“We kind of knew each other, playing like older brother, younger brother in the backyard is how I think it was.”
– Trevon Hughes, 2009
I don’t know if you know this or not, Milwaukee, but Madison doesn’t respect you. This permeates all the way from the administration on down to the fans in the nosebleeds at the Kohl Center. There is nothing about being a Panther that doesn’t get you a look down the nose from one of Bucky’s faithful.
From Bucky’s point of view, it’s only natural. The University of Wisconsin was the name of their school, until that other school sprang up out of nowhere and made them share. It’s where the doctors, lawyers, and businessmen from our great state went to school, the highest public education our state provides. It’s only natural for Bucky to look down on us.
The safety school. The commuter school. The “Mistake by the Lake.” The school that is nothing but a place for students to go when they can’t get into Madison.
It’s worth bringing up in the academic sense because that is the foundation of Madison’s ire toward Milwaukee, and athletics is the place where that ire comes out.
Here’s the facts. We’re not Madison. We don’t stack up in terms of enrollment, endowment, research, perception, or a myriad of different reasons. We don’t have a medical school, or law school, and while our business school is getting better and better every year, we’re not there yet. We play in the Horizon League, not the Big Ten. We don’t play football on Saturdays, we play basketball, and get looked down the noses by Madison because the basketball teams we do play in conference are the same teams that they mop up in non-conference play (well, not really. I think they remember Butler).
But you know something? I don’t care. Milwaukee is a world class institution. Our arts program is one of the best in the world, as is our architecture program. The School of Freshwater Sciences is the only one of its kind in the nation, and the school of Public Health is the only one in the state. Our film school is one of the best in the world. Our alumni have won the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer, Academy Award and much more. We’ve had CEO’s of many Fortune 500 companies, the President of Peru and Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel. There are 30,000 students and 140,000 alumni who call our wonderful school “Alma Mater.”
This winter, our athletics program will break Notre Dame’s record of 111 Horizon League Titles. The basketball team won the regular season championship and has gone deep in the Dance before, with big plans to do it again soon.
If that’s not good enough for Madison, they can take it and shove it. Milwaukee does not exist to be Madison’s JV team. Freshmen and sophomores at UWM do not play on JV and then play Madison varsity as juniors and seniors.
We are the Milwaukee Panthers, and we are a great athletics program in our own right. That program is independent of Madison.
This is our town. Milwaukee is emblazoned across our chests, on our court, on our logo, on our program. Sixty thousand of Milwaukee’s 140,000 living alumni call the area home. Where Madison is a city that exists around the university, Milwaukee is a university that exists to serve the city. The School of Public Health, School of Freshwater Sciences, Lubar School of Business, the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, all of these schools are necessary for the city to move forward.
This is our school. We didn’t attend Madison. We attended classes on the East Side. We spent warm days on Bradford Beach. We got hammered on North Avenue. We were woken up in the middle of the night by shouting matches between Sandburg West and South. We studied in Golda Meir’s library and got food in the Gasthaus on lunch breaks.
This is our team. So many people lay claim to the Badgers, but how many of them share that institution or city with the team? This is Milwaukee, the city’s team. We’ve built our legacy on home town heroes from Ray Perine to Joah Tucker to Ricky Franklin and Anthony Hill. The Panthers are a program that we can be proud of, a group of young men and women that do things the right way. They really are student-athletes, and they represent the Black and Gold. We are the Black and Gold.
Our town. Our school. Our team.
Go Panthers! Fight, Fight, for UWM!