Sunday, September 30, 2007

Packers are 4-0 - whoulda thunk it?

It seems bizarre that the Packers could have started 3-0 heading into a game at Minnesota and still been flying under my radar, but with the Brewers finally in a pennant race and the Badgers in the top 10, that's been the case. After today's win over the Vikings, I'm not sure that will be possible.

Consider that something like 83% of teams that start 4-0 make the playoffs. Doesn't that actually seem low? Consider that the Bears and Vikings are both 1-3. Can they come back with such putrid QB play? Consider that Favre is playing better than ... how long has it been? How's he doing it with no running game and pedestrian receivers?

Other thoughts:

-The Vikings' D is tough, real tough, and getting 23 on them is a solid performance. Peterson is also tough, real tough, but as noted in a story I read earlier this week, his running style could lead to a brilliant but brief career. Both deserve better than Kelly Holcomb and Tavaris Jackson.

-Bubba's playing well, isn't he?

-Is there a unit in the league more underrated than the Packers' D line? KGB tied Reggie's team sacks record today, and he doesn't even start. The first round DT isn't even active.

-Little bit worried about Jarret Bush at nickel corner.

-The non-existent running game reminds me of the '92 team. I went to a game at County Stadium that year with Adam and Gerry Wagner, Favre's first year - was Harry Sydney the feature back then? - and Brett threw about 15 2-yard hitches to Sterling Sharpe. Some went for 2 yards. Some went for 8 yards. That was the running game. It will be again this year.

-That lost fumble near the end of the game reminded me of the Dayne fumble against Northwestern at the Camp in '96, a game that will live in infamy for all of us that were there that day.

-Question for Vikings fans: will Bollinger ever be more than a mop-up/emergency guy? And what's Erasmus James' status, didn't hear his name today.

-Larivee was at his worst in the fourth quarter. After the TD to put us up 23-9 midway through the quarter, he explodes with his "There's your DAGGER" trademark line that I can't stand. I turned to Jana and said "Way too early, six minutes left, anything can happen." And it almost did. Many of couldn't wait until Jim Irwin retired and someone else took over ... be careful what you wish for.

Really looking forward to attending next week's game.

A record for Favre

Couldn't be happier for Favre, an exciting player and class act who has defined the NFL for the past 15 years. Would have liked Driver to get the record breaker, but Jennings will work.

Did you see Jennings' quote in SI this week about he hated Favre and the Packers growing up (in Kalamazoo as a Lions fan)? Interesting he admitted it.

Badgers winning ugly?

What a day yesterday in college football. I almost think that too many top 10 teams lost for the Badgers to move up much in the standings, if that's possible. We'll see.

At least they won, which is more than Oklahoma, Florida, West Virginia, Texas, and Rutgers can say, not to mention Clemson and Oregon. Did they win ugly, as so many college football experts predicted leading up to the MSU game? Should it matter?

Herbstreit - who is having a bad year as an analyst, in my book - said USC won ugly last night and wouldn't have them #1 ... even after they won in a hostile environment against a team he and Musberger repeatedly praised for its improvement. Herby, in his infinite wisdom, is ranking Oregon fifth; apparently Cal is the second coming of the '70s Steelers and losing to them close at home merits a six-spot bump in the rankings.

I would argue that yesterday was not an ugly win for the Badgers, and that most of the 14 straight during this terrific straight have not been ugly. To me, ugly is turning the ball over five times and committing a ton of mental errors against a subpar team and still winning, or sleepwalking and playing down to the level of the opponent. That didn't happen yesterday. Here's my assessment of the winning streak, in rough chronological order.

Indiana: Pretty
Northwestern: Pretty
Minnesota: Pretty
Purdue: Pretty
Illinois: Ugly - probably should have lost that one
Penn State: Neither - we went toe to toe with a great defense/bad offense and did what we had to do to win
Iowa: Neither - too many fumbles, but a great win to break a bad streak in a hostile environment
Buffalo: Ugly - thank God I slept through the second half of that one
Arkansas: Neither - could be considered ugly, but Arkansas had a damn good defense that had a good gameplan; calling that win ugly would discredit the Hogs

Washington State: Pretty - offense played great
UNLV: Ugly
Citadel: Neither - If we had left the starters in the final would have been 56-21, and no one would have been talking
Iowa: Ugly - Too many three-and-outs, and several key defensive breakdowns
Michigan State: Neither

So my tally is 5-5-4, Pretty-Neither-Ugly. In fairness, there were very ugly parts of the WSU, Citadel, and MSU games. So I guess the critics are not wrong in this case. But it doesn't matter, 14-0 is the more important number, no matter how we got there.

