I've never watched a Badger football game from the Camp Randall press box. A big reason is that cheering and other outbursts, including begging and crying, are forbidden there, and I don't trust myself to suppress the bad habits I've learned as a rabid fan.
I've also long believed that the reporters who cover the Badgers aren't getting a true taste of the football experience in their privileged post high above and physically apart from the hoi polloi. For instance, they're not able to hear the unsolicited and vociferous opinions I get from the gentleman whose knees dent my back during each game.
Moreover, sportswriters who never drop any cash to see a game are missing out on an important perspective ' that of the consumer who judges games based on economic value.
Now, diehard fans may argue that seeing historic moments like Ron Dayne breaking the NCAA career rushing record against Iowa in 1999 or Matt Schabert hooking up with Lee Evans for a 79-yard touchdown against Ohio State in 2003 can't be held to any kind of objective economic analysis.
But what are the chances of any priceless moments happening on Nov. 18, when the Badgers host the University at Buffalo? The Buffalo Bulls (don't confuse 'em with the Bills!) are coming off a 1-10 season, their only win being against the mighty Golden Flashes of Kent State. They're part of a four-team nonconference slate that finished 2005 with a combined record of 17-27. And five of those wins belong to the Western Illinois Leathernecks, who compete in Division I-AA.
The face value of a game ticket is $35, but for fans buying season tickets, that's only the beginning. The guys I've attended games with for the past six years sit in Section D, a preferred section subject to a $200 per seat mandatory donation. That bumps the actual per-game price to $63, not including parking and the traditional pre- and post-game refreshments.
That kind of cash, coupled with the Badgers' underwhelming schedule, is making me consider opting out of season tickets for the first time since Otis Flowers quarterbacked Don Morton's veer offense.
Consider: The Badgers' marquee player, senior offensive lineman Joe Thomas, is coming off knee surgery to repair a torn ligament. Senior quarterback John Stocco, a third-year starter, is praised more for consistency than for talent. P.J. Hill, projected to start at tailback, is a red-shirt freshman who has yet to touch the ball in a college game. The team's four top receivers have a total of five career receptions and, thanks to junior Marcus Randle El, two arrests.
In taking a skeptical view of buying tickets this year, I'm clearly in the minority. According to a July 17 press release, an unprecedented 99% of ticket holders renewed for the 2006 season, leaving some applicants who wrote $500 donation checks out of luck.
But last week, when my pals asked me to pony up my share, I was moved to check out UW-Whitewater's football Web site. The Warhawks, who lost last season's NCAA Division III championship game to Mt. Union by a touchdown, play five home games in picturesque Perkins Stadium. They also return college football's most prolific running back, junior Justin Beaver of Palmyra, and are ranked second in the nation in preseason polling. The best part: Tickets are $6 each (kids and seniors pay $3) or $25 for a full season.
Nankivil decides ' quietly
Keaton Nankivil, Madison Memorial's highly recruited all-state center, last week ended the suspense over where he'll be playing college basketball in 2007. He called Badger head coach Bo Ryan and accepted Wisconsin's scholarship offer. He then phoned coaches at Marquette and Boston College to give them the bad news.
Nankivil's approach contrasts sharply with that of his former Memorial teammate, Wesley Mathews, who a few years back held a press conference to announce his decision to attend Marquette. But it suits Nankivil's style. As he told me last spring, he avoids public events "because that's not really the kind of thing I like to do."
Memorial coach Steve Collins says Nankivil does plan to invite the media when he officially signs his letter of intent. I think I'll pass. Why watch Nankivil participate in something he hates? But I will try to be in the Memorial gym on Nov. 30, when his team plays its first home game, and Nankivil is doing what he does best.