For the first time in 651 days, Camp Randall stadium was full again. There were nearly 80,000 people packed into the bleachers of the historic stadium, including about 14,000 students, many of whom occupied those seats for the first time.
I was one of those people.
I’ve been to dozens of college football games and hundreds of games of other sports. Very few compared to the experience I had last Saturday in Madison. It was a wild day, a fun day and a long day. But it was a day that I’ll never forget.
It started early, around 7 a.m. to be exact, when I was awoken by “Jump Around” blaring on the speakers in the living room of my apartment. I’m far from a morning person, but when that music came on, I had no problem getting out of bed. I had a quick breakfast, and then I was off to a tailgate.
The ten-minute walk was my first glimpse of Madison on game day, and what a sight it was. The campus and the city were buzzing. Before 8 a.m., there were hundreds of people hanging out around State Street, almost all of them wearing some variation of Badger-alls, jerseys or type of red or white Wisconsin gear.
We hung out at the tailgate for about two hours and around 10:15 a.m. we began the 25 minute walk to Camp Randall. This was arguably the highlight of my day. There were hundreds of people, turning into thousands as we got closer to the stadium. We chanted, yelled and poked fun at Penn State fans the entire time. By the time we reached the student gate, I was amped up to the point where I thought I could play.
We went through the gates, got our student section tickets and climbed the stairs up to entrance to Section N. I got to my seat around 10:50 a.m., just before the scheduled 11 a.m. kickoff. I saw the band, the National Anthem, the Badgers taking the field and the famed intro video set to U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Camp Randall was on a different level at kickoff.
The first half was fun, but it was 0-0 after 30 minutes and the crowd had lost a little bit of juice. When Penn State scored early in the third, the student section quieted to nearly a whisper.
But the Badgers instantly answered with a touchdown of their own, and the place was shaking once again. In the TV timeout after the Wisconsin touchdown, I finally got my first taste of “Build Me Up Buttercup.” The famed Camp Randall choir was in full force. But it was just a warm up for what would happen about 10 minutes later.
When the third quarter came to an end, the entire state of Wisconsin rose to their feet. But, because of the major network national broadcast, the delay before “Jump Around” was a little more excruciatingly long. After a few promotions and advertisements, the Student Section Race took over the big screen in the North end zone. As a proud member of section N on this day, I can happily report that N dominated the race and came away with the most important win of the day.
While in the middle of celebrating section N’s massive win, House of Pain’s biggest hit, “Jump Around,” began blasting over the PA system. The second the beat dropped and Everlast began singing, a mini-earthquake began in Madison. It was truly one of the most unbelievable things that I have been a part of. It brought the stadium to life and kept it alive for the entire fourth quarter.
While the game obviously did not end how any Badger wanted, I’ll soon forget the score and the late game interceptions. But, I’ll never forget my first time at Camp Randall. From start to finish, it was one of the most special days of my life and it reminded me, and 80,000 others how proud we are to be Wisconsin Badgers.