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Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013

GREEN BAY PACKERS: VERDE Y ORO FOREVER

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The financial dispute between Time Warner Cable and Channel 4 left Time Warner customers like the Observers watching the Packers' exhibition opener on Spanish-language Telemundo. But so what? A 17-0 loss to the Arizona Cardinals needs no translating...

 

Artie: I didn't realize I'd have to use Telemundo until the day before. I got in a tizzy, like how am I supposed to learn Spanish in 24 hours? But then I said, this is football, what does intellectual comprehension have to do with it? John Madden did games for, what, 60 years, and what the hell lingo was he using? “Doink” isn't English or Spanish.

Frank: Anyone who knows the least bit about football can see what's going on. And when someone scored the word we heard was “touchdown” on Telemundo too.

A: Not that it mattered for the Pack. Anyway, in an exhibition game the key words in any language are “season-ending injury.”

F: I don't think we heard that in Spanish.

A: But like always I'm holding my breath. So often we hear that somebody “tweaked” something and three days later he's out for the year.

F: Just a week earlier Bryan Bulaga kept playing in the intra-squad scrimmage after wrecking a knee.

A: Right. This time I'm worrying about the rookie defensive end, Datone Jones, who sprained an ankle in the first series. The Sunday paper said his status “remains unknown.”

F: What's Spanish for “ominous”?

A: There are sprains and there are sprains. Especially when there's 300-plus pounds on top of an ankle, and with all the lateral movement and spins those linemen do.

F: There also are injury concerns involving guys who didn't play against Arizona. Two are defensive backs Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward, and in their absence the Cardinals scored twice through the air.

A: Nobody seems to know when they'll even get on the practice field. And the top two running backs, DuJuan Harris and Eddie Lacy, were also on the sideline.

F: On the bright side, the first-string offense marched down the field in Aaron Rodgers' brief playing time. Rodgers sure wasn't rusty; that sideline bomb to James Jones had some sweet “touch.”

A: Plus the rookie David Bakhtiari held up well as Bulaga's replacement at left tackle.

F: True, the Packers couldn't score on three plays from point-blank range. But exhibition games are more about “working on things.” On the other hand, Rodgers' backups were lousy.

A: That's got to be a concern. Graham Harrell, whose name sounds like a prime minister in the making, might be better off trying to get British citizenship and running for the House of Commons.

F: His performance, for a guy in his third year, was way short of common.

A: I'll be very interested in how Harrell, Vince Young and B.J. Coleman do Saturday night against St. Louis—maybe on Telemundo again. The backups get almost all the work in the second exhibition, with the third game being Rodgers' big tuneup.

F: Anyway, it was interesting to try to pick out some words in the Spanish commentary. I wondered whether the guys would emulate the soccer broadcasters and say “field GOOOOOOOALLLLLLLL!” But by the time Arizona finally made a kick I'd stopped watching.

A: Me too. Midway through the third quarter was siesta time.

F: As our headline shows, I looked up the Spanish for “green and gold.”

A: I'm sure you knew the “oro” part from all the times you've seen The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

F: And if there's ever a cold-weather game on Telemundo, they'll be playing on the “Tundra Congelada.”

A: Good to know, but I hope Channel 4 and Time Warner quit spitting at each other soon.

F: I had to be reminded which side is the balking payer and which is the demanding payee.

A: It's Time Warner that pays for the right to carry the channel.

F: Any business wants to limit costs, but as far as I can tell a cable system can raise its own rates however much it wants whenever it wants. For instance, when my bill grew in March the basic package went from $49.95 a month to $56.95, a 14% hike. And my sports package went from $4.95 to $8.99, a hefty 81.6%.

A: It's a pretty safe bet that whatever Time Warner winds up paying, they'll recoup a lot of it from us. There are other TV options, but they have their own drawbacks, and since I get my phone and Internet along with the cable, I don't have the energy to face the hassle of changing.

F: Same here. But we reserve the right to complain. Well, unless the staredown ends soon we'll see the Rams game in Spanish.

A: We better hope “Sierra Madre” is on Turner Classic Movies this week. Or maybe I'll watch nothing but Telemundo; I hear those “telenovelas” are pretty steamy...

 

MORE PAIN FOR WEEKS

F: Well, Rickie Weeks won't have a chance to salvage something positive out of this season. The 2013 Brewers have specialized in hamstring injuries, and Weeks' mishap in San Francisco involved a torn tendon that ended his year.

A: And what a year: He finishes at .209 with 10 homers, 24 RBIs and a .306 on-base percentage in 104 games. How is that even possible for a guy who reportedly works so hard?

F: That was on top of hitting .230—to that point a career low—in 2012.

A: But in the last two months or so he really came on strong. And the explanation for his early struggling was that he was still recovering from a bad ankle injury in '11. But what's the excuse this time?

F: Weeks did perk up in June, after Ron Roenicke began platooning him with Scooter Gennett. He hit .355 with five homers in that month, but lately he'd gone back to struggling.

