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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It’s a Lock, Bye Gosh

The Fairly Detached Observers

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While the Brewers were rolling past the Cardinals and taking aim at the Cubs, the Observers convened at the Ball Park—a South Side sports bar, not the place with the sliding roof.

Frank: Breaking news, Artie! I’ve discovered that the stars are aligned for the Brewers to win the World Series. And it has nothing to do with CC Sabathia, 7-0 road trips or the Cubs being the Cubs.

Artie: What kind of Kool-Aid did you drink this morning?

Frank: I guess it has a little to do with baseball. The Brew Crew has to win the two NL playoff series, but after that the forces of the universe take over.

Artie: Have you picked up Scientology or something? We’re already to the World Series. Who have we vanquished to get there?

Frank: Doesn’t matter, although it would be fun to see them vanquish the wild-card Cubs. Now stay with me: Because the National League lost the All-Star Game, the NL team in the World Series will be home for Games 3-4-5. The Series is scheduled to start Wednesday, Oct. 22, which means the games in Milwaukee will be Saturday through Monday, the 25th through the 27th.

Artie: Nice public service we’re providing so people can clear their schedules.

Frank: All part of the Observers’ mission statement. Now as you know, the only time Milwaukee won the World Series, in 1957, the Braves had their home games on a Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Artie: Absolutely. They took two of the three, went back to Yankee Stadium up 3-2 and won it in Game 7.

Frank: What’s more, the only time the Brewers went to the Series from the AL, they had the middle three games. They took two of three to lead the Cardinals 3-2, and the fans stormed the field after Game 5 as though the Series was over.

Artie: Which it should have been, as everyone outside Missouri knows. If Rollie Fingers hadn’t been hurt, the Brew Crew would have held on in Game 2 and the Series would have ended in five.

Frank: When we’re in sync like this, it’s beautiful. So the Brewers are riding these parallels with past glory. Only one complication left to resolve.

Artie: One. Just one?

Frank: It involves another Wisconsin team—the one that dominates the hearts and minds of all Cheeseheads.

Artie: The team that wears the green and gold?

Frank: You betcha. In my time at those newspapers Downtown, it was an article of faith that news about the Packers—virtually any news about the Packers— eclipsed just about anything involving other state teams.

Artie: “Linebacker has hangnail, film at 10,” ain’a?

Frank: So the one drawback to the Brewers’ World Series glory would be having to wrestle with the Packers for attention, especially on a weekend. But thanks to the sports gods, there is a loophole. I hold in my hand...

Artie: Now you’re the Great Carnac, on top of the Scientology and Numerology.

Frank: ...the Packers’ 2008 schedule. And we find that on Sunday, Oct. 26, they... have their bye! For at least a few days, the Brewers will be No. 1.

Artie: I have to admit, you’re on to something.

Frank: And remember, in ’82 there was no NFL in October because of a players strike, so the Packers yielded the spotlight to the Brewers. And in ’57, well, that was two years before St. Vince began turning the Pack into the state’s obsession. So it’s in the stars for Milwaukee baseball this year, my friend.

Artie: Hey, Potawatomi is nearby. Do they have a sports book? And does anyone know where the Shepherd’s credit card is?

Frank: Wow, check out the TV! Is that a brawl in a WNBA game?

Artie: All of a sudden they roll out the inflatable pool of mud. “Oh, and she tumbles into the mud! Holy cow, where did that come from?”

Frank: I’m shocked, shocked that a team coached by Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn would be involved in a fight. The Bad Boys leading the Bad Girls.

Artie: That’s our cue to discuss that other Bad Boy, Mr. Favre. It seems he’s headed to the Packers’ camp—sometime—but really just wants to be traded. I’m so dang tired of this story, but it’s what people want to hear.

Frank: Maybe what they want to hear is, “It’s over.” The media seem to be support ing Ted Thompson, thinking long-term instead of what Favre might give the Packers this year. I wonder, does Joe Fan feel that way? Wouldn’t he sell the future— a piece of it, anyway—for a championship right now? That’s what the Brewers are doing.

Artie: Yes sir, rollin’ them dice.

Frank: Of course, what I just said assumes that Favre would be the Favre of old. A friend of mine told me, “Who says Favre can win it for them? He didn’t last year.”

Artie: Excellent point. I keep thinking of two cold-weather games, the one in Chicago and the NFC title game against the Giants. In those games, Favre was pitiful.

They had the Super Bowl in their hands—or in Brett’s right hand—but then it was in the Giants’ defensive back’s hands.

Frank: A New York Times column questioning the Jets’ interest in Favre called him “a 38-year-old quarterback most recently known for losing at home to Eli Manning with a conference championship on the line.”

Artie: The weather is one reason I see Favre wanting to go to the Vikings. If he went there and they earned home-field advantage in the NFC, he’d never have to play outside in the playoffs.

Frank: But the Packers won’t send him there.

Artie: Ah, but I have another of my worst-case scenarios. I woke up in the mid dle of the night, trying to put the Brett thing to bed, but he wouldn’t stay tucked in. So I think, “OK, it looks like they’ll trade him, probably Tampa Bay or the Jets. But what’s to keep one of them from re-trading him right to Minnesota?” Bang! Is there any thing that could prevent that, legally or contractually?

Frank: I can’t think of an example in the NFL, but it happens in baseball. Mike Piazza went from Dodgers to Marlins to Mets in about 10 days.

Artie: It just seems the Land of 10,000 Lakes is where Favre wants to go. He sure made enough phone calls to their coaching staff.

Frank: So that’s the nightmare: The Pack goes to Minneapolis for a playoff game and look who’s waiting. But here’s Brett’s night mare: What if he’s a Viking but they’re only a wild card, and he has to bring his purple helmet to Lambeau for a very cold playoff game? Or flip it again: He leads the Vikings into Lambeau and does win in cold weather?

Artie: And now I’m not gonna get any sleep tonight thinking about that. Thanks a lot. 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. Art Kumbalek believes that although the Vikings may have “discovered” America, they can’t, and won’t, find their name on the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Frank and Artie get serious | Photo by Kate Engbring