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Sorry, Brewers. You’ve Had Your Chance. Again.

Considering that I’m not even sure if I’m playing in a league this year, I’ve spent way too much time lately preparing for a fantasy football draft.

One of the people I can blame for this is an ESPN fantasy sports analyst named Matthew Berry, who writes a ton of entertaining columns for and records daily podcasts to which I am mildly addicted.

(The simple reason that I never bother to update the songs on my iPod? ESPN podcasts. Why bother with four hours of Mike & Mike in the Morning when you can hear all of its relevant segments in 30 minutes later that same day?)

Anyway, I mention Mr. Berry not because I’m hoping to get into his fantasy football podcast’s self-proclaimed “Man’s League,” which sounds suspiciously like the title of a movie found on George Takei’s DVR—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but because I happened to note that a column that Berry wrote on August 12 was, for him, “the final baseball column of 2010.”

Now, I’m not in a fantasy baseball league, and I haven’t been for some time, but isn’t it a little early to shut it down on the 2010 baseball season?

Surely there are people out there playing fantasy baseball who still want advice on favorable pitching matchups, information on whose injuries are severe and whose are merely annoying, and insider knowledge on which pitchers’ arms are starting to fall off as we head into the final 50 games of the season.

Yes, that’s right. There are close to 50 games left in the 2010 season.

Just like I don’t believe that the 50-year-old Jane Lynch should be called “that old lady on Glee,” as one of my co-workers recently referred to her, I also don’t think that a season with nearly 50 games remaining is really winding down.

But I see where Berry is coming from. Weeks before a meaningful game will be played in either the pro or college ranks, it seems all people want is football.

Talk about pent-up demand: The Hall of Fame game between the Bengals and the Cowboys last Sunday night tagged 9.1 million viewers and scored the highest ratings for a preseason game since 2004.

And the game was on NBC, a network that regularly gets beat in the nightly ratings race by the likes of Univision and Telemundo. 

No question about it, like Comic-Con attendees insane for the new Harry Potter films, sports fans are insane for the return of football.

Perhaps this annual change of season is felt no more strongly than in Wisconsin, where folks are largely accepting of their flawed but lovable Brewers (Bernie Brewer and Bob Uecker? So cute!) but damned near obsessed with their beefy Packers and Badgers.

The Badgers? Even their mascot isn’t cute. And the Packers? They only tread in lovable waters when Aaron Rodgers does his “title-belt” touchdown celebration. So adorable, Aaron.

But while most of us giggle and wriggle with anticipation over football’s return, this is a hard time of year for diehard Milwaukee Brewers fans. They feel like Molly Ringwald’s character in Sixteen Candles—depressed, forgotten, and disregarded.

And while I empathize to a certain extent, I must in the end say this to the object of their affection:

Tough dookie, Brewers. You had your chance.

Every year, the Brewers enjoy a long stranglehold on the Wisconsin sports landscape, are rewarded by their fans with above-average attendance, and nearly every year (or every year a Cy Young-worthy pitcher doesn’t fall into their lap) ownership repays that love and loyalty by delivering a product that disappoints.

Once again, the 2010 Brewers have a losing record in August, the time of year when fans stop dreaming about Ryan Braun going long and start dreaming about Aaron Rodgers going long.

I’m not going to go into the problems the Brewers have (pitching) because you’ve heard it all before (pitching). Flogging the team yet again for their weaknesses (pitching) would be as dull as one of Ken Macha’s postgame press conferences.

(Sorry, I nodded off there for a few minutes just thinking of Ken Macha. Where was I? Oh, right.)

I’m not personally thrilled about the annual winds of change. Frankly, I would rather watch a Brewers game in late August then a Packers game in late August.

And I sincerely doubt, unlike Matthew Berry, that this will be the final time I mention baseball in my column in 2010.

But the suddenness with which the Brewers achieve obsolescence this time every year?

I get it.

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10 Biggest Sports Disappointments of 2010 in Wisconsin

Look, I know we haven’t talked for a while. But I was a little afraid to call you.

I know that the last few days have been tough. I heard about you taking your kids to see Toy Story 3 and how you had to be removed from the theater because you were crying so loudly.

Yes, I know. Andy saying goodbye to Woody, Buzz, and the rest of his beloved toys (and symbolically, to his childhood) was an emotional punch in the throat that resonated with many grown men struggling with the responsibilities of adulthood. But come on, get a grip.

