SEEMAN: Wisconsin one-upsmanship

The Marquette women’s tennis team’s 6-1 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers last Wednesday reminded me how difficult life can be as a Marquette student who grew up wearing red and white.

A little background: I’m from Janesville, Wis., about 45 miles south of Madison. When I was 5 years old, Wisconsin won the Rose Bowl. The Badgers did it twice more when I was 10 and 11, and I started wearing all varieties of Badger sweatshirts: hooded or crew, red or black, with Bucky or sans.

If you were a kid in Janesville during the 1990s, you had no choice. Indoctrination into the Cult of the Badger was a rite of passage.

Even after Dwyane Wade piloted Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, I still identified more with Badger basketball. Probably because the rivalry between Alando Tucker’s Badgers and Deron Williams’ Fighting Illini intensified the innate disdain I had as a Janesvillean for flatlanders and their lack of driving ability.

Once I got here, though, I cut the hypnagogic brand of roundball the Badgers still play out of my life. It simply couldn’t hold my attention when I had exciting players like Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews to keep my eye on.

Those days — when Marquette was capable of taking down the Badgers in the Kohl Center — seem like a distant memory now.

As I’m reminded by friends, cousins and random people in bars every time I go home, the state’s flagship public school has taken control over Wisconsin’s preeminent private school in terms of athletics.

Or, it would seem that way to fans who only pay attention to the cash cows of collegiate sports, football and men’s basketball.

Obviously, Marquette has to concede the gridiron to Wisconsin. Not only did the Badgers play in a BCS bowl this past season, but they actually have a football program. Well played, Barry Alvarez.

The 69-64 basketball loss to Wisconsin on Dec. 11 and the fact that the Badgers will finish with a better win-loss record in the sport both serve as more proof that Wisconsin is simply better at sports than Marquette (though I often wonder where the Badgers would wind up in a Big East containing almost as many ranked teams as the Big Ten has total teams. That’s an argument for a different day).

But one game does not a rivalry make.

On the peripheries of NCAA athletics, where mere mortals dare not venture, Marquette and Wisconsin are a lot closer than the portrait painted by the high-profile sports suggests. Here are some talking points for the next time any Marquette student is forced to socialize with those know-it-alls from back west.

1. American football is great, but what about futbol?

If we’re talking about closeness, the season series between the schools’ soccer teams was about as tight as Andre the Giant’s wrestling sling.

In a women’s exhibition match with the Badgers on Aug. 14, the Golden Eagles played to a 1-1 draw. With way more on the line in an NCAA Tournament game three months later, the two sides found themselves in another dogfight that ended in a penalty kick shootout. Marquette advanced after slotting home five penalty kicks to Wisconsin’s four.

Marquette’s men’s soccer team also topped the Badgers 1-0 on Sept. 28 with junior midfielder Calum Mallace blasting a free kick into the back of the Wisconsin goal and sophomore goalkeeper David Check notching the fourth of his six clean sheets on the season.

2. You know, women play basketball, too.

I’ll hearken again to my Janesville days when, as a student at Parker High School, females playing hoops always yielded better results than males playing hoops.

The same rang true in the Marquette-Wisconsin rivalry when the Golden Eagles rode senior guard Angel Robinson’s 21 points to a 66-52 victory at the Kohl Center on Nov. 24.

3. Wisconsin: Thanks for one of the greatest players in Marquette volleyball history.

Volleyball coach Bond Shymansky took over the Golden Eagles program in 2009 following an uninspiring 11-18 record in 2008. That same year, a setter named Nikki Klingsporn joined the team after playing two seasons with the Badgers.

Once here, she didn’t do much. Unless recording the fourth-most assists in program history in only two years on campus, earning first team All-Big East honors and an All-America honorable mention her senior year, turning a losing program into a winning program, and playing professional volleyball in Spain mean something to someone. But other than that, nothing.

So there you have ’em. Three reasons why it’s still acceptable to hum “Ring Out Ahoya” instead of “On, Wisconsin” in the Badger State. Use them wisely.