And a little about the picture: no, it is not a reference to "winning ugly." We took this last week at a pumpkin patch, and my mom said "Andy, that would be perfect for your Christmas card!" True ... if Andy sent Christmas cards.

First, a word about the Packers

Given the way things are going, the Packers are probably a logical favorite today against Minnesota. But strange things seem to happen at their piece of garbage stadium during otherwise fun seasons.

Here's one wish from me, a very selfish one: I would like to see Green Bay win without Favre throwing his record-breaking touchdown. As mentioned earlier, Jana and I are going to the Bears Sunday nighter a week from today, and wouldn't that be cool if we saw #421?

In the end, we'll be more than happy with a 1-0 performance today, no matter how it happens.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

UW-MSU thoughts

My first thought, as it was after the Iowa game, was that we survived. In the postgame, LePay said "Survive and advance," which is exactly what this is, especially when you look at all the other top 10 upsets.

-MSU is better than I thought, but for all the talk about how they're more disciplined under Dantonio, several mental breakdowns on the decisive UW field goal drive ended up being the difference.

-Mehlhaff and DeBauche are reminiscent of Stemke and Money/Pisetsky, true difference-makers in the kicking game. Hope we can replace them next year.

-Here's the difference between the program today and five years ago: depth. Think about all the guys missing today: Ike, Hubbard, Valai, Crooks, Randle-El, Jefferson, Graham for a time, Chapman was dinged up, as was Urbik. Yet the replacements made enough plays to win. The drop-off to the reserves is not as great as it once was.

-Evridge is going to need to play this year. Donovan is taking a lot of shots. I like his guts.

-Randle-El needs to leave the program. He talks about being a leader, but he pulls stuff like that asinine punching match today. He's coasting by on his name.

-Nice job by the defense on the last two plays. I was praying they wouldn't throw at Strickland, but he jumped that slant nicely. And everyone sniffed out the final play and stopped it - finally!

-Vanden Heuvel did a nice job on Saint-Dic.

-My guess is that without Smith next week, the change of pace running plays will be end-arounds from Gilreath and Beckum.

-Great hustle by Casillas to run down Ringer, a drive that ended with a field goal. Reminded me of Ike running down McFadden in the Cap One Bowl.

-Pretty good pass rush today. Hayden is playing better this year, and DeCremer is a great addition to the rotation.

UW-MSU prediction recap

TD: Two touchdowns (to Swan and Graham)
The game: Two touchdowns , to Jefferson and Beckum

PJ: 110 yards rushing, 1 TD
The game: 151 yards rushing, 2 TD

Smith: 65 yards rushing, 1 TD, 80,000 people wishing he could make the trip to Champaign next week
The game: 54 yards rushing, no TDs. Really going to miss him next two weeks. Brown hasn't even had a chance to get experience, with Smith playing so well in tight games.

Shaughnessy: Big breakout game. State overprepares for DB blitzing, UW drops seven against Hoyer most passing plays, DL gets a couple coverage sacks.
The game: Five sacks, big games for Hayden and DeCremer.

UW 33, Michigan State 10. No disrespect to State, but we're due.
The game: UW 37, MSU 34. I'll take it.

Vinny Rottino - a winning season for the Brewers!

Before getting back to the Badgers, a minute to give props to the Brewers, who clinched their first winning season since 1992 today with a gutsy come-from-behind victory. I believe Anderson said last night that they were 2-70 when trailing after seven innings, and to come back against Hoffman is great. Congrats to Vinny Rottino, a home-state guy who got the winning hit, and to Gwynn for getting the big hit against his dad's team.



More insightful commentary to follow, hopefully.

I owe Elijah an apology ...

State reverting to the State of old let us win this one, and I'll take it.

UW D: A donut?

Coming into this season, the Badgers' defense figured to be really good -- the only lost four starters from a unit that had a great '06. But who would have thought Zalewski, Stellmacher, and Rodgers would be so hard to replace? This year's crew is soft in the middle -- if a middle is even present.

Granted, they were all good players and good leaders, but their replacements are making them look like Nitschke, Lott, and Reed.

Time after time today Hodge, Carter, and Pleasant have either overrun plays, got sucked into blockers, or flat-out missed tackles. This seems to be a continuance of trends seen in the first four games.

Hopefully the offense can outscore Sparty ... Pound the rock baby.

-Anyone else worried about the way this year is going for Ike? BB's comments to BB before halftime were very concerning.

-Good to see Mehlhaff kicking touchbacks again.

