The Badgers had popped into the top 25 with their six game win streak. But, a stumble at Purdue last week dropped them from the elite. I chose to drive up to Minneapolis with my parents on their annual road trip to a Wisconsin game. The Metrodome holds dark memories for me. 1993 was my last visit and we witnessed a Badger loss – their only one of that season. I was hoping to take something positive away from the Twin Cities this year.
There is something stale about pre-partying downtown amongst steel and concrete and then huddling inside an oversized dome to watch college football. The purity of the sport is dissolved into the busy city atmosphere. Nevertheless, the Gopher fans were experiencing increased expectations with their new coach, Glen Mason. The maroon and gold packed a slight majority of the dome. The rest was red. The equal number of fans mixed with both bands being present gave off a bowl game like quality. In addition, the game between Minnesota and Wisconsin is a heated rivalry with a classic trophy – Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
All the hype led into another cardiac game for the Badgers. Minnesota led 21-16 in the middle of the fourth quarter. Badger wide receiver, Donald Hayes, caught the most important ball of the drive after he was bumped out of bounds and returned to the field of play. The situation caused some controversy, but Hayes was credited with the catch and running back Ron Dayne finished the drive with 7:40 left on the clock. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 22-21 Wisconsin.
Unlike the make or break kicks that Matt Davenport booted to save the Indiana and Northwestern game, Wisconsin used their defense and offensive line to finish the game. They held Minnesota and then ran out the last five minutes of the game. I was relieved to see the Badgers parade the axe around the stadium in celebration of their victory. I stayed afterwards to watch the Gopher band perform a bit, but it really wasn’t much to see as most of the Minnesota fans had returned to their concrete world.
As I left through the revolving doors of the dome, I was surprised to learn a small physics lesson. The air pressure of the dome literally pushes you outdoors. As I watched Badger fans stumble out of the dome, I laughed thinking that even the dome itself was upset with the Gopher loss and this was its way of getting revenge.
One more surprise was in store as I began to take a leisurely stroll around the dome. I heard some very familiar sounds coming from one side of the stadium. As I grew closer, I realized it was the Badger band performing for a happy audience of red and white. For just a moment, I forgot about the city surroundings and felt like I was back in Madison enjoying a classic college soirée. I can safely say that the bitterness I gained for Minnesota four years ago has begun to dissipate.