Schoep’s and friend make trip to Final Four the best!
On April 4 my father, Pete Culver, and I, Peder Culver, II, drove down to Indianapolis, IN, to watch the Wisconsin Badgers play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four for the men’s college basketball championship. It was an amazing experience and one that made me reflect on my life as a Badger fan.
While in Indianapolis we attended three basketball games, featuring four of the best teams in college basketball over the 2014-15 season.
Kentucky was trying to make history as the first team in 39 years to go undefeated and win the National Championship; Michigan State was trying to overcome an average season by making another tournament run; Duke and their coach, Mike Krzyzewski, were going for their fifth title in the past 25 years; and my Badgers were vying for their first Championship in 74 years.
With over 70,000 people in attendance at each game and thousands more in town just to experience the atmosphere, any true fan would be wearing their team colors with pride. Walking down the street it is easy to notice which team had the most fans and who were the most passionate. Events like this allow me to bring out clothing and props collected over many years of being an avid fan. You can dress as crazy as you want and not feel uncomfortable. “This was my element!”
My dad and I traveled to Indianapolis without tickets to the games. We were hoping to get tickets through the university, but we didn’t have enough seniority to qualify. I put out a plea on Facebook as a last ditch effort to get tickets or we’d try to buy them on the street.
Our prayers were answered by an acquaintance, Dan Mielke, from Wild Rose. He happened to have two tickets from a business partner, Schoep’s Ice Cream, and two tickets from the University of Wisconsin. Having seen my Facebook post, Mielke kindly gave me his two Schoep’s tickets in exchange for a donation to the Wild Rose Library, a win/win/win. My father and I happily agreed.
My chosen garb for Saturday night’s game versus Kentucky included the following: red Wisconsin Badger shoes; red and white striped Wisconsin socks; shiny red “hot pants” with white W’s on the back pockets; a red shirt covered by a white tuxedo vest from my wedding with a large red “W” on the back; my favorite unique Badger hat; and the license plate off my truck that reads, “FNL FOUR”.
Individually each item has a back-story and can get compliments, but together the response was overwhelming. Within five minutes of arriving in Indianapolis a husband and wife wearing Spartan green walked up to us. The man gave me a big hug while his wife asked for my permission to squeeze my butt! “Welcome to the Final Four!”
Over the next few hours before game, a fair number of fans passed us stating, “Cool Plate”, “Nice Pants!”, “Great Hat”, and “Awesome outfit!” I often get this on game day.
There were a few photo requests to join in a picture with fellow Wisconsin fans, as well as a few from fans of the other teams. It’s all part of the college sports atmosphere and I loved it! Walking in a large crowd, people typically notice the hat first, then are drawn in by either the license plate or the pants.
Once inside a stadium TV cameras often find me, but the Final Four venues are huge and the odds of being spotted, even in my unique style, were not good.
Wisconsin went on to beat Kentucky to send their fans home very disappointed. History was supposed to be made, but Wisconsin ended their dream. Although the game ended close to midnight and with the high all the fans were on, everyone was ready to party.
The lobby of the team hotel was the place to be and people were packed like sardines. My father and I couldn’t get in the door, so I can only imagine what that was like. Lines for the bars around the stadiums were forming. We were lucky to get into one without a line and enjoy some camaraderie with other fans.
More photo requests were made and, as always, I happily complied. You soon realize that just wearing a fun, but non-threatening outfit is an instant conversation starter.
As I have been known to do from time-to-time, I posted a question on Facebook, “What should I wear tonight?” For the first time I offered someone the opportunity to pick my outfit for a donation to a local charity. There were no takers, as everyone expected me to wear the same thing as Saturday to not jinx our team.
Game time wasn’t until 9 p.m. and we arrived downtown around Noon, which was when the real fun began. I have never been asked to be a part of so many pictures. I joked that I could have charged one dollar per photo and paid for my trip.
Badger fans are so much fun. I met one man who recognized me and asked, “Were you in Albuquerque for the Sweet 16? Indeed I was there, with my father, in 2000 to watch Wisconsin upset everyone on their way to an unlikely trip to the first Final Four in our lifetimes. The funny thing is I wore bibs and an entirely different hat back then, but the overall ‘image’ must have been the same.
The only item on my agenda for the day was to attend the pep rally before the game. We missed Saturday’s event as the line was over 100 yards long and no one could get in until someone left. We didn’t wait to find out.
Monday’s rally was set for 4:30 p.m. and we scouted out the area beforehand. While there, I met my first media correspondent of the day. He was the official UW-Badgers Twitter author and requested time to take my picture for the website.
He and I made arrangements to meet inside the pep rally later. Dad and I walked around town and met some friends at a local bar to pass the time until the pep rally. During this time I was stopped twice for television interviews. First by Channel 13 in Indianapolis, who asked about the city as a host to the event and the new, controversial law and its effects on fans. The second was for a station in North Carolina looking for the Wisconsin perspective of the upcoming game.
At 3:30 p.m. Dad and I decided it was time to head back to the convention center to get in line for the pep rally. Sure enough, the line was already 50 yards long, but there was a women giving out passes to everyone in line, and when the tickets were gone you couldn’t get in.
We secured a couple of tickets and waited for the doors to open. I walked down the long hallway to see if I could find my Twitter friend, but he was not around. On my walk back to our spot in line I was grabbed by no less than 20 groups of fans asking for photos with me. I was also tracked down by Katie, a reporter for WTMJ4 in Milwaukee who was going live at 6 p.m., 5 p.m. Milwaukee time, and wanted to meet me inside for the live feed. “Absolutely!”