-Really entertaining interview with BB's mom ... not.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Where the Sidewalk Ends

So this is how it ends for the Brewers in 2007: a sea of half-hearted homer hanky-waving fans at Miller Park looking on as the good guys once again left way too many guys on base and couldn't get reliable pitching when it mattered most. Of Sheets warming up in the bullpen but not entering the game, of hoping Kevin Mench comes through in the clutch. The sense of inevitability was palpable, on TV, in my house, even in Ueck's voice.

My night watching the game was a microcosm of the year in general.

A great start. Braun drives in Weeks! Good base running by JJ! Hart with a clutch hit! Off Maddux! Capuano's looking pretty good! As the first inning ends, Will says "Game's over, Daddy." Not quite, but I'd take it!

Then, big struggle in the middle. Cappy can't get anyone out. This is going to be the 117th game in a row the Brewers lose when he pitches.

Then, the lead relinquished. At about this time, I gave Will his bath and continued reading to him from Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. As I laid him down the book's title seemed appropriate given the game I was about to return to. (No, last night was not The Giving Tree night for the boy, although it was for the Brewers.) The season seemed over, sadly. The eulogy began writing itself in my mind.

But then, as leaving the room, Will said "Daddy, leave the door open a little bit." Yes! Another perfectly-timed optimistic reference! This will be a great anecdote to tell the guys when we're downing drinks and celebrating another in the long line of once-every-25 years glory of Milwaukee baseball! We will take "Leave the Door Open" signs to games! Billy Hall will record a rap song of that name!

On TV, we load the bases on some guy named Cla, down one. Here comes Counsell, homegrown World Series hero - the door is still open! Then bam - double play. Bam - the Guy Who Looks Like Spicoli goes yard (silver lining - for my fantasy team!). Bam - Heath Bell and Hell's Bells strike our guys out like overmatched Little Leaguers. False hope dashed.

Game over. Season over.

Here's my plan: institute a reversal of the 24-hour rule most football coaches give their teams after a big win. Wallow in sorrow and self-pity for one day, then go about finding all the good things about this team and this season. Let's get that 82nd win, at least get that monkey off our back.

First things first: congratulations to the Cubs. It would be dishonest to give one of those "Keep the World Series trophy in the NL Central" lines, because none of us want that. Whether it's a quick sweep or a tantalizing, agonizing, Bartman-esque defeat, just lose, baby. But the best team won the division. Even with their flaws, the Cubs had a little bit better hitting and starting pitching, much better relief pitching and fielding. And, importantly, much more money.

But that's what's so great about baseball. Over the course of a 162-game season, flukes don't last, flaws are exposed, the cream rises to the top. And there's plenty of reason to believe that the Brewers will be that cream next year and in years to come. They will have to find a way to overcome the market disparity between Milwaukee and Chicago (presumably with a new deep-pocketed owner) when financing the team. Minnesota and Oakland did it well, why can't we?

Just looked at a Shel Silverstein site and saw a couple more titles that could apply to the Brewers: The Missing Piece (relief pitching?), Falling Up (our rise has coincided with a fall-off in the rest of the NL Central), A Light in the Attic (five years ago, the Brewers didn't have electricity, period).

Hopefully a year from now I'll be reading Will not Silverstein, but Haudricourt and Hunt chronicling a pennant winner. That would help erase the sting of a year the door was open, but we couldn't walk through it.

Prediction time: Wisconsin vs. Michigan State

Michigan State used to be one of those rare Big Ten schools that I didn't hold a major grudge against. They hate Michigan just like we do, managed to knock off Ohio State at inopportune moments for the Buckeyes, didn't recruit the same players as us, and generally didn't spoil our moments in the sun.

Then came 2004, when Sparty steamrolled a 9-0 Badger team in Lansing that turned a special, overachieving year into just another good season. After that I got rid of all the MSU gear Jana's uncle John (a Lansing native) had given me.

Then came this February when, right after the Badger basketball team ascended to #1 for the first time ever, Drew Neitzel and his menacing (ha!) glare brought down Bo's crew at Breslin. Kam Taylor's clutch shot won the rematch at the Kohl, and we beat them again in the Big Ten Tournament, where, Andy and Nick will relate, I completely lost my mind momentarily and started yelling in tongues at Neitzel and his parents. (They didn't hear me, we were in the upper deck.)

As for tomorrow's game: who knows what to make of State? They beat Notre Dame, but everyone will this year. They beat Pitt, but Pitt is coached by Wannstedt. They seem to have two good backs - one of whom killed us three years ago - and a defensive stud named Jonal St. Dic. (Another holier-than-thou alter ego for Burch?) Dantonio is just what the program needed after the John L. Smith Looney Toons debacle.

This morning's line has us favored by 7.5 points, and most pundits have us winning by that or less. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is a game where everything comes together for all three units.

