Pigskins and pints

By Marc Katz

I’m actually writing this before the Ohio State football game at Wisconsin Saturday night, but the marching orders from this paper have always been to write a sports column without the scores.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do, and not tell you the Buckeyes beat the Badgers like they did Bowling Green, or that the Badgers ruined OSU’s National Championship aspirations.

I am going to tell you about Madison, Wisconsin, because it was probably the best place to visit during my 20 years covering Ohio State football.

Yeah, it was the ice cream shops, but my wife already knew that. And if you stay with me to the end, I’ll tell you how to work off those extra calories from a place where I believe 23 percent butterfat is the norm.

The first time I visited Madison, it was actually a little on the warm side. In my naïveté, I wondered why every other shop on the main street leading from the capitol building to the center of campus was stuffed with down-filled coats. The next time I visited, I sure knew why.

When you’re in Wisconsin during the fall and winter, you’re not much thinking of global warming, although when the waters of Lake Mendota and Lake Monona rise, Madison’s gone. In the back of my mind, I knew I’d heard the word “isthmus” associated with Panama, but didn’t really know what it was.

By definition, it’s a narrow strip of land connecting two other landmasses.

The United States has four of them, including Madison and Seattle. The other two places you’re going to have to look up on your own.

The one in Madison lends itself to cold weather (location, location, location), hence the down parka stores.

My first visit was in 1978, when coach Woody Hayes’ final team visited and busted the Badgers 49-14.

I had the distinct feeling Woody was trying to hold down the score, seeing as one of his former assistant coaches, Dave McClain, was in his first year coaching the Badgers.

McClain, who tragically succumbed to a heart attack a few years later at age 58, never fully received credit for reviving a moribund Wisconsin program, but that turnaround was not evident this day.

Knowing Hayes was touchy about any questions and myself being a rookie on the beat, I considered a question I should ask, finally settling on, “Are you sorry the game got out of hand and you beat a former assistant coach so badly?” Hayes erupted.

“Anyone who would suggest we ran up the score is completely wrong [or something like that],” Hayes bellowed.

It did not occur to me I was asking why he ran up the score. On this day, Wisconsin was just inept. There was nothing the Buckeyes could do except continue to score.

That’s the football part.

As many of you have heard, Hayes was not just about football. He often would leave campus early Friday for away games so he could take his team on tours of interesting places. Wisconsin, because the state capitol building was across the street from where the team stayed, was one of those.

I never took one of those tours with Woody, but I know people who have.

It turns out the four wings of Wisconsin’s capitol were not built at once, so they differ in design. Hayes, for some reason, knew that, instructing them the same way he’d diagram a fullback off-tackle play. He also knew that Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, was born near Cedar Rapids, where the airport that teams use for games at Iowa in Iowa City is located. Visitors welcome. On one such visit, Hayes didn’t like the way the guide was telling Hoover’s story, completing it himself.

At Illinois he told his players to find a class on the Friday before a game and attend, believing they would find out first hand classes were taught better at Ohio State than Illinois.

Hayes himself went to a class in a large auditorium. When the professor noticed his famous visitor, he invited Hayes down to say a few words.

A guy I know who was there said Hayes spoke for quite awhile on Abraham Lincoln.

OK, now what you’ve been waiting for: I have a foolproof method to consume large amounts of ice cream and wear off the calories simultaneously.

This Madison ice cream shop I enjoyed most had two locations in the 1980s–90s, about a mile apart.

I discovered if I consumed a cup of chocolate caramel at one, then walked to the other, I felt like I was working off the calories. At the second stop, I’d order another cup (different flavor), then walk a mile back to the hotel.

One year, it was still about two hours before game time and I had my computer set up and read all my notes. I was told the university dairy store was also excellent, and just a few blocks away from the stadium.

Nobody wanted to go with me. But, again, the exercise was wonderful.

So was the pint of chocolate chip cookie dough.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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