Thursday, September 24, 2009

Destination: Madison

If you're going to the Wisconsin game in Madison, you're in luck. Not just because the last two games have been decided by a total of four points, but because Madison is quite simply the best tailgating town in the Big Ten.

The state capital of Wisconsin, Madison is sandwiched between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. The capitol dome lies in the center of an isthmus, walking distance down State Street from the university.

No trip to Madison is complete without heading to the student union (which serves beer, but that's not why you're going there). The union building is on the shores of Lake Mendota, and there's a massive multi-level patio facing the lake. Stop by the Badger creamery which makes arguably the second-best ice cream in the Big Ten (tied with Penn State, behind MSU), then take the ice cream and a book and just spend some time near the water.

The walk to the stadium is a difficult, yet rewarding one. Difficult, because a good half of the fans will trash talk you the entire way. Rewarding, because the other half will invite you over to their house for beer and brats. Both of those are Sconnie specialties, by the way.

The brats in Madison are the stuff of legend. It's no surprise, given that the town is home to a working Oscar Mayer factory, while the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum sits just a 20 minute drive from the city. My recommendation for the best of Madison brats is at a joint called State Street Brats, just a few blocks from the heart of campus. Get a red and a white brat, add spicy mustard and relish to taste.

The beer is also sublime, thanks to a preponderance of craft breweries in the area. The pick here is the Great Dane, a pub with a pun name that only true Wisconsinites would get because only they'd know that Madison is located in Dane County.

Speaking of food, let's talk about the press box spread for a moment. Indiana has a burger buffet, MSU gives you two hot dogs and all-you-can-drink soda. Penn State has ice cream. That's all nice. Wisconsin does brats and Amish sticky buns. My friends, that's what we in the media world call game, set, match. I know some folks who will argue for Notre Dame's layout (I had great roast chicken there once), but to me, nothing tops Camp Randall.

Now that we're talking about Camp Randall, let's talk about what happens inside. Wisconsin gives some visiting fans tickets in the first row, in addition to the normal visiting sections. The two things to watch for are the fifth quarter, a great post-game band concert, and the infamous "Jump Around". For the uninitiated, that's when, after the third quarter ends, the entire student section jumps around to the old House of Pain song so much that the entire stadium shakes.

I took my dad to a game at Camp Randall when he lived in Madison and he swore to me that the upper deck would fall down it was shaking so much. In fact, Wisconsin officials have had to ask people in the upper deck not to jump because fans were genuinely concerned about the structural integrity of the stadium. That request is generally ignored.

Needless to say, if you have a chance to go to Madison this weekend, go.

1 comment:

  1. Appreciate the kind words for Madison but as a Madisonian that has traveled(with 7 other guys)to every big ten campus atleast twice(msu & psu once) id take tailgating on the golf course across from the big house over any other. Columbus is as good or close to as good as madtown.(F__k i hate complimenting the buckeyes)

    Unfortunately it rained all of pregame when we were at PSU so we didnt get a true sense of what its normally like im guessing. But did get to see Joe Pa running cuts to test the wet turf before his player came out to warm up.

    We're going to see UW at Minn this year. Cant wait. I will let you know what i think.

    Tomorrow should be a good game. Go Bucky!

    ps - we will be tailgating a half a block from the stadium. I'll give you address if you want stop for a beverage.