The View From Wisconsin
Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
- Big win for Bucky on Saturday. First ever W for Barry Alvarez against Lloyd Carr, and the first W in forever against the Wolverines.
- Looks like former Badger Brooks Bollinger will be getting his first NFL start on Sunday, after the Jets lost both Chad Pennington and their backup QB to shoulder injuries. A word of advice: this is about 20 times bigger than the Iowa game from a few years back. Don't mess it up.
- The Brewers are back to .500, thank you very much. The odds are looking better that they will be able to go at least 3-3 over the remainder of the season; that final start next Sunday (which would be Chris Capuano's last start of the year, by the way) is looking bigger and bigger as possibly "the game" that would put them over .500 for the first time in NL play.
- As for the Packers – I think it would be a major accomplishment if this squad came close to .500 this year. Realistically, when you put your best effort out there and you still can't win a game, you're looking more and more like a non-playoff team. And we're still in the running for the Matt Leinart sweepstakes – though you'd have to bet that he wouldn't care much to come to Green Bay.
- It was great to see Paul Kariya finally getting into a game on Sunday against the Jackets. You can't put too much into the pre-season, but the Preds are playing pretty well with the cast of characters we have. That bodes well for my Admirals, too; I'm going to have to brush up on some of my Finnish goaltending phrases to keep Pekka Rinne focused in net. How do you say, "great save" in Finnish?
Friday, September 23, 2005
Part of me would just laugh if Hurricane Rita did damage to the Alamodome in San Antonio, but it looks like the storm is headed more towards the Louisiana-Texas state line area.
No truth to the rumor that the state of Louisiana is going to change its state flag to a single white bedsheet after this hurricane.
Monday, September 19, 2005
If I were Doug Melvin, I'd have three things that I'd be trying to do during the off-season of 2005-06. First, I'd be looking to shop Lyle Overbay for a young and relatively productive third baseman. The Brewers have had a continuous black hole at third for years, and the combination of Cirillo and Branyan isn't going to help. Next, I'd be checking out the health of Ben Hendrickson, and taking a good long look at Jose Capellan during winter ball. Putting one of those two in the rotation would go a long way to making the Brewers a contender. The last thing would be to kick Victor Santos to the curb. He has no business being a starter in the majors, and if the Crew want to take that next step, they have to get rid of players like him. I honestly believe that if Melvin can do these three things, the Brewers can move forward towards becoming a contender once again. That's something we haven't been able to say in these parts for quite some time.
The Brewers, by the way, essentially knocked themselves out of the Wild Card race when they lost to Houston on Friday. And, unfortunately, they have pretty much eliminated the chance of finishing above .500 for the first time in over a decade by letting the 'Stros sweep them. I only see five or six more wins for them this year, and even that may be pushing it.
For all of you out there who thought the Badgers were going to keep up the point-a-minute juggernaut, the UNC Tar Heels provided a bit of a reality check. Now that UW is headed for Big Ten play, don't expect tailback Brian Calhoun to rack up a string of 200-yard games. Granted, they won't play OSU this year, but it'd be silly to think that Bucky could run the table and play in Pasadena in January.
And then there's the Packers. Ugh. This team is going the proverbial nowhere fast. I sincerely hope that drafting Aaron Rodgers wasn't the biggest drafting mistake made by the Packers since Tony Mandarich.
I keep hearing all this talk about whether or not David Ortiz should be considered for the American League Most Valuable Player award. Thing is, even if he is a DH, I don't think he's the best player in the AL right now. Ortiz has some pretty big numbers, but Vlad Guerrero of the Los Angeles Angels of 1 Gene Autry Way, city of Anaheim, Orange County, California, is putting up numbers just as good – if not better. And there's that A-Rod guy in the Bronx, too – though you're not seen as being "knowledgeable" if you think that Rodriguez should be MVP. It's almost a non-PC thing to suggest that the best player in the AL should be its MVP… but then again, if the Yankees don't make the post-season, should he really be the MVP? I say he doesn't, but you gotta give the award to Vlad, not Big Papi – and not because he's a DH.
