Tag Archives: Badger pride

A Badger Tradition

Football is a long-standing tradition for any college campus. Historically, a college football stadium exists as a sanctuary for students to unite under a single common goal: to kick the other team’s ass. And as a Big 10 (14) Conference Member school, this tradition was all the more important to the growing body UW alumni, students, and Wisconsin-born citizens.  Saturday, October 17th, 2015 I entered the ranks of the Wisconsin Badger football student section alumni. I jumped around, ate chips and fondue, did the wave, and cheered for the UW Badgers (and I actually did have fun, surprisingly). So as far as I could tell, the tradition hasn’t changed much. I will try and recount to you some of the observational notes I made during this particular field study of Homecoming 2015: Purdue vs. Wisconsin.

First, I should describe what a standard game day can look like to anyone that hasn’t had the opportunity/ever wanted to come close to attending a Badger football home game.V__D97C(1)

Badger Football group picture! Check.

For those of you wondering, Badger Game-Day was not just one day. Sure, the game might have been on Saturday, but UW football did not claim only one day of the week. Preparations were needed for this most holy of days. Some would travel for miles, determined to stand in the bleachers and emphatically cheer their favorite team whilst simultaneously jeering the opponents. Others were up last night stockpiling brats and alcohol for tomorrow’s crowd of Badger crazed fans that would flood the streets of Madison. I would normally be sleeping at this time, because it was the weekend and the only time that I had the option to sleep. But not this weekend. I would sacrifice one day to have an authentic Wisconsin Experience.

Brats. Beer. And football games. That is all we cared about in Wisconsin. And it was evident on Game Day. As a precursor to the game, the innumerable masses of die-hard Badger fans would eat brats and drink beer like it was life support. Every bite brought them life. Every drink made them livelier.  And their spirits would soar, each fan ready to embrace their inner Badger. They would slowly meander (drunkenly stumble) out of the pre-game parties and tailgate picnics and towards Camp Randall stadium as the clock ticked closer to start time. Every minute, more and more students would gather ready to witness the spectacle they had been waiting for all week. They were gathered by the masses, clad in the symbolic Badger red and channeling their thoughts into the only conceivable outcome for that day: the bombshell defeat of the opposing team. The crowds would chant and cheer and scream and it wouldn’t make a difference what noise we made because it was lost in the roar of the crowd. It didn’t matter what we said because we were all saying it. We were all there for one reason. We would play hard. And we would win. There wasn’t any other option.

“Brats. Beer. And football games. That is all we cared about in Wisconsin. And it was evident on Game Day.”

Before knowing all this, I struggled to find a compelling reason as for why I should attend a Badger football game. It just didn’t appeal to me. Every Saturday I would walk out into a sea of red, swimming against the current with my dark black & blue wardrobe. Purposeful opposition to the inexplicable phenomena occurring around me. I was immune to the solidarity of student body around me. Nothing could have swayed my decision at that point. But something changed this year. I wanted to experience something different, something new, something that I could only do as a UW-Madison student. So I thought I might try it this once. I would give the football game a shot.

And I am glad I did. And I am glad we won (24 – 7). But even if we didn’t win, there was something about standing in that massive crowd, so large that I felt insignificant. It wasn’t a time to be special or be different or be anything. We were just supposed to watch our team, rally hard, and have fun. It was about being a part of something (even if I really actually wasn’t because crowd-standing is not that inclusive and anyone else could have been there). It was about continuing a tradition. Without the support of the students, the game would not mean anything. Something that can bring 80,000+ people together had to be special. There was no doubting that. And it helped that we were victorious that day! I am glad that my friend extended her hand outward and asked me to be a true Badger. I came along with her that day blind to the spirit of the Wisconsin tradition, but I emerged with a new perspective of UW sports and what it means to be a Badger.

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Jeez Louise! We look darn fine, don’t we?

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Operation Free the Flamingos! (Part 1/2)

When you hear the word “flamingo”, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Some people think of their local zoo, flashing back to memories of their first-grade field trip and broccoli they threw in the animal pens. Others vaguely access factoids regarding the strange, yet amusing, coloration of their feathers and why flamingos are so flamboyantly pink. But on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus, only one thought comes to mind:

The honorary city bird that resides on Bascom Hill.

The pink flamingo has become iconic throughout Madison and beyond. It is the symbol of the Annual Fill the Hill campaign, each feathered friend representing a donor that contributed to the fund. The established tradition of the UW flamingos on Bascom Hill is beyond popular, standing 2nd only to the prank involving our very own UW Statue of Liberty in Lake Mendota. Both of these pranks, and many others throughout the history of Madison, can be traced back to the legend-(wait for it)-dary man Leon Varjian.

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The #UWFlamingos gonna get #snatched

And after the successful takeover of flamingos on Bascom, his indomitable spirit of prank-dom continued to live on. And it would manifest itself… in me. I, too, wanted to live by his political slogan and embrace the legacy that he left behind. And I thought of the most brilliant way to live up to my predecessor’s image:

Leon filled Bascom Hill with infamous pink lawn ornaments. I would take them all away.

