Go ahead and laugh — everyone else is.
After suffering the 31-point loss to Indiana on Saturday Wisconsin has been the butt of jokes in the college football world.
During the game sports writers in the UW press box chuckled — I know I did. My colleague sitting next to me was hysterical at one point trying to give another sports writer play-by-play of the 63-32 debacle via cell phone.
The writer called the press box after he heard the Badgers’ first-quarter score on the radio, which the ESPN radio announcers were sure was a mistake. My colleague informed him that, yes, that was an accurate 32-0 score.
And then he laughed. I joined him because, yes, it was comical when the Badgers allowed a touchdown with 12 men on the field, and it was amusing when the only Hoosier UW was able to stop, the placekicker, hit the cross bars in yet another failed attempt.
But it was less funny in the weight room of the McClain Center when the dejected players walked in one-by-one to face the slew of media that only wanted a player to admit that they were embarrassed. Wendell Bryant finally admitted his frustrations and embarrassments, but it wasn’t funny when he had to leave the pool of reporters and head back to the locker room, unable to answer anymore questions.
And it was even less amusing to read jokes about the Badgers in national publications. But as the joke has run out here in Madison, I don’t blame the rest of the country for still laughing. Giving up 63 points in college football is a joke. Toss on last week’s NCAA decision over the Shoe Box scandal and you have a buffet of endless jokes for the media to cash in on.
ESPN the Magazine’s Gene Wojciechowski wrote in this week’s version of “Movers and Shakers”:
“We’re sure there’s a reason why we picked Wisconsin to win the Big Ten this season, but after the Badgers’ 63-32 loss to Indiana, we can’t quite remember why. Maybe it’s because we got a discount on a very nice pair of Reeboks.”
And keeping with the endless array of shoe material, Wojciechowski added a Badger tribute to his “Clio awards — endorsement deals we’ll never see” section of this week’s commentary.
“Hello, Badger fans. I’m Barry Alvarez for your good friends at Shoe Box, Dane County’s No. 1 supplier of affordable athletic shoewear.”
The other approaches to pointing out Wisconsin’s ridiculous loss were less direct, choosing to hide the humor through reporting and hideous statistics.
Mark Button of cnnsi.com wrote this about Levron Williams, who was picked as one of the players of the week on its website:
“Two touches, two touchdowns, 107 yards. And he was just getting started. While Indiana spanked Wisconsin 63-32, Williams rushed for a career-high 280 yards and six touchdowns on only 20 carries.”
Whereas Button let this week’s stats speak for themselves, USA Today brought the past into their report of the Hoosier landslide.
USA Today’s recap said: “Wisconsin (3-3, 1-1), which was hit with a five-year probation by the NCAA on Tuesday, turned the ball over five times, which resulted in 23 points for Indiana. The 63 points allowed matched the Badgers’ highest total in school history. They lost, 63-0, to Minnesota in 1890. Indiana earned its first victory since last October 21 at Minnesota and beat Wisconsin for the first time since 1992.”
Yes, history can be harsh, especially this week. Everyone can now recite the day (Nov. 5, 1890) that Wisconsin last gave up 63 points. Even UW tight end Mark Anelli rattled the year off during Barry Alvarez’s Monday press conference.
But as the Badgers have said over and over again since Saturday, the game against Indiana is over, it’s time to move on.
Hopefully the Badgers will move on in a new direction — a victorious one — and will rediscover their defense along the way. Otherwise the college football writers will be waiting with pens in hand for another joke to lead off their stories.
And that will be no laughing matter for Wisconsin.