Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Backcourting (Bucky Basketball Preview Part Two)

Most people probably think of Wisconsin's guards and go, "there's that Chris Rock-looking fella, and, uh..." then the mind flatlines.
Yes, this is why Ray Nixon often started at two guard last year and Tanner Bronson was placed on scholarship. (I don't mean to be mean to Ray-- he was a big guy, a decent defender and shooter, and a good athlete, but he lacked some sort of innate basketball instinct that good players have; I was the same as far as water polo goes).
But now the tables have turned, Mr. Powers. First off, we have Jason Bohannon coming in, by all accounts the best high school baller in the state of Iowa last year (Mr. Basketball). Of course, that designation is not all that dissimilar from being labeled the tallest midget, or the coolest waiter at the local Applebee's. Well, Iowa's population is certainly larger than many other state's, like the Dakotas, or Maine. Anyhow, he was ranked 88th by Rivals, based on this year's high school class. While apparently not a fantabulous athlete, Bohannon appears to have plenty of the aforementioned "innate basketball instinct" besides being a spot on shooter, passer and dribbler, perhaps developed from being hands-down the best player on a high school team that went 71-9 in his three years playing. Yee haw. He should be an excellent one/two guard.
Second, we have Trevon Hughes, the first New York product to play for the basketball Badgers since forever. Okay, he came by way of a Delafield area military academy. Whatever. He's reputed to be an excellent athlete, and a true "floor leader" pass first point guard (rated 58th overall by Rivals). Not sure if this means he can't shoot. Regardless, the Rivals video highlights had lots of footage of him stealing passes and dunking on breakaways. Hooray for point guards who have ups. Hooray beer!
Third, Mickey Perry is off of his year of magenta-shirting, and is ready to do some balling. The man they call Craig and I saw Perry play a high school state tournament game in Chicago a year and a half back, in perhaps the most emotionally charged sporting event I've witnessed in person. Some history: Perry went to Proviso East, located in the near western suburbs of Chicago. Proviso East produced Dee and Shannon Brown and Michael Finley, and is year-in and out a basketball powerhouse, even though the school serves a relatively poor suburb. The Proviso East team, reflecting the makeup of the school, was almost all African-American. The center on Perry's team was Brian Carlwell, a 6'10" center, now a freshman for the FIBs (another kid currently on that team is going to K-State to play for Bob Huggins next year). The other team, Brother Rice, was an all boys Catholic school from the far south side of Chicago, as close you can get to suburbia while continuing to work for the city. All white, no one taller than 6'4", but led by the current point guard at North Carolina, Bobby Frasor. I think it's safe to say that Frasor was the best player in the history of his high school. Roy Williams was allegedly at the game.
Anyway, the UIC Pavillion, where the Horizon League Flames play their home games, was packed, with a very divided crowd of almost all African-American fans from Proviso, and an equally large nearly all Caucasian group from Brother Rice. (This was during Illinois' one-loss season, and, perhaps driven by loyalty, several dads from Brother Rice refused to believe that Illinois was recruiting Carlwell). Highlights included the Duke-esque student section from the all-white school mocking the Proviso players in organized chants, several dunks by Mickey's team, the papists hitting many, many three pointers, a Proviso player giving the papist student section the shush sign after hitting a free throw (he missed the next one), Mickey's team building a solid lead towards the end of the game, only to blow it because they refused to run the weave, and because, predictably, the white team started hitting threes. There was no shot clock, and instead of killing the clock by playing keep away, some random guy on Proviso (not Mickey or Carlwell (the 6'10" current Illinois freshman)) kept driving to the basket.
Mickey missed a put back to win the game, right at the buzzer, then collapsed, face to the ground with half his teammates, while the all white teenage boy student section from the Catholic school went nuts. He'll probably remember that game forever. A crazy night of high school basketball.
The point is not just that (A) I have sentimental leanings toward Mickey, or (B) I'm one of those weird guys who goes to random high school basketball games and everyone wonders if they're a pederast, but also (C) Mickey comes from a place of serious ballers, and thus (D) should actually be pretty damn good.
He's a fine defender, looked like he had a more complete offensive game than Kammron during that high school game, and apparently has had the whole maturing physically thing going on. I'm fired up to see him contribute, probably spelling Flowers. Since he's been around a year already, expect him to see playing time ahead of Bohannon and Hughes at first.
Now the key returnees are our man Kam, and Madison LaFollette grad Michael Flowers.
Kam displayed a much improved shooting touch last season, and generally defended and distributed the ball well, though like the team generally, he seemed to fall off when Greg and Marcus went out. The part of Kam's game that was missing, and may always be missing, is his penetration, and subsequent passing. You just don't see him doing a lot of driving to the basket or passing out of drives to set up other players. And when you see him try, the results are often not pretty. (Not sure why that's the case... short arms?). I think that's ok. Guys around him, Hughes in particular, should be able to provide penetration if needed. Kam should provide senior leadership, a calm head under pressure, and intensity. I imagine he'll play the most of any guard.
For two seasons now, Flowers has been the "hustle" guy. The energetic defender, pressing the ball, a solid passer, but a player whose offensive game was lacking, and thus didn't get much attention from opposing defenses. Allegedly, he's been working on his offense, so look for him to take (and make) more jumpers. He and Kam should be the starters at the beginning, unless Bo decides to go big and play the Hoft at the two. Though I like Michael and generally think well of him, one negative play sticks in my mind. Last season, in our Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at Wake Forest, the Wake Forest power forward, this huge guy with cornrows, was killing us. During one play, the power forward took a pass about three yards from the basket by the baseline, took a step, lept up toward the hole, and dunked. Flowers came to help late, but could easily have gotten position between the PF and the basket, putting himself in position to draw a charge. But instead, he stood aside, and let the guy leap by him for an easy basket. Now this guy was way bigger than Michael, and Michael would have gotten hit quite hard, maybe even taken a knee to the chest. But it was the obvious play, and one that I expected Michael to make given his general degree of hustle. Seeing him step aside there, in the midst of a very close game, was disappointing. So I hope to see a greater level of leadership and intensity this season. On the plus side, he did do a spectacular Urkle at last year's State Street Halloween party. Spot on, I swear.

