Social media's been a sad and scary place for the past ... well, actually since about social media's entire existence. But there are still gems to be found amongst these horrifying virtual wastelands – and one of those hit people's feeds this past week, going viral and starting fun conversation (that thankfully had nothing to do with current politics).
What's something that feels like (enter noun here) but actually isn't?
ESPN asked what's something that isn't a sport but feels like it's a sport? (I vote parallel parking.) The Twitter account for "The Good Place" asked for things that aren't actually The Bad Place, but feel like they are The Bad Place. The Public Theater in New York asked what isn't Shakespeare but feels like Shakespeare (basically taunting anti-Stratfordians). And Pajiba rounded up some of the most amusing variations on the meme format. But skimming the article, we found ourselves asking a different take on the question.
What are some things that feel like they're totally Wisconsin but actually aren't?
Some of them are things that would logically seem to be Sconnie staples but have nothing to do with our fine state or maybe oddly haven't made the impact you'd think. Others are technicalities, famous faces or phrases embedded in our state's culture or history which actually originnated outside of our borders. But all of them will hopefully give you something fun and amusing to discuss and debate during your upcoming family Thanksgiving Zoom call, sparing you the dreaded conversations about politics or the pandemic!
Without further adieu, here are eight seemingly Sconnie things that actually aren't.
1. The U.P.
The ultimate example of something that looks and feels like Wisconsin yet somehow ... isn't. Every kid born after May 29, 1948 has, while learning the states, looked at a map of the U.S. and assumed the land claw popping off the top of Wisconsin is a part of Wisconsin, only to rudely discover that the Upper Peninsula is actually a part of a state it's not even attached to.
Our apologies if it cost you points on a grade school geography exam – but it's not even our fault! Strangely, that land was taken by Michigan as a result of a fight between the Great Lake State and ... Ohio? That didn't even involve the UP!? Yes, back in the late 18th century, Michigan and Ohio were actually fighting over the Toledo strip, a 468-square-mile chunk of land in between the two states that both claimed as their own. It even led to a war – the Toledo War – albeit one with far more bickering in Congress than bloodletting, thankfully, with Ohioans refusing to let Michigan formally into the Union until it got the land.
In the end, Ohio got the Toledo strip, Michigan got the Upper Peninsula as a consolation prize and everyone got to be confused why Wisconsin's hat doesn't belong to Wisconsin.
2. Craft breweries
For a state that loves beer, (so much so that we named our professional baseball team after it), Wisconsin has been strangely slow to the craft brewery boom that's exploded across the remainder of the United States. Sure, we eventally caught up and now have a thrilling selection of craft brews of all kinds popping up aroung the city ... but for a state so proud of its lager legacy, we're far from tops when it comes to brewing hops.
According to the Brewers Association, as of 2019, Wisconsin ranks merely 14th in the nation with just over 200 craft breweries. Illinois sits above us with 284 craft breweries, while Michigan has nearly double our number, and California ranks at the top with more than 900 craft breweries. (As a place for beer brains to avoid, the lowest state belongs to – no, not Utah – Mississippi, with only 14 in the entire state.)
It makes sense that California and other highly populated places like Florida and New York would rank above us, I hear you say through your computer screen. A fair point – but even if you rank the states by craft breweries per capita, Wisconsin actually drops in the rankings to 15th, behind the likes of New Mexico, South Dakota and even Alaska.
I've always hypothesized that Wisconsin's crawl toward craft brewery and brewpub culture was in part due to the presence of Miller Brewing and the beloved place that brand holds in many local hearts, inspiring loyalty toward Milwaukee's macro brew. But the likely reality is significantly less heartwarming than that: tedious laws. Wisconsin has a convoluted set of laws, new and old, concerning craft breweries, brewpubs and permits that some argue restrict craft breweries' growth or ambitions, sometimes sending them over the border to Illinois.
Thankfully, these rules haven't completely cut off Wisconsin's craft beer growth, but it explains why Brew City isn't as bountiful in brews as one might think. Bernie Brewer shakes his head in shame.
Not to forget or underestimate the Milwaukee Admirals or UW Badgers hockey teams (we can't wait to bang the boards yet again when the world's normal again!), but considering our notorious cold weather, proximity to Canada and love of the winter Olympics, hockey seems like it should be one of the state's sporting pastimes. Every state around us, after all, has a rich love of the rondelle. In Minnesota, youth hockey is so big that even just its hairstyles are popular; Michigan has one of the original six NHL teams in the Detroit Red Wings, with the city claiming the title of "Hockeytown"; and Chicago loves its legacy-rich Blackhawks (or at least when they're winning).
