My first visit to Camp Randall

Submitted by Dennis on November 20th, 2017 at 3:10 PM

Borderlands: A Madison, Wisconsin Story

I’ve seen quite a few fellow Michigan alums praising Madison, WI as a soft-landing home away from home experience for those appreciative of Ann Arbor’s best qualities. What I didn’t see was any disclaimers that these witnesses were taking the position of the unreliable narrator.

Madison and the vaudeville troupe of tin-can kicking Badgers comprise the cultural and metaphysical shit-pile that is Wisconsin football.

Despite the dreadful cash-only toll stops en route to Madison, that were largely reminiscent of abandoned lot parking fee collectors in Detroit, I was still enthusiastic and hopeful for our Wolverines to pull an upset. This wishful thinking slowly creeped into the scope of possibility even without the redacted DPJ touchdown that would’ve furthered Wisconsin’s inability to gain any momentum to swing the game their way.

I should’ve known better…

Wisconsin’s mediocrity somehow leads to successfully making Michigan men feel like shit no matter the circumstances. Like, when I was walking up the ramp to my seat in the lower corner of the stadium and the squawking of Badgers lassoed the words “red rum” into my game-focused mind. I heard the enemy group say “red rum” and mentally self-corrected upon reading “red ramp” spray-paint stenciled words hovering over my head. I forced a laugh, because what Stanley Kubrick fan wouldn’t appreciate such a self-induced confabulation?

I was immediately chastised by the boisterous fans, who’d presumed me to be clueless, in saying “Oh, I’m a Michigan guy, I’m just gonna laugh even though I don’t get the joke”.

In retrospect, perhaps he was just demonstrating his newly acquired ability to read—something Hornibrook has yet to accomplish from the pocket.

My two friends and I agreed that no matter what, win or lose, being tied 7-7 early in the game with both offenses struggling was satisfactory evidence to substantiate the claims that Wisconsin is overrated. The Big 10 West is a great season-long tune-up game for the undefeated Badgers. Little did I know that a very disappointing development would soon arise… the unnecessary murder of Brandon Peters—the last chance to keep Ohio State from entering the Big 10 championship game with only two losses and curb-stomping the Badgers.

Had BP stayed in, Wisconsin’s chances at losing would’ve remained all but imminent, and Wisconsin could’ve proved they didn’t need to transform Michigan into another tin-can opponent in order to keep their only recent lossless season intact.

The Badgers proved the opposite, celebrating an accomplishment they didn’t earn, much like their red-bundled fans droning “FIRST AND TEN, WISCONSIN”, as if they didn’t know a possession gives you a first down for free. That level of false confidence is dangerous, and can lead to things like needing at least two people to verbally spell “OHIO”.

Speaking of Ohio, I never thought I would say that Columbus is a cooler city than Madison, despite being the “city that tries”. Ann Arbor doesn’t need a billboard to advertise its greatness, and Madison doesn’t need a block-long 9am breakfast line to know that good breakfast spots are in short supply. I was hungry the following morning, and I had to reduce myself to eating in a Packers bar. I won’t get into why the Packers are trash and I’m not upset that Aaron Rodgers is out.

Back to the reason I was hungry… I had to eat shitty pizza in my AirBNB the night before. My pals and I picked up the pizza at “Toppers”—a local conglomeration of terrible slogans, surprisingly not-stoner pie-makers, and a woman who invaded my personal space to point to “something on my shirt”, nearly knocking my hat off before I realized I’d been the victim of a prank I hadn’t seen attempted since before I knew what boobs looked like in person. Maybe she was just being flirty, but her approach was quite outdated. It was like Wisconsin running on third and eight—nobody does that anymore, for any reason, even if you’re desperate. Oh and by the way, Toppers Pizza's slogan is "we come fast, no apologies"... maybe that's a ubiquitous phrase in Madison that she was getting tired of hearing.