UW 33, Michigan State 10. No disrespect to State, but we're due.

TD: Two touchdowns (to Swan and Graham)
PJ: 110 yards rushing, 1 TD
Smith: 65 yards rushing, 1 TD, 80,000 people wishing he could make the trip to Champaign next week
Shaughnessy: Big breakout game. State overprepares for DB blitzing, UW drops seven against Hoyer most passing plays, DL gets a couple coverage sacks

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shrute Farm Beets

Quick non-sports post about my favorite comedy, The Office: decent season premiere. I'd give it a B-minus. Didn't need to be an hour long, started to feel like one of those too-long Saturday Night Live sketches. Several laugh-out-loud moments. My one takeaway: the Shrute Farm Beets will be promoted by NBC as the next must-have accessory for Office fans ... and I'll probably be wearing one to family functions by January.

To Sheets or not to Sheets

Over the years, our good friend Walt Landvatter has been as astute an observer of the Brewers as anyone this side of Tom Haudricourt. So I read with interest his email sent earlier today. Vent away, Walt.

This has been bothering me so I thought I would vent to you since you are a big Brewer fan. I'm not sure if you know, but I have hated Ben Sheets for the last 2-3 years, maybe longer. I just think that he is a slob and doesn't take care of himself and that is why he gets non typical pitching injuries. I don't think he puts anything else into it other than his god given talent to throw high 90's and a very good curve. I've watched him at practice and he is lazy!!!! Nothing pisses me off more that when people call him the ace. An ace is someone that you can count on to pitch. I would rather see him blow his elbow or shoulder out because that would show he was at least pitching.

We are in the last week of the season and he says that he won't pitch unless he is 100%. That is such bull____. Does he not think that everyone else on that pitching staff doesn't have some type of injury. He has been on this team for seven years and this is the first times he has had the chance to pitch in meaningful games and he won't unless he is 100%.

Is it just me or should he wrap that hamstring strain (not tear) up and go and pitch. He can rest all off season if he makes it worst. We need his arm to get to the playoffs. I can't stand his work ethic and attitude. I just want to reach through the T.V. and strangle him every time I see him in the dug out chewing on his fingers.

Very good points, and deserved criticism. The one point I would argue is the nature of some of Sheets' injuries - like a finger - that in my opinion are freak. He's had so many that I think many of us, myself included, just considered him unlucky. But Walt's point that a subpar work ethic is to blame for much of this is valid.

He's sort of become the J.D. Drew of pitchers.

Being an Olympic hero, then the only good pitcher the franchise had for four years (sorry Jamey Wright), his flaws were probably downplayed by me and others. But it's reached the point where he better make 32 starts, win 15 games, and have a sub-3.50 ERA next year - with no trips to the DL - for Melvin and Attanasio to even think about re-signing him at an ace's salary.

What do you think? Vote in the poll above.

Oh, and Walt ended with this:

I just wanted to let you know that I really like your blog. I read it every morning. Keep up the good work. I'm nervous for this big weekend series.

Awww, I'm blushing. Hope we can keep this dialogue up, especially the Brewers stuff - the comments are great. Afraid that the Brewers material for the next couple months will be limited to Arizona Fall League reports.

Use your heads, guys!

We've seen the Brewers blow a lot of leads late this year, and though last night's doesn't count toward that tally, the events that unfolded were just as infuriating, if not more so.

In case you missed it:

Yost and La Russa had been going back and forth all series. For the fifth game in a row, Ned didn't like the calls. La Russa didn't like that Ned was arguing the calls, and apparently he also didn't like that Hart took two bases on a throwing error. My god, are you kidding me? Tony also didn't like the fact that Prince was going yard every other time he came up, and that Suppan threw a pitch near Pujols during a walk Monday night.

So La Russa has his guy hit Prince early Wednesday night. Instead of forgetting about obeying one of baseball's unwritten rules - you hit our star, we hit yours - Ned decides to to bring in McClung to bean Pujols while we're down one run in the eighth. Ned and McClung get tossed, Turnbow comes in, and you know the rest. T-Blow's four-pitch walk of Stinnett was the most pathetic display of clutch pitching I've ever seen. (photo by Benny Sieu of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The Brewers go down 7-2, which wouldn't have been a big deal if Braun hadn't driven in Weeks in the ninth to score what could have been the tying run. Of course, Pujols is a great hitter and may have reached base without the beanball, but why put him on automatically when you need to win the game? And why does Turnbow keep getting the ball in important situations?

