When they told Barry the city of Madison stood to lose about 12 million bucks if the WIAA basketball tournaments moved to Green Bay, his response was….and I quote…..”ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz”.
So let’s just let Barry sleep a while longer.
For those not following the game, the WIAA is considering moving the boys and girls state basketball tournaments out of Madison because there’s a conflict in scheduling March Madness. Come next year, the Badgers Hockey team will be competing in the newly-formed Big Ten Conference, and there’s a chance….a chance….that the Big Ten Hockey Conference will want to play its championship games at the Kohl Center.
For the moment, let’s set aside the idea that playing the Big Ten Hockey Conference’s championship games at the home rink of a member institution is a flawed idea, and that there are plenty of other neutral-ice venues which are capable of hosting such an event.
Let’s instead talk first about the emotional aspect of the WIAA state basketball tournaments. If you’ve ever been a student or parent at a school that qualified for the state tourney, you know what a thrill it is to go to Madison for this colorful annual event. All the best teams are there; you get to wander down that crazy State Street where you become part of the melting pot of politics and academia. Whether or not you realize it, your mind gets a sense of “The Wisconsin Idea”, connecting the great university on one end of the street with the imposing capitol building on the other end. You look up and see that gorgeous building – the people’s house, YOUR state capitol – and you watch (or play) in an arena you’ve seen so often on TV, the arena where the athletes of YOUR state university play. It’s a symphony for the senses.
Now let’s talk about some of the even more intangible aspects of the WIAA state basketball tournaments. As our former mayor - the one with the difficult-to-spell-and-pronounce Polish name – has recently pointed out in his excellent screed on the topic, Madison needs every opportunity to connect itself viscerally with the people of the state who don’t live here. Madison is a pejorative for “collection of crazy politicians and students and professors”; Madison is known as the place where all those lefty progressives live, march, and protest; Madison is tied eternally to its history of activism. When you come from wherever….Boscobel, Neenah, Rice Lake, Monroe, Eau Claire, Tomahawk, Wauwatosa, Wautoma, Wyocena, you-name-it….and drink in the reality of your state capital…it helps create a bond between you and your capital city, and the huge university you support with your taxes. It’s a GOOD thing.
Let’s talk about the hard, tangible aspect of the WIAA state basketball tournaments: by most reliable accounts, the tournaments bring in about 12 million dollars in hard cash to Madison. Hotels, restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, bars, liquor stores, convenience stores, and dozens of other enterprises large and small benefit from the influx of ‘sconnies from the boonies. And they’re the best kind of dollars you can get: the ones that come from outside your community.
Decision time on moving the WIAA state basketball tournaments is approaching. Milwaukee can’t do it; their arenas are booked. Green Bay can do it, and a lot of folks are talking about moving the tournaments to the Resch Center there.
So let’s let Barry nap a bit longer – say, another week or so. And then, let’s get his ass out of bed with a bucket of cold water just as big as the one in the picture at the top of this rant. And let’s remind him that it’s time for him to say “thank you” in a very tangible way to the community and the state which have enriched him, by using his influence to tell the Big Ten Commissioner “sorry, the Kohl Center is in use by the people of our state during Big Ten Hockey Tournament time; you’ll have to look elsewhere”.