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Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Brett Who?

The Fairly Detached Observers

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The Observers prepared for their weekly get-together with intense workouts of their channel-changing fingers. Three hours of bouncing between the Packers’ game in Detroit and the Brewers’ continuing meltdown in Philadelphia made their mission clear: Look on the bright side by avoiding all mention of baseball.It was a wise choice: That night the Brewers were swept and the first no-hitter at Miller Park was celebrated by Cubs fans. And by the next day, Ned Yost was a former manager as the Brewers desperately tried to salvage the season. Save us, football!

Frank: So the Packers wind up dumping the hapless Lions, 48-25. But with less than six minutes to play they trailed, 25- 24, after having a three-touchdown lead in the first half. What are Packer Backers to make of it?

Artie: When they fell behind, and then got pinned down deep in their territory, I was really watching to see if Aaron Rodgers would be rattled, try to press too much. But they had a nice play, a short pass to Greg Jennings that he took 60 yards.

Frank: Still, they only got a field goal to lead by two points. After that, a Green Bay fan could summarize the game in two words: Charles Woodson. A Detroit fan surely would use two other words: Jon Kitna. Woodson made two nice interceptions and took one for a score, but those throws were right in his mitts.

Artie: But Woodson did it with a broken toe. That smarts! He must have had some big-time painkillers.

Frank: I’m sure it was taped up, frozen up and shot up.

Artie: The fact is, the Packers won the game and Rodgers looked composed, had good mobility, threw for more than 300 yards, three touchdowns and, for the second straight game, no interceptions. And when he throws the ball away, he throws it away.

Frank: He looked good again on a day when a certain former Packers quarterback didn’t quite get it done against New England.

Artie: I’ve got a feeling that Brett’s little-town blues aren’t going to melt away anytime soon.

Frank: Still a couple of problems for the Pack. Too many penalties again, especially on the offensive line.

Artie: I was wondering about that, especially with the veterans like Chad Clifton. After having Favre doing the snap count all those years, maybe Rodgers is doing something different— rhythm, volume—that throws them off.

Frank: Could be. The other problem I saw, especially in the second half, was dropped passes. In that sequence when they were losing the lead, it seemed like there were several balls that bounced out of guys’ hands.

Artie: Absolutely. But Rodgers still had the good numbers.

Frank: Meanwhile, the Vikings blow a 15-0 lead and lose at home and the Bears can’t hold a lead and lose to Carolina.

Artie: Couldn’t be better. And now we await this coming Sunday night, in Green Bay against the Dallas Cowboys. Somebody must have made a mistake with the schedule. The Packers always have to go to Dallas. I think the last time they made Dallas play at Lambeau was the Ice Bowl, ain’a?

Frank: Spoken like a true fan! You’re right, for a stretch in the ‘90s the Pack had to go to Dallas seven straight times, and lost them all. And they lost there again last year. But I checked the records and the Cowboys did visit Lambeau in ‘97 and 2004, and the Packers stomped them both times.

Artie: You almost got to wonder if this is the NFL or are the Cowboys some NCAA powerhouse team that gets to be home all the time—”Yeah, we’ll schedule Boise State or Fresno State, but they’ve got to come here. We have too much to lose if we go there.”

Frank: Funny you should mention Fresno State. The Wisconsin Badgers did venture out there, and they came away with a victory over a ranked opponent. Not real scintillating at 13-10, but a victory.

Artie: A lot of people had the Badgers losing that one.

Frank: Including us.

Artie: Shhh, people are supposed to be forgetting that stuff. The Badgers won in spite of a call that was the biggest screw job I’ve seen in a long time. Late in the third quarter a Fresno guy makes a catch, turns, begins a step upfield, then gets hit and fumbles and the Badgers recover. But they call it an incomplete pass, and stick with it even after reviewing it.

Frank: And it was pretty deep in Fresno territory, right?

Artie: The fumble was recovered at the Fresno 26. Even the ESPN announcers were dumbfounded.

Frank: So now the Badgers are 3-0, have a week off and then begin the Big Ten by going to Michigan—which is 1-2 after losing at Notre Dame. So the good news: Michigan is reeling.

Artie: And the bad news: Michigan is reeling.

Frank: Exactly. The Wolverines are off this weekend, too, so they’ll have two full weeks of hearing and reading what a mess they are. They’ll be pretty pumped up for Wisconsin.

Artie: All in all, the Badgers looked good. The quarterback, Allan Evridge, was pretty good, the running game is strong and boy, are those offensive line men huge!

Frank: I think they redshirt those guys for about three years to turn them into monsters.

Artie: They must be hooked up to some kind of nutrient machine.

Frank: I would have been able to comment intelligently about the end of the UW game, but I forgot the first rule of recording football: Always allow for more time than the TV listings indicate. Those stinkin’ games never end in three hours.

Artie: Readers, take heed!

Frank: Yes, the Observers provide news you can use. If you’re DVR-ing, add the following show in the channel guide. If you’re taping, give yourself at least an extra hour.

Artie: Especially for college games.

Frank: Yes, because there seems to be no limit on college halftimes. The NFL at least says you’re supposed to have, I believe, 12 minutes in the locker room. But the NCAA doesn’t care.

Artie: Saturday night at halftime, I could have run down to some joint on Milwaukee Street and had a couple, moseyed down to Water Street, then hopped on the No. 15 bus down to Walker’s Point for a beer at Tony’s, and made it home to find they’re still showing the first-half highlights.

Frank: Speaking of things that never end, does anyone know how Matt Millen keeps his job as the Lions’ president and de facto general manager? This is his eighth season and they’re 31-83 counting the loss to the Packers.

Artie: It’s like some Bizarro World wit ness protection program. Instead of disappearing, he’s just kept around as though no one recognizes him.

Frank: The Lions are owned by one of the Fords, right? They must figure they’re stuck with Millen the way they’re stuck with all those millions of unsold SUVs.

Artie: Time to go with a hybrid, defi nitely.

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. An Art Kumbalek presidency promises a chicken in every pot and a bull market on every corner.