Then, just days later, the United States men’s national soccer team lost to Ghana 2-1 in the opening round of the World Cup’s so-called “knockout stage.” I heard you hadn’t been so despondent since Beavis and Butt-head was cancelled. 

While I can empathize with your disappointment that the United States team didn’t make it farther in the World Cup, I must admit to some surprise at how hard you took the defeat.

Aren’t you sort of hardened to this sort of thing by now? After all, the first half of 2010 has been full of crushing letdowns for Wisconsin sports fans.

Let’s look at just ten of the biggest sports disappointments in 2010:


10. Lady Badgers Make Quick Exit

Yes, it was a successful season for the lady Badgers. Yes, Lisa Stone guided the team to one of their better seasons in quite some time, as they finished third in the Big Ten and won 21 games overall.

But it was that type of season that made you think that their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2002 was going to last a little longer.

Instead the seventh-seeded Badgers were the victims of one of the few upsets in the stultifying predictable women’s tournament (really, most infomercials have more stunning developments) as they fell 64-55 to the 10th-seeded Vermont Catamounts of the America East conference.


9. Andrew Bogut Gets Hurt

The Milwaukee Bucks have long been a team that has had to deal with injuries. But often the team has been so bad that injury problems were an annoyance that distracted from bigger problems, like a bad photo on a Barry Manilow album cover.

Yet in 2009-2010, something happened to the Milwaukee Bucks. Scott Skiles and John Hammond put together a team, led by rookie guard Brandon Jennings and midseason acquisition John Salmons, that won games, even after Michael Redd predictably went down in January with yet another knee injury.

Not to be overlooked was the play of center Andrew Bogut, who was having a breakout season to the tune of 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game when he incurred an elbow and hand injury in April, just as the Bucks had secured a playoff spot.

Without Bogut, the Bucks lost to the Hawks in the playoff’s opening round in seven games. With Bogut, they likely go deeper and should go deeper next year.


8.  The Brewers’ Lousy Home Cooking

I’m hesitant to dump too much on the Brewers on this list due to their recent turnaround (winning eight of their last eleven games as of this writing).

However, the fact remains that as we approach the All-Star Break, only Baltimore, Cleveland, and Houston (all with 16 wins) have won fewer games at home than the Milwaukee Brewers (17 wins).

For a team with as solid and loyal a following as Milwaukee, that’s simply inexcusable and incomprehensible.

And no, I don’t buy the team’s complaints about the shadows during day games at Miller Park anymore than I would buy complaints about the brand of peanuts sold at the concession stands.

Last I checked, both the visiting and home teams play under the same conditions.


7. Aaron Kampman a Jaguar?

It shouldn’t have ended like this. Heading into the 2009-2010 season, defensive end Aaron Kampman was one of the most well-liked and productive players on the Packers.

In the three seasons spanning 2006-2009, Kampman totaled 215 tackles and 37 sacks.

Then new defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his hairpiece instituted the 3-4, Kampman moved to outside linebacker, where he looked about as comfortable as my father at a Bone Thugs-n-Harmony concert, and a great player was suddenly nullified.

Given his lack of production in 2009 (just 3.5 sacks before going down with a knee injury on November 22), it might not have been that crushing of a blow to the team when it was announced in March that the free agent had signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it was undoubtedly a disappointing end to what was shaping up to be one of the greatest careers ever by a Packer defensive player.

6. Wisconsin Women’s Hockey Comes Back To Earth

What a difference a year makes. In March 2009, the Badger women were celebrating their third national championship in four years.

In winning the title (again), they amassed a gaudy 34-2-5 record and won a remarkable 23 games by at least four goals.

In February 2010, the Badger women, sans head coach Mark Johnson (on a year sabbatical to coach the U.S. women’s hockey team in Vancouver) and sans eight players lost to graduation, finished with a 18-15-3 record while missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.

Given the huge losses, such a downfall was perhaps not entirely surprising, but given the high expectations for success that the women’s hockey program has raised, still very disappointing.

5. Brewers’ Pitching Stinks Again (But . . . )

When the 2010 season began, it seemed as if the Brewers couldn’t help but improve on their disappointing 80-82 2009 campaign.

After all, Milwaukee just missed a winning record despite having the second-worst pitching staff in the National League.

Unfortunately, so far in 2010, the pitching has been statistically just as bad, highlighted by the complete collapse of closer Trevor Hoffman and the less-than-tremendous start by newcomer Randy Wolf.