The National League doesn't have the overwhelming number of candidates that the AL has for MVP, but the question of Pujols vs. Derek Lee is coming down to brass tacks. If Lee wins the Triple Crown (which is looking less and less likely, since he is way behind Andruw Jones in HR and RBI), or if the Cubs came back and win the Wild Card (even less likely, since the Cubs are six and a half behind the 'Stros), there'd be no way the writers could not give him the award. With only two weeks left in the season, though, it's almost certain that Albert Pujols will have the edge in the hardware department.
On the mound, I think Chris Carpenter has all but cemented the NL Cy Young Award. Dontrelle Willis hasn't been able to get the Fish over the hump in the Wild Card race so far; he'd have to pitch lights-out to get the nod at this point. The AL Cy Young race is harder to read; Bartolo Colon is having a runaway year, but Roy Halladay of the Jays is doing well, despite not pitching all year. Cliff Lee in Cleveland is having a great year, too, but I think he might be more of a Rookie of the Year candidate than anything else. Oh, by the way: David Wright, NL Rookie of the Year. Bet on it.
You may notice that I haven't said much about my two and a half days without power this past week. Truth is, I'm trying to forget about it. The ice cooler sitting in our kitchen has gone untouched since I emptied it of food on Thursday.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Let us flash back two years ago to a spring night in Nashville, circa 2003. The "Playoff Pledge" has gone down in flames, though not because the Preds didn't make a good run of it. However, an injury to David Legwand against the Blackhawks basically sent the entire team into a funk that they never crawled out of.
Anyways, it is the night of the Fangtastic Fanale. Unfortunately, the Preds do not win this one, as their opponents are headed off to the Stanley Cup finals for a date with the New Jersey Devils. After the OT goal is scored by one Steve Thomas, the post-game festivities begin.
Eriks (a friend of mine from high school) and I, however, dart down to the basement of the GEC and get down to the green room - mostly in hopes of catching a certain defenseman for the other guys who was one of the reasons why he and I caught the hockey bug over a decade ago.
And, of course, I have my eye out for a short kid who I'd always admired (and, after that year's SC finals, it was cemented as one of his fans). We got the one guy's autograph, and then - sure enough, here comes this short guy with that unmistakeable face and look.
I politely asked for his autograph, which he provided - right on top of a Predators logo inserted in the middle of my Predators Press magazine. I never forgot that autograph, especially after his theatrics in game 6 of the finals.
I had temporarily forgotten where I'd placed the magazine, after months of keeping it right beside my computer. I thought I knew where it was, but when I went looking for it, I didn't find it immediately.
I did some looking through some boxes I had displaced elsewhere in the mess I like to consider as my office, and finally - just as I was about to wail and moan in despair - I found it.
It's now back on my desk, and even though the little PredsPress magazine had two other autographs in it - one of Rem Murray, and another of Sandis Ozolish - it's still the one in the middle, on the Predators logo, that makes me smile.
It makes me smile because I don't think he ever suspected that he was signing his name on the logo of the team he would be playing for, two and a half years later.
Paul probably wouldn't remember me from Adam, but that moment was only topped by what happened August 5th.
"Is that sappy enough for you?..."
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
A very sudden, very severe storm blew through my part of Waukesha County yesterday around 6:00 PM local, and the power went out almost immediately. Apparently, we had some straight-line winds that knocked out power lines and downed trees.
A very large branch broke off from one of the trees behind my house and plopped down on the sidewalk back to our parking lot. Thankfully, it didn't hit anything.
Unfortunately, I'm still without power. This means I'm typing this up on a computer at the Waukesha Public Library.
WE Energies is NOT on my favorite company list at the moment.
However, for some reason I have a taste for jambalaya, gumbo and some old-time jazz...
