Five Photos, Five Stories. Day Four: Badger Mom

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. (Note: I had good intentions to do a post on five consecutive days but I chose time with my kids and sleep over blogging. And I’m okay with that.) It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog. Today I nominate my friend and fellow SAHD Mike, who blogs at AtHomeDadMatters.

Day Four: Badger Mom

My mom is one of those cool moms who loves football. She’s also one of those smart moms who cheers for the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers. She’s obviously one of those amazing moms because she had me! (That was a joke. You’re supposed to be chuckling to yourself right now.) To cut (through) the cheese here, my mom is pretty awesome and I love her dearly. While she is pretty cool, smart and amazing, this story is about the first time that she returned to her Alma Mater to watch a football game since her days in college. Like me, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, only a few years before me. Unlike me, after she finished her studies at the UW she moved away from Madison and never attended another Badgers game at historic Camp Randall Stadium. Until 2010. My lovely wife received a pair of tickets to a Badgers game and kindly gave them to me because she doesn’t care at all about silly stupid football sports but knew that I would love to take them off her hands. When she told me that she had the tickets she said they were for a game against Ohio State…”are they any good?”. Seriously. In October of 2010, the Ohio State Buckeyes were the #1 ranked team in all of college football. And they were coming to Madison for a Saturday night showdown against the Badgers on national television. It was being hyped as the game of the year in the Big Ten Conference. As I recall, the price of tickets for that game on the secondary market skyrocketed. Yet, as soon as I finished profusely thanking my wife for her amazing act of love (the tickets, remember?), I called my mom to invite her to the big game which was set to take place in five days. After thinking about it for about a tenth of a second, my mom excitedly accepted my invite and we talked about plans for her upcoming visit.

As the day of the game drew closer the fans in Madison grew more and more excited as the anticipation of the showdown for the conference title and inside track to the Rose Bowl reached a fever pitch. (I’ve read way too many sports articles in my time, can you tell?) Decked out in our Badger red we arrived to the stadium area early and grabbed a quick bit at the house of  friends who lived across from the stadium and had invited us to their pregame party. (I’m pretty sure I could eat brats for every meal and never grow weary of it.) As we walked up the steps into the stadium I could sense my mom’s anticipation and enthusiasm growing, much like a kid on Christmas morning. Only this present was going to be shared with over 75,000 loud and probably drunken fans, unlike our family Christmas experiences. Following my lead (it helps that I’m 6’8″) through the crowds we found our seats in the south end zone and watched the players finish their warm-ups before the famous Wisconsin Marching Band put on a spectacular pre-game show. If memory serves me right, there was a fly-over by some sort of military jets after the national anthem, which sent the crowd into another loud round of cheering. The game hadn’t even started and the atmosphere was completely electric. My mom’s face was one HUGE grin and she gave me a quick hug as the teams lined up for the opening kick.

Badgers fans know what happened next. The Wisconsin player (David Gilreath, and no, I didn’t have to look it up) caught the ball at the goal line and returned the opening kickoff all the way back for a touchdown. Right in front of us!

On Wisconsin!

On Wisconsin!

Since no one in the stands was yet seated we all erupted in even more cheers and high-fives and hugs as this was the most unbelievable start imaginable. The Badgers dominated the rest of the first half and withstood a rally by the Buckeyes in the second half to win one of the biggest and most memorable home games in recent memory. As the final seconds ticked away the fans rushed the field and began to dance and celebrate with the players. I love how this picture captures the joyful celebration on the field behind us and the fun moment and memory that we shared that night at Camp Randall. After watching the thousands of people on the field for a few minutes my mom and I eventually headed down there ourselves. It was pretty wild and crazy scene with a lot of people running all over the place and getting pictures and just soaking in the good feelings from a great win by our Wisconsin Badgers. We still reminisce about that great game from time to time, mostly whenever Wisconsin faces Ohio State in football. On Wisconsin!

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Family Fanatics

It’s past 2 am and I should’ve been asleep hours ago. Instead, I’m sitting on my sofa typing this blog, still internally wired after my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, won a thrilling game to advance to the Final Four next weekend. For those who are unaware or don’t care much about collegiate sports, this is a pretty big deal for both the team and their fans. The only other time the Wisconsin Badgers made it to the Final Four was 14 years ago. While I was fortunate enough to be living in Madison at that time and had connections that secured tickets for me to attend the Final Four with three friends it’s a bit different this time around. We no longer live in Madison, having moved almost 2,000 miles away to the state of Washington over two years ago. We now have six children, in March of 2000 we had an almost 5 year old and a 7 month old. In 2000 my wife knew I was excited about the Badgers but didn’t really care about the basketball team herself. My 5 year old also didn’t really care about sports, although she likely noticed my happy demeanor when the team surprised everyone and made their run to the Final Four. This time around, my oldest two kids are now almost 19 and 14, and neither one really cares about the Badgers basketball team. But my next two kids, ages 12 and 9, are quickly becoming my basketball buddies. Both of them have now played organized basketball for two seasons and seem to enjoy the game. It doesn’t hurt that they both were the tallest on their teams. But what’s been fun for me is to see the passion for the game begin to develop in them, just like it did in me when I was their age. I have fond memories of watching buzzer beaters and upsets in the tournament, although my team was never one of the “good” ones. So, it’s been an extra special treat to experience these games with my kids. And it’s not been limited to basketball. We’ve enjoyed many games cheering on our beloved Green Bay Packers over the years, following them to two Super Bowl wins in 1997 and 2011. While I’m still a Packers fan at heart, I’ve always liked the Seattle Seahawks second best because I was born in Washington state. So, now that we live close to Seattle I’ve been able to attend several Seahawks games and they even won the Super Bowl just last month, much to my delight and the chagrin of my kids. Interestingly enough, my 3 year old daughter now loves the Seahawks (more than the Packers!). She even requested a Seahawks hat that she proudly wears with her princess dresses. Image

So, what’s the point of me sharing this with you? It’s the shared memories that I’m making with my kids as we cheer for (or against) teams. It’s memories that I hope they will cherish as much as I do. I hope when they’re older they will fondly recall that time that Dad (me) jumped and screamed like a crazy guy when the Packers or Badgers made a big play. The memories I have of my own father watching sports on TV are not so great. He had a hard time watching the bumbling Packers of the 1980s because he grew up in the glorious Lombardi-era when the Packers were the best team in all of football. I remember him being so frustrated by the poor play that he would change the channel in the middle of the game or start shouting at the TV (like it would somehow help). While I’m passionate about my teams, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of not letting the disappointment of a loss bring me down too much, if at all. After all, I simply look around and see my wife and kids and realize that there’s so much that I’m thankful for that makes a win or loss by my team pale in comparison. After all, it’s just a game. Still, being a little bit crazy for a few moments while we’re watching our team in a close game is so fun. Tonight, while the game was finishing, I was feeding my 9 month old while keeping an eye on the end of the Badgers game. In the adjoining living room my son and daughter were cheering and groaning with each basket. While I didn’t know if our team would win in the end, I was excited to see that they were coming down with a severe case of March Madness! On Wisconsin!

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