However, the club appears to be on the upswing, and improvements in the pitching is (not surprisingly) a big reason: Hoffman’s ERA has dropped over three points since June, Randy Wolf has won three of his last four starts, there’s no more Jeff Suppan (his firing being the most welcome personnel move since Bruce Springsteen reunited with the E Street Band) and John Axford has emerged out of nowhere to not only bring back the handlebar mustache but also to bring back a dominant closer (five straight save conversions) to the Brewers.

So, reasons for optimism following a pretty awful first half of 2010 for Brewers pitching.


4. The Penalty That Never Was

Just as Mick Jagger is in no hurry to return to Altamont Speedway, most Packers fans are in no hurry to return to thoughts of January’s NFC Wildcard game against the Arizona Cardinals.

And most reticence fans feel likely stems from the final play of the game: Third-and-six on their own 24-yard line. In the process of having the football stripped, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers clearly gets his face mask pulled by Arizona’s Michael Adams.

Karlos Dansby returns the fumble for a touchdown that seemed sure to be wiped away in favor of a facemask or illegal hands to the face penalty on Adams.

Except no call was ever made, and a game that the Packers had been in control of since midway through the third quarter (not to mention a largely positive season) was suddenly over.

Hey, NFL officials. Jim Joyce apologized for blowing that perfect game call. Isn’t it time you apologized for this gaffe?


3. Badgers Overpowered By Eagles

The bigger the game, the bigger the disappointment. Unlike the women’s team, the Badger men’s hockey team had a fantastic 2009-2010 season, going 28-11-4 and making an impressive run through the NCAA tournament field.

But in a rematch of the 2006 NCAA championship game (which the Badgers won 2-1), the red-hot scoring Badgers were completely shut down by Boston College 5-0.

However, the Badgers were in it until the third period, when the Eagles exploded for four goals and ended any chance Wisconsin had of winning its seventh NCAA championship.

What’s worse for the Badgers is the fact that the 5-0 drubbing was the final game for seven seniors.


2. Defensive Collapse I

After a tremendous regular season (24-9, highlighted by three wins over top-five teams, including eventual champion Duke) that featured standout play from Jon Leuer (despite missing nine games with a wrist injury), Jason Bohannon, and Trevon Hughes, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team was awarded a gaudy No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Much of what secured the Badgers that high seed was a remarkably stingy defense that stifled its opponents while allowing less than 55 points a game.

Bo Ryan’s team was clearly not designed for an up-and-down offensive shootout, but that’s what they found themselves in when they played No. 12 seeded Cornell of the Ivy League in the second round.

The Badgers were no match for the hot-shooting Big Red, as Cornell shot 61 percent from the field and 53 percent from beyond the arc.

What was clearly one of Wisconsin’s best teams in several years bowed out of the tournament in the opening weekend for the fourth time in five years. 


1. Defensive Collapse II

Despite minimizing the talents of Aaron Kampman (see above), new Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers’s new 3-4 defense was clearly a success in its first year.

Although the team stumbled against Minnesota (twice) and Pittsburgh, the team finished the 2009 regular season seventh in points allowed per game, second in yards allowed per game, and first in rushing yards allowed per game.

Heading into the NFC Wildcard game against Arizona, a trip to the NFC Divisional Round seemed assured, especially since Green Bay had throttled Arizona 33-7 just the week before, as the defense only allowed the Cardinals 187 total yards from scrimmage.

No one could have foreseen that the Cardinals would completely have their way with the Packers defense during the second meeting, scoring 31 points by the midway point of the third quarter en route to a 51-45 overtime win.

It was the most points the Packers had ever allowed in their long and illustrious playoff history.

Just thinking about those 531 yards the Packers surrendered on January 10 is enough to make any Packer fan reach for their kids’ Woody or Buzz Lightyear doll for a little solace.

Here’s hoping for a better end to 2010.

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The Bucks Are Done in 2010 NBA Playoffs. Are The Brewers Done Too?

What would Perry Como do?

Anyone who is a fan of the 1994 Kevin Smith film Clerks has probably seen – in any number of its dozens of video releases – the film’s original ending.

Cut before the film was released theatrically, but included on subsequent Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray releases, the original ending features the shocking twist of store clerk Dante being shot and killed.

It’s a terribly abrupt and disturbing ending, in large part because of the unexpected high degree of fun that had come before.

Sunday’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal game seven beat down of the Milwaukee Bucks at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks was like that – an ugly, shocking, disturbing, completely unsettling end to what had until then largely been a joyous 2009-2010 season.

