By John Roach
Fall is calling.
In Madison and Wisconsin it will begin with a shot of drama for Badger fans when our football homeboys take on LSU in their season opener.
Interestingly the big game will take place at the neutral site of Houston, Texas, at NRG Stadium.
This will be a wonderful showcase for Coach Gary Andersen's squad, and if things go well, it will make an early case for Melvin Gordon's claim to the Heisman Trophy. It also allows the football Badgers to pick up on the national stage where Bo's basketball Badgers left us in the spring.
But nothing can happen in Madison without debate, and despite the showcase, there are folks wondering why the game isn’t being played right here in good old Madtown. This is understandable. Season ticket holders have longed for more robust opponents in the early season. And now that we have one, we have to travel to the big boot, big hat city that makes most of America iffy about Texans if we want to see the Badgers live.
But let's be smart. There are legit, rational reasons to explain the game's location that include economics, a new NCAA playoff model and unmatched exposure. Plus the game justifiably christens the Badgers as an elite program. But there is also a conspiracy theory floating about as to why the networks aren't coming to Madison for the big opener. It is a serious mojo, voodoo, karma problem that has haunted us for nearly a decade. One we have avoided for too long. And it can be stated in two words.
Consider for a moment that the Badger's big opener is not being played in Madison because of the thing that towers over all of us as we make our way into Camp Randall.
Could it be that the networks, and the people of our great nation, are allergic to Nail's Tales?
Worse yet, could it be that we are cursed by The Thing?
Just think about it.
In the nine years since Donald Lipski's piece was, sigh, erected, has any national or regional television network begun their broadcast with a slow pan up the clumsy spire of football warts with the narrator excitedly voicing the words, "Live from Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin, it's a glorious Big Ten football Saturday!"
No. They haven't. And for good reason. Although television censorship has loosened since the days when Rob and Laura Petrie slept in separate beds, and Ricky and Lucy couldn't say the word "pregnant," the networks still can't show a damaged male appendage on TV. Or even a healthy one for that matter.
And that's not all. As we approach ten years of The Thing's presence at Camp Randall we are forced to confront indisputable facts. In the 1990s, prior to The Thing's mysterious appearance in the heart of Madison, the Badgers won not one … not two … but three freakin' Rose Bowls! We were unbeaten in Pasadena for the entire decade preceding The Thing.
But since Lipski's salute to Viagra Gone Bad was cast and placed at the busiest corner of football Saturday, how many Rose Bowls have the Badgers won?
No. Let's restate the question. How many Rose Bowls have the Badgers lost? In a row?
The answer is three. Never mind that we had Russell Wilson, J.J. Watt, Montee Ball, Jared Abbrederis and Chris Borland. We lost three consecutive Rose Bowls.
Coincidence? I think not.
Great art touches us in mystical ways. It reaches our hearts and minds in a fashion often inexplicable.
But such magic can also haunt us. Even curse us.
And the world of sports is replete with curses. It took the Boston Red Sox damn near a century to cast off the mistake of trading Babe Ruth to the dreaded Yankees, thus unleashing the Curse of the Bambino. The Chicago Cubs have yet to shake the Curse of the Billy Goat, cast upon them in 1945 when a fan was asked to leave Wrigley Field because his goat was giving off an offensive odor.
It is unfair to charge that UW alum Donald Lipski was intent on cursing Badger fans. Personally I think the guy just had a bad week. But the effect of The Thing has not been positive for Badger football. Its mojo consequence has been wilted roses on cold Wisconsin ground.
But this is a problem we can solve. A curse we can undo.
Let's simply and generously gift Nail's Tales to someone else.