But Wisconsin? Apparently the sport hit our border and ricocheted off like a slapshot off of the post. While the sport certainly has a presence, it's nowhere near as popular as in our surrounding neighbors. Maybe it's the lack of a NHL team that chilled Wisconsin's enthusiasm – despite the Pettits' best efforts, even building the Bradley Center in the hopes of drawing a team. Maybe it's a certain football team taking up all of the oxygen. Or maybe we'd rather go indoors to escape the ice and cold rather than to find more. No matter the case, as a hockey fan myself, it's odd that our state's love for hockey is rough and uneven beyond a Zamboni's saving.
A plate of French fries topped with deliciously noisy cheese curds and soaked in fatty gravy? Clearly, this excellent and heart-unapproved cheese curd creation must've been born and blown up into popularity in the world's cheese curd capital, AKA Wisconsin, where we speak fluent curd squeak. But, you'll have to go further north (be sure to bring your passport) to find the origins of this dish. According to legend, Quebec claims the credit for this fantastically fatty dish, with two restaurants in the region allegedly helping create this curd craze during the '50s. The name even comes from Canadian French slang for "a mess."
Well, surely we helped this outstanding app immigrate across the border and become an artery-clogging sensation, no? It's unclear Wisconsin can even take credit for that, as New Jersey helped bring the concept of cheesy gravy fries to America with their slightly altered "disco fries" in the '70s, trading out the curds for the more accessible shredded cheese. And while Wisconsin now certainly plays a part in poutine lore, often helping provide the curds across the country and restaurants regularly plugging it onto menus here in town, the curd connection feels like poutine should be in Sconnie's blood more than it is (beyond just the usual artery-clogging way).
5. The term "cheesehead"
Watch a Packers game, and you're bound to hear the nickname "cheesehead" thrown around more than the actual pigskin. It's broadcasters' favorite Green Bay fun fact and their camera operators' favorite cutaway shot. Because did you know Packers fans wear cheeseheads? WILD!
But here's something actually wild: Cheesehead wasn't originally a compliment – and it wasn't even originally about the Packers or football at all. Originally, the term was insult flung at the Dutch by German soldiers during World War II, before it would later be adapted (such as by the 1969 novel "Papillon") into an overall insult for people considered dumb or slight. The phrase eventually made it's way to Illinois, where Bears fans – high off their '80s Super Bowl success and even higher off the Packers' mediocre ways – used "cheesehead" as a joking taunt to their northern rivals.
However, because cheese is great and nothing to insult somebody about, Packers fans began to embrace the derog-curd-tory diss, and decade later, the put-down is now a Packers fan institution. But while we can take credit for the headwear, the name itself was more of a free agent we picked up.
6. Bonnie Blair
When I was growing up, two of the first athletes I ever heard of were Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair, both national sports heroes but particularly Wisconsin sports heroes, with both elected into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. But while the former was born and raised right here in Wisconsin – West Allis, in particular – Blair isn't actually a native Sconnie. She was actually born in New York and raised in Illinois before eventally moving to Milwaukee to train and further pursue her incredible Olympic speedskater career. But even though she's technically more of an adopted Sconnie, considering she's stuck around Wisconsin ever since her initial move – not to mention her five gold medals and place as one of the most accomplished winter sports athlete in U.S. history – we're more than happy to claim her fully as one of us.
7. The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling
If anyone was going to start a tradition involving chasing a rolling wheel of cheese down a hill with reckless abandon, you'd think it would be Wisconsin. Alas, we clearly need to step up our weird cheese game as Gloucestershire in England has hosted this curdy (and awfully hurty) sporting event for more than two centuries, featuring crowds of people trampling down a hill, racing after a rolling wheel of Double Gloucester artisan cheese.
According to cheese.com, the cheese comes with "a smooth and buttery texture, rich and nutty yet mellow flavour" as well as an aftertaste of pain judging by the videos of these people hurling themselves down a hill. It also apparently only costs less than $15 a pound – no bruises or skidmarks neccessary! But what fun is that?
But seriously, Wisconsin, if we want to call ourselves America's Dairyland, we clearly need to get in on something like this. (Not me and my brittle bones, though, of course.)
8. "One call, that's all!"
The Wisconsin state motto is technically "Forward," but if you ask any Sconnie for our creed, you're more likely to hear the four-word jingle: "One call, that's all!" (Or "Go Pack Go.") David Gruber's famed catchphrase is many things – omnipresent, catchy, polarizing, impossible to escape – but one thing it isn't is exclusive to Wisconsin. In fact, the phrase is as common as finding "Law & Order" reruns on television.
Yes, it would seem Gruber's particular ad call is far from all – and the attorney wasn't the one to devise the catchphrase either. That esteemed accomplishment belongs down south to a New Orleans ad consultant Richard Sackett, his firm Group Matrix and local NOLA lawyer Morris Bart, who teamed up to concoct the inescapable tagline and unleased it upon the unassuming public in the mid-80s. The maniacally mantra blew up, making its way across the country – including to David Gruber in the late '90s. And watching Wisconsin television and sports was never the same again.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.