Monday, September 12, 2005
Boy, the Titans looked awful against Rothelsberger and the Steelers. You have to start wondering how many games Pittsburgh is going to win under Big Ben; if they get home-field for the AFC playoffs, they might have a shot at de-throning the Patriots as Super Bowl champions.
Continuing the Harry Potter discussion: I don't think it's been mentioned, but what is Lily Potter's maiden name? We've never heard it, nor that of her Aunt Petunia; would it be surprising if it turned out to be Black, or even Riddle? The family tree at Sirius' family home was half-torn; perhaps the piece that would have indicated that Harry was part of the Black household was on the missing piece?
Meanwhile, as the rest of the state pondered the meaning of the Packers' loss to the Lions (and the Javon Walker injury), the Brewers quietly took two of three against the NL Wild Card leader this weekend. Once again, they are one game under .500, and heading into a six-game road trip to Arizona and back to Houston. I'll say right here that they'll still be 1 game under .500 by this time next week.
I understand that the 65-0 shellacking of Temple came close to setting a Wisconsin football record for most points scored in a shutout by the Badgers. However, there appears to have been some confusion over where this game ranked among the most one-sided shutouts in college football history. True, there haven't been may such high-scoring shutouts in NCAA history, but it is far from the worst shellacking in the history of the game.
Back in 1916, Georgia Tech under head coach John Heisman was one of the country's best teams. Since there was no such thing as conferences or Divisions or anything like that, Heisman had to set up his schedule with any other team that he could arrange. The football manager at a small school based in south central Kentucky, called Cumberland College, was a former Tech graduate, and had agreed to send his team down to Atlanta to play Tech.
The only problem was, Cumberland didn't have many good players. Though Cumberland had managed to beat the Rambling Wreck in baseball the previous spring, they weren't at the same level as Tech in football. Georgia Tech was playing at what we would call Division I nowadays, while Cumberland was on the level of an NAIA school. The manager tried to stop off in Nashville on the way to Atlanta and recruit a few Vanderbilt players as "ringers" for the game. However, not only did he fail to get anyone of note from the Commodores squad, three of his best players ended up stranded in Nashville as they missed the train.
Cumberland didn't stand a chance; Tech was already up 63-0 before the first period was over. Because of travel constraints (and at the suggestion of Heisman), the two teams had agreed to shorten the game from the traditional four 15-minute periods, but even at the half, with Tech up by 126 points, Heisman didn't trust the Tech manager. Though the third and fourth periods were shorter than the first half, the Wreck managed to rack up 222 points. Cumberland didn't have a hope of getting a first down, much less any points. Meanwhile, Tech racked up 528 yards rushing, with 220 yards on kickoff returns and another 220 on punt returns. And even though Heisman was an innovator who developed the "T" formation and the "I" formation, Tech didn't attempt a single pass during the game.
The 222-0 destruction of Cumberland was the most embarassing loss ever in college football history. In fact, Cumberland College dropped football as a varsity sport, and didn't pick it back up for nearly 70 years. (The College of the Cumberlands began play in the NAIA in 1985.) Heisman was given the somewhat derisive nickname of "Ole Shut The Gates Of Mercy" for his piling on of the poor Cumberlanders.
Remember that the next time you hear people talking about Steve Spurrier running up the score at South Carolina.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Boy, Bucky really smoked Temple, didn't they? I think Alvarez may have run out of plays when the third quarter ended. When you're up 65-0, there's only three plays you need to have - run left, run right, run straight ahead.