Other guys who could see some minutes this season are Bronson, still looking very babyfaced, and Morris Cain. They both played a decent amount on the August Italian tour (not sure how the NCAA lets teams do this outside of the season), but that was before Bohannon and Hughes were available. They probably won't see much action in games unless we're up big or if someone gets injured; hopefully, they'll contribute to the team by keeping the intensity (the same as ya did) in practice.
Positions among the guards should be amorphous. Everyone seems capable of bringing up the ball, making good, collected passes, or shooting. Plus the main frontcourt starters, we should have a legitimate 12 man depth chart. I'd say starters and subs are the following:
Guards: Kam and Flowers (Mickey, Bohannon, Hughes as subs; Mickey getting the most time at first)
Frontcourt: Alando, Butch and Chappell (Stiemsma, Landry, the Hoft, Gullickson as subs).

I have no idea whether that's a Final Four team. Besides Alando, no one else blows me away right now (though I haven't seen the freshmen play), and Final Four teams generally seem to have a couple stars. I think Kam will continue to be a good, but not great player. I do that think Landry will become a star, although it may not happen this year, and that Stiemsma is quite close to being one defensively. But if the team can meld defensively, we should be near dominant at that end of the floor, perhaps making up for a lack of another dynamic scorer. If everyone stays healthy and eligible, fingers-crossed, the Badgers could be the best team in the Big Ten, and make a serious post-season run. We shall see.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


That was a stressful experience. Wisconsin rallied to beat Illinois 30 to 24 yesterday, in a game that was surprisingly close (according to the Vegas oddsmakers). I was told that the spread yesterday was around 20 points, which seems a bit absurd. I know we had been spanking people score-wise, but the Illinoise had played a bunch of close games, and had just statistically dominated Penn State in the Valley of Happiness. The spread shouldn't have been more than 14. And boy, oh boy, did we look asleep in the first twenty or so minutes. I went to use one of the heads underneath the new luxury boxes when it was 21-3, both to wazz and to take a moment to mentally prepare myself for a loss to the frickin' Zookster. Thankfully, we stoned them in the second half (we've done that to Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, and Whale's Vagina State), and scored just enough to squeak out a win. The last two Illinois possessions were not pleasant to watch, by the way. That Williams kid has a strong arm, and the illegal motion call at the end looked a bit suspect. So, phew.
A couple of thoughts.
First, P.J. Hill is dramatically better than any of our other backs. Although the general theory this year is that Hill is good, and that our O-Line is much improved over last season, I'm starting to wonder if the line is just ok, and Hill makes them look good. Consider the following. Hill gained 50 yards on 12 carries. Smith gained 46 yards on 21 carries. Rowan gained 0 yards on 5 carries. So Hill averaged about 4.6 yards per carry. Our other backs, less than 2. From my seat, it looked like Smith is a bit afraid of contact. He does a lot of lateral running, trying to turn the mythical corner, something he was probably able to do in high school, but is not fast enough to do at this level. So he'd end up dancing around and would get tackled for a minimal gain on a play where Hill would likely pound ahead and get three or four yards. Rowan looked completely hesitant. Maybe he's rusty. The point is, Hill is a damn fine back, and our offense suffers when he's not on the field on a regular basis. The hits that put him out the game were pretty rough. The first was a solid play, a guy running from the side and hitting him hard across the shoulders, while somebody was grabbing at his legs. That hit seemed to catch him by surprise, knocking him right over, his back slamming into the ground. But the second one was pretty cheap. He was already wrapped up by several players, was in the midst of going down and this Illinois safety came up rammed his shoulder into Hill's head. You could see his neck snap back from the stands. Lets hope he recovers in time for the Penn State game. The fact that he was sitting on the bench for the rest of the game, and not in the locker room being treated, gives me some hope. We'll need him.
Second, Illinois is actually a pretty good team, despite their crap record. While they are coached by Ron Zook, aka the Zookster, who everyone thinks is a good recruiter but not a good game coach, there's a fair amount of talent on that team, and their defense is solid. (Zookster must be a quacktastic recruiter if he can get kids to come to Champaign-Urbana, hereafter known as Shampoo-Banana, because it's easily the grimmest Big Ten town I've seen). I bet they flirt with a winning record next season. This Illinois fan in the stands seemed to think they'd be so improved that they'd "beat us in Champaign next year." Yeah, that should not happen. While they're the youngest team in the Big Ten (3 senior starters), we're the second youngest (5 senior starters), and we're better.