My conclusions:
1. La Russa is on my sh!t list. My buddy Austin has been telling me for awhile that he hates the guy, and I never quite understood it. I do now, it's personal. He's screwing around with his mind games on behalf of his awful, eliminated team while we're trying to get to the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
2. I've defended Ned's actions to friends and family, but this one is inexcusable.
3. Pujols gave Prince a tap upon reaching first after being hit. He's a class act.
4. After the game I tried explaining this to Jana, the situation, the unwritten rules of baseball, why I was so mad. She responded with some very salient points, like "it's like the mob" and "if women ran the world we wouldn't have any wars" and "this is why I don't like baseball." She was looking for a reason to reinforce the last one, but her other points are well-taken.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Vegas photos - from Toohey!

My Inbox has been bombarded with emails since Friday demanding pictures of Schwalbach from the Vegas trip, mostly from old women. Thankfully, Toohey had a camera, too, and although he didn't put his picture show to funky fresh music like Molle did, he did offer a different perspective.

You wanted the best, you got the best - the biggest wannabe gangstas in the land! Toohey, Butch/Mat, and Schwib practicing their "U-Dub Boyz" hand signals.

Yeah Schwib, we get it, you're done with the Dub. Be careful or you'll get mistaken for a dyslexic Star Trek fan.

Will: "Hey Burchie, I'm so happy we won! This one's for the girls!"
Burch: "Schwalbach said 'Let's learn craps, it's a social game!' And I lost $60 in five minutes ..."

Drew Falkowski, Jana, and Butch flexing, which I'm pretty sure was Butch's idea.

This is what I like to call Toohey's abstract work. What the hell is going on in this one? I think this is Badger fans celebrating the game-clinching stop.

Victory formation at Sam Boyd Stadium. It was a lot nicer than we imagined it would be ... our season ticket money will probably help pay for more help to man the concession lines.

Toohey tells us that UNLV's home tickets are demanding a higher price ever since the Rebs played us close - everybody wins!

Luke Swan jersey

Here's a fun fact: In my post job, I had a blog that ran for about 11 months and 280 posts. I probably got 10-15 legitimate non-spam comments, and a handful of meaningful, pointed emails. Three days into Badgercentric I got an email, and not even from a friend or family member!

It came from a woman who was looking for information about my Luke Swan jersey. I go mine at Scheel's, a huge sporting goods store in Appleton, in January, and Polzin and Mertzy say there are plenty available at the University Bookstore. But here's a secret: I think my #1 jersey was leftover from Brandon Williams' standout senior season.

#1 should always be a decent number to have, much like Schwalbach's #2. My other Badger jersey is a Pat Richter throwback, #88, but every time I wear it we play like crap, so it's a non-gameday choice. Yes, I'm insane.

This little exercise got me thinking: what's the best number in recent UW history? I'd say it's #2 (Schwib's jersey): Casillas, Calhoun, Starks, Fletcher, DeRamus. Probably forgetting someone, but that's a damn tough group to beat.

Wild Hogs - two thumbs up!

Non-sports post, but just had a moment that seemed like a real live story out of The Onion.

One of our neighbors, a precocious 9-year-old, was raving to me about the move Wild Hogs, starring Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, John Travolta, and William H. Macy. Don't know about you, but to me the trailers were not compelling, to be polite to these four fine thespians.

(Reminded me of Stu Bottinick telling me how much he loved Martin Lawrence, which I found bizarre.)

Anyway, Megan and her 6-year-old brother Jared went on and on about how funny it was, including a ringing endorsement for a skinny-dipping scene with the aforementioned pillars of American cinema. "So you give it two thumbs up?" I asked.

"It's not just me, Scott - America gives it two thumbs up!" Megan responded earnestly and enthusiastically.

That line had to be more funny than any in the movie!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Attaboy Prince!

Earlier tonight I started that home run poll in the upper-right hand corner of this page, and I voted for Hall. I just love when his swing gets flat and extended and the ball just sails into left-center.

But after Prince's two jacks tonight, I should reconsider. Off the top of my head I can think of many of my favorite Prince bombs:

-His first, two years ago, same night Weeks hit his first.
-The one he hit to beat the Reds back in early August.
-Tonight's two.

Made me remember sitting on a plane to Vegas four years ago reading Moneyball, where Billy Beane and Michael Lewis (author) were ruminating about what an awful choice Prince was at #7. Good call, guys!

More good memories to take with us into the winter if the season ends on Sunday.

Grab some bench, Rexy

A commenter named Momma's Boy Otis (I have my suspicions who it is) just brought to my attention that the Bears are benching Rex in favor of Griese. My thoughts:

1. They had to. Rex was killing them, and now it appears the defense and special teams can't overcome that.

2. But is Griese any better? He'll probably get off to a good start against Detroit, but long-term he's mediocre at best, doesn't have Rex's upside. The game in Green Bay in two weeks will be teling. I still think the Bears win that one, but it's close.

