Stacks of old photo albums at my Wisconsin born-and-raised grandma’s house are proof of the importance my family places on Badger football. Dozens of pictures show multiple generations of my family tailgating all around campus, back to the 1960s.
So it might have been a bit of a shock to my parents, both Wisconsin alumni, when my oldest sister chose to attend a different Big Ten university. By her senior year of high school, she traded in her cardinal red sweatshirt for a Hawkeyes shirt. Although my parents aren’t hardcore about the need to create some sort of legacy, a battle of the Big Ten quickly grew in our suburban Chicago home.
As the youngest of five kids, I’m the third and final one to attend UW. Although I have a drawer full of Bucky and “Drink Wisconsinbly” shirts, to this day I have a gold and black Iowa shirt tucked at the bottom next to my brother’s old Mizzou shirt. The rivalry only grew during football season. Every autumn for four years my sister tried to teach me Iowa chants, while my dad slowly conditioned me to know the lyrics of “Varsity.”
The Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry goes back over a hundred years and even involves the presentation of the Heartland Trophy, a brass bull given to the winning team that was introduced in 2004. The Badgers won the trophy for the first time in 2007 under the Camp Randall lights, my sister’s sophomore year at Iowa. Even better than the win itself was my dad’s victory phone call to my sister.
Although my sister graduated from the University of Iowa in 2010, the competition is just as alive now as it was then. When the Badgers hosted the Hawkeyes last year, a Wisconsin loss not worth discussing, my parents came up to Madison to do what my family has done for generations: tailgate. My dad led our mile walk to Camp Randall with my sister and me, recounting his glory days stories for the hundredth time and yelling “Go Bucky!” to each passing Iowa fan.
While the loss to Ohio State devastated fans across campus, a Badger win Saturday against the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium might be the motivation Wisconsin needs to prepare for the Nebraska game the following weekend. Losing to an unranked team would not only drop Wisconsin’s rank and confidence, but it would mean my sister has bragging rights for two years in a row.