At this point, I have witnessed five games for Wisconsin and five Badger victories. My interest level was on the rise and I was actually excited to sit in the van for six hours to see my beloved team on the road for the first time. We went to visit relatives in Minneapolis and they got us a skybox in the Metrodome. All of the Wisconsin relatives were completely confident that the Badgers (6-0) would succeed, as it was our chance to show off our new national power against the lowly Gophers (3-4). My father displayed his confidence the most overtly as he paraded our Wisconsin flag up and down the driveway upon our arrival.
The game between Wisconsin and Minnesota is the longest running rivalry in college football (since 1890) and they play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. At the time, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the rivalry seeing that the last Minnesota/Wisconsin game I attended was heard mostly from the parking lot. But, I soon learned what the saying, “Throw out the records,” meant that day. The Gophers jumped out to an early lead and Wisconsin could never recover. Turnovers plagued the Badgers. Anytime something positive happened for Wisconsin, an interception was soon to follow. We would wave the flag from the skybox at any Badger score, but it wouldn’t be long before it would be quietly rolled up and set aside. The 28-21 loss kept us silent for most of the weekend. It was painful to see our Minnesota clan whoop it up in the skybox. This win would not affect them at all. By the next day, they would forget who even won the game. And here I am, now realizing what it is like to lose as a fan, trying to explain how damaging this loss is to the Badgers. It was a hopeless, nauseous, empty feeling especially when the Gopher students began chanting, “94 EAST! 94 EAST!” which was their clever method of telling the red clad fans to head in the direction of home. But, it was this loss that made me realize how much I care about this sport – watching the Golden Gopher football players prance around the Metrodome with the Axe as if they won the Rose Bowl, and learning that experiencing defeat results in an increase in gratitude and craving for victories.