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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012

Well, Hello, Ma-Dolly!

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What a tough weekend for the state's big-time basketball teams. Marquette's seven-game winning streak ended when the defense disappeared at Notre Dame. Wisconsin's six-game roll ended because the Badgers stayed ice-cold outside and got pounded inside by Ohio State. And the Bucks, after initial success without Andrew Bogut, fell flat at Detroit and were trampled at home by the Bulls.

Then there was the Super Bowl, which once seemed destined to establish a new Packers dynasty. Instead, well...

Artie: I watched most of the Saturday hoops, and man, forget about Meet Me in St. Louis; it's meet me in South Bend, Madison and Milwaukee, because all day it was "clang, clang, clang went the folly" of our teams trying to score from three-point range.

Frank
: Who knew you were so show-tune attuned?

Artie
: UW had good looks all day but was 5 for 27 on treys, or .185. MU was 2 for 13, or .154, and the Bucks were 1 for 12, which is zero-eight-three. If you add them up it's .422—no match for Chicago's .467 on 14 for 30.

Frank
: Or Notre Dame's .478 on 11 for 23. The local team that made threes was UWM at 12 for 23 (.522). Unfortunately the Panthers' victory came at the expense of UW-Green Bay.

Artie
: Enough of Saturday! Since I had no vested interest in either Super Bowl team—especially the Patriots, who bore me to death—I'm glad your Giants won.

Frank
: From my point of view, this was just gravy. The Giants already had completed their mission: evening the score with St. Vince and the '60s Packers.

Artie
: To me, the most amazing thing was that Madonna didn't break her hip during the halftime show. She's at that age! I was worried that "Like a Virgin" would become "Find a Surgeon."

Frank
: A skeletal malfunction, in other words. I haven't watched more than a few seconds of a Super Bowl halftime show in decades. They're all ridiculous, from the white-bread stuff in the early years to the laughably scripted Janet Jackson "shock" to the current wave of geezer headliners.

Artie
: I saw a list of Super Bowl halftime shows, and it's mind-boggling. More than once in the early '70s the headliner was Carol Channing; more than once it was Up With People. Good ol' show business. Would I love to see tapes of those!

Frank
: But I'll bet Channing wasn't trying to pretend she was three decades younger. The numbers don't lie; Channing was born in January 1921, so when she did the halftimes in 1970 and '72, riding her fame from Hello, Dolly! she was 49 and 51, respectively. Madonna, no matter what version she's playing, was born in August 1958, which puts her well into her 54th year.

Artie
: She's the uber-Channing, the Dolly Levi of the 21st century!

Frank
: I was struck by two lists in the Journal Sentinel that showed the progression of Super Bowl ticket prices, TV-ad prices and the winners' and losers' shares.

Artie
: Me, too. It looks wild that the top ticket price for Super Bowl I was 12 bucks. But remember, in 1967 12 bucks was something, as in, "Are you kidding me? Pay that much for a football game?" You had to have been there in '67. Hell, cigarettes weren't even 30 cents a pack then.

Frank
: I know, because I was stamping the prices on cartons at a supermarket in '67.

Artie
: You were stampin' 'em and I was smokin' 'em.

Frank
: Anyway, I always like to see how price increases compare with the overall inflation rate over decades. In January '67 the Consumer Price Index stood at 32.9, and the latest figure, for December '11, is 225.7. So the CPI has risen about seven times' worth.

Artie
: But with the top ticket price for this Super Bowl at $1,200, according to the Journal Sentinel's list, it's a hundred times higher than in '67.

Frank
: The cost of a 30-second add, which was $42,000 in '67, is now $3.5 million, or about 83 times higher. But the players haven't kept up with inflation; the winners' share has gone from $15,000 to $88,000, which is less than six times higher. The really huge payday is for the big shots who run the show and put it on the air.

Artie
: And do you suppose the advertisers might possibly pass on their costs to Joe and Josephine Consumer?

Where'd the Pros Go?

Frank
: You tend to like all-star contests more than me. What did you think of the Pro Bowl?

Artie
: Didn't see a single second.

Frank
: Wow, for once I out-watched you. But it only took a few minutes to remind me that the game is a farce.

Artie
: Aaron Rodgers, the newly crowned league MVP, agreed with you.

Frank
: Yeah, the starting NFC quarterback had this to say on local radio last week: "I was a little bit disappointed... I was just surprised that some of the guys either didn't want to play or, when they were in there, they didn't put any effort into it."

Artie
: I'm surprised that Aaron was surprised. They don't allow blitzing, for cryin' out loud. All that matters is having a nice Hawaiian vacation, not getting hurt and filling up a few TV hours.

Frank
: These days the winners get $50,000 each and the losers $25,000, but I guess that 25K difference doesn't mean anything to these players. When we were kids and the winners' edge was, what, a couple of thousand bucks, it must have mattered because those guys played hard.

Artie
: Ah, those days of the Eastern red and Western blue helmets!

Frank
: I bailed after Rodgers' second TD pass, the 44-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald. Nice pass, hit him right in stride, but the Jets' Darrelle Revis, supposedly the league's best cornerback, had a bead on the ball, too. If he'd had any interest in doing his job, displaying his talent, he would have leaped for the ball. Instead he just loped along a little behind Fitzgerald and watched him make the catch. Disgraceful, and not just for Revis.

Artie
: Rodgers said he felt that some guys "embarrassed themselves." But can you embarrass yourself if you have no professional pride? Sure, nobody wants to get hurt, but it's supposed to be a contact sport, ain'a?

Frank
: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was embarrassed enough to say the league needs to make changes, even possibly "eliminating the game if that is the kind of quality game we are going to provide." And yet the telecast drew about 12.5 million viewers—down about 8% from last year, but still the most-watched sports event of that weekend. And it beat last year's baseball All-Star Game, which drew 11 million viewers.

Artie
: Football is king, even when it ain't really football.

Frank
: ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "People would watch NFL players having cookies and milk." And if fans are that complacent, or desperate, or dumb, the networks will always be happy to feed them several more hours of non-action in between the commercials.

Artie
: I'd be more likely to watch—and this is saying something—a World Cup soccer game than the flippin' Pro Bowl. But here's the game I'd love to see again—the College All-Stars vs. the NFL champions! Can you imagine the NFL even considering that?

Frank
: Every coach would howl at the thought of having his draft picks injured. Just like every manager dreads having his ace pitch in the All-Star Game.

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