I don't really have a question, I just need to vent a little. But stick with me, because, who knows, maybe a question will somehow squirt out of my gin-soaked disappointment. If you pay attention to sports, you might understand my pain from this one-word clue: Wisconsin. You see, fans of three major Wisconsin sports teams have suffered through a similar and frustrating script this past season. And, for this particular sports fan, its the type of storyline that brings the greatest amount of anguish. Here's the basic narrative:
Act One: Prior to the season, the fans have a reasonable expectation for possible greatness.
Act Two: During the season, the performance of the team meets, and at times exceeds, expectations.
Act Three: At some point, the team craps away its chance for a championship in some excruciating way.
It all started with the Milwaukee Brewers. In the previous season, they showed off a powerful offense but lacked starting pitching.The team made bold moves to improve its pitching in the off-season and appeared to be legitimate contenders for the National League Pennant. The first part of the season was shaky, but they rebounded to win the division handily. They crapped away their shot at the World Series by getting stomped at home at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that barely squeaked into the post season and also has the distinction of beating the Brewers in its only previous World Series appearance. That knife would get a good twist when the Cardinals went on the win the whole enchilada.
But then along came the Wisconsin Badgers football team. In the off-season they recruited Russell Wilson, a talented quarterback from NC State, to spend his last season of eligibility as the Badger signal caller. They began the season ranked 11th, a position that would certainly make a national championship run possible as long as they took care of business. But I didn't really entertain any hope about winning it all until I saw them in action. They looked unstoppable early with a punishing power running attack complemented by Wilson's superb passing, scrambling, and running. They crapped away their shot at the national championship by giving up touchdowns on last second "Hail Mary" passes in two consecutive games. The ensuing depression would briefly go away, only to return when they lost the Rose Bowl in a game that teased Badgers fans by being more competitive than anticipated.
But, no matter what happened with these other teams, we always had the Green Bay Packers to fall back on. Super Bowl Champions. Nearly undefeated. Aaron Rodgers for MVP. This team had already conquered the mountain. They could tap into valuable experience that neither the Brewers nor the Badgers possessed. While the defense was the obvious weakness, several key players on that unit had shown past ability to step up their level of play in big games. They would go all the way, and somehow that would at least partially heal the wounds that resulted from baseball and college football. It was not to be. They crapped away their chance at winning consecutive Super Bowls with a combination of uncharacteristic turnovers and all too familiar defensive breakdowns. It sure didn't help that one of those breakdowns was another "Hail Mary" pass to end the first half. The pain from this loss will be compounded only if I actually watch the handful of Packers players in the Pro Bowl. I probably will.
It's easy to talk about silver linings in all of this disappointment. It is better to have competed at the highest level and lost than to just plain stink from the outset. The fact is that the Brewers, Badgers, and Packers provided me and many others with a great deal of sports entertainment over the past several months. It is an inescapable truth in sports that as success grows, the emotional stakes to the fans increase along with it. However, it just seems cruel to be subjected to three metaphorical face-plants in the same year. It's like the sports gods are trying to tell us something. Which reminds me -- there is one common thread that runs through all three of these teams: bad defense. If, by chance, the lesson is that defense wins championships, then I think there is one very powerful way for the sports gods to drive home that message to me and my fellow Wisconsin sports fans. The Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team should win the NCAA Division I Championship. Is that too much to ask, Abby?
Disappointed in Wisconsin