It ain't gonna happen. Much to the chagrin of The Sconz circa 2009, UW students will never be able to drink at Badgers games.
The idea of selling beer at Camp Randall popped onto the radar screen recently when West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck proposed such a plan for Mountaineers football games.
In addition to tapping into a lucrative revenue stream, Luck told his Board of Governors that allowing and controlling beer sales would help cut down on the problem of fan intoxication.
It is ironic that West Virginia, which surveys show has one of the lowest rates of alcohol consumption in the country, is considering a more liberal drinking policy than Wisconsin, the heaviest drinking state in the country, and home to Memorial Union, perhaps the proudest university-sponsored drinking venue in American history.
Back in 2007 ESPN asked a number of college athletes what they thought about fans drinking during games. Wisconsin's Jessie Vetter, a hockey player, offered a familiar argument in favor:
"I think that if you are over the age of 21, you should be able to have an alcoholic beverage at a sporting event. I think it would actually make it safer at some schools because I know at our games people drink way too much before the game because they know they can't drink during it."
In my case, the more I drank, the less interested I was in going to the game. And there are thousands of others who never intend to go to the game because they'd rather stay at the party and drink. That's probably where they belong.
If the Badgers were having trouble attracting fans, beer at the games would a sure bet to fill the stands. But the games sell out anyway -- meaning there are 60,000 people willing to go three hours without a drink to watch football.
If UW wanted to test out different alcohol policies (and I guarantee you it does not), it could try offering beer at the less popular sporting events. That would accomplish two objectives. It would generate ticket sales and interest in traditionally under-appreciated sports and it would allow administrators to see what effect, if any, alcohol sales would have in stadiums.
I certainly would have loved to have had a cold one last month as I watched a Badgers softball game over at Goodman Field on the Lakeshore path (I would also love to watch a Badgers baseball game, with or without beer).
My guess is that the addition of beer at other sporting events, including popular ones, such as men's basketball and hockey, would be manageable, if not relatively innocuous.
But the football drinking tradition is unique. Getting drunk before the games is so ingrained in Badgers football fandom that offering booze in the stadium would probably only exacerbate the debauchery that cops deal with in and around the stadium all day long. A three to four hour cool-off period for Badgers fans is probably a good thing.
Luckily, as the Barry Alvarez quote indicates, beer at Camp Randall will always be a no-go, at least for those of us who don't have access to luxury boxes. Not even 1000 cost-benefit analyses in favor of such a policy would convince UW administrators to make the case to the state that more alcohol is the answer to UW's drinking problem.
But it's an important debate to have, nevertheless, because it reflects a broader conversation about alcohol and drug regulation that the community would benefit from. Does increased regulation of alcohol and drugs make people safer? In the case of Camp Randall, I would say yes. However, in many other cases, such as the drinking age, I think increased restriction is a feel-good policy that does little but encourage a culture of illicit behavior.
Will there ever be an honest dialogue about what alcohol policies actually work on the UW campus? It's unlikely. The UW is an intellectual institution but it is run as a political entity. And politics is not rational.
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