My one-word answer was easy and instantaneous: "Wisconsin."
I can't imagine that; a Michigan undergrad rooting for a conference rival. I know a former UW prof who used to live in your neighborhood. She's an Ohio State undergrad/University of Chicago Ph.D. Even as a Wisconsin faculty member, she knew who to root for. No doubt; no hesitation.Key word: "former." How long was she here? I have been on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin for 30 years.
When she was here, how long ago had she been at Ohio State? At this point in my life, 40 years separate me from my Michigan student self.
But let me tell you about my Michigan student self. These were hippie days, Vietnam War protest days, days of the "10 for 2" "John Sinclair Freedom Rally," days of a student strike to demand that the Michigan regents adopt a policy of affirmative action. If you had told Student Althouse that one day she would be a law professor teaching about a Supreme Court case that said the University of Michigan regents violated the Constitution by doing affirmative action, it would have perplexed the hell out of her. What bizarre turns of events would need to occur for that to become reality? If you had told Student Althouse that later years would find her living in a hovel, tending a subsistence garden, and selling tiny ink drawings on the street, she'd have recognized a future that flowed — organically — from this education at the University of Michigan.
I'm lucky they let me into law school after that. (Thank you, NYU, and thank you, LSAT.)
So spectator sports have not had much of a place in my life. In 30 years living practically on campus at the University of Wisconsin, I've gone to exactly one event — a football game where the Badgers played Purdue, and that was to go with Meade, who has longstanding ties to Purdue. (He grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana.)
But I do feel the mood of my environment. I get the vicarious experience of the emotion people around me in my city feel about what happens to the Wisconsin teams. From my house, I hear the cheering in the football stadium. For decades, the sound of the marching band playing "On Wisconsin" has drifted up from the practice field over by the lake to my windows. I like it when the people of Madison, Wisconsin feel good.
I don't like it enough to want my fellow citizens to get their way in politics. But unlike the outcomes of elections, there are no consequences to the outcomes of sports events. There are winners and losers, some people will be happy and some will be sad, so I can safely and easily prefer that the people who are happy are the people in my immediate proximity. I know the Madison citizenry feels aggrieved politically, and this grimness sometimes affects me and I deal with it.
But to walk down the street in the real, physical space that is Madison, Wisconsin is — on most occasions — to see the great satisfaction we feel in our long-term relationship with the Badgers.