I see the Packers won today, running for a load of yards, averaging over 5 yards a carry, and holding the Cardinals to just around 200 yards of total offense. That's excellent. I wish I had seen that, but they refuse to cut away from the Bear games here, even when their up, oh, I don't know, 41 to nothing. Bastards. Yes, I could have gone to a sports bar, but I have no money, and all my trickable or interested friends are either out of town or working. Who wants to be the solo guy at the sports bar, reading the paper during commercial breaks? I've been that guy before, and it's an uncomfortably weird way to spend a Sunday. The bartender/waitperson always looks at you with a mix of pity and suspicion, like you're either a loser with no friends or a potential danger to everyone within a ten yard radius. Plus, the NFL keeps showing our games at the same time as Bears games. This means at game time the bars are full of colossally boorish Bear fans who angrily shout when the other team converts a third down, even with the Bears up by 20 plus points. Get a grip, jackasses. Bear fans are terrible winners. This also means that I can't watch the game at the house of the one guy I know who lives nearby and has Sunday Ticket, because, yes, he's a Bears fan. Hopefully, NFL network will show the Packer game in one of their abbreviated replays this week, and I'll actually be able to make knowledgeable comments. Poop again.
As far as the game goes toward our overall success for the season, just looking at the stats and reading the Journal-Sentinel's game blog, I think being able to run the ball against a pretty decent defense is an excellent sign that the team is improving, which reflects well on the coaching staff, and the improvement of the offensive line. But don't get too excited. The Cardinals just lost to the Raiders, for god's sake. Our recent two game winning streak has come against two teams that will be fighting for the top draft pick. As annoying as I find Bill Simmons, his commentary on the Packers in his last NFL rankings was probably right on. Lets wait to get excited until we're competitive against a good team.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sleepy, Hung Over, or Binging?

It's probably all three. The Capital Times (aka the Crap Times, or the Communist Times, as one state supreme court justice I met once said) led off today's paper with a story about the increasing tardiness of the UW student section. They seem to blame the general party atmosphere of a "Badger football Saturday," whatever that means.
I have my own theories:
The main one is (A) No booze at the game combined with an 11 am start time. As the article mentioned, people are having fun drinking in the mid-morning hours before the game. (I've gotten very close to doing beer bongs this fall but the germaphobe keeps taking over). What I assume most logical students would like to do on a fine fall Saturday is to keep drinking through the game, keep their drunkenness at a moderate level through the afternoon (maybe taking a nap with a beer in hand), and then ratcheting it up a notch at night when it's time to go look for Rachel Bilson look-a-likes. But as we all should know--there's no booze at the game. So you sit in the sun for three hours, getting a farmer tan and drying out. Though hopefully Bucky wins and you're pleased about that, you're sunburned and starting to get hung over. You get back to your place and the people who stayed there during the game are still rocking, while you just want to take a nap and lie down. It's hard out there for an underage UW student.
Yes, I know people sneak booze into the game via all sorts of dastardly methods. But lets get serious. A UW student who's worrying about sobering up during a football game has such a hardened tolerance that a flask full of SoCo is not going to do the job for three hours, especially when you're being generous and spreading it around, or dosing it down with Coke. So yes, I believe the fear of ruining your Saturday by sobering up in the middle of the day is partly to blame. Folks stay outside for as long as possible, spiking their BAC while they calculate where it'll be in three hours. Or head back to the party when they can feel the sobriety coming on.

