UW Health Sports Medicine 

Badger Days takes over Lambeau

IMG_8270.JPGThis is probably my fifth or sixth Badger Days trip and I still can't get over how cool it is. This year there are a couple new wrinkles. Student-athletes are making a couple of trips and Blake Geoffrion (with his Hobey Baker Trophy) and J.J. Watt were on the bus with us Tuesday.

Photo Gallery / Badgers Days - Green Bay video

The cheerleaders and Bucky have been mainstays at Badger Days but this year the UW Band will also be in attendance, playing all the fans' favorites. And, for the second straight year, 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne will join the festivities.

Tuesday's journey took us to Green Bay and Lambeau Field. I was going to do a running diary-style blog but I got an hour in and it was already a couple pages long and I'm sure no one wants to read that much detail. So I'll just hit on some highlights:

•    The bus ride to and from Badger Days events probably deserves its own three blogs. Talk about a who's who of Badger athletics. Among the luminaries riding the Badger Coach (ironic name indeed) were a college football hall of famer (Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez), an Olympic gold medalist and national hero (women's hockey coach Mark Johnson), four Big Ten Coaches of the Year (men's basketball coach Bo Ryan, women's basketball coach Lisa Stone, football coach Bret Bielema and volleyball coach Pete Waite), a Hobey Baker Award winner (Geoffrion), the all-time leading scorer in UW hockey history (men's hockey coach Mike Eaves) and a Wimbledon doubles semifinalist (men's tennis coach Greg Van Emburgh).

•    Eaves is the de facto "captain" of the bus. From sitting in the front seat greeting everyone as they get on, to making his rounds throughout the trip from the front to the back and everywhere in between, he engaged just about every one of the 25 or so passengers in conversation for at least a couple minutes. I was lucky enough to be seated across from him and Johnson as the two discussed the new men's assistant coaches, the Stanley Cup Finals and golf.

•    With Wednesday's Badger Days event in Kohler, Wis., the conversation turned to Whistling Straights. Coach Eaves told the story of his one experience on the championship course. A Christmas gift from his wife, Beth, coach and his sons played a round. He said the caddies were invaluable. He also said that he broke 90 and played the entire round with the same ball. Much like a shutout in hockey, his caddie never said a word until picking up his ball on the 18th green, "Same ball the whole round. Nice job, sir."

•    After facilitating a couple radio interviews with Stone and Ryan, I was caught in the "Kohl Center Triangle" between Bo, Lisa and Mike. The conversation had many twists, turns and mostly laughs. Among the topics covered were the movie "Blazing Saddles," the prom (Coach Stone's daughter just attended hers) and grandchildren (Coach Ryan has three, Coach Eaves' daughter-in-law is seven months pregnant).

•    It's always fun to have new blood on the trip and it was interesting watch Blake and J.J. At first you could see they were feeling the whole thing out and kept mostly to themselves, either texting or checking the internet on their phones. Once they got caught in the atmosphere of the bus, though, they were a part of some of the most enlightening conversations.

•    Talking to J.J. after the trip, he admitted he was a bit in awe when he got on the bus. "I just wanted to sit there, listen and not say anything stupid," he said.

•    Blake brought his new iPad on the trip, which he had just received in the mail in the morning. It intrigued a lot of people and he spent about a 30-minute tutorial in the back of the bus with Lisa and Mike.

•    Blake and Coach Eaves also discussed the Stanley Cup Finals. Seated a couple rows from each other they talked mostly about Game 2, talking about the various line changes and match ups. Coach Ryan, a Philadelphia native, was an interested observer in the conversation. He remarked, "Look at this guy talking strategy." Coach Eaves retorted, "Blake's definitely going to be a coach or GM when he's done playing," to which Blake quickly responded, "GM." Eaves laughed and said, "Yeah, because then you get to fire the coaches."

•    Coach Alvarez had some terrific stories and seemed to enjoy sharing them with the new kids. Seated directly behind Blake and J.J. he regaled them with tales of playing center as a high school sophomore with a single-bar facemask (in response to Coach Eaves' tongue-in-cheek question about what it was like to play in the days when helmets didn't have facemasks). Alvarez said that because he was a sophomore on varsity, he had the last pick of equipment after the seniors and juniors and it was the only helmet left. He proceeded to have his nose broken during the first practice when the nose tackle across from him jumped offsides and popped him in the face.

•    Another story from Alvarez that had the youngsters enthralled occurred just last week. While in New York for the College Football Hall of Fame announcement, Coach Alvarez was at a gathering with UW alum Kenny Dichter. Dichter told him that John Legend was going to be there. Not being the most loyal follower of current music trends, Alvarez was in the midst of explaining to Dichter that he really didn't know who Legend was when someone tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hey coach." Alvarez turned, immediately extended a high-five and responded, "What's up, John?" Legend told him he was actually an Ohio State fan and Alvarez proceeded to put him in a playful headlock. He's got a pretty good idea who he is now.

IMG_8313.JPG•    As for the actual event, Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne again was the crowd favorite. Alvarez, Ryan and Bielema each had long lines of people waiting for autographs or to take pictures but they are all dwarfed by Dayne's line. Dayne is able to flash that trademark smile and make a lot of people's day.

•    Packers president Mark Murphy and General Manager Ted Thompson stopped by the atrium to say hello to Alvarez and Bielema and themselves were caught in the autograph and picture (and advice) game. Packer fans sure are knowledgeable as Murphy and Thompson were both somewhat incognito but fans spotted them pretty much right away.

•    Lots of people congratulating Coach Alvarez on his recent induction to the College Football Hall of Fame. An interesting sight on his line was one woman reading a copy of his book, "Don't Flinch" while waiting for his autograph.

•    After the event was over, another first in Badger Days history occurred as the crew bussed to Kohler for a private reception in the Champions Locker Room at Whistling Straights. I'll have some observations from that as well as Badger Days Kohler on Thursday.