Category Archives: Sports

On Wisconsin

After spending a weekend in the Caribbean, I returned to a completely different world than the one I had left.  Prior to my trip, it had been autumn, with the mix of some relatively warm, but also some chillier days that typically marks the middle part of the fall season.  In fact, much of the Western U.S. experienced a warmer than usual October; a pattern which had extended into early November.  As I returned to the mainland United States, a gigantic push of unseasonably frigid air was rapidly descending upon most of the country from Canada.  Between the warmer than normal fall weather I had been experiencing prior to my trip, and the warmth of the Caribbean, I was certainly unprepared for this sudden weather transition, and far from thrilled to be experiencing weather more typical of mid-winter than mid-November.

This frigid weather pattern had firmly established itself by the day of the big game which I had planned to attend; Wisconsin’s home game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  And, while I had known that frigid weather was a distinct possibility for a November 15th football game in Wisconsin, I also knew that this would be a critical game, and probably the most ideal weekend for a trip back to Wisconsin to see the Badgers play.

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While a part of the Midwest, the State of Wisconsin has a culture that is quite unique from all of the states that surround it.

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While much of the Midwest likes to drink, seemingly more than the rest of the country, Wisconsin takes it to a whole different level, often being reported as the #1 state for “binge drinking”.  During my time living in the Midwest, I observed drinking in the state of Wisconsin at a larger subset of all occasions, and in larger quantities than anywhere else.  In fact, recently Wisconsin Public Radio did an entire series addressing the alcohol culture in Wisconsin.

Another tradition in which Wisconsin takes quite seriously is the Friday Fish Fry.  The extent in which this tradition is observed here highlights Wisconsin’s Catholic and Lutheran heritage, as well as the obsession with fishing here.  Like the consumptions of beer, cheese, and encased meats, the Friday Fish Fry is fairly common in other Midwestern states, but taken to a new obsessive level in Wisconsin.

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One other thing Wisconsin knows how to do is tailgate.  In downtown Madison, in the vicinity of Camp Randall Stadium, nearly every parking lot with available space is filled with people drinking, grilling, and playing games in preparation for the game.  The tailgating experience here is somewhat different than in most places.  Tailgating at most stadiums generally involves parking in the stadium’s parking lot a few hours prior to the game; with people bringing their coolers, grills, food, and games out of their vehicles.

This past weekend, although we arrived downtown nearly four hours prior to game time, we were forced to park roughly a mile away from the stadium (as well as the tailgate).  At the tailgates here, there is a much higher ratio of people to cars than is typical.  It seemed like only the organizers of the tailgate, who likely arrived quite early in the morning, had vehicles in the lot, with the rest of the lot’s space available for people, tents, games, and a significant number of port-a-pottys to accommodate the excessive drinking that takes place at these events.

I attended a tailgate that I can only be described as “professional tailgating”.  It included a several table long buffet of food, tables for games, a television showing other games in the Big 10 conference, a sound system with multiple speakers, and even a heated lamp!  The organizers even brought in their own port-a-potty and handed out pieces of orange tape to attendees to ensure that those coming from outside their tent did not use it.  I was quite amazed!

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Despite the chill, it felt good to be back at Camp Randall Stadium, a place where I had watched dozens of Wisconsin football games while attending the University.  Despite many of the changes that have occurred over the years, the stadium itself, and the experience of attending the games, was practically the same as it was back then.  Although, we did not do the crazy set of “waves” (standard, slow, fast, reverse, and then split) that I had recalled.  Well, maybe I just don’t remember it.

The game actually turned out to be a bit of a blowout, with Wisconsin winning 59-24.  Our running back Melvin Gordon set the all-time single game rushing record at 408 yards, and it began to snow halfway through the 3rd Quarter.


Despite this, we did not leave the game early.  And not too many people did.  Maybe some Nebraska fans did.  But, it is something that Wisconsin fans do not really do.  Surprisingly, my buzz (from the tailgating) did not ware off despite not drinking at all during the game.

Like so many evenings I remember in Madison, the evening involved multiple bars and lasted until bar time … or some time around that.  Just as I remembered, the drinks here are made quite strong!  In fact, even at the places that I had previously thought of as making “weak” drinks, the drinks felt quite strong compared to what I had now become used to.

It was my third consecutive weekend of partying hard.  First, over Halloween, I threw a party at my place.  I was in a setting that consisted of a fairly large number of people, nearly all of whom I was already quite familiar with.  The following weekend, at Saint John Island, I was around almost all people I had not previously met.  This past weekend, I attended the game with a group of six people (including myself), only one of whom I had not met before.  However, out at the bars on State Street, I interacted with a significant number of complete strangers.

The past three weekends I had been in three different settings, both geographically and socially.  I managed to have a great time and be what I consider the best version of me.  It is the version of me that I become when I do not let the anxiety that comes from various life events and situations to get the best of me.  It is the me that is energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and welcoming to all around me.  It is the version of me that seems to make others around me happy, and the way I am when I am having the best times of my life.  It is this version of me that I wish I could be at all times.

