seasoned peppers. Quite dank and a great base for the rest of the day. There are not very many Badgers fans in the streets and those that are there are twice our age. Once again, this is precarious in retrospect.
3:00 – Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby feel a little friskey. Habib has video evidence of this sing-a-long that he can use to blackmail Mario and myself should we ever run for public office. If it ever ends up on Facebook, I will untag it in less than 10 seconds.
5:30 – We head towards Spartan Stadium. Very little red to be found. More delicious Keystone. Free Wendy’s. Picture with the Heisman trophy. Chicken leg and a cupcake from a tailgate (I used Wrigley the Dog’s patented 45-degree head tilt and widened eyes method of begging).
7:30 – Habib, Mario, and I head into the MSU student section. This is hostile territory. Wisconsin fans are outnumbered at least 19:1 in the stadium and it is extremely disappointing that more Sconnies didn’t make the trip. “Suck a bag of dicks” rings out early and often in our direction. Pretty please with sugar on top let the Badgers win this game.
8:00-8:30 – Wisconsin starts with the ball–11 play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Michigan State goes three-and-out. Wisconsin scores again in three plays and less than a minute. 14-0 Badgers. BLOWOUT WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! The idea that things can and will go horribly wrong is unfathomable.
8:45 - I notice that the girl behind me, a cute Michigan State sophomore who is a pre-vet major, has the exact same color eyes as I do–a rare shade halfway between brown and hazel. I tell her that she has beautiful eyes. It is possible to think about things like this when it seems like victory will be stress free.
9:00-9:30 – Second quarter summary:
- MSU punt downed at Wisconsin 5.
- Safety. 14-2 Wisconsin
- MSU four play, 72-yard TD drive. 14-9 Wisconsin
- Wisconsin has 30-yard field goal blocked
- MSU eight play, 80-yard TD drive. 16-14 MSU.
- Wisconsin has punt blocked. MSU returns it for a touchdown. 23-14 MSU.
- Halftime. I am thinking only in expletives.
10:30-11:15 – It is now 31-17 MSU. Russell Wilson, who has looked shaky since the first two dominant drives and thrown an interception, leads a touchdown drive, throws a pretty bad interception, has a beautiful deep ball that is a potential touchdown DROPPED by Jared Abbrederis, and leads another touchdown drive. 31-31! In the second half, Wisconsin’s defense has been playing extraordinarily. It needs one more stop to force Overtime.
11:15 – Michigan State wants overtime but Bret Bielema doesn’t let that happen, calling one dumb but moderately defensible timeout followed by one of the dumbest timeouts in the history of ever. MSU catches a tipped hail mary which is initially ruled short of the end zone but later ruled a touchdown upon review. MSU wins, Wisconsin’s national title hopes have instantly vanished, and we are easy and available targets. Hell is this game on repeat.
12:00 AM – Unrelentingly numb. It doesn’t hurt as bad as Packers playoff losses (the 4th-and-26 game, Favre’s interception in 2007 NFC Championship game versus the Giants, and Packers-Cardinals come to mind), but OUCH. There is no way to make it go away but we do our best to make it feel even a little better, ordering pizza and cheesy bread sticks with which to drown our sorrows.
1:00 - Fast and the Furious is on TV. Channeling Bill Simmons’s podcasts with Adam Carolla which analyze later films in this series, Habib and I are laughing uncontrollably AT it. Everything is uproarious–the horrible acting and dialogue, the angles at which the scenes are shot, the priceless facial expressions, and the dramatic background music. The saddest scenes double as the most funny. We are told that we are ruining the movie but I would argue that there aren’t exactly subtle nuances going unnoticed because of our distraction. In other words, there really isn’t much to ruin.
8:30 – We hustle to get OUT of East Lansing. Not feeling too hot after the combination of the Badgers’ loss and general unhealthiness of the weekend, it is a struggle to get moving but it must be done.
10:00 – Obligatory stop at Firekeepers, a casino in the middle of NOWHERE in Michigan that still somehow always manages to have a completely full parking lot. The people for which Firekeepers is a consistent destination better not also blame Obama for the poor state of their finances. I have some suspicion, though. My loss limit is $10. Playing as partners in Blackjack, Habib and I turn $20 into $30. Playing progressively, we have a $15 bet on the table, double down on 11 opposite 4, and lose 19-17. Game over.
11:00 – Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey.
12:15 - Habib and I get to Joe’s just after the first slate of NFL games starts. Pretty boring round of games, even with Tim Tebow’s dramatic comeback. Come onnnnnnnnn 3:15 hurry up and get here.
3:15 – Packers-Vikings starts with a 72-yard pass from Christian Ponder to Michael Jenkins and a touchdown two plays later. I’m not too worried, yet, but am now less excited about this game having started.
3:25 – Aaron Rodgers responds, completing all six of his passes to six different targets. Touchdown John Kuhn. 7-7. All might be right in the universe.
5:45-6:30 – It is the fourth quarter now and the Packers are up 33-20. Aaron Rodgers has three incompletions–two drops and a spike. Is that good? At some point, though, there would be one or two legitimate incompletions. BRING BACK FAVRE. Anyways, the Packers go into conservative offense mode–which is statistically proven to annoy me and make me nervous–but ultimately hold on for the 33-27 victory. A little bit too close for comfort–if the Vikings had won it would have done disastrous things to my mental psyche–but the Packers are 7-0 headed into their bye week and still in a tier by themselves atop the NFL. They are fallible though and certainly have room to improve.