A Trip Down Memory Lane

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It was New Year’s Day in the Manion household in Chicago, Ill. There were some light snow flurries outside in the early evening while my Dad was jubilated to see his alma mater play in the Rose Bowl for the third time in the 1990s. His alma mater: The University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The 2000 Rose Bowl game against Stanford was the first Wisconsin game I have ever seen. I was only four years old, yet I vaguely remember Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne ripping off big chunks as he carved his way through the Cardinal defense.The Rose Bowl MVP led Wisconsin toward their second straight Rose Bowl crown with a 17-9 win.

Ever since, I have been a Badger fan. My dad along with many of his family members had and still have strong ties with UW-Madison. I guess that rubbed off quite well for me. He would take my two brothers and I to watch two Wisconsin home games every year since I was eight years old.

We would go to Badgerville first, which had several amenities at our disposal. There was entertaining music, great food and fun games. There were inflatable bounce arounds for the younger audience, while the adults tried to master their skills in cornhole.

The gorgeous campus stood in between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. You could see many students and alumni, sailboating and swimming as they await the big game on Saturday.

I remember the sights and smells like it was yesterday. A straight walk down State Street to Camp Randall Stadium with tailgates left and right. The sweet smell of grilled bratwursts. Hearing the enthusiastic and echoing chants “On Wisconsin” and “Let’s Go Red,” from miles and miles away.

Don’t even get me started with Bucky Badger. He will always be one of the most colorful and lively mascots in the game today. I would get all worked up like a kid in a candy store whenever I would see him. After all, the Wisconsin state animal was a badger, so it really was meant to be.

When game time approached, State Street and Badgerville would be flooded with a sea of red. The students voices were loud and the passion was high. The fanbase expressed pride for the great state of Wisconsin through UW-Madison, who has established themselves on the college football map. You can truly sense an unbreakable unity from those who have came and those who will stay with the flourishing kindness and the warm welcomes for the visitors.

The Motion W symbolizes such vibrance and life, especially compared to the old W logo. It’s an iconic image that is hands down one of the best and most recognizable college logos of all time.

The atmosphere inside of Camp Randall Stadium was electrifying and thrilling as ever. You have a classic bowl shaped stadium, featuring an upper deck in front of the upright Motion W logo at midfield with the communication box in the middle. My family and I would always get our seats in the upper deck around the 40-45 yard line. Despite some hiccups in the weather such as rain or freezing temperatures, the picture perfect view was ultimately worth it. Another nice touch to the stadium was the stands being interconnected with the field house, where the UW volleyball team plays their matches. There was always a slight echo off of the building as it was directly across from the speaker. Therefore, everything that the PA announcer said was repeated, which is why I would always say “first and ten Wisconsin” or “first and goal Wisconsin” twice.

The intensity of the Badger team charging onto the field exceeded the electricity in the stands, with an historic entrance video being played on the jumbotron accompanied by the song “Where The Streets Have No Name,” by U2. Even as a Spartan, I still get chills of watching the 19th century black and white photographs and hearing the calls of announcer Matt Lepay during the highlight reel. The video perfectly sums up the rich history and pageantry that Wisconsin has.

In the second half of games, the band would come up to random sections in the upper deck and play the fight song “On Wisconsin” to the nearby crowd. In general, it was so awesome to see fans and students alike embracing the moment by getting engaged with conversations and fun events too.

The best in-game tradition in the nation that no school comes close to is the Jump Around tradition. Since 1998 at the beginning of the fourth quarter at Camp Randall, the stadium blasts the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain, and the entire stadium goes nuts, especially the student section. Regardless of the score, my brothers and I would unleash our inner Energizer bunny out by jumping like a kangaroo for two straight minutes. Like the cheers, it was so contagious that it got even someone like my dad, who doesn’t like to dance, on his feet.

When I was a freshman in high school six years ago, I was sucked into college football and officially became a Badger fanatic. I was like a walking UW Football almanac. I could’ve told you what years the Badgers won all their Big Ten titles, Heisman winners, and game stats for any player.

My all-time favorite Wisconsin game had to be in 2011 when the No. 7 Badgers took on the No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers at Camp Randall. It was a top ten showdown under the lights for the first time since the 1960s. It was Nebraska’s debut in the Big Ten Conference, and boy oh boy, they ran straight back to the Big 12 after a 48-17 drubbing from Bucky. I saw Russell Wilson with my own eyes making big play after big play thanks to his dual-threat capability.

On the other hand, the worst loss (at the time) I have ever seen happened two short weeks later. No. 6 Wisconsin visited East Lansing to take on the underdog, No. 16 Michigan State. It was a heavyweight fight, with both teams exchanging blows back and forth throughout the contest. Deadlocked at 31 with four seconds left, the game came down to the notorious Hail Mary for Badger fans. Kirk Cousins’ rocket was caught by Keith Nichol and prevailed in the battle of undefeated teams, 37-31. I watched this game on TV and was so upset at the end. I remember telling my dad that I hated MSU. It’s funny how life turns out, isn’t it?

Now a junior at Michigan State, I still casually root for the red and white in any athletic event. But this weekend’s game is obviously an exception. I have been waiting for this matchup for a very very long time.

It has been four years since Michigan State and Wisconsin have squared off, which is such a crime. This series is developing into such a respectable rivalry. Just like Indiana and Purdue, MSU from the East division and UW from the West division should have a protected crossover game every season. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, MSU and UW share the second lowest (behind Florida State-Georgia Tech) average victory margin at 4.9 points since 2007 for the “should be” rivals. Which is why we can expect another photo finish this weekend.

The last and only game I saw between Wisconsin and Michigan State was in early 2014 in the Kohl Center, the Badgers basketball arena. The game was dead even until Traevon Jackson pulled up from the wing and hit the game winning shot, triumphing 60-58 in a major upset over the No. 9 Spartans. I hope Saturday’s game meets the same drama, but with a different outcome this time around.

It is now a house divided with my mom being a Spartan supporter, my dad’s allegiance belonging to Wisconsin, and my brothers falling in between as a neutral party.

Because of my family’s deep roots with the state and school that I have fallen in love with, I will always have a soft spot for the Badgers. Whenever UW plays MSU, it will be a win-win situation.

I may not associate with the University of Wisconsin now, but my profound devotion and fondness that I have for UW will always remain in my DNA and live on forever.

I had a nice lengthy run with the Badgers. But all the memories and experiences I made with UW will never be forgotten or disappear. I have the opportunity to overshadow my good memories with great memories and more meaningful experiences at Michigan State, which I’m proud to call home. When it is all said and done, I was born and raised a Badger, but came out a Spartan.