Fall break football, being at a Big Ten battle

By The Beacon | October 27, 2010 9:00pm

By Bruce Garlinghouse, Staff Writer

Warning: Reading about this experience may cause a sudden urge to transfer schools. Read at your own discretion.

A college football game consists of four hard-hitting, speed filled 15-minute quarters. In between the second and the third quarter is a halftime that lasts twenty minutes.

A college football game day for in Wisconsin game starts hours before the opening kick off. There are no set quarters. No halftime. There are no refs, no set rules. A college football game begins with a flip of a coin and a kick off. College game day begins with the arrival of a keg and a plate of eggs.

Over fall break, while many of you were posted up on your couch, flipping through the channels, checking the scores of all the football games on Saturday, I was in Madison, Wis., the home of the University of Wisconsin Badgers. Their opponent that day: The No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

While I know many of you have pride for your Pilots, we could take a page out of Wisconsin's pregaming playbook. One pregame party? Nonsense.

As I walked down Langdon Street, Wisconsin's frat row, every house was packed full of backward hat-wearing frat bros, and their sorority neighbors from across the street.

Smoke carrying the haunting aromas of ribs, steaks, burgers and brats filled the air and red and orange leaves peppered the ground. It didn't matter who you were, what frat you were from or what year you were, if you were cheering for the Badgers you were a friend and an ally.

It's not just the students that flood the streets. All of Madison comes to life. Middle aged men gather together, talking about the good ole days, exchanging stories over beer and brats. Their children close by toss a football, pretending to be the players that will take the field later that night as their moms watch from a distance.

It's a family affair in every sense of the expression, whether your family is your real family, you're a frat brother, or simply a fellow Badgers fan. High fives are exchanged as fellow Badger fans pass each other along the street, surely most of them are strangers. This city-wide party lasts for six hours. Purple Pride is a short sprint. Badgers tailgating is a marathon.

This is the part of college football that is not shown on ESPN's College Game Day. This is the part of sports that one has to experience to truly understand. And this is the part of sports that is unfortunately lacking at the University of Portland.

As if a horn is sounded, each tailgater begins his or her trek to Camp Randall, Wisconsin's football stadium, capable of housing 80,321 people. That is nearly 16 times the size of Merlo field.

Each seat is filled, concession lines run long as fans rush to purchase their beverage and food of choice before the opening kickoff because after that first kickoff, only the most serious of bathroom emergencies could remove them from the game until halftime.

When Wisconsin's David Gilreath returned the opening kick off 97 yards, the hope that the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers could knock off the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes, became honest belief.

Belief became reality as thousands of Badgers fans, myself included, participated in the ancient act of rushing the field. Displaying some of my own athleticism, I had to dodge two security guards, but it didn't matter.

Soon I would be lost in a sea of red. Players were placed on shoulders, giving high fives to fans as the whole crowd joined in singing Wisconsin's fight song.

Unfortunately we don't have a football team, or an 80,000 seat stadium. But as soccer playoffs approach on The Bluff, keep this experience in mind and ask yourself if there is anything you can do to bring that kind of experience to Portland.

Offer a beer to a stranger, cheer hard and keep inviting that neighbor of the Purple Pride house to come over.