Madison Reflections: Wisconsin Has the Big Ten's Best Fans outside of Michigan

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Madison Reflections: Wisconsin Has the Big Ten's Best Fans outside of Michigan
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Upon my arrival to Madison, Wisconsin, I was skeptical. Stories of an Ann Arbor-esque city, beautiful campus, and scenic downtown seemed a bit overzealous.

My first stop was the University of Wisconsin Union Building to pay a visit to the “Der Rathskeller” eatery. Traditional German-themed decorative touches gave an old-time feel to the locale, which was situated on one of three lakes surrounding the Wisconsin campus.

Even at four in the afternoon, the place was absolutely packed. Every few tables or so, a group of Michigan students or alumni feasted on soft pretzels, bags of popcorn, and an assortment of German beverages on tap.

I arrived in Michigan apparel, expecting at least a low-pitched “boo” or snide remark. What I found was nothing of the sort. Red and white comingled with maize and blue, making connections and conversation. Others obviously just arrived, like I had, to visit Michigan friends who now worked or lived in the Madison area.

After a quick stop in the Union, I decided to do a little sightseeing. Appropriately enough, the main drag, “State Street,” was certainly reminiscent of Ann Arbor. At one end sat the Wisconsin Union, and at the other the impressive Capitol building.

Again, I expected at least a callous remark; my Michigan Football sweatshirt was not exactly subtle. Instead, I was given some great advice on must-see attractions, stores, and local restaurants.

Well, I had to admit, this was not the typical away game atmosphere I had expected—a little “badgering” was certainly in my near future. But this was before game day. Certainly, things would be a bit more hostile.

I walked past the student tailgate scene with low expectations that Wisconsin students would greet the occasional Michigan fan with open arms.

After a short walk to Camp Randall amidst a sea of red, I was in disbelief to arrive unscathed. During the game—heck, even after the game—fans were courteous and kept ridicule to a minimum.

All in all, a positive experience in Madison. A little friendly rivalry is always to be expected, but it’s refreshing once in a while to encounter sportsmanship and good-hearted fun for the heck of the game.

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