Image courtesy of the UW-Madison archives, #S07735
The Badgers men's basketball team plays at Minnesota Thursday night (Feb. 9), which means broadcasters calling the game will refer early and often to Williams Arena's antiquated charm and barrel-vaulted ceiling, chuckling about its elevated floor and lack of modern accoutrements.
I learned a lot about basketball at Williams, watching Kevin McHale and Trent Tucker before shot clocks and schedules altered by cable TV showed up. But I also learned how to be a responsible fan, to wait for a stoppage in play before barging down the aisle, to keep my knees off the back of the guy in front of me, to cheer as loudly for a charge taken as an alley-oop dunk.
As a UW freshman, I made the easy transition to cheering for Trent Jackson and Danny Jones at the Field House, another old barn with sticky floors and an odor of stale popcorn. Fans often kept their jackets on for games at the Field House, both to fight off the chilly draft and because chances were good somebody in the upper deck would spill his drink and sticky soda would drip through the gaps in the wooden balcony floor.
One night, while Sam Okey put on a show against Purdue, we felt moisture on our foreheads and called for a towel-carrying usher. After rushing up and down the stairs searching for the offending puddle of Coke, he pointed out snowflakes blowing through a broken windowpane.
Wisconsin basketball fans have grown used to the modern comforts of the Kohl Center, but maybe the Badgers could play one game a year back at the barn as a way of demonstrating how college sports has changed, for better or worse. Make it general admission.