Never before have everyday Wisconsinite’s had a hard time deciding between which team to focus a party around. You can’t host a Saturday Badger game party, followed by a Sunday Packer/Brewer game party. Even then, if you choose the Sunday doubleheader you are forced to choose a game to focus on since they were playing at roughly the same time. The teams that we are able to cheer for at the moment are spoiling us, and here is why.
The Badgers have the potential to receive an invitation to the BCS national championship game this season for the first time in over a decade. While the championship was viewed as a possibility, this last Saturday’s match-up against eighth ranked Nebraska was viewed as the make or break game for the year. Entering Saturday’s game, the Badgers had already decimated each team they had faced. The offense ran over some of the worst teams in college football, while the defense was fairly staunch. Nebraska was viewed as their first real test, and the offense clicked as if the competition hadn’t improved. The defense, meanwhile, gave up more yards than would normally be comfortable, but forced several turnovers by mistake prone quarterback Taylor Martinez. Now the Badgers have risen from seventh to fifth in the rankings, and quarterback Russell Wilson has injected new life into a team that has never before had a QB that can beat any team with his arm or his legs. In fact, when was the last time they had a quarterback who could beat a team on his own, period? Montee Ball rushed for over 150 yards on 30 rushes, continuing the Wisconsin tradition of having a big, bruising back. Now the only potential bumps in the road seem to be October 22nd against Michigan State, and November 19th against Illinois. Neither team is expected to be as good of a team as Nebraska.
The Brewers are in a position that they haven’t been in since 1982. They are considered one of the teams that actually has the potential to make a World Series run. Yes, they made the playoffs in 2008, but they were in a similar position as Arizona is in these playoffs: a team that is just happy to make the playoffs. With Shaun Marcum, Zach Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers fully expect to make a serious run at the championship this fall. After winning a team record 96 games this season, the Brewers won their division and the right to home field in the first series of the playoffs (and the second if the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Phillies). The Brewers have never won a World Series here in Milwaukee, and fans are delirious at the possibility. More surprising than any of that, for me at least, is that for the first time fans are actually tuning in to a Brewers game instead of a Packers game. While emceeing at Replay Sports Bar, I actually witnessed fans requesting that the sound for the Brewers game be turned on instead of the sound for the Packers game. Fans asked to have some of the televisions showing the Packers game switched to the Brewers game. This is MILWAUKEE, we are a football city, not a baseball city. Helped by the fact that they are in the playoffs, the Brewers garnered more attention that the Packers. After the Packers game ended, no fans left. None. While I set up an auto-tune to the Jets/Ravens game, fans booed me because they thought that I may have been turning off the Brewers game (and because they were a little drunk from all the free shots). I got booed, loudly, incredibly loudly, because fans thought I was turning off a 9-4 seventh inning baseball game.
The Packers are a different story all together. This state has long been a Packer state. A cheese head state, if you will. The Packers won the Super Bowl last season (as predicted on November 11th by yours truly), and all expect them to make a serious run at repeating as champions, something rarely accomplished. Notoriously slow starters since Mike McCarthy took over, the Packers have jumped out to a 4-0 start and seemed to be in control at the end of every game. The Packers offense has been particularly explosive with QB Aaron Rodgers supplied with a “toolbox” of talent, Donald Drivers words, not mine. Each week it seems as if a different player steps up and grabs the attention of Rodgers. Each defense has tried to focus on one specific receiver, whether it be Jermichael Finley or Greg Jennings, but that always leads another talented receiver open. It’s not even fair sometimes, since rookie Randall Cobb has the talent to be much higher up on the depth chart than fifth receiver, and has excelled when faced with a teams inferior cover corner. Because of last year’s championship, there is a lot of residual excitement surrounding this year’s team. Fans have not had to experience a Packers loss since December of 2010. Since then the Packers have won ten straight games, including playoffs.
Talk about a spoiled fan base. Let’s take out southerly neighbors, the city of Chicago, and compare. In the three major sports, Chicago fans have had nothing to cheer about since Michael Jordan left. The last championship for the Bears was in 1985, and the last time the Cubs won a World Series was well before World War II. To be fair, I do not count the White Sox because before they wont the World Series five years or so ago I had never met a Chicagoan who actually cheered more for the White Sox than the Cubs. Oh, and their college football teams are terrible. Does this mean that we are simply better than Chicago? Probably. Does this mean that we should rub it in their faces? Maybe. Does this mean that we are one lucky fan base who does not quite realize how lucky we have it right now? Definitely.
by Roberto Ruiz