This is a full media timeout.
The previous game’s ruling was that the returnee had his knee on the floor when he caught the ball. This piece is still under review.
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Then came the voice of an arbiter with a crucial accounting detail: This is the end of the third quarter.
Then came a sight in a year without her.
Let the terrible record show that in late October, the novel coronavirus clogged Madison in the upper Midwest of a country too unable to contain a pathogen. It would put Madison quiet for Wisconsin’s 45-7 win over Illinois on Friday night, Columbus for Ohio State’s 52-17 win over Nebraska on Saturday, and in particular for East Lansing opponents Rutgers’ 38:27 breakthrough against Michigan State on Saturday. But because life often brings the happy next to the terrible, let the record play “Jump Around” too.
This 1992 song by the Los Angeles-formed trio House of Pain produced the greatest life form and spectacle in college football. Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium bounces home after the third quarter. Now, when Big Ten football finally started in 2020, the usual 80,321 had dropped to a highly unusual zero by decrees from both the Big Ten and the University of Wisconsin. Now the stadium was playing another song that could be heard on the sidewalks with the yellow leaves already fallen and trampled and the temperature a crisp 37. Now one might briefly wonder whether they may have scrapped the custom out of sheer suffering.
Now the other song gave way to the long, brassy, soaring note that gives way to the three fast, descending notes that signal “Jump Around”.
Now there was this house on Breese Terrace, close enough to the stadium to crawl into if necessary. It had been the same house where a passer-by, prior to a 2017 victory over Michigan, might have seen the evolutionary sight of a two-story beer bong snaking from a patio above down into a sturdy esophagus below.
Now the new and fellow student residents in the yard had been playing beer pong in front of a big TV that was dutifully pulled outside to show scenes from Wisconsin’s distribution of the Comeuppance to an Illinois that upset it as such last year Things were considered “upset”. “University Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers advised students and fans, among others, to only watch the game with roommates. These roommates are number nine.
“It never gets boring,” said Jack Snedegar, a junior from Rockford, Illinois.
They have an Illinois, a Californian, a Missourian, two Minnesotans, and four Wisconsinites, and just in a scene that might make you cry, they stormed from the yard onto the empty street and spent the next 45 seconds jumping. To her surprise, the house next door also emptied, bringing out another small crowd almost side by side. Then another group of people whose college years happened to coincide with a pandemic came running down the street to join and reach perhaps 15 seconds after their release.
Then it was over and the game resumed.
Then the guys from the nine-person house disassembled their TV set-up and sang a swell rendition of the foundation’s 1968 “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Then Snedegar said he was proud of his school, its zero-viewer regulations and their 43,000 students because when it comes to following the Public Health Protocol, “I think they are overall. We had two tough weeks early in the school year when we had more and more cases, but after the Chancellor put a lockdown … ”In a state with the third highest recent outbreak among states, the campus has gone from 840 positive tests and a quota of 9.3 percent over five days in September to 85 and 1.2 percent in the last five days of the results, according to the university’s Covid-19 response dashboard.
When the Big Ten season came, which was canceled and then revived, their large university town was full of emptiness, more than the Tuscaloosas or Athenses of the past few weeks. The bars along State Street and beyond, which are usually full of people who don’t own tickets but are still getting into town, perched in their 2020 melancholy with their 25 percent allowable capacity and their sidewalk tables and sparse patrons along the street Road. On TVs with the game on, you could hear the Big Ten Network broadcast and recognize words from too many steps. The streets remained barren, but different from the usual midgame barreness.
The big 93-year-old marquee of the Orpheum Theater read: VOTE THE VOTE. A man on the sidewalk below was playing music – impossible in this case Blue Magic’s famous “sideshow”. (So let the sideshow begin …) He said he worked magic for 48 years. He said he was the guy who made some news a decade ago for suing an airline for not letting him bring a pigeon on board. A quick search proved this.
Past the internationalist presence that was growing in university cities and seen with restaurants like Dubai Mediterranean and Ramen Kid, past the Insomnia Cookies and their two customers inside, it became quiet. Occasionally, the students passed in the scanty clothing in cold weather, demonstrating the tenacity of their generation. They complained with a saying about the wind. A Buffalo Wild Wings sat empty, a big screen was playing the game.
Closer to the stadium every now and then students would come by in those red and white Wisconsin pants. A good Wisconsin piece on TV could make someone yell from the balcony. “On Wisconsin” boomed from a small apartment – recorded, not live. An electronic sign flashed:
The stadium’s public address conjured up a high school heard from an American street. The potted crowd noise would swell and then come to an immediate standstill, as real crowd noise never does. The Faded Club Barbershop across the road, with its classic red and white chairs, had closed for the evening, but its three TVs were playing Illinois-Wisconsin and the World Series. Next to it is Mickie’s Dairy Bar, a banner that reads “Support Local Businesses” on a day when a detailed story by Lindsay Christians in the Capital Times described five different restaurants or bars that close forever, nine for the winter and three close one of several places, all restaurant and tavern slaughter in one place where tavern slaughter is sacrilege.
At the end of the game, groups of students showed up here and there on the streets, some on the lines for the 25 percent bars. An interview with the victorious Redshirt newcomer quarterback Graham Mertz played audibly from a large corner bar with empty tables. He described his healthy relationship with injured starter Jack Coan.
Back in the state, formerly the undisputed vortex of life before rival territories developed but still a force on good days, Joe Heiser and Ralph Yaniz quit working at Mackesey’s Irish pub that Yaniz runs, reporting on the usual wave before the pandemic.
“At this point,” said Heiser after a win in the old days, “it would be a ticking clock to see how long it would take people to get here.” There would be a river. Then it would just be a flood of red. “
“Like a wave hitting State Street,” said Yaniz, “and then boom.”
Now it’s just occasional wavelets, even if some bounce around.