Yes, it is easy for those who either don’t believe in or don’t care about the Bucks to quickly dismiss a team that did not make it out of the opening round of the NBA playoffs. (After all, doesn’t every NBA team make the postseason?)

But remember that the Bucks were a team most picked to be among the dregs of the NBA this season. Yet look at what they accomplished:

Finishing the season 10 games over .500.

Making the playoffs for the first time in four years. (No, not every NBA team makes the postseason.)

Pushing a heavily favored Atlanta team to a seven game series in the postseason, even though most thought the series would be finished in five.

They were able to accomplish so much after another mid-season injury (January 10) to guard Michael Redd, and a late-season injury to center Andrew Bogut (April 4), who had been having a breakout year.

Much of the credit for the Bucks successes this season has to go to GM John Hammond, who deservedly won the NBA Executive of the Year award last month, as well as coach Scott Skiles. Hammond’s decision to draft Brandon Jennings in last year’s draft and his move to acquire guard/forward John Salmons from the Bulls in February paid huge dividends this season, and Skiles has been unanimously praised for developing a wonderful chemistry with his team, despite making undesirable lineup changes due to injuries.

If Milwaukee can re-sign Salmons (who averaged nearly 20 points a game for the Bucks), if the Bucks can remain relatively injury-free next season and if Brandon Jennings can improve on his impressive rookie season, the Bucks might have the biggest upside of any team in the NBA, pending what happens in what could be a blockbuster off-season in free agency.

Yes, those are big “ifs,” but should situations fall the right way for the Bucks, their window for success could be opening wide.

On the contrary, the window for the Milwaukee Brewers seems to be slamming shut faster than the chances for a Furry Vengeance sequel. (Further proof that you can write anything on Wikipedia: note the mention of Brooke Shields as Furry Vengeance‘s “hot wife.”)

After Sunday’s humiliating 8-0 loss at San Diego that wrapped up a series in which the big bats of Milwaukee scored a grand total of two runs (and this was a four-game series), it’s almost hard to believe the Brewers are only five games under .500.

If the Brewers hadn’t had the luxury of playing Pittsburgh six times already, who they’ve outscored 61-17 despite only going 4-2 in those games, things might be even worse.

Despite a slow start for Prince Fielder – who has only seven more hits than Gregg Zaun, and the Brewers catcher started 0-for-21 – and despite the awfully offensive offensive display in San Diego, the Brewers’ bats aren’t where most are putting the blame. Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks and especially Ryan Braun are performing up to expectations (and, in McGehee’s case, beyond, although he has cooled off a bit).

No, despite off-season efforts to overhaul what was the worst pitching staff in the majors in 2009, the Brewers still find themselves unable to get outs.

While newly rich Yovani Gallardo has rebounded from an awful start, and newly acquired Randy Wolf has been okay, the rest of the lineup has ranged from disappointing to disastrous. Dave Bush has been erratic and Doug Davis has been awful. And the only reason Chris Narveson is in the rotation is because his chief competition was Jeff Suppan, whose demotion to the bullpen was the easiest decision Ken Macha had to make since coming to Milwaukee.

Worse still has been that bullpen. And not just because Suppan now resides there. Trevor Hoffman, who was so steady last season, has already blown four saves this season and has held teams scoreless in only six of his first nine outings. New set-up man LaTroy Hawkins has done nothing but remind people why no team who signs him ends up wanting him around very long (the Brewers are his seventh team since joining the Cubs in 2004). And Claudio Vargas’s comeback to Milwaukee has been about as successful as Vanilla Ice’s latest comeback.

While Milwaukee still resides in the upper half of clubs in terms of offensive production, outhitting teams such as the Yankees, Phillies and Rays, it’s clear that their 20 and 17-run games against Pittsburgh have exaggerated those numbers.

It’s also becoming clear that they are not going to be able to regularly score as many runs as their pitchers allow.

Sound familiar?

The Brewers recent struggles (losing eight of ten as of this writing) haven’t gone unnoticed by the number crunchers at AccuScore. In the week from April 26 to May 3, they’ve dropped the Brewers’ chances of making the postseason in 2010 from 20.4 percent to just 6.5 percent, the biggest drop of any National League team.

And now we don’t even have Bob Uecker to listen to.

Yes, we have not even hit Big Brother‘s summer season yet and the Brewers have loads of time to turn things around. I know.

But given what we’re seeing now, if I had to guess which team — the Bucks or the Brewers — would next make a serious post-season run, my money would be squarely on the Bucks.

Get well, Bob.

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