So you know what? I think a new year is the perfect time to look back on the lessons of the season. Gasp, I know. But it's time to look back at what I learned from 2013.
You think this is a gimmicky listicle? Nothing could be further from the truth. I figure I owe you some lessons, as being over 30 makes me Internet old.
So so long as you're staying on this lawn, let's break down some lessons.
1. This was the year we found out how great Bo Ryan is.
The performances the Badgers got from their seniors in the 2012-2013 season weren't much to write home about. I mean, there's a reason very little has been said of Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and the Bruiser. Okay, the fact the Badgers are now a top-five team has a lot to do with it. But when that senior leadership regressed to a man, you have a team that should have been lucky to get into the first four. The Badgers got a No. 5 seed and a top-four finish in the Big Ten.
Bo Ryan's stuff may struggle in a single-elimination format, but man, he's one of the best regular-season coaches in the modern era.
2. Recruiting is a lot more fun when you take shots.
Not to say that the Badgers didn't go after an Alex Collins to go with their team of Montee Ball and James White, but star-quality recruits weren't even a watchword in previous regimes. Neither was an attempt at a 50-state strategy. Sure, not every player you dreamed about us coming (looking at you, Damien Mama). But the Badgers evaluated talent very well and got more four-star players than they have in a while. Heck, the Badgers bat .500 on Saturday, and you can lock in The Best Recruiting Class Ever crown for them.
3. I might be a bad fan.
The rival I got up for the most was Northwestern. I was remarkably zen about the loss in Tempe. If it wasn't for a stupid Twitter bet, I probably would not have had any sort of negative interaction with an opposing fan. In fact, you all stirred up more bad feelings within me.
(More on that later).
I think a part of the fun of sports is that whole us-versus-them thing. And you all seemed to have a lot of fun with that. It may be my old age, but I can't get up for the hate.
4. There's been a generation of Badger fans that has had to deal with very little adversity.
This season looks to be the 16th consecutive that Badger basketball will make the NCAA tournament. Between the 1946-47 and the 1997-98 seasons, guess how many times the Badgers got to the tournament? Three. In fact, the 1947-48 season would be the first in a 45-season stretch where the Badgers would not make the NCAAs.
In football, there hasn't been the same consistent stretch of quality. 1995 and 2001 were losing seasons, but for the most part, the last 21 seasons have been pretty swell. I mean, when you look at a season where there was a winning record and a bowl appearance as a horrible year -- and Badger fans look at 2008 in that exact fashion -- the struggle has been small.
Why am I talking about this? Because we always remember our first Badger game. Mine was Sept. 3, 1988. The Badgers took on Western Michigan. They lost 24-14. Tony Lowery was my first quarterback. Don Morton in a coffin was my first coach. Heck, the NIT was a neat thing for the Badgers to get to in 1989, and the tournament was irrelevant then!
And I know what this sounds like, an old man is telling these damn kids he had to walk to school with a 30-below wind chill and uphill both ways, but hear me out. All I'm saying here is that the roots of your fandom have a direct correlation to just how patient you are with the team. If you got in on the Badgers in 1998, your expectations will be a lot different than if you remember the Don Morton in a coffin gag that isn't on YouTube.
Oh, and one more thing.
5. Scapegoating is easy. AKA the last thing I'll say on Joel Stave.
I'm going to be the heel in this part. But there's a reason why people seem to rather want to be right than happy. And Wednesday, a part of me felt vindicated when Curt Phillips struggled to keep passes from hitting Jadevon Clowney's body parts.
And it's because of the generation of Badger fans that has had to deal with very little adversity. It's the generation that called Scott Tolzien not good enough to quarterback for the Badgers. It's the generation that thinks a quarterback that's inconsistent but is still only a sophomore and who A. noticeably improved from his freshman season with very little improvement from his receivers (Jared Abbrederis was still great and Jacob Pedersen improved, but that's it) and B. was enough of a threat that the Badgers looked like they were going to win for most of the game against an 11-win SEC team is a major reason for disappointment. You blame Stave for not being Russell Wilson.
But then, I had that heel realization. I am scapegoating you just as much as you are Stave. The vocal are wrong about Stave. And I fear that someone's going to read the last sentence in the last paragraph and just go off. But you know what? I'm not going to call you spoiled for having skewed expectations.
Because that's easy. And there's just too much of that hopey-changey thing going around Madison right now for me to stay on that villain track. We'll see if someone beats him next year.
But the fact of the matter is that while scapegoating may be easy, it's often misdirected and mischanneled. And I think I have to resolve to be better.
- Wisconsin wins Big Ten opener, 76-49, at Northwestern
- Capital One Bowl 2014: Finale once again unkind to Wisconsin
- Unblemished: Breaking down the performance of Wisconsin's unbeaten peers
- 2014 Sochi Olympics: 4 Badgers named to U.S. roster
- Wisconsin hockey notebook: With Kerdiles in Sweden, LaBate gets opportunity at center