‘Sea of Red’ gives students new identity

first_imgWhen authoritative figures tell college students to do something, the requests usually fall upon deaf ears.Tell them to stop drinking, watch their eating habits and get some sleep, and it’s likely to result in a pretty good amount of students enjoying pizza and beer at 2 a.m. while watching re-runs of “The Daily Show.”At the University of Wisconsin, this especially rings true. Long recognized as a hotbed of activism, protests have become as much a part of the Badger tradition as Bucky himself. From the Vietnam War to gay marriage, students have long made their voices heard on campus by vocalizing their displeasure with those in power.But after years of sticking it to “the man,” students have finally found one they are willing to listen to: head football coach Bret Bielema.Two weeks ago Bielema, in only his second year at the helm, urged fans to dress exclusively in red for Badger home games. No gray UW T-shirts, no white Wisconsin hats, just red. The coach laid out his vision of Camp Randall Stadium as a “Sea of Red.”Amazingly, students adhered to the coach’s request.Starting with The Citadel and continuing Saturday against Iowa, an overwhelming majority of fans, especially in the student section, have shed their white, gray and black Wisconsin apparel in favor of red.Considering Bielema made his announcement at a press conference and not on Facebook (though a group was created to relay the message; it currently has over 2,000 members), the response has been pretty impressive.It probably helped the coach’s case that the football team is ranked in the top 10 nationally and holds the longest winning streak in the country. At this point, fans have plenty of reasons to have a little faith in the coach.Not surprisingly, the team is 2-0 since the fans adopted the all-red look.Now it would be naive to think that there’s a direct correlation between fan dress unity and on-field success, but wearing the same color to games certainly provides its advantages.For one, spotting opposing fans is now easier than ever before. Unless it’s Indiana (or another team with red as a primary color) rolling into town, supporters of Wisconsin’s opponent stick out like a sore thumb, making it considerably easier to find targets for fans to direct their verbal attacks. When Michigan State comes to town this weekend, the Spartan fans and their green attire aren’t going to be difficult for Wisconsin fans to find and poke fun atThere’s no arguing UW is flush with school spirit, but having everyone wear the same color does even more to unify the students. Want to know why College GameDay hasn’t visited Madison in a few years? Well, it’s at least partially to do with particular chants the ESPN crew (and probably most people) deem offensive. The new attire gives the student section a chance to reinvent itself as a still spirited, but slightly more refined bunch.Additionally, the “Sea of Red” gives Wisconsin a hook that can hopefully become synonymous with the football team. College football, in this era, has become about more than just on-field talent. Now, schools hoping to draw the eyes of poll voters and national television broadcasts must have something other than a good team to distinguish themselves.It’s no coincidence that many of the nation’s top teams are as easily recognized by their stadiums and student sections as they are by their quarterback.Florida, last year’s national champion, welcomes opponents to “the Swamp,” Georgia makes its home “Between the Hedges,” Michigan brings 110,000 fans into “the Big House,” and LSU calls the ominously named “Death Valley” home.If fans want Wisconsin to be known for something other than bratwursts and cheese curds, turning the home field into a “Sea of Red” is certainly a step in the right direction.The University Book Store is doing its part to help the cause; now only red items appear in the windows, encouraging fans to keep up the trend as Wisconsin’s newest tradition begins to build roots, but ultimately it comes down to the willingness of the fans to keep the trend going. As long as the football team is winning, there doesn’t seem much of an argument to be made against keeping it up, though.Only time will tell whether or not the tradition continues. It’s easy to take part in the “redness” at first, but can it really last forever? If the team stops winning, fans might stop caring and a return to the white UW tees and Brett Favre jerseys that used to dominate the stands.Win or lose, though, I vote to stick with Bielema’s idea for a while.After all, if Moses parting the Red Sea was a miracle, then the football coach creating a “Sea of Red” has got to be a good omen.Mike is a sophomore with an undecided major. If you”d like to offer another reason why wearing red is a good thing, or know of any other Bret Bielema requests, he can be reached at [email protected]last_img

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