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Why we’re fans of the Wisconsin Badgers

Welcome to the refreshed B5Q.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the refreshed Bucky’s 5th Quarter! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

Drew Hamm: Few people know this, but Wayne, Pa., is actually a hotbed of Badgers fandom. There is my Dad and, uh, I used to live there too. I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs as a diehard University of Wisconsin fan thanks to my father, a native of Stevens Point and a UW-Madison graduate. College football isn’t a huge deal in Philly, where the Eagles are kings in the fall and college sports eyes are mainly focused on basketball, but my dad and I would watch Badgers games most Saturdays and yell at Mike Samuel together. It was excellent male bonding and we still yell about Wisconsin quarterbacks to this day!

When I was a senior in high school and it was time to start looking at colleges, Wisconsin was at the top of my list but I wanted to visit a few others to make sure that I was making the right choice. My parents were supportive of this but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the only school I visited where I also attended a football game was Wisconsin. I’m sure it was just luck of the draw.

I’ve had Wisconsin football season tickets since 2003 and had hockey and basketball season tickets throughout college. I enjoy watching Badger sports with my friends and having football tickets still this long after graduation insures that I’ll still be able to see a bunch of my friends a couple times each fall. I now have a daughter and I’m excited to bring her into the fold of watching UW sports. When she was less than one week old she “watched” the Badgers lose in overtime to Florida, and I can think of no better way for her to be indoctrinated into our family. I don’t know when she’s allowed to eat brats for the first time, but you better believe that her first one will be soaked in beer and served just outside of Camp Randall Stadium. I no longer live in Wisconsin, nor did I live there during my formative years, but I feel an attachment to the state that is hard to explain unless you attended school at the flagship university. I can’t wait to see you all at a tailgate sometime!

Ryan Mellenthin: I guess you could say that I am a fan of the Wisconsin Badgers, because the Wisconsin Badgers are as much a part of me, as anything else.

Through Wisconsin athletics I learned about sports, what it meant to be a fan, I learned what it felt like to have your heart broken, through all the tough losses, the Badgers really shaped me into the person I am today.

As a young Wisconsinite, growing up in Madison, the heart of Badger country, my dad worked for the athletic department and through his job, we became season ticket holders for football, hockey and both men’s and women’s basketball.

Growing up, I was there for all of the milestones: Ron Dayne’s record-breaking run, numerous goal post Axe-choppings, Big Ten Championship clinching performances and countless more.

Badgers games were one of the constants during my formative years, attending almost every home game and watching as many road games as possible—something that has stuck with me, to this day.

As a new father, there is little I want to do more, than pass my love of sports and the Wisconsin Badgers onto my son. He’s going to grow up in what could be some of the best years in the university's history and I hope he appreciates every moment of it.

I hope he learns from the Badgers, learns about hard work. To me, Wisconsin athletics embody hard work – most student-athletes come to Wisconsin as walk-ons, they earn their spot and then make a name for themselves and often become one of the better players on the team.

Lastly, they stay in school and earn their degree, all the while playing sports and serving the community. They are the perfect role models.

When I sat down to write this, I thought it would be easy and that the words would just flow out, but it's been much more difficult than I thought and I hope I was able to convey my love of Wisconsin athletics.

When it comes down to it, when explaining my love for the Badgers, it's a lifelong love affair that will never end and is one I hope to pass on to my children.

Neal Olson: Upon initial consideration, I thought this roundtable would be a breeze. After all, how challenging could it be to talk about my love for Badger sports? Turns out, I was unable to settle on a defining moment when I locked in on cardinal and white. I guess when you are born and raised in Wisconsin, have a sports coach dad who followed the Badgers, you cannot remember a time in your life not being a Badger fan. There was great assistance however, with Wisconsin football and basketball regaining prominence during my formative years when Rose Bowl wins and Final Four appearances cemented me as a lifelong Badger fan.

One of the unique things about Wisconsin and it’s sports programs is the connection between the team and state. There are few, if any, colleges with the level of success the Badgers have experienced as the sole big time university in the state. Divided sports loyalty within state boundaries is the norm, if not ESPN commercial fodder. As such, fandom swells accordingly. People come far and wide throughout the state to descend upon Madison on fall Saturdays. Collectively they contribute to one of the best football game days in the country.

