Road Trippin' to the Midwest
Midwest hospitality is at its finest in Madison, WI.
Posted: Wednesday September 28, 2005 7:29PM; Updated: Thursday September 29, 2005 4:57PM
Madison, a majestic getaway camp for 18-to-21-year-old Lost Boys and Lost Girls, has become the poster child for everything good and rootable in the Midwest. (And they'll take all the fans they can get in 2005. The NFL draft has left the football team depleted.) Nary a commentator or GameDay host or opposing player has come away anything but awestruck by the scenery (twin Lakes Mendota and Monona) and revelry. Better yet, unlike their liberal equivalents at the University of Texas in Austin, Madisonians will welcome you with open arms. There's no sense of "Mine! All mine!" at UW.
There's a reason Penn State students are clinging to a 78-year-old losing football coach like a fat kid hanging from a chocolate bucking bronco. He defines their city. Makes it tick. This is a campus that has aged as about as much as Sophia Loren in the last 30 years (that is, it hasn't), and if Joe Paterno gets fired and someone like Bobby Petrino comes marching into town with his newfangled offense, then a part of State College dies with him. Happy Days-era diners and burger joints with words like "Ye Olde" in their names and taverns --real, genuine, below-the-ground taverns-- and 60-year-olds who've been spitting blue-and-white since the Kennedy Administration: That's why "Joe Pa Must Stay."
We could just suggest you pull your rig into Columbus and gaze, starry-eyed, at the heavenly horseshoe they call Ohio Stadium for 48 hours straight. Football game or no football game, it's a breathtaking sight. But that would be a discredit to the burgeoning metropolis that is Columbus (a short jaunt from campus) and frothing-at-the-mouth sports joints like the Varsity Club that make OSU so classically Big Ten.
The 2005 Hawkeyes bring an NFL-ready quarterback (Drew Tate) and college football's hottest coach (Kirk Ferentz) to the table, but on game day that's all irrelevant. Iowa fans were flocking to Kinnick stadium -- and the Pedestrian Mall for post-game High Life toasts, afterward- -even in Ferentz's 2001 rookie year when the team was a woeful 1-10.
Here's the knock on Michigan: They don't care. They don't cheer loud enough. They're indignant. But when you win for so long (42 Big Ten championships; 11 national titles; and the alltime wins lead in Div. I-A), you're bound to become unimpressed by a five-yard buttonhook or underwhelmed by an 11-point win over Northwestern. Forgive them, please. For a campus with such old school ties, Ann Arbor is actually pretty new school in an East Coast way, hence a thriving arts scene and some upscale eats.