Have you noticed them yet? A record number of Wisconsinites became Tommies this fall, and my instincts keep telling me to feel uneasy about it. So perhaps this would be an excellent space to sneak in a cheap shot about the “cheeseheads” – that’s what my native Minnesotan blood keeps telling me, anyway. But since this is being published during football season, I’m gunshy about putting anything too pugnacious into print. You never know whentheir team might get lucky.
Rivalries aside, I do need to mention my fondness for many of our imports from the east. Throughout my four years on campus, I have found myself surrounded by a disproportionate number of Appletonians and Milwaukeeites, Oshkoshers and Eau Claireians. This is strange for even me to consider. Allow me to explain.
Roughly four years ago, a residence hall official with a sense of humor placed me on the first floor of Brady Hall. Ironically, it turned out to be a turfless satellite of Lambeau Field. When the roll was called our first day, the rogues from Wisconsin outnumbered Minnesotans nearly 2 to 1. Worse yet, I was positioned at the far end of the hallway in an impermeable pocket of self-described cheeseheads. My roommate, neighbors and R.A. all hailed from dairy country. I grew nervous.
When I noticed the other Minnesotans were entrenched on the opposite end of the floor, I began to suspect the whole group was pulling my leg. A college prank … I get it. Alas, the arrangement was official. An odd assortment of South Dakotans, Iowans and an amiable Californian lay in no-man’s land at the center. I tried to stay calm.
But this proved difficult after I discovered a bewildering set of window decorations pressed against the glass of another first-floor room in Brady Hall. Looking ominously out into the upper quad, a humongous color cutout of Paul Giamatti hung next to a Packer helmet transparency. Rumors reached me that a VHS library of grainy Reggie White videos was stored just behind the giant Giamatti head. I was reaching my breaking point.
Lucky for me, it turned out all of these guys were pretty nice. Mark and I made an ideal pair of roommates (despite his affinity for faded Don Beebe jerseys).
Further down, Kevin and Cali would playfully engage passers-by (usually Rick, the Iowan) with dangerously pressurized pneumatic Nerf missiles. Soon, I discovered Matt and A.C. were the owners of the giant head, and I verified their collection of old VHS Packers videos with my own wincing eyes. But even these fellows were friendly and approachable.
Across the hall, Jim studied while Danny played air guitar for his Dowling friends. R.A. Joe paced the halls with a bemused but watchful smirk while the rest of us ran amok with duct tape and stacks of freely acquired flat-rate boxes from the U.S. Postal Service. Dan talked Twins baseball with Zach, Nate and me while we brushed our teeth to ’80s power ballads. Everybody got along famously, and I even warmed up to the revelation that Vince Lombardi’s son had once been our running back.
The whole floor often played football on the foul territory of the baseball field. Humorously, the leading tackler was the Cretin Avenue fence line. Fleet-footed Billy or Shane sometimes ran a fly pattern toward the fence; J.T. would throw it deep and laugh. Altogether, we had a great time in spite of our home-state rivalries; moreover, nobody got hurt, and we were able to settle down when it came time to study.
As the years went on, we still kept tabs on each other, and many of us are good friends to this day. I suspect many floors throughout our residence halls have experienced – and will continue to experience – this same sense of phenomenal camaraderie. Perhaps much of it can be explained by the way general proximity between dissimilar people makes things more interesting.
About the author: Brady Narloch is from Eden Prairie. He will graduate in December 2010 with degrees in finance and economics.