Saturday, December 9, 2023

2023 Card-vent Calendar: December 8

December 8, 2023:
2015 Panini Wisconsin Team Collection #10 Paul Bunyan's Axe

It was two weeks ago today that the Wisconsin Badgers bought the Axe back to its rightful home.  Being beaten by the Gophers for two years in a row was positively distasteful.  If one looks at college football from a certain perspective, most teams play a slate of games each season that are essentially meaningless.  Take my Badgers, for instance.  I have gotten to watch my team win three Rose Bowls, two of them while I was a student in Madison.  We have also lost four Rose Bowls in the last decade-and-a-half, three of them in consecutive seasons.  We've won an Orange Bowl (2017) and lost a Champs Sports Bowl (2008).  Hell, we won a goddamned Mayonnaise Bowl a few years ago.  

Now image we could go back and change the outcome of any one of these bowls.  What would it change?
Not a thing.

Unless your team is in the CFP, you may not have a meaningful game on your schedule all year.  Maybe all decade.  If you're a team outside of the Power 5, maybe conference titles mean something to you, but not to the rest of the football world.

College football for most is just a series of exhibitions devoid of any real importance.  If you're outside of the playoff, no single contest is of any more importance than some game you could look up in a team almanac from 1983.  Unless...

Unless it's a rivalry game.  

Is there a game on the schedule that could at least partially determine your mood for the next 365 days?  I'm talking about the Iron Bowl.  The Game.  Army-Navy.

My Wisconsin Badgers have a few of those secondary rivalry games with trophies that have been around for less time than some of the socks in my drawer.  Yeah, I'm not losing sleep over the loss of the Heartland Trophy when we lose to Iowa.

But that Axe, though.  There's something about it that taps into a fan's primal nature.  It was a sick feeling to watch Minnesota parade around with it the last two years.  Seriously, the Badgers could go 0-11 or 0-12 or whatever for the rest of the schedule, and beating Minnesota could excuse all the other results.  Maybe it's the proximity to or the frequency with which I find myself in the state.  Or maybe it's the smugness of kids I went to high school with who thought they were outsmarting the system by going to the U of M and eschewing the more prestigious college in their home state.  (Oooh, you're such an iconoclast!  No, you're fucking stupid.)  Or maybe it's she shape of the trophy itself.  I mean, it's a big fucking axe.  It's an objectively cool thing.  Other rivalries tend to have these cornball trophies.  Two SEC schools battling over Pee-Paw's Old Hickory Spittoon, or a couple of mid-tier Pac-12 squads fighting to take home Prospector Snuffy's Slippery Sluice.  Nah, in my rivalry the trophy is something you could kill someone with, if you were so inclined.

So, if your team has that one significant game on the calendar each year, cherish it.  Hold it close.  It's a beacon of importance amid an endless series of Saturday afternoons that don't mean a damn thing.


  1. I've never been a college football fan, but this post got me fired up! Go get that Axe!!

  2. That's a pretty cool rivalry game. Since SJSU isn't usually good... there are only a handful of games on each schedule that I'm interested in each season. I'll check out any games between the Spartans and fellow Bay Area schools: CAL and/or Stanford. I'm also interested when they play UH, since most of my relatives live in Hawaii and love the Rainbow Warriors. Last but not least... there's the Fresno State game. They're our main rivals. Seems like they always kick our butts, but we did win this season.

  3. I went to Champaign in the mid 90's. That was a suck fest sports wise.