On to more (or less) pressing matters:
- Unfortunately, gas prices haven't gone down much here in Waukesha County. It did shoot up to $3.499 in a few places, but it flattened out to $3.199 by Labor Day. It's dropped down to $3.099, which is what it cost per gallon to fill my tank last night. I would hope we would be back below $3 by the end of the month, but now that they're going in and doing damage assessment along the Gulf coast, anything could happen. If there's even a small glitch with the restarting of an offshore rig or a problem with a pipeline, panic could keep prices up at $3 for the forseeable future. Meanwhile, I keep laughing at all these ads on TV for the latest SUV or truck. I don't even think Hummer is really all that enthused with their new H3, the so-called "smaller Hummer". I have been seeing a lot of Honda Priuses (Priusae?) out there; considering that diesel is still under $3 in most places, and that hybrids are starting to become a viable option, it wouldn't surprise me if there's a surge in their sales over the next year or so. It's almost like the diesel engine "fad" that happened after the gas crisis in the late 1970's and into the 1980's. I still have memories of my dad's 1982 Olds Cutlass diesel, with the "glow plugs" and the rumbling engine.
- The new Harry Potter book is a little bit more ubiquitous than I previously thought. I went to Half Price Books, intent on selling my once-read copy of The Half-Blood Prince, and they told me they could only give me $4 for it. When I asked why, they said that the book is being sold cheaply at so many retailers, and there are so many copies of the book out there. In fact, they said they were averaging about one copy of the book per day being sold back.
- I see that there is now a video game from the people who gave us Roller Coaster Tycoon, called Prison Tycoon. The goal is for you to build a prison – privately owned, of course – and build it up so you can make money off of it. I'm not sure, but I don't think that game would be very popular around my workplace.
- Speaking of that: I just want to go on the record about how frustrating it is working with youth in the intake cottage of a juvenile detention facility. The kids tend to have a lot of misconceptions while they're in our cottage, and it gets annoying after a while. The first is that they don't think that we, as staff, can figure out when they are lying to us. At some point they need to realize that staff get lied to all the time (and no, I'm not just talking about management). It's our job to figure out what's really going on in our work unit, so it's not difficult for us to find out if a kid is lying in short order. Another one is that they think that they can "get over" on staff with relative ease. They're so used to playing one adult against the other, it's like a game to them when they say, "Well, other staff told me I could do this." It doesn't occur to the youth that a.) staff do talk to each other, and b.) the department rules regarding following the orders of staff applies to the here and now. In short, my response usually is, "That staff isn't here right now, I am, and don't do that." Unfortunately, most of these kids think we just fell off the back of a truck or something. A third misconception is about how many of these kids think that they'll be out of here and everything will be OK when they get home. I read letters constantly about "can't wait to get home" and about planning parties for their return to society. The truth is that the average youth that is sent to EAS returns at least once – the actual average over the last eight years is a little more than two intakes per youth.
- The next step in my long journey with my back issues is a CT scan. I go to Waukesha Memorial Hospital next week to get crammed in to the CT machine and have them take pictures of my lower back and hip area. Hopefully they'll find something this time around. I really didn't realize until I started this whole long process how chronic this back pain has been.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
First of all, it's rather obvious that the Superdome isn't going to be back in operation before then end of the year - if at all. Rumors are even flowing that the facility may be demolished instead of re-opened.
Secondly, there are some logistical problems with LSU's Tiger Stadium, as it is currently being used as part of the recovery effort. If that wasn't bad enough, I understand there's construction going on at the site; I'd bet that any construction that was done before last week probably has to be "re-done" after whatever Katrina did.
The other most logical place for the Saints to use is being used - ironically enough - for the same purpose the Superdome was being used. That would be the Astrodome. Of course, the Houston Texans might have a problem with the Saints playing (literally) in their back yard, anyways.
There's be the concept of putting the Saints on the road for all 16 games. That could be described in one word: "Nightmare."
So that leaves us with two choices: San Antonio or Shreveport. I haven't heard anything about the condition of the Independence Bowl after Katrina, but since they offered LSU to host their opener (before it was switched to Tempe), you'd have to assume it's a viable option for the Saints.
San Antonio has its advantages, as it won't have as many conflicts in scheduling as it would if they played in Shreveport. It's not like the Alamodome doesn't have events scheduled, but they're more likely to be able to be rescheduled than they would elsewhere.