3. Packer fans take Favre for granted. Let's face it: even though the Bears' QB instability is severe, most teams change starters every 3-4 years, and that just can't be good. My buddy Peyton aside, we'll probably never see another QB be in place this many years in a row, and you just hope your team can ride a hot hand for a few years.

Stop-score-stop-score ... there's the first stop

Much to the dismay of a row of bimbos in right and two fat/ugly people behind first base at Miller Park, it appears the Cubs lost tonight, so their magic number is still four. Those folks' presence remind me of when Nicolet's players and fans came to watch us lose at Homestead senior year ... Or when we went to watch West lose to Cedarburg in the sectionals as Port that year.

Let' just hold onto this three-run lead -- a sure thing :) -- and keep the pressure on.

UPDATE: Things are looking good after Hall's and Prince's homers. Powell just made the comment, regarding a one-game playoff with the Cubs, "Can you imagine what that day would be like?" Can't imagine it would be good for my blood pressure, but I'd take that over no baseball on Monday!

Good win last night - Prince for MVP?

Nice win by the Brewers last night to stay in contention, at least theoretically. As Schroeder and Anderson said about 100 times last night, if we can sweep this last week homestand and the Cubs split, we're still alive. It reminds me of McGlocklin's "stop-score-stop-score-stop-score and we're right back in it" lines during Bucks games.

Love that Prince and Braun are still going strong. Braun is obviously Rookie of the Year, but who do you think will win NL MVP? I'd vote for Prince, but I'm biased. Holliday has some ridiculous numbers, but Prince's are better in certain categories. If the Phillies make the playoffs, I'd say Jimmy Rollins.

What do you think?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Free fallin'

One week after falling two spots to #9 in the AP poll, Wisconsin fell two spots to #9 in the coaches poll yesterday. Last week, I understood, we beat The Citadel by two touchdowns (although the game wasn't that close). This week, I don't. We beat a tough team, although we didn't look good doing it. The teams that jumped over us in the coaches poll, California and Ohio State, beat Arizona and Northwestern, respectively. Nice wins, guys.

In the end, the rankings as they stand today are probably pretty accurate, and if we keep winning everything will work itself out. But a little consistency here, voters.

Also: anyone else having trouble shaking Iowa's last play of the game? The image of that receiver running free behind FOUR of our DBs? How in the world did that happen? Made me remember that bowl game Iowa won three years ago over LSU on a similar play ... reminds you that these are still just 20-year-old kids out there.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Two out of three ain't bad

A couple weeks ago, after one of the 16 games the Brewers have lost after leading by at least three runs, I uttered a curse word. Jana asked, completely without sarcasm, "Have the Badgers and Brewers ever been good at the same time?" The short answer was no, but since she asked and I was fired up, she got the long answer.

But why can't we have it all? I know it's greedy, but the Badgers are good, the Packers have the look of a good team, and even though the Brewers are good ... they're not good enough to win a pathetic division this year. And that really bums me out.

First of all, give the division leaders credit. The Chicago Big Contract Free Agents and Small Market Fire Sale Acquisitions have a respectable roster and as much as it feels like having a cigarette put out on your arm, it's no shame to finish behind them. With the National League being pretty weak overall, they'll have as good a shot as anyone of advancing to the World Series and getting swept by the Angels or Red Sox.

Also, as Andy was saying yesterday, we've got a young roster. I think Cordero is the only free agent of note, and he might stick around. The core should be in place for the next three seasons, and it's a pretty damn good core. The pitching should be better, but then again it should have been better this season. Gallardo and maybe Parra are exciting. With some ticket money, maybe Melvin can buy a better bullpen. And by my calculations, Sheets, in the last year of his contract, is in for about a $30 million season.

There's a week left, and the Cubs being the Cubs we're not dead yet. But realistically, no one will be peeing their pants, we're in for a few more weeks of those ridiculous "It's gonna happen" signs (worst slogan in sports history?), and for the next six months we'll be waking up in a cold sweat, swearing Turnbow just walked another batter.

Good for Favre

So Favre ties Marino's all-time touchdown record today ... and I was taking a nap while it happened! I listened to and watched the first half with Will, and thought the Packers were playing pretty well against a good team. Then, on account to a bunch of beers during last night's UW game, I was pooped and laid down when the boy did, and slept right through the second half. Oh well.

Couldn't be happier, though. These last two off-seasons, while the Will He or Won't He saga played out in ugly form, I just kept thinking that the real shame would be if he came back AND the Packers played poorly AND he didn't break Marino's record because he had nothing around him.