“Honesty, integrity, responsibility … Pail and Shovel doesn’t believe in any of them!” – Varjian’s Slogan

The idea of taking a flamingo was enticing. But taking 1,008 of them? The thought overwhelmed me. I couldn’t even imagine what that many flamingos would look like, let alone where I would store them all. But I would think about that later. I just needed to get them all first… somehow. Bold stories of stolen flamingos constantly circulated around campus. There had to be other students that would join me in my mission. In fact, I already had a partner-in-crime that I knew would help me. And whether it was to have a new piece of furniture to complement their curbside sofa or they needed a makeshift drinking apparatus to store their alcohol, other students would steal the flamingos every year. And this year, I would lead them all.

This is what I would yell as I led the charge onto the battlefield

I wanted a flamingo before I read about Varjian (the bucket list!), but I did not have any real, compelling reasons. I wanted a flamingo simply for the fact of wanting a flamingo. But my partner-in-crime who wanted to do this had other intentions driving his flamingo fervor. This mission had sentimental value attached to it for him, in contrast to my primary motivation being a longtime childish rebellion against authoritative figures and social norms. This flamingo had the power to reunite distant connections and trigger memories of what once was. To some, it meant nothing more than just an improvised beer bong. To my friend, it meant honor. To me, this meant that I would get a flamingo at any cost. “Operation Free the Flamingos” just got personal.

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A taste of what is to come…

Part 1/2 complete

A Model Student

My week at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) Undergraduate Leadership Workshop was underway and I was building my professional repertoire for the future. Just as this program was coming to a close, another opportunity opened up – by interrupting. The phone call was from the marketing department of the Wisconsin Foundation Alumni Association (WFAA). I was informed that they were looking for Great People scholarship recipients to publicize the new eighth edition of the Red Shirt and wanted me to send head shots for modeling. The opportunity immediately attracted me, though I was skeptical that they would actually want me to model for them. But I decided that I wouldn’t let any distractions rain on the NCAR parade. I had to put the WFAA on hold until I got my head out of the clouds and back to Madison.

Upon my return to Madison, I began to entertain the abstract idea of modeling. If the WFAA was looking for photogenic, highly enthusiastic, and – above all else – fun people, then I was obligated to disclose the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My Facebook profile had profuse examples of my trademark face, capitalizing upon a particular peculiarity of my character that is conveyed best in person. A photograph simply could not entirely capture the essence of my eccentricities. Any of the comments on these pictures would support that claim. But now these images – what others had labeled as “awkward”, “immature”, or “unappealing” – became comical, light-hearted, and intriguing in the eyes of the recruiter. My honesty paid off. I was going to be a model for the Red Shirt campaign!

Even though I was permitted to participate in the scholarship fundraising crusade, I still felt apprehensive about the whole ordeal. I wasn’t exactly the most spirited Badger. I didn’t own any Badger gear, I only recently learned about “Varsity”, and I have never been to a Badger football game. So Badger Pride clearly wasn’t my priority, but I was inadvertently contributing to the campus community in other ways. So maybe I wasn’t the traditional UW-Madison student, but that is exactly what this campaign demanded: unconventional originality. And I knew about unconventional.

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Capturing a glimpse of a wild Kai in his natural habitat

Photographs courtesy of © Copyright C&N Photo

After my performance modeling the Red Shirt, what was originally an offer to act as an amateur model extended to an encore with the video production company to highlight my career thus far at UW-Madison. I was starting to believe that if my investment with the sciences did not work out, then my flirtation with modeling and film might have future prospects. Events were falling into place and plans set into motion. With childlike dreams for fame and fortune, I would anxiously await for the adults to decide the fate of my poses and finalize the future of the Red Shirt.

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The image seen round the world.

August 4th, 2015. The release date of the photos. I had been informed that this would be the launch date, but I was ignorant of the indirect impact it would have on my life. I felt like Harry Potter. Through some strange sorcery, I was becoming popular in real-time. The message my face delivered had been transfigured from “oblivious bystander overstepping personal boundaries” to “shamelessly awkward ownership of true character”. People were falling under my spell and under the influence to open their wallets to purchase the merchandise I was sporting. This wasn’t some illusory experience. This was real. And it was me for once.

I had stepped into the spotlight and was captivated by a 24-hour period of fame. A week ago, I was unaware that my face would take center stage on the UW homepage. Now it felt like a far-off memory. My time had passed. It was time to share the spotlight and make room for other stories and other people. Life carried on regardless of what I did. So whether I liked it or not, I had to step out into the darkness and exit stage left.

An introductory acting experience – featuring signature lip bites, subtle gestures, and a self-proclaimed weirdo

Video produced by © Copyright Backflip Films

The inconvenient truth of my socially awkward identity was that I was merely an undiscovered resource, waiting to be tapped and harnessed to its full potential. I discovered a place that would utilize my overt extroversion and channel my boundless energy. I had more Badger Pride than I had previously thought, and the homepage was evidence of that fact.

My earlier interpretation of my self-image fixated upon my interpersonal relationships, but I realize now that I should have directed my attention towards an intrapersonal dialogue as well. The Red Shirt campaign triggered an introspective investigation into the social aspect of my life. It taught me that I should just embrace all of my character because I had been hiding the best parts. Standing in the spotlight illuminated this secret for me and enlightened my understanding of myself. I felt needed for once, but I didn’t need a Red Shirt to invoke those feelings or even enable this side of my personality. I could be that guy on the front page all the time. I am important, I do matter, and I embrace the quirky reputation that I hold. And it didn’t matter what anyone else thought.

It is true what they say.

The Red Shirt is the only shirt that gives back.