Most of you know me as a cocksure, jet-setting billionaire CEO based on my work saving an athletic department, being the most powerful man in college sports and running the finest Twitter account on the planet (@barryisthedon). But I recently resolved on my 43rd birthday to allow Wisconsin fans a magical glimpse into what makes me so incredible by doing a regular column for Bucky’s 5th Quarter—a website that I likely own the parent company of anyway. So it’s sort of like I’m stepping right in as Editor-in-Chief.
Whether I’m sailing around the globe on one my 11 yachts, buying a Catalonian wine island, swimming with killer whales off the coast of Alaska, or wondering aloud how to more deftly eviscerate media-humping pigskin-gnome PJ Fleck on social media, I’ll still make time to fill your comparatively empty lives with the healing balm of my written word.
So I’m going to start things off with a groundbreaking interview of Wisconsin football’s only Russian-born, two-time Rose Bowl champion kicker of the last 20 years, Vitaly Pisetsky. Our insightful 17 minutes together on my Gulfstream G550 allowed us to get to know each other a bit better. Hopefully, after reading, you’ll feel like you know us better, too. (Although in my case it’s unlikely, since I’m more enigmatic than the nesting dolls Vitaly played with as a child in Moscow.)
The Don: In 20 words or less, I want to hear absolutely every detail of your life in Russia from birth until moving to the U.S. at age 15
VP: I had a great childhood in Moscow, had a pet bear named Vlad, was introduced to vodka as an infant—
The Don: Okay, that’s 20. Very compelling.
The Don: Get Wisconsin fans up to speed on your life since football, including family and what you’re doing for a living. I promise they’ll pretend to care just like I am right now.
VP: I have three boys who drive me nuts so, as punishment, I’m teaching them all how to kick, so they can get scholarships. By the way, I dabble as a Russian version of John Madden having done 11 Super Bowls for Russian TV.
The Don: Was it thrilling having tens of fans watch you do those games?
VP: I have ex-KGB relatives, Coach.
The Don: Good segue—
The Don: Barry Alvarez. God. Putin. How would you rank God and Putin in the second and third positions?
VP: God then Putin.
The Don: Which part of other Wisconsin players shunning you because you were a kicker do you miss the most?
VP: [Blank stare]
The Don: Of the four losses your senior year, how many were you personally responsible for and how many were The Shoe Box’s fault?
VP: [Another blank stare]
The Don: Moving along, on a scale of 9 to 10, how was playing football for me at Wisconsin?
VP: Wayne Gretzky, i.e. 99.
The Don: Speaking of hockey, how about that Miracle on Ice and the US. beating the Soviets in 1980?
VP: I’m surprised you want to talk about a hockey team.
The Don: Moving on to other moribund squads, do you want baseball to come back at Wisconsin and, if so, how much money are you personally willing to front to make it happen?
VP: What’s baseball? Stop with these American trap questions.
The Don: Some people say you remind them of John Belushi. Are you often compared to fat dead people?
VP: . . . . .
The Don: If college football doesn’t happen this fall, what will you watch instead as you drink in front of your TV alone for eight hours every Saturday?
VP: I’ll re-watch both the 1999 and 2000 Rose Bowls, while recalling you losing your mind and calling the locker room at Metrodome from the Mayo Clinic after we beat them in OT after some Russian guy kicked a FG.
The Don: The Metrodome had locker rooms? I recall urinal troughs and metal benches.
VP: Those were it.
The Don: You’ve never coached football, correct?
VP: Just on my couch on Saturdays.
The Don: So what’s it like being a better football coach than PJ Fleck?
VP: You mean media oar PJ Fleck?
The Don: [Writes down something] I’m definitely using media oar, thank you.
The Don: While you shelter in place to avoid COVID-19, which sherry are you serving your kids: a Tio Pepe 2018 Fino En Rama Palomino or an Alevar 2015 de Añada Pedro Ximénez?
The Don: When you attended the NFL Combine, what did you bring back Sebastian Janikowski for lunch after he sent you?
VP: As you may recall, I went to The Combine with 13 of my former teammates—second highest to Florida State that year. And was a Lou Groza Finalist.
The Don: Please answer the question, son.
VP: Three Whoppers with cheese and a six pack of Bud Dry.
The Don: In five words, describe how thrilling it was playing with Dague Retzlaff.
VP: Not sure he knows me.
The Don: He doesn’t.
The Don: You spent a few years in Madison. What was it like moving away from there to a real city after college?
VP: One never really leaves Madison.
The Don: Describe the first time you saw me breathe underwater and what it meant to you.
VP: I don’t recall that one, but vividly remember you showing up in my HS in the Bronx, and asking if anyone had died since the mood was somber. Little did you know that the captain of our football team had been stabbed that day.
The Don: Sounds like Ohio State recruited differently under John Cooper.
VP: [Blank stare]
The Don: I heard that you played soccer as a child in Russia. Were there any other ways your parents neglected you?
VP: Are we almost done?
The Don: Yes, one more.
The Don: Were you proud or angry that you had to pay full price for your shoes at The Shoe Box?
VP: What’s the statute of limitations for me to answer this honestly?
The Don: You should probably take the 5th.
VP: Then I will.
The Don: Thanks, son. This has been a true honor. For you.