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Friday, April 19, 2024

What it means to be a Badger

At various points in my college career, I’ve seen Facebook posts, newspaper columns and other forms of media celebrating the idea of “what it means to be a Badger.” And I have to say, as I enter my senior year, I still don’t get it.

Aside from the tired cliché of “work hard, play hard,” I’ve never heard anybody provide a coherent explanation. Does it mean that as Badgers we are by default more intelligent, more admirable and more awesome than a “Gopher” or a “Buckeye?” I think that’s what people are getting at, but I have no clue. 

I know I can at least tell you one thing that many people consider “unbadgerly:” the selling of student football tickets. This much was clear two years ago, when Wisconsin made the Rose Bowl and a mild uprising took place when students bought tickets solely with the intention of profiting upwards of $300-$400 off of them. Of course, students who intended to attend the game but were shut out during the online sales were justifiably peeved that they would have to pay up the ass for tickets, prompting them to question if those profiteers were “true Badgers.” It even prompted The Badger Herald to label the sellers as “The Worst People on Campus,” publishing their names in an effort to shame them.

I was pissed off, too. Had I realized that demand for Rose Bowl tickets was more inelastic (Econ 101, FTW) than I believed, I would’ve tried to make the easy $300 profit myself, damnation of the campus notwithstanding.

I don’t believe it makes you a bad person to take advantage of a profit opportunity ripe for the taking; it’s what happens on Wall Street every day.

It’s likely the same reason why the NFL is standing its ground with its referees at the moment, even though referees earn less than 1 percent of the league’s revenue. No amount of public backlash regarding the replacement referees is enough to dissuade viewers from turning away from their T.V. sets while Clay Matthews is making Jay Cutler his bitch. Much like the NFL, the appetite for Badger football is insatiable.

As such, I can’t fault enterprising students for selling their Badger tickets for more than face value when people are so willing to shell out the cash for student seats. While some people might argue that such a practice prices out the real fans, I look no further than the good word of Mick Jagger for my rebuttal: “You can’t always get what you want.” 

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Quite simply, that’s how the world works—the people with more money or more willingness to spend get what they want. It reminds me of when I begged for a N64 for Christmas one year. My mom said it was too expensive, I whined and she essentially told me “tough shit.” I was stuck with my Super Nintendo for another few years. I survived.

Though it might suck that some of the more enthusiastic Badger fans get priced out of the game, an individual who sells his or her tickets above face value is simply exploiting the inefficiency of the market. While some may say this makes them “unbadgerly,” others, like me, might say it makes them resourceful.

Differences in opinion like these are why we should do away with conceptualizing what it means to be a Badger in the first place. How can we possibly make a blanket statement for over 40,000 people? During my time on campus, I’ve met several individuals who have brilliant minds, uncompromising integrity and who are just a good time to be around. At the same time, I’ve also met people who were the exact opposite of these traits.

To say that people you like and people you don’t like are entirely unique to a particular college—or any location for that matter—is extremely narrow-minded.

So here’s my definition of what it means to be a Badger: it means you attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and that’s it. More importantly, you’re a human being with your own beliefs and life experiences to guide your actions, instead of being held to some one-size-fits-all framework based on where you attend college.

Want to tell Adam what you think it means to be a Badger? Let him know at

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