(B) Too much "security". While I love the student section (especially their profanity--eat it, Herbstreit), the administration continues to do everything it can to make sitting there feel more like a short visit to a police state. Way more guards, more partitions, not letting random people from other sections walk through the top of it. I remember thinking that not being able to get a plastic cup in the student section was drastic. They've already gated it off, segregating them from the rest of the stadium. Next the barriers will morph into full size fences, and then eventually they'll top it off into a legitimate cage. It'll end up looking like one of those quasi-prisons that they make visiting fans sit in at Greek and Italian soccer games. It might be worth it if they let them set off flares.

The alleged security creates colossal lines and delays for students attempting to get into the stadium, which further encourages students to get their late, so they can avoid the rush.

Here are my suggestions:
(1) Ease up on the security a bit. At the very least, devote more ticket takers to student entrances, and try to speed the security portions up a bit. Try eliminating the whole "ticket vouchers that you trade in for real tickets right as you're supposed to enter" thing. Not sure what the point of that is, and it's got to slow down the process. Note to Chance' Wiley: terrorists are not going to attack via the student section.

(2) More night games. I understand that here we are at the mercy of the sports entertainment oligarchy, but man those games are fun. Remember the Michigan game last year? Or the '01 Michigan game with the punt shenanigans at the end? Those games were bumping. Kids will still be late, but a lot fewer, and after a full afternoon of leisure, any worries about sobriety will have greatly diminished. When you were in college, you may have gotten up before 11, but were you so drunk before 11 that you could stay under the influence until 2:30? I doubt it. I understand this is out of our hands though. Blame the television gods.

I don't mean to renege, but I'll have to wait until after this weekend's games to get back to the UW basketball discussion. Lo siento.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Basketball Jones...

Do people know what I'm talking about there? The song from Being There, where Chance is riding in the limo, and watching tv and the kid with the falsetto is singing "I'll go one-on-one against the world!" Apparently composed by Cheech and Chong? Anyway, I am Jonesing for college basketball, perhaps the most entertaining sport in our fair country, tis of thee. And wonderfully, les Badgers look strong this year.

We miraculously have Alando Calrisian Tucker back for a fifth year (he took a medical redshirt during Devin's last season), the only returning all Big-Ten first teamer. (Yes, yes, Dee Brown and the accompanying media fellatio have finally passed into history! Celebrate good times, come on!). It appears he's taken to heart the obvious fact that the NBA doesn't like 6'6" power forwards unless it's 1992 and your name is Charles Barkley, so he's actually developed a seemingly consistent outside game. (he had his fits of brilliance from the outside in the past). I'm hoping this leads to more defenders coming out on him, which leads to more drives to the hole, which leads to more dunking. Rock.

The main factors that should lead to success this season are that nearly everyone is back and should be improved, we have what appear to be some quite talented recruits/crimson-shirts coming in, and our inside defensive presence (Greg Stiemsma and Marcus Landry) has returned from academia-related exile. Though it looks like we only have one dominant player on the team, that is, A-Tuck, we should have a very deep team, one capable of fielding two solid starting line-ups, and perhaps even running the mythical full court press that Bo has insisted we've never had the personnel to pull off. In fact, we look so deep, that guys who played a fair amount last season, like Gullickson or Tanner, may not see the court much.


The headliner is Alando obviously. In the paint, he's always played bigger than he is, rarely getting a shot blocked due to his strength and leaping ability, and showing an uncanny inside touch, especially off the glass. It appears that he's been working on his dribbling and that his oustide shooting has improved, which should make him an even more difficult match-up for twos or threes (whom he can post up) or for fours or fives (whom he can drive by or shoot over). Here's hoping his overall game develops enough to make him a first round draft pick. He's certainly got the athleticism and the intangibles. Plus, although this sounds ridiculous, it appears that he should have more endurance this year. Uh, yeah, that's because he had surgery to fix his deviated septum, a condition which prevented him from breathing through his nose all last seson. Did you ever wonder why they rested him so much? Apparently that was the answer-- the kinks in his pipes prevented him from getting enough air, so he'd lose his wind quicker. Weirdness...

Butch is back, and allegedly has been working on his post moves. That was necessary, and will hopefully bear fruit. Last season, I spent a lot of time wondering how a 6'11" kid's three point shooting is better than his inside moves. (My guess: all of his friends back in Appleton are 5'11"). He should be a primary front-court scorer, behind Alando, and perhaps be the team's leading rebounder. He's got a good wing-span, but he's a questionable defensive player-- the kind of big guy (Chappell also falls into this category) that draws a lot of fouls against people of similar size, tries to take charges against smaller players, and fails to block many shots. Maybe he's just not athletic enough to be a good post defender. I hope I'm wrong.

That is not the problem with Stiemsma. He's our most athletic big man, and we sorely missed his shot blocking ability during the second half of last season, and his rebounding is solid. I'd like to see him get more minutes this year, even if his offensive game isn't great. We should have plenty of other scoring options. I wish him lots of success and good health. (This is a neat article about his efforts to deal with depression).