One of my first thoughts was that two significant career records belong to Wisconsin-tied athletes: Favre's TD record and Dayne's NCAA rushing record. And until a month ago Hank Aaron held the best record of all.

Looks like neither of those things are happening, at least right now. Jennings looked great today, Driver was his usual self, Jones is a promising rookie, and the tight ends seem better than last year. The running game's another story, but remember there was no running game back in '92 and '93, and those teams contended. And the defense is looking tough.

Still think the Bears are the class of the division (just scored an invite to the Sunday night game at Lambeau in two weeks), but they don't look as tough as last year and might be ripe to be knocked off.

Iowa game thoughts

First of all, screw aesthetics, and all those smarmy comments from Herbstreit during the broadcast about poor offense. Those were two good defenses who had the other team's number last night, nothing to be ashamed of. Here are my observations:

1. That inopportune fumble aside, this was PJ's best game yet, with last year's Penn State game a close second. Really, he ran effectively all night. But after the offense started so quickly on those two play-action passes on the first two plays of the game, I think Paul Chryst fell a little to in love with the passing game, and Donovan has the bruises to prove it.

2. Iowa's offense is one of the worst I've ever seen in the Big Ten, and I don't think it would have made a difference had Moeaki and Brodell not gotten hut. Couldn't be happier that Albert Young, who gave a late de-commitment from UW before turning to Iowa, never had a good game against the Badgers in his college career. Christenson is nowhere near the last three QBs Iowa has started, and even though he was a touted recruit I'm not sure the potential is there.

3. No one's throwing at Ike - Langford is going to get a lot of chances at picks this year.

4. Did the safeties make any plays yesterday, aside from Pleasant's facemask?

5. The offense's early struggles were just what DeBauche needed - he looked like himself for the first time this season.

6. After playing these Mickey Mouse spread offenses three straight week, it was a pleasure to line up and play against a team that ran a man's offense. the D, especially Hodge, looked soooo much more comfortable.

7. That hit on Gilreath to start the second half was among the most vicious I've seen a Badger take over the years, great hit by the Iowa guy.

8. Lance Smith ran well again. I have this sinking feeling that his suspension is going to cost us at either Ohio State or Penn State.

9. What happened to Mehlhaff kicking touchbacks like he did in the opener? His shank at the end of the first half was partially responsible for the huge momentum swing.

10. Soooooo happy to be beating Iowa again. Ferentz and his staff do a great job, and for awhile there Iowa had staked a claim to being the #3 program in the Big Ten. And they were signing great recruiting classes, much better than the guys they were going 10-2 with. But for whatever reason we seem to have reclaimed that role - never going to have the tradition or national recruiting as Ohio State or Michigan, but are always right there to step up when they struggle.

Watched most of the second half in the kitchen last night, might have to start out there next week ...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Iowa game

This game is driving me nuts. Iowa's got a nice defense, but we can run on them. What's frustrating is how both times we've scored, the defense has seemed to relax and let Iowa's inept offense score. Give the ball to PJ and run the clock out.

What does Aaron Henry have, three sacks? Looks like the #7 jersey we bought our son for Christmas might be relevant for another four seasons.

This will sound cliche, but Musberger and Herbstreit are horrible and I'd rather be listening to Lucas and Lepay, but the 5-second delay between TV and radio makes that impossible.

As hard as this game is to watch, it's better than the baseball game that just ended ...

Tough day to be a Brewer fan

After last night's awesome comeback, today's loss was a kick in the gut. Another clutch comeback, hart's hour gives us the lead ... And CoCo blows it. Strand five guys in extra innings. And weeks picks the 11th inning to revert to his old defensive yips.

It's just more of the same formula for losing that we've seen: an inability to manufacture runs by any other means than home runs, and a bullpen that too often falls apart in key situations.

And of course the Cubs and their $136 million man win; must be fun to cheer for a team full of mercenaries.

I fear the end is near.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Little bothers me more than "We don't get any respect ..." talk, but here's some from me. The Badgers are not getting any respect. In his college football column this week, Sporting News' Matt Hayes basically says UW's 15-of-16 streak is no big deal. Later, SN's student blogger network (still waiting to read the first well-written posts, guys) puts the Badgers in a third-place tie with Hawaii for Most Overrated team in the country.

You know what, though? I like it. It seems like in years past when expectations have been sky-high - 1994, 2000 - results have been subpar. After Michigan fell on its face early, we seemed to be the clear-cut favorite, but now Ohio State and Penn State, even Purdue, are the trendy picks. Good. The Badgers certainly haven't played like Big Ten favorites thus far, to be certain, and the analysts' claims aren't without merit. But there's a lot of talent on the roster that has won a lot of games, and a coaching staff that did a terrific job last year. Can't wait to see how it plays out!

