Badger Fans, Feel Free to Raise Your Hopes
And speaking of returns…
Frank: So we're back after a one-week, um, hiatus.
Artie: I wasn't sure that holdout idea was gonna work.
Frank: Asking for $5 million guaranteed and up front may have
been a mistake.
Artie: I was never able to spell "leverage" anyway.
Frank: Well, back to work. Do you think the Badgers have some
leverage in the Big Ten?
Artie: Absolutely! This could be an exceptional season in Madison.
Frank: The good news is that most of the preseason rankings have Wisconsin in the Top Ten
or close to it. The bad news is that some of them rank two other Big Ten teams
Artie: It seems like everyone has Ohio
State at No. 2 behind Alabama. Then it's
or UW toward the back of the Top Ten and the other close by. The Associated
Press has Iowa
ninth and the Badgers 12th; The Sporting
News has the Badgers eighth and Iowa 13th.
Frank: None of the three teams will be ducking the others. It'll
be a round robin, ending with OSU at Iowa
on Nov. 20.
Artie: But the Badgers have to play the other two in successive
weeks—hosting the Buckeyes on Oct. 16 and going to Iowa City on the 23rd. Who the hell dreamed
Frank: The same guy who dreamed up last year's schedule, which
gave the Badgers the same teams back-to-back but with the opposite home fields.
And UW dropped both games.
a good, good team, and it'll be tough going there after what could be a really
emotional game against OSU. If the Badgers win that one, they'll be sky-high
and maybe ripe for a letdown.
Frank: Last year both games were closer than the scores
indicated. Iowa rallied in the second half in Madison to win 20-10, and Ohio
State asserted itself defensively in
the 31-13 game in Columbus.
Artie: In ’08 when the Buckeyes came to Madison, it went down to the wire. Terrelle
Pryor led a late TD drive and an interception sealed OSU's 20-17 win.
Frank: At least the Badgers won't play Penn State
for the second straight year.
Artie: But this year that's not a good thing. The Nittany Lions
aren't expected to be a power. I'd much rather have Iowa on the "miss" list; that
defense is just rabid.
Frank: UW looks real solid on offense, with the usual caveat that
injuries could strike.
Artie: Scott Tolzien emerged as a solid quarterback last year and
John Clay rushed his way to the Big Ten offensive player of the year award.
Most people are picking Pryor for that prize this year, but I'm still not
convinced he's the real deal as a passer.
Frank: I agree, although Pryor had some good throws in the Rose
Artie: Clay is just a monster. The Badgers' whole running game is
great. They also have Montee Ball and Zach Brown and this freshman, James
White, who from what I've read is a total change of pace. The others are Ron
Dayne types, but he's like a Chris Johnson.
Frank: So they could have "Thunder and Lightning," like
the Giants touted with Dayne and Tiki Barber. Except that they didn't get much
Artie: So the QB is above average, the offensive line is really
good, the running backs terrific, the receivers solid. Most of the big
questions are on the defensive side. They have to replace guys like O'Brien
Schofield on the line and Chris Maragos in the secondary. But the potential is
Frank: It'll be mighty tough to beat Ohio
State and Iowa back-to-back. But it sure ain't
impossible, and if they do it, they should be off to the races. Maybe off to…
dare we say it? The Big Ten title and BCS championship game?
Artie: Northwestern and Purdue could be spoilers. The Badgers
always seem to have crazy games against Northwestern, like last year's 33-31
Frank: Is there any chance they'll lose any of their
"cupcake" games—UNLV, San
Jose State, Arizona
State and Austin Peay?
Artie: No… Well, there's always a possibility. But realistically,
no. It's gonna be an exciting season. Fans, there's no reason not to dream
about a BCS bowl game—maybe even the Big One. Bring on ’Bama!
The Energizer Buddy Gets His Due
Frank: I was at the ballyard the other day and saw the Bud Selig
statue. It's very nice.
Artie: Did they capture the commissioner's leadership on the
steroid issue? How do you translate heel-dragging into bronze?
Frank: The statue is firmly flat-footed. And really, everyone had
a hand in the procrastinating—Major League Baseball, the players' union, the
media and fans. Everyone was on board in 1998 when Big Mac and Sammy revived
the game, even though everyone probably had suspicions.
Artie: Everyone dug the long balls.
Frank: But I think Bud did something very smart when Congress
stuck its nose into this thing a few years back. My initial reaction, and
perhaps Bud's, was, "Great, now these gasbags will put on a show of
righteous indignation for their own benefit."
Artie: It's what congressmen do, ain’a?
Frank: But I think Bud realized that if he didn't squawk about
the hearings in March 2005, and instead took his lumps, Don Fehr and the union
would come out looking worse than MLB. And that's what happened. Some testing
was in place already, but a few months later the union agreed to much tougher
Artie: Selig's leadership style often seems like a lot of waiting
to see which way the scale tips, and then he goes that way.
Frank: He's not a showman, he's a consensus builder, and
sometimes that's vexing. But he doesn't give up on the things he wants, and he
doesn't go away.
Artie: Like a pebble in my shoe. Or the bunny in the battery
commercials; he's the Energizer Buddy.
Frank: The statue symbolizes Bud's determination in bringing
baseball back to Milwaukee
in 1970. After the Braves left he was in the wasteland, plugging away, and he
succeeded. Then in the ’90s when it was clear that a new stadium was needed, he
got that done.
Artie: Not quickly or easily, but it happened.
Frank: If you agree with the premise that big-league baseball, on
balance, is good for this town—even as it raises questions about the priorities
our society should have—then Bud is truly a hero.
Artie: Not that the baseball has been good in many of
these 40 years.
Frank: When he ran the Brewers I thought Bud got too wrapped up
in the mantra of "Woe is us, we can't compete with the big markets."
It became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and maybe led the team to not do enough
to improve the scouting and make better decisions in the draft.
Artie: And not re-sign Paul Molitor in 1993. So Selig was really
proactive in getting us a team. But on other things he just waits.
Frank: Still, as commissioner he's presided over big
changes—expanding the playoffs with the wild cards, interleague play, things to
spice up the All-Star Game. Which makes me surprised that he isn't more open to
greater use of replay to help umpires.
Artie: You mean, like, he's foot-dragging? He's gonna take some
heat if this year's playoffs have messed-up calls like last year's did.
Frank: But Bud is willing to take the heat, and the owners love
him for it. After all, he's their employee, with the job of keeping the
business profitable—even if it means that what I pay for a single beer at the
ballpark can buy a 12-pack in the real world.
Artie: A 12-pack? Hell, for the kind of beer I drink, that's a case!