Chappell, ah well, hmm. I'm sure most people were with me in wondering what the hell he was doing playing so much last year, particularly before Stiemsma and Landry went out. He's not a great defender due to his limited foot speed and vertical, nor is he that strong a rebounder. His post moves are adequate. What he does do well, however, is pass the ball, especially for a tall guy. This alone makes him valuable in the swing, and apparently Bo trusts him to run the offense. He's a senior, and should help Alando provide some leadership and stability to what remains a young team.

I'm greatly looking forward to the return of Marcus Landry. He should be a defensive presence, shutting down the four or three he guards, and giving excellent help. On offense, I'm unclear about his level of post moves, but his outside shooting appears pretty solid. He's a fine athlete with an excellent wingspan that plays taller than his height. As the season progresses, he should grow into one of the team's core players.

Gullickson may struggle to get off the bench, which is a shame since he busted his ass last year, a performance rewarded by a full scholarship. He's apparently bulked up, and if given the chance should provide good minutes in replacement of Alando or Landry.

And now Joe Krabbenhoft, the man of a thousand stitches. Joe was billed as a point forward coming in, a 6'7" guy who could dribble, pass and defend. He was actually the highest rated recruit entering the league last year, according to Rivals (23rd nationally), so I had high expectations. Maybe because of our personnel problems last season, he ended up spending a lot of time in the paint, battling for rebounds, trying to defend taller, bigger guys, making good passes but not scoring much, and getting whacked in the head. Oddly, for a guy who was supposed to basically be a tall guard, he lacked a good shooting touch. I hope he (re?)discovers his shot, stays on the wing a little more, works on his strength and quickness, and operates as a second point guard at the three, spreading the ball and drawing defenders out with his shot. He'll probably swing back and forth though, playing the two when we're going big, and the three or four when we're going small.

With so many players, I'm going way out on a limb here, risking my amateur career and guessing that J.P. Gavinski, the 6'11" pre-frosh from the Dells, will redshirt. Lets hope he provides a good practice body for the other bigs, and spends the year improving.

The rotation should be deep, and since everyone, except the pre-frosh, has played significant minutes in the past, I hope Bo embraces our depth, and plays everyone most games. For starters, I'd go with Alando, Stiemsma, and Landry, but I'm guessing it'll be Alando, Butch and Chappell, with Stiemsma as the first five sub, and Landry as the first four sub. Krabbenhoft should also work in there for some serious minutes, though he'll probably sub the guards a bit as well. Gullickson provides more of an inside presence than the Hoft, but his time will likely be limited by the return of Landry and Stiemsma (he didn't see much time until they were ineligible last year). A seven man frontcourt rotation! Ow! (said in a good way). At least we have a lot of fouls for Greg Oden. Backcourt discussion begins tomorrow.

Inflatable Penis Festivus

Yes! The nearly 2/3 male environment that is Purdue University continues to revel in its homoerotica. That is, there is an apparent tradition to inflate, and pass around the student section, a giant penis. Indeed, one student leader declared his intention to "bring as many inflatable penises to the remaining home football games as possible."
To the young gay men of America who long to build bridges, journey into outer space, or make large cauldrons in which water is boiled, Purdue University is calling you. Indeed, they have a plethora of gay student organizations, including one that sounds like a partially gay fraternity.
Well done, West Lafayette!
(Thanks to Timbo, for bringing this to my attention)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Thank you, Randy McMichael

