Fan Interference: Break on through
C3K sports blogger looks at Badgers, Brewers, Bucks
My friend Kyle, who was the best man at my wedding, is celebrating his birthday this week.
When I met Kyle in high school, what quickly distinguished him from the rest of my friends was that he was a crazy Doors fan.
While I had and continue to have an appreciation for Jim Morrison’s short-lived (but regularly revived) band, I still believe that out of their original output of six albums lies only one true classic, their 1971 release, L.A. Woman.
But, in honor of Kyle and his birthday, here is my Doors-themed list of what’s making sports news right now in Wisconsin, from the great (L.A. Woman) to the not-so great (The Soft Parade).
1. L.A. Woman or Who Is This Team and Can They Play Like That For Another Month?
One of the best things about working at a CBS affiliate is that the network has bar none the best sports properties of any of the traditional networks. But with the ESPN networks and Big Ten Network providing so much regular-season NCAA basketball, we don’t get that many Wisconsin Badgers games.
So of course we were thrilled to telecast last Sunday’s conference showdown with Ohio State. Given that the previous four Badger games had been thrillers decided by a total of 18 points, we believed we were guaranteed a close nail-biter between two of the top hoops programs in the country.
So much for that. But with the Badgers jaw-dropping domination of the Buckeyes (an 18-0 run? 39 points in the first half?) during which they often looked more like the Harlem Globetrotters (see Traevon Jackson’s off-balanced bank shot) than a team shooting less than 43 percent from the field, who could complain?
After following up that performance with Wednesday night’s equally dominating smackdown of Northwestern, it is becoming harder to locate those naysayers who laughed in January when Wisconsin couldn’t break the single-game 50-point barrier.
Indeed, the confidence boost from their last two wins coupled with a cakewalk of a remaining schedule (only a road game against Michigan State looks scary) will result in a very attractive NCAA tournament bid come March 17.
2. The Doors or The Best Story You’re Not Following.
Were you so angry about the NHL lockout that you swore off all things hockey? Did you even sell you copy of The Mighty Ducks to Pawn America?
Well, then you might be missing something. In their final season as a member of the WCHA, the Wisconsin Badger men’s hockey team is looking to go out on a winning note.
With 27 points, Wisconsin is in sixth place in the WCHA standings, meaning that they would earn a crucial home-ice advantage if the WCHA playoffs started today. Of course (say it with me), the playoffs don’t start today, and the Badgers still have to play series against the WCHA’s top two teams, Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State. But this hockey club, which hasn’t lost back-to-back games since November, deserves your attention.
3. Strange Days or It’s A Business And These Things Happen.
After all of the lovely-dovey good time hip-hip-hooray feelings that surrounded Packers wide receiver Donald Driver’s retirement, the uglier side of the NFL business reared its head when the team released Charles Woodson on February 15.
But the move made sense. Despite being only three years removed from his NFL Defensive Player of the Year performance in 2009 and only two years after his integral role in the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning season in 2010, the green and gold no longer needed Woodson.
Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have assembled a strong secondary with Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, and Morgan Burnett. While not possessing the football intelligence or the leadership ability of Woodson, those guys are all (much) younger and quicker in coverage.
The good news is that Woodson will deservedly land elsewhere, where he will probably (barring any injury setbacks, a big reason the Packers let him go) continue to be productive. The bad news is the Packers seem to remain steadfast in their intention of retaining defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
4. Morrison Hotel or Can We Get Serious Here?
One of the hotter NFL offseason topics seems to be the supposed demise of the Green Bay Packers. Dissenters point to the awful defensive performance in the divisional round against the 49ers, the departures of Woodson, Driver, the probable loss of Greg Jennings, and the defection to Kansas City of longtime executive John Dorsey. And of course, the continuing struggles of kicker Mason Crosby and the offensive line are also easy targets.
But there’s a problem with writing off the Green Bay Packers in 2013 and he wears number 12, loves Pizza Hut, State Farm Insurance, and Brad Pitt. As long as Rodgers is around, healthy, and has targets like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones to throw to, the Packers will be the class of the NFC North.
Look, everyone likes to anoint new teams, everyone likes to speculate on which powerhouse teams are due for a fall and which dud teams are due to surprise. But with underachievers Christian Ponder, Jay Cutler, and the hot mess that is the Detroit Lions standing in the way, the Packers will be playing more football games than most teams next season.
5. Waiting for the Sun or Oh Yeah, I Forgot About That One.
If it’s late February, it must mean that the Milwaukee Bucks are barely in contention for a playoff spot in a league where over 50 percent of the teams make the playoffs.
And yes, you’d be right about that: The Bucks are currently seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 26-27 record. Their current record reflects the Bucks’ love affair with mediocrity: When the team fired head coach Scott Skiles on January 8, the Bucks were at .500. Since taking over, interim coach Jim Boylan has amassed a 10-11 record after starting out 8-4.
With that kind of consistent mediocrity, it’s tough to engender much passion about the Bucks, and that sort of indifference has translated from the fans to the players.
As I write this, the NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching and the Bucks are rumored to be interested in trading away their only legitimate “star” player, point guard Brandon Jennings. The problem is that Jennings will be a free agent at the end of the season and wants out. But the player on the trade block that the Bucks would like to get in return, Hawks forward Josh Smith, probably wouldn’t stay beyond this season either.
The NBA is a league built on superstars, and when your team isn’t even an attractive stay for the minor stars, you’ve got a problem.
6. The Soft Parade or You Have Got To Be Kidding Me.
Even though injuries aren’t funny, sometimes you can’t help but laugh at them. And the Milwaukee Brewers own some of the strangest injury stories in recent MLB history.
Remember when Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson sliced his thumb lacing his glove? Or when Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy fractured his hand after his wife dropped a suitcase on him?
Now the Brewers’ opening day plans at first base are up in the air after the bizarre news that Mat Gamel tore the ACL in his right knee. Again. Like for the second straight season.
Yes, Corey Hart exceeded expectations last year in his move to first base, but of course Hart could be out through the end of May with his own right knee injury.
It’s possible that shortstop Alex Gonzalez could be moved to first, but what are the chances that the Brewers are going to be able to replicate Hart’s success with another transfer? Probably better than the odds that Gamel will ever be able to live up to anything resembling what the Brewers hoped he would.
Is it possible that Prince Fielder left a curse on anyone daring to succeed him at first base?
Probably more possible than anyone being able to sit through Other Voices and Full Circle, the two albums The Doors made sans Jim Morrison, without wanting to lacerate their ears.
Anyone except Kyle, of course.
Happy birthday, best man.