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Wisconsin sports pride Is unparalleled

Photo: Image by USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin sports pride Is unparalleled

By John Rehor. CREATED Apr 7, 2014

Over the past month, I did something I had never done before as a sports fan.  I watched the NCAA Tournament with earnest.

It gave me an even greater window to the incredible connection people in Wisconsin have with their sports teams.
 
Some of you may be thinking “So what?” regarding this. Why would this be any sort of a big deal, right?

Allow me to explain.
 
In years past, I would watch the tournament casually, without much interest in any one particular team. If the games were on, I would watch. If they were not, it would be no big loss. It was more background noise than anything else, a way to make time pass before the start of baseball season.

This year was different though, as this was the year I picked a team to follow.  I chose the Wisconsin Badgers, though I’m not sure why I did.

Maybe because it’s close to Illinois, where I live, and Illinois basketball teams stink.

Maybe it's a little bit of watching peers follow them. Perhaps a bit of both.

Whatever the reason was, I was going to follow throughout their journey, and what a journey it was.

From their round of 64 blowout victory over American to their stellar victories over Oregon and Baylor, and their one-point victory over Arizona to propel them into the Final Four, I was there, watching, rooting, cheering for the Badgers to win.
 
The same was true for their Final Four game against Kentucky Saturday night. I cheered when they were within seconds of winning the game. I was sad when they lost by one point, ending their season.

As the tournament progressed and ultimately came to a conclusion short of the ultimate goal, I became aware of something which had never been noticed previously.

The pride of Wisconsin sports fans - regardless of the team - is unmatched.

Consider the teams which play in Wisconsin. When the Green Bay Packers win, it is a source of joy for their entire fan base. When they lose, it is as though every fan is personally affected by the loss.

The same type of emotional connection between fans and their favorite teams holds true for the Milwaukee Brewers, the Badgers, the Marquette Golden Eagles and even the UWM Panthers, as shown by the outpouring of support during their NCAA tournament run this year.

As for the Bucks: let’s not go there right now.

The loss the Badgers experienced and the emotional loss their fans jointly shared is proof of this pride.

When the team hurts, the fans hurt as well.

That is a unique connection that few states, if any, can equal.

I had always known being a Packers fan was a unique experience, a source of pride. The NCAA Tournament showed me that this pride extends far beyond the Packers.

It extends to all sports teams in Wisconsin.

Cheeseheads, you are fortunate to have such pride in your teams.

John Rehor (@jrehor on Twitter) is a writer at PackersTalk.com and co-host of Cheesehead Radio.