I almost drafted Randy McMichael in my fantasy football league, and thankfully for the guy who did, they don't count dropped passes against you. The Packers beat the Miami Manatees 34 to 24 today, and the points off of McMichael's dropped passes provided the difference in the score. Specifically, Nick Barnett's interception led to a field goal, and Charles Woodson (perhaps the most undeserving Heisman trophy winner ever) returned an interception for a touchdown in his best game as a Packer. Both picks came via an assist from McMichael. My point is, that despite the big plays we got on offense, it took these handouts to put us over the top.
What's odd about the Packers this season is that both sides of the ball are capable of playing decently. But they can't complement each other. Whenever one side plays well, the other stinks it up, and vice versa. The first half was indicative of this phenomenon. Our defense played very solidly, recording two turnovers, forcing several punts, and only allowing a touchdown when the offense gave them the ball right on our doorstep. But the offense was basically non-existent. Then in the second half, the offense produced two huge plays, and a nice long TD drive, but the defense kept letting Joey Predrag Harrington lead the Manatees back into the game. It seems like good teams have dominant stretches, where both sides of the ball are playing well-- the defense stopping the other team and getting turnovers, the offense moving the ball and scoring points. And usually, at least one side of the ball is playing decently all the time. For example, against Seattle, the Bears had great stretches on both sides of the ball, leading to an utterly dominant result. Then against the Cardinals, both their offense and defense were off, until the second half when the defense asserted itself, allowing them to eek out a victory. It seems like the Packers have not had both sides working at any point this season, and oftentimes have neither playing well.
To stop worryworting though, if you had told me that we would be starting Colledge at left tackle, against Jason Taylor, I would have told you we lose the game, and maybe Favre with a broken coccyx. Especially in a place where the franchise hadn't won since the Lombardi era. And after the first few offensive series (two blind-side sacks/forced fumbles by Taylor), I thought we were screwed. Somehow they adjusted though (I guess by giving Colledge help), and the offense performed decently overall. Well done, coaching staff.
Now the true imperative after that game--I must comment on the state of the announcing. As my brother (the elder fool) pointed out, this was a battle between two 1 win teams, so it probably drew Fox's D team. But these guys were just plain terrible. I started taking notes at one point because it got so awful, and here's a quick summary of what I jotted down:
1) Stating in the second quarter that Miami's two turnovers were "why they're losing the game." Miami was up 7-6 at the time.
2) Calling a play where McMichael went straight forward, then broke 90 degrees toward the nearest sideline, "a little slant."
3) Referring to Marquand Manuel (African-American and #22) as Brady Poppinga (Caucasian and #51).
4) Saying after Driver's catch was ruled a touchdown that Favre "hugs Mike McCarthy there" when he was hugging someone who was obviously not McCarthy. McCarthy was wearing a hat and no sunglasses. Whoever Favre was hugging was hatless and wearing sunglasses. I think it was Jagodzinski. (To be fair, they're both mildly obese, middle-aged white men.)
5) When they showed Favre pointing a tube at himself while sitting on the bench, commenting "Favre's vacuuming himself off." It's 90 degrees out morons. The thing blows cold air.
I couldn't fully document the parade of idiocy. I guess that's what you get when you employ a former child actor to do play-by-play. Congratulations J.C. Pearson and Matt Vasgersian (now known as Matt Vas Deferens), you're awful at your jobs.
Beside the atrocious commenting (commentating?), the worst part of the game may have been Jennings' injury. Hopefully it's just a sprained ankle, and he makes a speedy, full recovery. (I continue to love the fact that he hates Michigan). And how in the hell does Clifton get injured when we're coming off a bye week? The whole point of a bye week is to nurse injuries, not develop new ones or aggravate the pre-existing. If Clifton stays gimpy, we might have to start looking at Joe Thomas for next spring. I suppose that'd make drafting an offensive lineman more palatable. Or maybe Levi Brown, since we've probably already won ourselves out of the first two picks. I like biblical names.