It would be the more PC thing to do to have the Saints play in Shreveport or Baton Rouge; it might be more financially sound for the Saints to play in San Antonio. It's more of a question of whether or not the Saints' Tom Benson wants to be opportunistic or not when it comes to this situation.
I really don't have an opinion one way or another; I just think it would be best served if the Saints played this season - period.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Not only do I have to deal with my kitten's licking issues (she doesn't care much for her new Elizabethan collar), but I also have to deal with the probability, once again, of getting ordered to work Saturday morning.
It's a holiday weekend, no one wants to be at work, and we all have extra vacation time that we want to burn (by using the vacation-to-sick leave conversion route).
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I'm still confounded about the anti-capitalistic laws we have in the state of Wisconsin when it comes to gasoline. There is a law on the books here that is just insane, and it's really starting to hit people at the bottom line of the gas pump.
It's officially known as the "Unfair Sales Act" - but is more colloquially known as the Minimum Markup Law. The state requires sellers of gasoline to "mark up" the price of their gasoline by a certain percentage, so consumers couldn't get the bare-bones "wholesale" price for gas, even if they wanted. This practice essentially eliminated the old practice of discounting cash purchases, or the creation of "gas warehouse cards" (for example, Sam's Club or a major grocery chain) selling gas at a discount for club members.
That's not all that's odious about State Statute 100.30: There is a section that requires a station to have an equal level of markup to the station closest to it at all times. Basically, if a station has gas at $2.099 a gallon, the next closest station must have a per-gallon price of no more than a penny or two. This law aggravates drivers to no end, especially when one station gets a new supply of gas – at a drastically increased price – suddenly you see other stations changing their price signs in response. You can go to a station in the morning, fill up at $2.799 a gallon, see another station down the highway get a new supply of gas, and later drive by the same station where you filled up to see that gas has shot up to $3.099.
There's another law regarding gasoline that has been a hot-button topic in the last few years – is the automatic increase in the gas tax each year. Every April 1, people grouse because the state automatically increases its tax on a gallon of gas, and no legislator is bold enough to put together legislation to rescind this law – or, if they do, it fails in a squabbling of issues that keep it from eitehr getting to a vote or even getting out of committee. The main problem is that the state's coffers are already drained, and the budget-makers and legislators count on that increase to pay for the spending they're planning for the future.
It's obvious that these laws need to not only be re-evaluated, but rescinded and thrown on the junk-heap of bad legislation. Open up the free-market system by removing the shackles on pricing. If a station can sell a ton of gas at $2.499 while everyone else is selling it at $3.099, more power to them. If people want to join a gasoline co-op or a "warehouse club" so they can get gas cheaper – isn't that what America is based on?
A "gas tax holiday" (where the state gas tax would not be collected for a certain period of time), while a good idea, would just hurt the state fiscally – something that it can't quite afford to do. Instead, rescind the mandatory increase in the gas tax, so that it remains "frozen" for at least two years or more. Add in a requirement that any automatic increase in the gas tax would have to be voted upon in a state-wide referrendum. (You can guess how much that would get voted down.)
On to other things:
- The questions about the wrath of Hurricane Katrina are coming around fast and furious: How bad is the destruction in New Orleans? Should they even consider returning and rebuilding the city? Are the Saints as homeless as the people who were forced to evacuate their home stadium, due to all the damage done to the roof? Will the damage caused to the refineries and oil rigs cause already-high gas prices to spike even higher? Will all of the damages impact the economy and send it into a recession? My response is this: People are going to come back and rebuild the city – it's just a matter of time before they get the levees repaired, and the water pumped out. I don't think the Saints will be playing back at the Superdome anytime soon, but they might be back before the end of the year. Gas prices, as I've already pointed out, are on their own crazy trip. Bud Greenspan could accidentally belch during a press conference and gas prices would go up by 10 cents a gallon.
