Sunday, August 17, 2008


Brewers, Packers, Badgers!

Once you have made the sweep around Lake Michigan, crept through the Chicago traffic to the Wisconsin border, you quickly realize that you have entered another sports zone.
Recently, there was a joyful double header for most Wisconsin fans. The Brewers played in the afternoon, and won. The Packers played an exhibition game in the evening on Monday Night Football, and survived their first game without Brett Favre.

The Wisconsin Badgers, the local university’s Division One sports organization, are gearing up for play this fall against other top-ranked American schools. This is big time stuff in those parts. Consider this: the football and basketball coaches made well over a million bucks each last year in salary and outside income, according to a report in the Tuesday, August 12, 2008 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Most minor league and college coaches I know north of the border would settle for the interest on those amounts.

David Thomas Bush began his major league career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004. He also pitched for the Jays in 2005, and had a combined record of ten wins, fifteen losses. His earned run average was over the 4.00 mark.
The Jays had just lost Carlos Delgado. They needed a strong stick at first base. They worked out a deal with the Brewers which saw Lyle Overbay go to the Jays, and Bush to the Brewers. Overbay was most popular in Milwaukee, and the fans hated to see him go. Other players were involved, but have since proven inconsequential in the trade.

Bush has pitched adequately for the Brewers, supplying plenty of innings, but has lost as many games as he has won for the Brew Crew. He is important to his team at this time, as they are battling for a division title with the Cubs. They currently lead the Wild Card race in the National League. The other main starters for the Brewers---Sabathia, Sheets, and Parra will likely provide enough arm strength for the Brewers to play in the post season.

On a recent Monday afternoon, Bush racked up his seventh victory this season. In his two previous years in Milwaukee, he won twelve games. His victory was important for a couple of reasons. It allowed the Brewers to sweep the lowly Washington Nationals. Lowly yes, but not completely. Manager Ned Yost snapped at one scribe who intimated that the series should have been a cakewalk. “The Nationals are a very good team. They won their last seven games before coming here. We took nothing for granted”.

The Brewers were also headed west to San Diego on a six game road trip following the game against the Nationals. A trip like that is always a little more pleasant with a few wins in their pockets.
Bush had only one minor situation in the fifth inning when the Nationals loaded the bases with none out. Willie Harris hit a nubber in front of the plate which catcher Jason Kendall pounced on to force the runner at the plate. Bush then struck out Pete Orr, and induced Ryan Zimmerman to ground out to second. Final score? Seven to one Brewers.

I ran into Gord Ash, former Torontonian and Blue Jay who is now the congenial Vice President and Assistant GM of the Brewers in the spacious hallways at Miller Park. Ash is now in his sixth season with the Brewers. When I told him I was from the Belleville area, he reflected for a moment and added: “Ah yes. The Thousand Island area.” Not quite, but close. He’s a Queen’s grad as well, which is not all bad.

The Packers new starting quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, rose above the throng to lead the Wisconsin eleven through four series of downs in Green Bay. He got the job done with little fanfare, under immense pressure. It will take some time for the Packer faithful to accept the fact the Favre has gone.

The situation had become impossible for management, and football fans wish Brett well in New York. But it is pre season, after all, and when the wins and losses are tabulated at the end of the regular season, these games mean nothing. Except that the page has been turned, that there is no Number Four on the field in Green Bay, and that it is time to move on.

Geographically, Milwaukee is closer to Chicago than to Green Bay. You would be hard-pressed to find many Bears fans in the town. Years ago, the Packers decided to play three home games in Milwaukee, and continued to do so until ten years ago; many of those ticket holders from County Stadium had their ticket rights transferred to Lambeau. And their hearts lie there as well.
There you have it. A glimpse of the sporting life in Wisconsin. Put your cheese head on, Myrtle, it’s game time!

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