Purdue, you do

I tend to make fun of Purdue. Yes, I know a bunch of astronauts went to school there. But it's an engineering school, which means it's chock full of dudes-- 60% men, according to statistics-- that is, a total sausage fest. Plus, West Lafayette is a dry town, and as far as I know, may actually be in a dry county. So, what did you do in college? Oh, I sat around, studied math, drank 7-Up, hung out with my fraternity brothers, tried to hit one of the two dozen attractive women on campus, but was rebuffed... You know, the usual.
Due to these basic issues, I remain confused about how that school gets recruits. "Come to Purdue, we're 60% dudes! Oh, and you can't drink." I mean, what? Maybe there's a greater percentage of gay football players than previously imagined. My level of respect for Purdue, or for any mostly male school, would increase tremendously if the football team was openly gay. Can you imagine that? The catholic schools on their schedule would freak out. One can only dream.
Speaking of Notre Dame, I have the same basic confusion with their recruiting. The have tradition, but come one, what's the sell line? "Come to exotic northern Indiana, to a school where having pre-marital sexual intercourse is an expellable offense!" Poor, easily manipulated children...
Now, I maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. I have avoided going to the greater Lafayette metropolitan area, and actually spent very little time in Indiana generally, although that'll change in about ten months. I was debating going to the game this weekend, since it's allegedly not that unattractive a place , and now I kind of wish I had, because hooray, UW won, 24-3, and this time ESPN showed the whole game.
Now to those of you who didn't watch the game, UW was not dominating, despite the difference in the score and the yards. We held Purdue to well under their normal yardage totals (286 today, to over 400 usually), and ran up over 400 yards of offense. But we didn't run the ball as easily on them as their poor defensive stats coming into the game would have you think (90th among Division I teams). On running plays, the vast majority of the time they were right there, meeting the back at or near the line of scrimmage, and only thanks to P.J. powering over people, making 1 yard gains into 4 yard gains, we were able to keep moving. On passing downs, they sacked Stocco several times and picked him off once, with one of their tackles making an excellent play on the inside tight-end screens that we've been running since last season. Plus, on several possessions it didn't look like we were stopping them, but they were stopping themselves, throwing errant passes or dropping catchable balls. Purdon't also left points on the board, going for it on 4th down within our 20 twice, and missing a makeable field goal.
There's my daily dose of pessimism.
But despite the fact that it was a actually a relatively tight game, there were several very positive developments.
First, we won, by a healthy margin, when we obviously were not on top of our game. Stocco was off on a bunch of passes, high or behind or ahead of receivers at times; the line looked ok, but not great; Casillas dropped that utterly catchable pass on the fake punt that would've been a 30 yard gain; Hampton had a nice return, but then made a terrible decision to try to field a punt he was letting bounce--he got nailed immediately, fumbled, and only Strickland's exceptional "diving on the loose ball" skills saved us from a colossal botching; the line bumped into Stocco and prevented him from spiking the ball for a very makeable field goal at the end of the first half; weird penalites (illegal formation or procedure) canceling out key gains. All fixable mistakes that, even though we were on the road against a pretty good team, did not make an ultimate difference in the game. The ability to overcome those problems is impressive.
Second, even when things went wrong on one side of the ball, the other side responded. For example, after Stocco threw that odd interception, Purdue drove about 25 yards, cue the whole "shift in momentum," but then the D forced them into a turnover on downs. Fabulous. Similar on the fake punt: we botch what easily could have been a great play, Purdue is driving, if they get a touchdown the game is in doubt, and we hold force a turnover on downs. This resiliency was nicely symbolized by Casillas, who dropped that great fake punt pass, but rallied to make a great play on an interception about 10 minutes later. (Jon, it should be easier to catch softer passes).
I'm a little worried about the FIBs next week, as Mendenhall and Juice face Williams are both quite talented, but I think we can take them. Anyway, well done to get the hell out of the Greater Lafayette metropolitan area with a win. Thankfully, I didn't see the Boilermaker on TV. That guy looks like the villian in a grade B horror movie; dead eyes, wandering around with a sledgehammer. Eeek.

My hope for a Packers' victory tomorrow is middling. With Robinson suspended, and Ferguson out (probably for the season), the wideout corps is resembling the personnel debacle of yersteryear. Nice to play the Dolphins so there can be a direct viewing of who we could have had instead of Fergie (sigh, although if we were going to do that draft over again, there's no doubt now that Sherman should have drafted Steve Smith, who was taken even later than Chambers). The Manatees' defense is decent, so unless the offensive line has another resurgent outing and Ahman looks recovered from his pulled moons over my hammies, we should have difficultly scoring. But Mee-ami's offense is atrocious (ranked 29th in the league by Football Outsiders), largely because of terrible quaterback play, regardless of which washed up, former NFC Central/North quarterback is playing. What I'm saying is we may have found an offense that can make our secondary look good. Wait, Woodson might not play, so we'll be starting a practice squad cornerback, and it's going to be steamy and sunny and we're wearing dark green. Oh, hell. We're in trouble.
I'm looking forward to the tinges of regret as Chambers burns Al and his ten pounds of dreadlocks (wouldn't Al be a hair faster if he cut off the hair?).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What is one to do?

This may anger some of you, but I've basically conceded this Packers' season. And by that, I mean that my expectations for their success (wins and losses wise) are non-existent. I'm going to watch them, for sure, I'll even go to sports bars to do so, and I'm hoping to attend some games if I can get my second cousin (who has assumed the mantle of my family's ticket czarina) to mail me some tickets without them getting lost in the mail, and I'm planning on buying this nifty beanie, but really I don't expect them to win many games.
I think it will continue to work the way it has this season: losing solidly to good teams (Eagles, Bears), and being competitive with bad teams (Lions), maybe sneaking a win here and there.
So in wins and losses, we're in deep trouble. And I think that's good, honestly. We need more talented players, and really exceptional talent most often come high in the draft, unless the player is a total headcase, see T. Owens and J. Walker. You get a high draft pick by winning fewer games.
So if you agree with my premise-- that the Packers are not good this year, and that one should not get too emotionally devastated when they don't win games because that will lead to us being able to draft more talented players next spring-- this leaves the question of what should a Packer fan do during the remaining NFL season?
I think there are a few good plans of action that any Packer fan could and should implement.