More simply, being a Badger fan brings me joy. While there have been plenty of situations and results that have left me mad online(and in real life), the bottom line is that it’s fun. What better way could there be to spend a Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall? Or a cold winter’s night inside the Kohl Center? You are unlikely to run into malcontents at either location. Perhaps it is the excess of beer or brats or cheese curds, but really what is Wisconsin without excess?

QUICK DISCLAIMER: If our B5Q friend Jake turns this article into a super compelling book, ala Walk-On This Way— and there’s ANY chance it gets optioned for a movie—dibs on Hugh Jackman as my stunt double. He’s already had some experience working on #OriginStories.

Jon Beidelschies: A lifetime sports fanatic, I came to UW for law school after having attended a mid-sized Catholic university in Milwaukee for undergrad. My first week on campus, I was paired with a student-mentor who happened to be a rabid Badgers fan. Under her Kill Bill-esque tutelage (for which I am ever grateful), I quickly became indoctrinated into Wisconsin fandom, a state I find myself still today over 10 years later.

I was a football and men’s hockey season ticket holder my entire time at UW. I was at Barry’s first last game and at the epic four-OT 1-0 women’s hockey NCAA tournament win over Harvard at the Kohl Center. I watched men’s hockey nab a national title and a couple of bowl wins over some SEC squads. It was a good three years to be immersed in Wisconsin sports.

For me, ongoing fandom comes down to two things: the likability of the team and the fan culture.

Wisconsin student-athletes—in all sports—tend to be smart, hard-working kids who together play better than the sum of their parts. The off-the-field drama is low, positive social engagement is high, and more often than not, they are likable kids who are fun to watch and support. Across the athletic department, there is a programmatic culture that emphasizes development, hard work, and smart play.

The fan culture is great, too. On balance, Badgers fans are smart, don’t take themselves too seriously, drink more than they should, eat more than they should and generally just want to have a good time without hurtin’ nobody. They play well with others. They back women’s sports at a disproportionately higher rate than other schools. They are fun to be around because they like fun. And cheese. And brats. And beer.

Nicole Haase: My secret shame is that I never actually attended UW. In fact, in high school in the Milwaukee suburbs, I was adamant about NOT going to Madison. I ran into people I knew there every time I went and I wasn’t even a student. I really, really wanted to get out and meet new people

I went to a small school in Louisiana and thought that I didn’t need a sports culture to enjoy college. I was kind of right—I loved my undergrad experience, but it turns out being that far away from home made me a stronger Badger fan.

A friend from Iowa and I would go to Hooters in the early 2000s and make them turn on our respective football games at 11 a.m., long before the local SEC-fan folks were thinking about kickoff. I rented out a room at a pool hall for the 2000 Final Four appearance. I made an ex-boyfriend drive the 9.5 hours to Tampa so I could see the Badgers play in the 2005 Outback Bowl.

I had been to just a handful of Badger hockey games before 2006—mostly when they played the Badger Hockey Showdown at the Bradley Center over winter holidays in the 1990s. But I just happened to pick the best year to become both a men’s and women’s hockey fan. My husband took me to a few men’s games and I was hooked by the atmosphere. Someone suggested we check out a women’s game, too, and that was it for me. I don’t understand how any hockey fan can go watch the women play and not fall in love. My attachment to the other teams ebbs and wanes at times, contingent on what else is happening in my life. But there’s nothing I’d rather do than watch the Badger women’s hockey team play.

I love the fan culture at UW and I love how well the community supports all the teams. I love how alums talk about their time playing for the Badgers. I love how the athletes support each other. I’ve never been to a game of any sport that didn’t have at least a handful of athletes from other teams there in support.

I’m especially proud (and thankful) of how well UW and the fans support women’s sports. I love that the women’s hockey team has the highest attendance in the country. I love how loud the Fieldhouse is during a volleyball game.

They say no matter where you go, you can find a Badger fan and I’ve found that to be true. I make a point to wear Wisconsin gear when we travel and I always have people coming up to me because of it. I might not technically be a Badger, but being a Wisconsin fan has been one of the best choices—personally and professionally—I’ve ever made.

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