- Concentrating on football for a moment: Brett Favre's family in Mississippi is alive and well, but it sure looks like his family home is history. There are going to be a lot of distracted players in the league this week – and possibly even into the first weekend of the season. The Saints (as previously mentioned) are probably, as a team, completely unconcerned about football right now that it's not funny. They will more than likely play in San Antonio for a while – until they can find Tulane Stadium under the flood waters.
- The people of Alysham, Saskatchewan are wearing Predators Mustard once again. Good to have Greg Classen back in the fold; the Preds need all the depth they can get at center.
- As a Brewers fan, I am officially calling on Ned Yost to bench Lyle Overbay and put Prince Fielder in as the starting first baseman for the rest of the year. It is time for the future infield of this club to come together and play as a unit, so they can go into spring training of 2006 as the definitive starters. Oh, and I'd also see about trying to pry Michael Young from the Rangers for Brady Clark, Lyle Overbay, a box of bats and a bucket of balls. Third base is the only weak spot for this team – whose potential is growing with each game.
- The throwing motion of Ben Sheets has always made me believe he was one mis-step away from tearing something. Now, he's not only going to have to heal the tear in his shoulder, but he's going to have to re-learn how to throw the ball. The Brewers don't seem to have much luck signing pitchers to long-term contracts; first there was Fingers, then Vukovich, then Higuera, then Bosio. I hope they are going to take this very cautiously, and not try to rush him back, like the Cubs did with Kerry "Oops, I Hurt It Again" Wood.
- Is it just me, or does the "new" Marquette Golden Eagles mascot look like the Kansas Jayhawk's evil twin?
- The college football season opens up this weekend, and everyone wants to know who's going to be playing in the Rose Bowl in January. The way that the BCS is set up (or, if you prefer, "not set"), I don't know if it'll really matter. Another season where there's no clear-cut national champion could doom the BCS permanently – and finally lead to a NCAA-sanctioned playoff.
- I'm re-thinking my initial displeasure at the decision by MLB to rescind Donruss's license to produce baseball cards. Each of the sets that I've encountered so far – Absolute Memorabilia, Team Heroes, Leather and Lumber, and the latest cards I bought, Throwback Threads – are some of the least imaginative cards that I've seen. The only thing I really regret is the loss of Fleer; their Fleer Tradition set was a great-looking, even promising collection – even if they made it impossible to finish the set (another issue I have with card makers).
- I am seriously having second thoughts about my planned trip to Nashville for opening night of the NHL; the cost of gas could make it more of a luxury than either myself or Eriks could really afford. It actually might be cheaper to fly in to the 'Ville and then rely on the "kindness of strangers" to get us where we want to go.
- Speaking of trips: it's official. I won't be driving out to AZ with my dad at the end of October. He's still recuperating from his knee replacement surgery, and it's highly unlikely he'll be ready to go by then. He has contemplated going out there after Thanksgiving; I've posited to him that perhaps he should consider flying out there, and purchasing an economy car while there to keep there. There'd be less strain on his knee from all the driving we normally do, and he wouldn't have the hassle of packing up and bringing a lot of stuff home. And, since it's conceivable that gas prices in the Valley could hit $4 by year's end, it'd be much cheaper for him instead of gassing up his minivan constantly. If he decides to buy the car here, I'd be more than happy to drive it down there for him – and drive it back every two years to have it checked for emissions.
- I now am the proud owner of a dead router. My old DI-604 D-Link router stopped working this week, prompting a trip to the local Office Depot for a replacement. It wouldn't even let me connect to the router to run a diagnostic to see what was wrong. Home networking problems are their own kind of hell when it comes to computers. It was bad enough when I had to run the ethernet cabling across the hallway and down the cold-air duct to link up the cable modem to my wife's computer; this just takes it to the next level.
- My cat is doing okay, though she decided to take the issue of her meds into her own paws this week and knocked her secondary medicine drops off the counter and onto the floor. I have discovered that no matter how hard you try, giving a cat medication is a two-person job. I'm also a bit concerned that she has some more fur-marks on her; hopefully, she's not licking herself because of an allergy.