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Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008

Flipped Off

The Fairly Detached Observers

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At first glance it was a bleak weekend for Wisconsin’s top football teams. The Badgersblew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost at Michigan State, 25-24. Then the Packers lost at Tennessee, falling to 4-4.

But Green Bay battled the Titans, the NFL’s only undefeated team, to a stalemate. The coin flip for overtime went Tennessee’s way and they drove to a field goal and the 19-16 victory. By the time the Observers discussed the game, the Packers’ performance had taken a lot of the sting out for Artie.

Frank: Seems like the Packers defied the dogma that there’s no such thing as a moral victory.

Artie: They played an unbeaten team, an excellent team, in their place, and could easily have won.

Frank: Aaron Rodgers gave no reason to think he doesn’t deserve the big new contract he got last week.

Artie: Absolutely. He threw for more than 300 yards against a terrific defense. In the third quarter he threw an interception and lost a fumble, but hey, that’s football.

Frank: So the Packers are a game behind the Bears, but they have two shots at them and there’s no reason to think they can’t win ‘em both.

Artie: Yes, sir. It didn’t take long for me to get over the loss Sunday. But there’s one thing I can’t get over: The NFL’s ridiculous system for overtime.

Frank: “Sudden Death,” or as the life-affirming Curt Gowdy liked to call it, “Sudden Victory.”

Artie: I just call it dumb. Two teams are tied after 60 minutes, but then they don’t have equal chances to win? Too many times the outcome depends on who wins the dang-blasted coin flip. If you take the kickoff out to the 30, you only have to go 40 yards to get a shot at a winning field goal.

Frank: That’s pretty much what happened this time.

Artie: Yeah, the Titans pretty much pounded the Packers down on that final drive. But who’s to say the Pack wouldn’t have done the same thing if the flip went the other way?

Frank: I don’t know how many times an NFL overtime ends in one possession, but why should there even be a chance for that? In college games they have alternating possessions from the 25-yard line until one team emerges with more points.

Artie: Why would the geniuses who have built the NFL into an empire fail to grasp that simple fairness?

Frank: One reason, I think, is something the TV guys kept hinting at during the Packers’ overtime: “We’ll get you to your late game as soon as this ends.” And if the overtime is in a late game, it’s, “We’ll get you to that fabulous primetime schedule.”

Artie: So the networks are watching the clock, and for what they pay the NFL, they can call the shots. Anyway, when the Titans won the flip I figured, “This is over.”

Frank: In the name of journalistic fairness, I must ask if you’d hate the system if the Pack had won the toss?

Artie: I’m offended! I’m talking football fairness, and gambling fairness.

Frank: Nobly spoken! I do think the NFL doesn’t like overtime because it upsets the scheduling ballet involving the league, the networks and Joe and Josephine Six Pack in front of the set.

Artie: To say nothing of Joe the Plumber. And, you betcha, Sarah Palin.

Frank: She’s gotta dig the NFL.

Flapped Silly

Frank: I have three comments on the World Series. One: The best thing about it was the team that wasn’t there. As a Yankee fan, I was thrilled to see Tampa Bay send the hated Red Sox home.

Artie: Hey, Brewer fans feel the same way! Except they rejoiced that the Cubs were watching.

Frank: Two: I was very glad to see Geoff Jenkins double and score to start the last night.

Artie: The ex-Brewer hadn’t done a thing in the playoffs up to then.

Frank: He had a rough season, playing his way onto the bench. He never reached his potential with the Brewers, but he was a good guy, accessible and friendly to the press and fans.

Artie: So for once a nice guy finishes first, ain’a?

Frank: And now my top World Series comment: Who came up with that ridiculous headwear?

Artie: I know where you’re heading.

Frank: In Game 4 I saw the Rays manager and said, “Is he really wearing a baseball cap with EAR FLAPS?” They weren’t pulled down that night, but in Game 5 there were Jimmy Rollins, Evan Longoria and other guys with flaps down. Horrifying!

Artie: As a guy who knows a little something about caps with flaps, I share your outrage. What’s next, adding that fluffy stuff at the ears so they look like the crew of a B-17 or school kids in the 1950s?

Frank: Some guys wear those coldweather hoods under caps, but at least that has a space-age look, and it does NOT tamper with the cap.

Artie: Cripes, it’s as bad as some of those uniforms in the ‘70s—the White Sox in shorts and the all-gold Pirates looking like big canaries.

Frank: At least the Phillies’ flappers were red, so I guess they can wear ‘em in the woods when they hunt.

Artie: But nothin’ beats blaze orange, as I can attest! The only way a flapped hat should appear on a baseball field is if I get a managing job. Then I’d follow Connie Mack’s example and wear my regular clothes. And THEN flaps would be cool!

Frank: Maybe you’d like to recommend the look to the Brewers’ new skipper, Ken Macha?

Artie: Hey, my look is copyrighted! But I would like to take this opportunity to assure the Observers’ fans—you know who you are—that we’re already putting our keen minds to work on possible headlines for the Macha era.

Frank: Um, such as...

Artie: Well, how ’bout a “Macha-rain’a?” Or maybe “Macha-roni,” when we decide he’s being noodle-brained.

Frank: At least Macha will never wear a flap cap at Miller Park. Thank goodness for the roof.

Artie: The real question those flappers raise is: What in the Wide Wide World of Sports were those guys—to say nothing of the fans—doing out there in all that cold and rain?

Frank: I don’t fault Bud Selig for starting Game 5, or for deciding it would go nine innings no matter what. But the fact that they play games almost in November, with the first pitch after 8:30 Eastern time, comes right back to money.

Artie: Never! The National Pastime ruled by crass financial motives? Say it ain’t so, Frankie.

Frank: Why does the season last so long? Because baseball expanded the playoffs to make more money and refused to shorten the regular season, either by reducing the number of games or returning to scheduled doubleheaders.

The owners say they can’t afford to give fans two-for-one because those greedy players make so much. And the fans keep coming out—so far. We may see whether a prolonged recession hits baseball where it hurts.

Artie: So the Philly fans got soaked, and not just by the ticket prices. Meanwhile, TV viewers in the eastern half of the country were asleep when the games ended.

Frank: Again, all money. Who needs a half-hour pre-game show about what MIGHT happen? Get ‘em on the field and we’ll see what DOES happen! But Fox pays MLB billions, so Fox gets all the time it wants for commercials. That includes extra time between innings in the postseason, almost three minutes.

Artie: Three minutes! Hey, that’s how long it took from when the polls closed Nov. 4 to the start of the 2012 presidential campaigns. Heaven help us.

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 has declared his candidacy for the office of Badgerland governor in 2010.

Artie models the only kind of flapped cap appropriate for the dugout

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