Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Polka, a three-legged goat and filthy, filthy rap lyrics

          My Sly Fox Brewery Goat Race coverage began with me driving and having to turn around in a senior center’s parking lot on my quest for parking. I was blaring my latest kick, Childish Gambino’s song "Bonfire," with the windows down. Several people walking into the building slowly turned around and stared at me as they obviously heard the music coming from my car, of which the lyrics are absolutely filthy.
            I knew from that moment that this would be a good day.
            After successfully finding a parking space, I walked past the Wendy’s toward the parking lot for the shopping center that Sly Fox’s brewpub stands in.
            What immediately greeted me were tables set up for beer pong and a few games of beanbags.
            Things were definitely looking up.
            In what was quickly becoming a theme of being progressively surprised with better and better things, I happened upon a stage in the middle of the lot where four men and a woman dressed in Bavarian beer hall garb cranked out polka music.
            Coming from the University of Wisconsin with the tradition of the 5th Quarter, where polka music is featured prominently after games, I was absolutely thrilled to listen to Emil Schanta and his band for a little while.
Other traditions
            In a thoroughly good mood, I moved through the crowd to an area near the parking lot’s end that had been cordoned off for the actual racing of the goats. People were already gathered on the macadam there and on a green, wooded rise just off of the parking lot’s end.
            Because I was tasked with taking video for the event, I decided to get there before the racing started so I’d have a good position.
            That good position turned out to be standing in a bush.
If you look really hard, just a little of my elbow is visible in the one on the right.
            Firmly planted in the bush, I waited for the races to start. I’d noticed earlier while walking around that there were a lot of dogs out and about, though I’d yet to see a goat.While waiting in the bush, a fairly large dog knocked me in the back of the knee, almost causing me to fall.
            It was basically the same deal as when I, as my sisters’ older brother and rightful tormentor, will tap the back of their knee with my foot when they’re walking down the hall so that I can watch them suddenly crumple to the floor.
            Turning around to see what kind of dog it was, I found that a goat, being towed toward the starting line, was the culprit.
            It was then that I realized goats are much larger than I anticipated.
Trust me, they're big. This photo is deceptive.
            After that, the goats, generally fighting their “goat coaches” the whole way, streamed toward the line.
            It wasn’t long before the races began. I thought the goats would be sort of shooed toward the other end of the line.
            That’s not how it works.
            What I discovered is that goats do not voluntarily race.
            Instead, their “goat coaches” run ahead of them with dog leashes attached and basically lead the goats by example, prompting them to run by running themselves.
            However, some goats, maybe even most goats, still don’t want to run.
            In that case, their coaches will do everything they can to make them move, tugging on the leashes, pushing their behinds, even picking them up and running them to the line.
            One girl even tried dancing ahead of her goat.
It was slightly less sensual than this....because there was a goat there.
            As such, what I concluded is that to win a goat race, one’s goat doesn’t necessarily have to be the fastest but, actually, the most willing to run.
            Apparently, the goat most willing to run Sunday was also the most unlikely if you were to look at it.
            Peggy is missing one of her hind legs. However, Peggy was also a champion in 2011.
            Coming into the event, I figured I’d just poke around for an hour or so then leave and get done writing obituaries early for the day.
            But my enjoyment of the event as a whole deep-sixed that plan.
            And when I heard the crowd chanting Peggy’s name, I suddenly found myself invested in who was winning. Watching her green-shirted coach running in each heat, I willed him to the line, not necessarily for the goat's benefit, but because everyone around me seemed to want her to win so badly.
            For the final few races, I couldn’t even see the goats. I just watched their coaches running, the goats beneath them obscured by the crowd. I stood next to the polka stage so that I could hear the results of each heat clearly and record them.
              As such, I was standing next to the wooden case for the band’s brass instrument man. That spot smelled so much of pine wood and beer that I was transported back to the Essen Haus, a favorite bar in Madison.
             With my excitement at a pinnacle for the race and such a happy memory on my mind, I was going nowhere.
             Eventually, in a close finish, Peggy was declared the second, all-time repeat champion of the goat races. She was feted before the stage and mobbed by a crowd as if she were  Lindsay Lohan walking out of a McDonald’s.
I met her dad once. That's a different story. Back to goats...
            I didn’t stay long after the final race. I thought about buying a beer but eventually decided that if I couldn't find a manager to interview and possibly get a free one, I might as well forget it.
            All in all, I enjoyed that assignment tremendously. It seemed like a throwaway, especially since I wasn’t scheduled to write an article for it, but it was a blast. I’m already looking forward to next year.
            In the meantime, I’m hoping there’s something similar to spend a Sunday on.
            Maybe llama racing outside Craft Ale House?
            A boy can dream.

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