NEW YORK CITY -- For all its charms and attractions, this city lacks a favorite college sports team. New York is definitely a pro town, but tavern keepers realize that fans move here and visit from every corner of the country, so almost all major schools are represented by local bars where the devoted can overspend for beer and wings to watch football with their own kind. UW-Madison is no exception.
The first half passed quickly last Saturday at Libation on the Lower East Side. To reach the Badgers contingent, ask the hostess about the Bucky flag outside and she'll direct you to the back staircase. Climb two flights and voilà. On the third floor, a menu board advertises State Street brats and Wando's fishbowls.
A sedate group of 20 Badgers fans, most clad in the requisite cardinal, saw early that things might not end well against Penn State. The room was quiet enough for me to get acquainted with fellow fans, including the Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a West High grad and religion editor at Huffington Post. His father taught at UW Law School for 40 years and his great-grandfather was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. Paul looked exasperated as Joel Stave overthrew yet another open receiver, but the minister kept his criticisms to himself.
By contrast, Mad River Bar & Grill on the Upper East Side was a standing-room-only mob scene ripped straight from Regent Street. Young waitresses in Badgers tank tops plied the mostly collegiate crowd with beers, the music was turned up to 11, and reveling bros yelled at the flat screens as the fourth quarter wore on and Penn State increased its advantage.
"We're gonna lose this game!?" shouted a wobbly college kid who wouldn't remember much the next morning. "Errmmm," growled his equally sodden friend. I left them to their hazy misery and grabbed a cab to dinner.