Football is king in the south. People eat, sleep and dream about football. There is no denying that. However, there is also no denying how passionate fans up north are. One group of fans have contributed to what I think is the best gameday atmosphere in the country: The fans, stadium and tradition of the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
From the pregame festivities to the post-game variety, in one of the country's best college towns, I will show why Wisconsin has the best gameday atmosphere in the country.
When it comes to tailgating, fans around the country—college and pro alike—are used to the pregame festivities in the parking lot/lawns that includes barbecuing, music, tents, etc. LSU is known for their southern hospitality of tailgating as they brew up fresh batches of food that no one north of Missouri would know a thing about. Wisconsin does all of this as well, but with a few added wrinkles.
1. Your traditional tailgate is in some of the parking lots away from the stadium. Skip breakfast, because you ain't eating it. Instead, you'll be treated to some hot bratwursts and cold beer.
2. The beer gardens line Regent Street. Many businesses along this stretch (including bars) turn into early morning, outdoor bars flooding with cardinal red and rabid Badgers fans.
3. My favorite part about the pregame experiences of Camp Randall Stadium are what the students do. If you are not familiar with Camp Randall Stadium, it is surrounded by student housing. Because of that, the students treat their pregame experience as an excuse to have early morning house parties that approach kegs in the double digits.
It is a pretty common occurrence to walk toward the stadium and watch students as they guzzle down two-or-three-story beer bongs. Whether or not you are an opposing fan, you will be treated well in the pregame activities. Students may chant a certain obscenity at you, but it's all in good fun.
If you are one of the unlucky fans without a ticket, there are plenty of places throughout the campus/downtown area to watch the game. State Street is littered with bars, and the Stadium Bar outside of Camp Randall is a popular destination, as you are shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of fans.
Inside, Camp Randall Stadium is the oldest of its kind in the Big Ten with some of the most passionate fans in college football. The students sing along to tunes like "Build Me Up Buttercup" and "Cecilia" that resonate throughout the stadium even when the music stops.
That was evident this season, as you could hear Wisconsin fans clearly singing in the background during a televised game on ESPN.
Wisconsin fans are also known for their non-traditional version of the wave that follows a strict pattern. The student section sends the wave at normal speed counter-clockwise around the stadium. Once completed, the wave goes around again at a very slow pace. After the slow pace, the wave goes around at a fast-paced speed, and once that completes, the stadium splits into two counter waves.
During his annual Herbies Awards, Kirk Herbstreit had this to say about the Wisconsin students:
"Wisconsin has always been one of my favorite places, but it lost serious points lately. Lighten up on the beer bongs. Have a little more respect for your opponents; and remember, there are kids around, too, so maybe yelling profanities in every other chant isn't such a good idea."
What he's touching on is the student section's chant back and forth of a "(expletive) you, eat (expletive)" chant. Some may find this offensive, but Wisconsin students will defend themselves until the end. I don't think Herbstreit's words seven years ago have gotten to the students yet as the famous (or infamous) chant continues at every home game.
At halftime, the entire stadium stands and takes part in what is known as Wisconsin's oldest tradition, the singing of "Varsity." All of the fans put their arms around one another, rock back & forth and wave their arms as they sing the final lines to their alma mater.
Wisconsin is best known for what happens between the third and fourth quarter of games: Jump Around. When the student section race concludes on the big screen, cameras throughout the stadium are focused directly on the student section in what is perhaps the most exciting two minutes in college football as House of Pain blares throughout the stadium and the student section just... jumps! It is a true spectacle to witness and even opposing teams get into it.
Nowhere in the country will you find an additional 30,000-40,000 people still in the stadium after the conclusion of a game. Fans stay to sing, watch, and dance to the marching band's fifth quarter.
What impresses people around the country is Wisconsin's ability to play good, competitive football, and make the gameday experience unforgettable. No matter if it's the mild, autumn temperatures of September or the rigid, below freezing November weather, nothing changes on a Wisconsin gameday.