Vegas was fun

Before we get too far out from what actually happened, I wanted to post some photos taken by our good friend Molle Polzin from our group's trip to Vegas for the UW-UNLV game. Aside from the fact that we had to hold our breath for 58-1/2 minutes, and we now hold season football tickets from the school that knocked us out of the NCAA tournament in March, it was a great trip. Here's some of Molle's photos:

My lovely wife Jana and I before the game, the last time I smile for about 2 hours and 50 minutes. She and Molle waited in line for the entire second quarter to secure beverages - MVP! MVP!

Me with Will Bottinick and Scott Burch. Notice the guy behind Will making fun of us. We kicked the crap out of him later. The people next to us were from Fennimore, but none of them complimented me on my Luke Swan jersey.

After the game, we were arguably more spent than the players. Yep, fans have it tough. By this time my brother Andy (red hat) and Robby Jansen (to his left) had stopped their renditions of UW band tunes. Thankfully.

Jana and Molle outside O'Shea's, our dive casino/bar hangout ($2 Miller Lite!). The girls debated whether or not is was impolite to bend over to be closer to the leprechaun's height. What do you think?

Me, Jana, Molle, and Cap Times beat reporter Jim Polzin, who went 1-0 with his online coverage of the game for the TCT website. Later we saw The Producers at the Paris, starring Tony Danza (no, really). And no, there are no physics diplomas on our walls; otherwise we would have been hanging out at the Bellagio.

Jim, me, Burch, Jana and Tim Toohey enjoying a light moment, which were many.

Other dudes in attendance were my brother Butch (Mat) Falkowski (who somehow called Donovan's naked bootleg TD run three plays ahead) and Matt Schwalbach, who heroically shouldered the bulk of the organizational duties - thanks dude! Unfortunately, all the pictures of them were in appropriate for posting on a website I plan on showing my mother.

I am Badgercentric

This morning I was sitting in a meeting/conference call with a vendor selling third party solutions for hosting social networking: user-uploaded video, blogs, message boards, etc., and the presentation and three cups of coffee got me thinking: why don’t I start a blog dedicated to Wisconsin sports? After all:

1. I am a former sports writer who still gets those urges every time I read a really good or really bad sports story.
2. I have maintained a blog in the past, albeit one covering pole barns and metal roofs.
3. I am, as the name of this blog and post infer, Badgercentric. The title was given to me by my brother-in-law Nick. During a family game the goal was to describe ourselves in two words; I chose “family man or something sentimental like that, and Nick chose “Badger-centric,” which was, sadly, just as accurate. The above photo, taken on Christmas Day, is my attempt to be both with my son Will.

But really, isn’t this a great time to be Badgercentric? (And by Badgercentric, I mean a fan of Wisconsin, not just University of Wisconsin, sports.) The Badger football team is in the top 10 and the basketball team was ranked #1 in February. The Brewers are in a pennant race for the first time in 15 years. The Packers are off to a good start.

Then again, check back here Monday. The Badgers could go back to losing to Iowa every year, the Brewers could be 4-1/2 game back of the hated Cubs, and LT could score five touchdowns against the Pack on Sunday. So better to start this today, just in case!

So here it is, whipped up over my lunch break, the Badgercentric blog. Basically, it will be my thoughts and conversations with friends and family regarding the sports teams and athletes we love. It will be recaps of games I just watched or attended. It will be links to stories from our state and national sports media. It will be rants and raves.

And just so we’re clear from the start, here’s who we’re rooting for, in descending order or fervor:
University of Wisconsin football or basketball (whichever’s in season)
Milwaukee Brewers
Green Bay Packers
Milwaukee Bucks
Other UW sports, particularly hockey
Wisconsin golfers: Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly, et al
Wisconsin drivers, especially Matt Kenseth (this might come as a surprise)
Other Wisconsin natives not tied to a state team or school (like Tony Romo or Nick Van Exel)

Here’s who we’re rooting against, in descending order of fervor:
Chicago Cubs
University of Michigan football
The Ohio State University football
Chicago Cubs
North Carolina basketball
University of Minnesota hockey
Chicago Cubs
University of Illinois basketball
Northwestern University
Chicago Cubs

Here’s who we don’t like, but we’re trying to develop a healthier attitude about:
Marquette University basketball

Hoping to post every day (not this long), but you know how it is with a job, kid, and a life. But check back often, comment often, and go 1-0 today! ;)