Mama Madison: Championships should be in Madison

It's a great childhood ritual

March Madness is intoxicating, even for people like me who have absolutely no interest in basketball. I love hearing my husband and kids talk about brackets and busting. And it's also an excellent way to begin discussing the concept of a college search. All three of my children were eager to know where schools like Murray State, St. Bonaventure and Belmont were located. Thanks to my friends at Google I now know the answers are Kentucky, New York and Tennessee, respectively.

But "Madness" doesn't begin to touch the way I was feeling heading onto campus for a meeting last Friday morning. As I do every year, I'd forgotten about the traffic insanity caused by thousands of high school basketball players and their families descending upon the isthmus in hopes of a Wisconsin state hoops championship. I could have cart wheeled onto campus faster than it took me to drive from my front door to the appropriately named parking lot under the "Lucky" building ---I may just have snagged the very last parking place in the Library Mall vicinity.

But the twenty-minute standstill I encountered turning left off Johnson onto Lake allowed me time to reflect on what's so darn cool about having this tournament in town. Yes, it's inspiring for kids to get to play on the same floor as their beloved Wisconsin Badgers. And based on the overflow crowd at every State Street restaurant, the economic benefits of being the host city are pretty clear.

But as I sat stagnant, I thought about the fact that this tournament began just two days after I chaperoned my daughter's fourth grade class on a fabulous field trip to the state Capitol. We had perfect weather, an outrageously knowledgeable tour guide, and the chance to sit in the Senate chambers. The trip culminated with a private lunch in a marble-walled meeting room with Representative Leon Young of Milwaukee's 16th district---a classmate's mom is his legislative aide.

You'd think the kids would be impressed, right? But while they were polite and appreciative, especially of the corn chips given to us by the members of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association who we met in the hall, this was a group of kids that the Capitol is old hat for. Probably full two thirds of them had dutifully joined their parents for a few rounds s of "What's Disgusting? Union Busting" at the height of protests last winter. I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of them had even participated in rotunda sleepovers. And when the tour guide asked this particular group of fourth graders who did the Capitol belong to, they didn't miss a beat. "It's our house," they all chimed in.

But it's possible many of the kids coming in for the state basketball tournament had never set foot in Madison before, much less seen the glorious granite Capitol building up close and personal. Sure, for many the hallowed halls of the Kohl Center might have had more meaning in the heat of tournament action. But hopefully they all got a sense that Madison is more than just the home of the Badgers and a chance to eat at Dotty Dumplings or State Street Brats. I hope being in the capital city served as a reminder that regardless of their or their parent's political persuasions, they should be proud to be from, not just to play in, the state of Wisconsin.

There have been many discussions surrounding the potential movement of the tournament from Madison. For me, it's not just a question of whether Green Bay says football instead of basketball. Or if their parking and hotels are more affordable.

Because Green Bay certainly does have a lot to offer---the iconic Lambeau Field, an interesting meat packing history and the National Railroad Museum.

But these students are playing for the Wisconsin State Championship. And Madison has their house.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.

Make Music Madison gives young artists a chance to perform

The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.

Mama Madison: Watching talent grow

Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.

Mama Madison: Writing time at Olbrich

If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.

Mama Madison: When UW-Madison's semester is over, the kids want out too

There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.

Mama Madison: Another amazing talent show

My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.

Mama Madison: Preserving children's stories

My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.

Tenting tonight? Not so fast -- take the time to prepare for the first family camping trip

What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.

Mama Madison: It's time for the college tour

I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.

Mama Madison: When mom gets a new roomie

This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.


Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!