Fast forward to a last-minute stop in a depressing Wal-Mart to pick up ear plugs in an effort to avoid the late-night endless word-vomit coming from our AirBNB host, and I was growing eager to leave. Perhaps a quick bar visit might improve our mood.

We stopped at our host’s recommended cocktail bar, only to find middle-aged vaguery and obnoxious Badgers. One,in particular, who I’ll simply refer to as the Badgering Badger, decided that a pit stop at our table on his way to refill his 50-year old alcohol-soaked gut might be a fun soiree. After name-dropping that he knew Paul Chryst personally and pointing out that we were Michigan fans, he referred to me as “buddy” and backhanded my shoulder as if I’d respond with anything other than contempt. We quickly declined his offer for free drinks and before getting up to leave, got to hear him wax-retarded about how many famous people he knows and that he has three kids sleeping at home... dynamite triage of priorities there, dude.

We walked home, passing shitty po-mo style apartment buildings, near-dead frozen field mice tricked into attempting to eat a hat, and low-traffic credit unions in locations that don't make sense.

Ahhh, finally, we reached the front door of the AirBNB. I could hit the mattress hard and soon wake up to a quick break-fast followed by a fast break for the Michigan border. While unlacing my climate-mismatched Chuck Taylors, I heard a voice from behind me in a near whisper, “so… (long pause, hair standing on end) what brings you to Madison?” My friend quickly replied “the football game”, followed quickly by “good night”. This may not seem like an out of the ordinary exchange between two AirBNB guests, but what I didn’t tell you is that he looked and sounded like the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Luckily, our creepy Wisconsin-based housemate didn’t turn out to be The Butcher of Plainfield, and we made a morning escape to our car without being turned into armchairs and nipple belts.

Eventually, Michigan (and a mix of non-all-white non-obese non-ugly people) came back into our view and the horribleness of it all could be put behind us.

Oh, and the cheese-curds sucked.


SirJack II

November 20th, 2017 at 3:54 PM ^

I don't understand how any Michigan fan could write this:

"In retrospect, perhaps he was just demonstrating his newly acquired ability to read—something Hornibrook has yet to accomplish from the pocket."

I would kill for Hornibrook to be our QB. 

The writing in general is a little too self-induced and confabulated. 


November 20th, 2017 at 4:01 PM ^

So one of your main critiques here is that there's a long line to get into what I can only assume is Mickies Dairy Bar on a big game day? FYI that's a campus institution that doesn't fit many people (, so not really sure what your point is here. If there's a long line at Rick's or whatever main places you have in Ann Arbor on the day of a huge event, does that mean you have only a few good spots or that one spot in particular is very popular? It's for sure the latter. You're better than this, dude.

Also, maybe stay on campus next time and stay a bit longer? From the sounds of it, your AirBNB was way, way off campus and into the rougher parts of Madison.

Madison is a truly great time when done the right way, so it's a bummer to hear someone didn't have a good experience. All the Michigan fans I hosted this weekend had a great time and I'd love to help you plan a better trip, just like I did for them, if you ever decide to come back to UW! Good luck the rest of the way and hope we can both beat Ohio in back-to-back weeks! 


November 20th, 2017 at 4:11 PM ^

Mickie's Dairy Bar was worth the wait, but you gotta get there early.

The remainder of my experience was kind of meh.  Before the game, everyone was quite nice.  Seats were fine, if high up.

I was surprised by the amount of ads and the amount of piped in music- the band does almost nothing at all.  

Game was what it was.

Afterwards, while walking around campus to get a feel for the place, I found quite a few people in Madison who felt free to shout insults at my wife and I from their vehicles, which was not cool- I almost prefer the open hostility of the Buckeye.

Am I glad I went?  Sure.  Will I go back?  Not likely.  


November 20th, 2017 at 4:58 PM ^

Sorry about that behavior, man. That's obviously super dickish and something myself or many of my fellow Badger fans wouldn't tolerate/would apologize for if we were present. Want to chalk that up to being a large fanbase and therefore having a few bad apples, but not sure what else I can say other than that's not cool.

