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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Return to Normancy

The Fairly Detached Observers

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Refreshed by baseball’s All-Star break, the Observers got together at a Downtown dia mond Sunday and knocked a few topics out of the park.

Frank: I guess we ought to look at what’s happened—or not happened—on the Brett Favre front.

Artie: Before that, let’s talk about something that has to bring joy to your heart: the result of the British Open.

Frank: True! As a fan of all things Irish, I’m very happy that Padraig Harrington—or “Patrick,” as someone on NPR insisted on calling him—won for the second straight year.

Artie: Irish guy wins again on the queen’s soil. In your face, you anti papists! And the thing I find encouraging is that Greg Norman choked. How many times has he done that at a major tourna ment after leading on the final day? Normalcy is a comforting thing, ain’a?

Frank: Exactly the way Warren G. Harding put it in 1920! Or in this case, it’s more like Normancy.

Artie: For me, the Norman collapse gave rise to hope. If you look at famous chokers in sports, can’t we in Milwaukee look forward to another bunch of choke artists delivering the goods in September? Yes sir, the Cubs can do it!

Frank: I daresay there are lots of Cubs fans who believe that, too. Meanwhile the Brewers aren’t standing pat, even after getting CC Sabathia. Now they’ve made this deal for Ray Durham as infield help. You think this means Rickie Weeks might be hurting?

Artie: He certainly isn’t hitting the way a leadoff hitter on a contender should be hitting. Some people say, “Well, he’s scoring a lot of runs,” but how many more would he be scoring if he were hitting at least .250? There’s some thought that maybe his wrist isn’t 100% healed from the injuries over the last two years, or in trying to compensate for it he’s changed his swing.

Frank: Now with Suppan coming off the DL, they’ll probably be moving a pitcher. Any candidates?

Artie: Need you ask? Our $10 million guy, Eric the Dead Arm, or Mr. Mota. Or both.

Frank: Despite the incredible stuff the manager often sees from Mota? Same as he saw from Sheets in San Francisco.

Artie: Yeah, Ben gave up 9 hits in 5 innings. He just “left a few over the plate,” according to Mr. Yost.

Frank: I think your stuff is supposed to help keep the ball from being over the plate. That’s part of what “stuff” is.

Artie: You ever get the feeling that George Orwell’s 1984 is Ned’s favorite book? 

Frank: Speaking of things that defy logic, let’s look at developments since the Observers forced Brett Favre’s hand by complaining that he wasn’t speaking for himself.

Artie: For one thing, he came to Green Bay for the Hall of Fame ceremony! But it was a quickie: He came, he saw, he inducted and then fled.

Frank: As I listened to the interview with Deanna’s pal Greta Van Susteren I was thinking, “What a pigheaded guy. Why can’t he just be gracious and say, ‘I’ll go to camp and if I’m good enough I’ll be the starter. The team comes first.’” I was pretty anti-Brett. But then I began thinking, “Who’s more important to have as your quarterback? The guy who’s done it for 16 years, showed last year that he can still do it and wants to do it again, or the guy who is untested and perhaps brittle?”

Artie: It seems there are two immovable forces at work. Two guys who want all the credit for whatever success they have this year. Ted Thompson, it seems, wants to be able to say, “That was all me. It was my team.” Whereas if Favre plays and they get to the Super Bowl, people will say, “Yeah, Ted, you got there because of Brett.” Which is just the way Brett wants it.

Frank: Personally, I don’t care one way or another about the Packers...

Artie: Don’t say that too loudly.

Frank: But if I were a devoted fan of this team, I’d be miffed that among all the things Favre said, none of them was, “Of course I wouldn’t think of going to a division rival; I wouldn’t do that to the Packers and their fans.” He told Van Susteren, “I’m a Packer, I’ll always be a Packer,” but he didn’t sound like a guy who’s thinking that way.

Artie: In his first year, Thompson felt he had to part ways with the two starting guards, Wahle and Rivera, and Favre wasn’t happy at all. Maybe Thompson began thinking, “Who made this guy the assistant GM?”

Frank: Saturday night they were a couple of tables away from each other, apparently.

Artie: And I’ll bet you a buck two eighty that if there’s only one men’s room in the atrium, that when one got up to go, the other guy crossed his legs and thought, “Dang, where’s my Stadium Pal when I need it.”

Frank: I still think you could get the two of them together with some kind of mediator—McCarthy, Bob Harlan, somebody—and somehow get agreement on the idea that the Packers are better with Favre as the starter. On the other hand, if he’s there, the whole thing hovers over the team all season.

Artie: What about the fact that Ron Wolf recently announced that he’s mov ing back to Green Bay? Is there any possibility that some deal is made: Ted Thompson resigns, Ron Wolf is named interim GM and Brett comes back?

Frank: So far it seems as though the executive committee is supporting him, but who knows?

Artie: Well, you heard it here first. Thompson goes, Wolf comes in and Brett plays—and then breaks a hip and both legs in the first game, after they’ve traded Aaron Rodgers.

Frank: One thing the Packers must be thinking is, “What if we bring Brett back, Rodgers holds the clipboard another year, and then Brett says next year, ‘OK, now I’m really done,’ and Rodgers becomes a free agent and says, ‘I’m gone, too’?”

Artie: He’d have to feel he owes the Packers less than nothing. So then he’s the one who goes to Minnesota and kills the Packers for the next 10 years.

Frank: With that kind of optimism, you should be a Cubs fan.

Frank Clines labored almost 20 years in the sports department at the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and covered the Brewers part-time for most of those years. If selected as your next president, Art Kumbalek promises an Era of Good Feelings.

Frank and Artie walk off | Photo by Jill Trapp


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