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November 4, 2013

Win, Win, Win No Matter What: A Badger Road Trip to Iowa City


What a fantastic weekend in Iowa City. We literally could not have asked for a single thing to go differently. These will be the good old days. There’s a lot to unpack so I’ll try to tackle it in mostly-chronological order:

The First Victory

Initially, the five of us planned on taking two separate cars from Chicago for the purposes of space and comfort. 10 minutes into the trip, it just felt a bit off. Noticing the same thing, my friend Matt texted us that we should leave one of the cars somewhere and pile into his old Toyota Camry and leave the other car somewhere along the way. Road trips aren’t as special when you’re not belting along the lyrics to “MMMBop” or “The Bad Touch”.

I suggested the Hollywood Casino in Joliet, purportedly because this would be a safe place to leave a car for two days, but my ulterior motive was that team blackjack would be a good bonding experience. When we got to the garage, I proposed that we pool $20 each together and see if we could pay for our drinks that night. After a bit of a slow start, we went on a heater, were collectively up $55, and miraculously had the willpower to get up from the table before we lost it all back.

The dealer and the one other guy at our table were dumbfounded. The first rule of gambling is that you never leave during a heater. It doesn’t sound like that much money, but we had acquired the funds to re-invest in a case of Bud Lights, four cans of Monster, two bags of beef jerky, and three losing pull-tab tickets. (These would be our only loss of the weekend.)

Continue reading Win, Win, Win No Matter What:…

October 17, 2012

A Badger Business Trip to Purdue

This is a few days late but I feel the need to preserve these trips for posterity. With my buddies Raffi and Matt, I headed out to Wast Lafayette on Saturday to see Wisconsin play Purdue. Here’s what went down:

5:30 AM – Raffi, who naturally wakes up every day at this ungodly hour, comes and wakes up Matt and me. In the 60 seconds after waking up, I would probably rather commit suicide than seize the day.

6:00 - Dunkin. Donuts.

(Hour time shift)

9:00 - After a painless two-hour drive (Matt takes great pride in seeing how badly he can beat Google Maps projections), we find free parking about a mile away from the stadium.

Because it’s homecoming, there’s about a half-hour line to get in every bar in West Lafayette. Purdue’s big homecoming tradition, apparently, is treating the day like Halloween. Everybody is in costumes and has been at the bars since 7 AM.

We get in line at Jake’s, the first college bar I’ve ever been to that is located in the middle of a strip mall. It’s a pretty good bar, but has an AWFUL sound system. Conversation drowns out the music.

It’s not particularly clear that there will be a football game. Most people we see at the bars have no intention of making it to the game. “IU SUCKS” chants break out all the time – they REALLY hate IU – but we don’t get that much positive or negative attention as Badger fans.

10:00 - Three screwdrivers and three Jameson-based “pancake and syrup” shots – that, despite being half-whiskey, actually taste like they sound – add up to $16.25. Why does anybody ever leave college?

10:30 – Three double Jim Beam on the rocks? $14.25. Feels like stealing.

COOLEST PART OF JAKE’S: Three posters, side by side, with words on top of frogs: Bud. Weis. Er.

10:45 - Facetiously, I ask a guy dressed as a ketchup bottle if he is supposed to be the Wicked Witch of the West. Puzzled, he looks at me for about three seconds. “Ketchup, retard.”

11:00 - We head next door to Von’s Dough Shack. People keep coming in to use the restroom. They are ANGRY when they find out that it’s locked. They have to order something. Instead of buying a bag of chips or a soda for $1, most leave hastily. People don’t make rational decisions.

We order a “Doublewide” calzone stuffed with ground beef and mac and cheese:

11:15  – We start the mile walk to the stadium. We see a bunch of Badger fans hopping on a school bus, and figure that it’s a tailgate tour. We are pumped when they say we can hop on. It’s not a tailgate tour. It’s a public bus that gets passed by people walking as we are stuck in traffic. HIGHLIGHT: the old Purdue fan in front of me is emailing at a pace of about three letters per minute on his iPhone. “O….u….r…  c…o…u…n…t…r…y… h…a…s… s…u…n…k… W…e… h…a…v…e… t…e…r…r…i…b…l…e… l…e…a…d…e…r…s… G…o…d… h…e…l…p… u…s…”

Continue reading A Badger Business Trip to Purdue

September 17, 2012

Football and Me Part II

For my thoughts on Bears-Packers from Thursday night, please see my Week 2 Picks intro.