Unfortunately, there are times when I do not live up to this standard.  As, sometimes I let some kind of anxiety, frustration, or insecurity prevent me from truly enjoying myself.  Having avoided these pitfalls in three different settings gives me hope that I have overcome some of these anxieties, insecurities, and frustrations.  However, I have no way of being certain of what the future holds.  At this time, all I can do is be happy that I have had the opportunity to have been the places I have been over the past few weeks, and hope for the best for those around me.

The GoPro Mountain Games


One week prior to departing for the GoPro Mountain Games, I had no idea that the GoPro Mountain Games even existed!  I would never have thought that GoPro, the company that makes those portable cameras, would decide to sponsor an event like this.  It’s not that it’s one of those things that makes no sense, like McDonalds sponsoring bike rides in Chicago.  In fact, when I looked into the event upon being invited, it made perfect sense to me.  It is those GoPro cameras that people use to film their outdoor adventures, from skiing to mountain biking, climbing, and even those crazy people that swing from arches in Utah.  Thinking about that, it makes perfect sense for GoPro to put together an outdoor celebration like this in Vail, Colorado.  It is just something I would not have thought of had I not been informed of the event.

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In some ways, Vail is a very different place in the summer.  Accustomed to seeing the ski resort in winter, covered with snow to ski on, it looks quite different by June.  Also, with skiing being the main reason people make the trip up to Vail, some things are cheaper.  Not only was the hotel I stayed at in Vail Village a place I wouldn’t consider unaffordable during the ski season, but breakfasts like the one pictured above, normally $20 per person, are free from April to November.

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However, in some ways, Vail is the same place, regardless of season.  The nightlife definitely felt the same as it had in the winter.  The Gondola was still running (what for, I do not know).  And, no matter what time of year you visit Vail, you generally encounter the same mix of people; wealthy but generally casual and in good shape.  It is a crowd I can never figure out whether or not I truly fit in with.  I love skiing and the outdoors, but I am not rich, and I still have many attitudes about life that are way more East Coast than West Coast.

The GoPro Mountain Games consist of many different kinds of events, including biking, climbing, kayaking, running, and even dog jumping.  I think there is even a Yoga event in there.  The easiest way for me to think of it is to imagine the (above mentioned) demographic group that attends this event, and then think of everything this group of people do.


The event with the biggest draw is called “bouldering”.  It is basically the kind of climbing that you do inside at the gym, as opposed to the climbing you do outside with ropes and such.  Watching this event was interesting primarily because everybody in the crowd cheered for everybody.  Unlike in the Olympics, where we primarily only cheer for those from our own country, and team sports where we genuinely cheer for one team to beat another, in this event, everybody appears to genuinely want everybody to succeed.

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The craziest event was definitely an event called “8 Ball”.  In this event, kayakers race down the river.  However, along the route, there are a bunch of guys in kayaks with 8-Ball wet suits on that basically play defense.  They attempt to impede the racers along their route towards the finish line.  I really wonder who came up with this one!

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My favorite event was an event called dock dogs.  In this event, dogs, mainly retrievers and shepherds, jump off a dock into a large pool of water.  The dog whose jump is the longest is crowned the winner of this event.

I loved this event for two reasons.  First of all, I love dogs.  I own one, and in many of the hiking entries in this blog, you will see photos of my Siberian Husky.  Second, I just love how goofy it really is.  The dogs are prompted to jump off the dock when their owners throw this long cylindrical toy for them to chase.  It looked exactly like what one would encounter while hanging out at a lake home in Wisconsin.  In fact, the world record holder in this event is from Minnesota!

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For a weekend trip to a major event a couple of hours away, this trip was a spontaneous one.  I was basically invited to come along on this trip on the Monday four days prior to departure.  To add to that, I only really knew one person of the eight others involved, the guy who invited me.  It is the kind of invitation that most people would have dozens of reasons to say no to, from previous plans to personal budgeting and even the much more onerous social anxiety.  But, those that remain open to, and say yes to invitations like these are often rewarded with some unexpected significant experiences.

I have come to the realization that one of the most effective ways to meet people and make friends is through mutual friends.  Some of the best friends I have here in Denver I have made through having one or more mutual friends.  The same is true of pretty much every other place I have ever lived.  For some strange reason it is easier to form a bond with someone who knows some of the same people.  Someone who chooses to hang out with the same kind of people is likely to be someone you have a lot in common with.  In fact, in my experience of forming friendships this way, there has even been little to no reliance on mutual acquaintances for conversation topics.  It just naturally starts itself.  Or maybe that is just the way I am.  Either way, it was great to have decided to head to this event, and it serves as a reminder of how much our lives are enriched by spontaneity!