After the clock ran out
Had you arrived at Rose Bowl Stadium a few minutes after the winning team collected the championship trophy on January 2, but couldn’t see the scoreboard, you might have thought that the Badgers had won.
Long after the clock ran out — and the Badgers, in fact, hadn’t won — Wisconsin fans remained in the stands to take part in the UW Marching Band’s Fifth Quarter. “Wisconsin travels well” is a popular phrase when bowl berths and NCAA tournament bids are handed out, but it took my first-ever trip to Pasadena for the 2012 Rose Bowl to help me truly understand its meaning: fans wear red at all times of the day, every day, even on the plane ride home after a heartbreaking loss. They come early and stay late on game day. They quickly put losing in perspective, and they celebrate regardless of the outcome.
Yes, I’m biased. I was born in Madison, and I bleed Badger red. But consider this comment from an Oregon Ducks fan, posted to the UW’s Rose Bowl website following her team’s victory: “I have to say that the Wisconsin team, band, and fans are absolutely wonderful! I loved all the T-shirts, the overalls, the face paint, and the warm charm you all brought with you. … Thanks for a great game, true sportsmanship, and a wonderful atmosphere.”
During the years I lived outside of Wisconsin, I was a rabid Badger fan, but I confess that I took it for granted when I moved back home. It’s easy to forget how lucky I am to live in the place that far-flung alumni, such as those I met in Pasadena, celebrate with such enthusiasm. The more the years and the miles separate people from Madison, the more they seem to appreciate what it brought to their lives.
Yes, it would have been great to win the football game. But what we carry with us, and what joins us together, is worth even more. It’s why we will always travel well.
Published in the Spring 2012 issue