I watched Utah State-Wisconsin at home. Between traveling to games and going to sports bars, I don’t get to watch too many Packers or Badgers games on my couch. It might happen 2-4 times a year, total, but there’s definitely something to be said for getting a premium six-pack, popping in an oven pizza, and watching a game in your pajamas.

Wisconsin was flat out awful, especially on offense.

In the first half, Montee Ball got stuffed on four 3rd-and-1′s — including one on the goal line — and a 2nd-and-1. Shocking how firing the offensive line coach two weeks into the season didn’t prove to be some kind of magic panacea. My eyes tell me James White and Melvin Gordon are better runners than Ball right now–has anybody else noticed this?

The offense wasn’t moving the ball but little of that was Danny O’Brien’s fault–his receivers were rarely open open and were dropping passes while the offensive line was a sieve. Putting in freshman Joel Stave was a complete panic move.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. I don’t know if I’ve ever rooted for a team that played worse and still won. The Badgers needed a punt return TD and Utah State to miss a 37-yard field goal as time expired to escape with a win. At Camp Randall. Against Utah State. This is deeply concerning.

I would have liked to see an angrier Bret Bielema in the postgame. He should have been irate, demanding a better performance from his team. It wasn’t even that he was relieved, he was happy. He needs higher expectations; it’s gotten to the point where we should not be complacent just to appear in the Rose Bowl. I almost want Tennessee or Auburn to overpay him.

The last three weeks do not bode well for Wisconsin’s season. We may still make the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis but the path to getting there is not going to be fun. This is just not a good football team.


October 25, 2011

Bielema’s Egregious Timeout

As many people have written about and I alluded to in yesterday’s Gameday Diary, Bret Bielema called one of the worst timeouts in the history of football in Saturday night’s loss to Michigan State.

Receiving the ball with 1:26 to play and the game tied 31-31, MSU ran the following series:

  • 1st and 10 at MSU 22 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Le’Veon Bell for 3 yards to the MchSt 25. 31 31
  • 2nd and 7 at MSU 25 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Keith Nichol.
  • 3rd and 7 at MSU 25 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Le’Veon Bell for 9 yards to the MchSt 34 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at MSU 34 Kirk Cousins sacked by Brendan Kelly for a loss of 10 yards, fumbled, forced by Brendan Kelly, recovered by MchSt Dan France at the MchSt 24.
  • 2nd and 20 at MSU 24 Timeout WISCONSIN, clock 00:42.
  • 2nd and 20 at MSU 24 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 12 yards to the MchSt 36.
  • 3rd and 8 at MSU 36 Timeout WISCONSIN, clock 00:30.
When MSU was faced with 2nd and 20, they were going to let the clock run out and go into overtime but Bielema called timeout to stop the clock and give the Badgers a chance to perhaps get the ball back in win in regulation. This timeout is slightly defensible because if MSU had run negative plays or thrown incompletions, the Badgers would have had a reasonable shot to get the ball back with enough time to get into field goal range. I would have opted for overtime here with Wisconsin’s having all of the momentum but I can rationalize why he wanted to go for the kill in regulation.

The timeout on 3rd and 8, though, was egregious. The upside of this timeout could have only come from a stupid turnover, a blocked punt, a terrible punt or great punt return, or magic. The most likely scenario if Wisconsin was to get the ball back here would have been that that they received the ball on their own 20-yard line with about 20 seconds left. If MSU had an incomplete pass, Wisconsin would have had one timeout left. If they ran the ball or completed a pass short of the first down, Wisconsin would have had no timeouts. Either way, unless something catastrophic happened to MSU, WISCONSIN WOULD NOT HAVE HAD THE TIME TO ADVANCE THE BALL INTO FIELD GOAL RANGE.

The downside of this timeout was the highly unlikely potential for a hail mary that gets tipped and then advanced into the end zone or, more reasonably, that it would give MSU time to draw up plays to have a chance to kick a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. THIS scenario was far more likely than disaster striking MSU and why calling the timeout on 3rd and 8 was outrageously stupid.

Bret Bielema is an incredible recruiter and great motivator–he brings A LOT to the table. But, as we saw in the Rose Bowl and on Saturday, he still needs to work on game management. Ugh.

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