A: Is it possible the league has just scouted him so well that everyone knows just what to throw him? And If that's true, shouldn't he then have known exactly what he had to work on?

F: As I've said before, Weeks is a real puzzle in one regard. He walks a lot, which indicates a certain amount of discipline at the plate. But he strikes out a lot too, which indicates exactly the opposite.

A: And all those one-hoppers to shortstop with men on base. His initials should be “DP.” And of course his fielding is nothing to write home about.

F: Years ago it seemed most of his trouble was with throwing, especially in trying to turn double plays. He improved there, but in the last couple of years it's actually catching the ball that's bothered him.

A: I wonder if they've ever thought about moving him to the outfield, just to see if it might change anything with his offense.

F: There was some talk of that a few years ago. You'd think his spot would be left field, but of course the now-suspended starter there is due to return in the spring

A: The biggest problem with Weeks is that he's due to make $11 million next year and has a “vesting option” for $11.5 million in 2015 that kicks in if he makes 600 plate appearances in '14. That makes him practically untradeable.

F: Especially coming off this latest injury—unless they could put him in some kind of package deal.

A: But his defense is a liability. And coming off the last two seasons, who's gonna want him as a DH?

F: Well, unless he really starts strong next year the Brewers won't have any incentive to let him reach those 600 plate appearances. And if Gennett finishes strong this year, Weeks might be an odd man out.

A: But a mighty expensive one.

F: It's really a shame because Weeks is, by all accounts, a real good teammate and clubhouse presence. He does work hard and he never, ever complains about his injuries or his slumps.

A: But it looks pretty likely that he'll play his last game as a Brewer in '14—if he hasn't already done so.

 

WHAT'S YOUR VOTE ON THIS?

F: What do you think about UW's announcement that the Badgers will play LSU at Lambeau Field to open the 2016 season?

A: Not a thing. I can't think that far ahead.

F: OK, how about this more immediate news involving the LSU football program? Sophomore running back Jeremy Hill, who'd been suspended for being in a bar fight, was reinstated after coach Les Miles let his teammates vote on the matter.

A: Is it just barely possible that Mr. Hill is considered an important part of the Tigers' offense?

F: I'd say so. He rushed for 755 yards and a 5.3 average as a freshman. And it just so happens that LSU opens its season Aug. 31 against a non-cupcake opponent, namely TCU.

A: Whose coach, I heard, had some comments about Miles' display of team democracy.

F: Right. Gary Patterson, who leads the Horned Frogs, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “I'm sure if it was some opponent they'd beat by 100 points, (the players) wouldn't have a vote.”

A: Hmm. Besides violating the commandment to “speak no evil of another coach,” Mr. Patterson makes a pretty good point.

F: Of course it begs the question of whether he'd act any differently than Miles if he had a star player in trouble. And in fact he does; defensive end Devonte Fields is suspended for the first two games for the ever-vague offense of “violating team rules.” But Patterson said a TCU team vote was out of the question.

A: Of course it was, after what he said about Miles.

F: Here's another Patterson quote: “My whole team would vote Devonte to be back on the team because they all want to win...”

A: And they all probably have violated team rules themselves.

F: But Patterson added, “That doesn't teach life lessons.”

A: Life lessons? What does that have to do with big-time college football, especially at an SEC school? Miles is there to teach one thing: “Just win, baby.” That trumps everything else.

F: In Hill's case, it trumps a guilty plea to misdemeanor battery, plus being out drinking in the first place. Oh yeah, and the probation he already was on for having a sexual relationship with an underage girl while he was in high school.

A: But I guess his teammates like him. Jeez, this sounds like Urban Meyer's program at Florida.

F: Miles wouldn't rule out Hill missing games. And I can think of two likely candidates: Games 2 and 3, against mighty Alabama-Birmingham and Kent State.

A: That's the way it always works, ain'a? A star will “do the time” in a patsy game, or maybe even just the first half of a patsy game. Or a basketball star will be benched for, like, 10 minutes of a non-conference tilt against Southwest Nowhere State.

F: Still, it was refreshing to see Patterson calling Miles out.

A: I guess not every single one of these top-level coaches is a carpetbagging, self-promoting jerk. Miles is like a prison warden who leaves the security up to the jailbirds. But I'd like to think that some coaches want to do the right thing.

F: The best comment I heard on this was from Tony Kornheiser on ESPN: “What does it tell us about the center of power at LSU?” In other words, what happened to the university president and athletic director?

A: It's no surprise that the football coach is God Almighty at an SEC school. But it's not just the coach at these places; it's the big-money boosters who also have a huge amount of power. They make all these donations that pay for additions to stadiums, lavish team facilities...

F: Like the new six-story, $68 million “Football Performance Center” that Nike honcho Phil Knight paid for at Oregon.

A: You mean the University of Nike, don't you? I also heard that Michigan State boosters ponied up $24 million for renovations to Spartan Stadium. And when you're supplying cash, you probably don't want a misbehaving player sitting on the bench—if he's a star, and the game is important.

 

Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek flunked high school Spanish.