Hope you do decide to come back!



November 20th, 2017 at 4:07 PM ^

Madison is a close second.  Generally knowledgeable, cool-headed fans, even in opposition.  And good bar and restuarant options are more numerous than you seem to be able to comprehend... in fact, I was in Madison for the Iowa game and had nothing short of an outstanding time.

Sucks for you, I guess


November 20th, 2017 at 4:25 PM ^

Went to Great Dane and Paul’s club Friday night. Got to lot
60 at 7am and we were the only people there for the next hour. The lot only filled up 1/3 full. Headed to the stadium an hour before and crashed a few parties. Thought the stadium was very meh and doesn’t seem like it hold 80k. Maybe had expectations too high but wasn’t that impressed with jump around but “build me up buttercup” song was very cool.


November 20th, 2017 at 4:56 PM ^

Lot 60 is rather far out IIRC so don't think it ever gets that full (could be wrong here), but I will say the 11am start time combined with the crap weather, led a lot of people to come at kickoff or stay indoors by the stadium bars beforehand to drink. 

Badger fans were really hoping for an afternoon start time, so a lot of us were left annoyed and not fully prepared for the 11am start. Regardless, think we had a great turn out and fun time. Always more fun when you get those few extra hours to drink and party before though. 

Minus The Houma

November 20th, 2017 at 5:18 PM ^

Topper's is not good pizza. Ians or Pizza Di Roma or gtfo. I'm sorry you had a bad experience. I lived in Madison for 3 years and have a very favorable opinion of the city.

I think Mickey's is fine but just like any place that is talked about a lot they are usually over rated when you get it. It is good, it's all about that location though.


November 20th, 2017 at 7:11 PM ^

just applied for a job at UW. But despite your avowal of dislike in the opening I didn't obtain much sense of what the city was like from your report, or what you disliked. 


November 20th, 2017 at 7:11 PM ^

just applied for a job at UW. But despite your avowal of dislike in the opening I didn't obtain much sense of what the city was like from your report, or what you disliked. 

I dumped the Dope

November 20th, 2017 at 7:45 PM ^

stayed in East Towne in a hotel with deservedly great reviews, parked near Great Dane in a structure, did some brews and shots and rode the badger bus to the stadium.  Game was good until Peters was asleep on the field and Hornibrook started dropping indefensible dimes.  Fans very cool all around us.  

The ride in from East Towne reminds me of downtown Ann Arbor when I was a kid and it was still sort of patchwork historical and not the upper east side its trying to be these days.

Would definitely go back, hopefully in early fall to check out the lakes!  My only regret was having to travel late Friday due to work and not being able to go out that night.

Lil boy blue

November 20th, 2017 at 7:55 PM ^

Some Wisconsin fans suck - just like all fans of all teams. Students are generally the most obnoxious to opposing teams, and fans @ UW which is why I didn't go to the game. I live and grew up 2 hours away and opted to stay in the comfort of my home than sitting in the cold to watch that game. That said, 3 of 4 siblings call Madison home and I have a blast every time I visit and they likely will never not call Madison home.

Sorry the trip was not enjoyable or worth it for you and your friends


November 21st, 2017 at 9:53 AM ^

It's funny.  We lived in the Chicago area for a bit, sandwiched around living in the Detroit area (GP and Northville).  While there, we had an opportunity to move to Madison. We toured the area looking at houses and came to the conclusion that it wasn't for us at all.  I had the same impression as I did while in several areas of Indiana.  It just didn't feel anything like home.  I still can't put my finger on why, so I guess Madison isn't for everyone.


November 21st, 2017 at 12:27 PM ^

Not sure what the point of this is...  It started off with the OP telling us that everything about the trip sucked, and he was already hating Madison and everything to do with UW.  And got worse from there!  The writing was too forced, too superfluous, and too self-absorbed to have any flow to it.  Seriously, if the only thing you can do is bitch about everything, the problem is you.