First, root openly and loudly against all traditional rivals. Death to the Bears, Viqueens ('Queens) and Lions, but root for the Lions to get a worse draft pick than us, just like last year (I am confident that Hawk is better than Ernie Sims). I will allow Packer fans to get fired up for these games, and you have my permission to temporarily forget about our draft status during and after (if we win). Since the Bears are peaking (don't worry about the long term, their O-line and Muhammad are aging rapidly and they have no passable back-ups, and Rance Briggs is gone in the off-season), we will have to stomach them being decent. Every Bear fan should still be mocked, however, for their own boorish behavior, their Florida-derived quarterback, Urlacher's love child with a totally insane person, and the likely reality of another home playoff exit-- no wins since '90, Bears fans. (As a current Chicago resident, the Bears loss to Carolina last year was absolutely fabulous, I must say).
In re the 'Queens, cite the Sex Boat and Fred Smoot's double headed implement whenever possible.
For Lions fans, not that you really need to mock these poor souls, you can remind them that despite Roy Williams' brilliance, Matt Millen is still their GM, and that the team continues to be located in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Second, follow the Packers and root for their young players. I thought our ability to run the ball (with Noah freakin' Herron) against the Rams was a very positive sign. Crazy offensive coordinator Jagodzinski indicated that people were actually starting to get the zone blocking scheme. Hip hop hooray. Go Wells, Spitz, Colledge, Moll. Cheer on Jennings, and hope he gets better. Despite his fine record so far, Jennings is only catching about 47% of the passes thrown his way, a pretty mediocre percentage, and because of this, is rated only a hair above average by Football Outsiders. Regardless, you must love him because Michigan spurned him in recruiting, and thus he loathes the champions of the northeastern Midwest. Watch Hawk as if you were a bird of prey, and hope that he and Poppinga start making big plays (guys, it's more valuable if you catch the pass instead of just hitting it with your arms). See if Nick Collins can develop ball skills to go with his excellent run-support.
Certain people on this team are getting old, folks, and it's not just Brett. Ahman, Harris, Clifton and many others are coasting down the far side of yonder hill. If you are hoping the future will be better, keep an eye on the young players and hope they improve.

Third, casually root for former Badgers. This means Chambers (who FO actually rates below Jennings so far this year), Evans, O. Daniels, Ronnie, Starks, Griesen, Al Johnson, etc. This is more of a "feel good for them if you see their stats in the paper or cheer for them if you are randomly watching their games" thing, rather than a command to closely follow the performance of the Redskins interior offensive line.

Fourth, hope that Favre doesn't become too despondent, and specifically, doesn't break the record for interceptions. It sounds like he's getting depressed, which I find terribly sad. He is still capable of playing excellent football, and even though I expect us to lose most of our remaining games, and I'd like him to feel good about himself. Maybe a touchdown and a half a game, and lets say, five more interceptions this season, and finishing off the year with a win at the spaceship Soldier Field (the Bears will probably be resting their starters anyway at that point). That'd be great.
If you have different goals, let me hear 'em.
Oh, and here's some more local commentary on the UW Band probation. The editor of the Cap Times says that Bill O'Reilly commented on this. If anyone knows where I can find a tape of that, let me know forthwith.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


The title of this post is silly, I admit. In my partial defense, I just watched a decent portion of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey on HBO, so that line has been ingrained a bit. That movie is seriously underrated, by the way. Where else can you see Keanu give Death get a "Melvin"?
So, the Wisconsin Football Badgers seriously stomped the 'Sota yesterday. A wonderful result, especially after seeing the Angel Moroni (Larry Moroney, current New England Patriot), work us like a rib last year, before the miracles ensued. (An aside, Jim Leonhard (UW '05) is just about to return a punt for the Buffalo Bills--totally awesome...12 yards, downed via a hard tackle by the ancient Marcus Pollard)
In re the game, several things bear mentioning.
First, I was initially worried at the ease with which Minnesota was moving the ball. Yes, I know it only took three plays for Jackie I. to take a Chapman forced fumble to the house. But before that the Gophs were gashing big runs, and on the next possession they moved the ball into our half. And on their third possession, Pinnix had several big runs, and may have scored on one of them if he hadn't run into his own player. But then we forced a field goal, largely thanks to the continued brillance of Jackie I., and after that they never really threatened until they scored in garbage time. 'Sota had 200 total yards, and got 124 of them on those first three drives, and only 76 the rest of the game. This speaks to me of excellent in-game adjustments by the defensive coaching staff. Perhaps Minnesota surprised us with some different plays at the beginning. (Stellmacher mentioned this). But whatever it was, we figured it out, adjusted and flooded out the gopher holes for the rest of the afternoon. With Northwestern, it seemed like the same thing (although their offensive ineptitude was also fueled by a bunch of drops)-- opposing team has a decent start offensively, we figure something out, the beat down ensues. Well done Coaches Hankwitz, Doeren, Cooks, McCray, and Bielema. Whatever it is you're doing, keep it up.
(Ummm, Barry is now on FOX talking about the BCS. Now they're showing him being confronted with his statue yesterday. What do people think about that? Barry says OSU/Michigan winner and Louisville/West Virginia(???) winner will meet in the BCS title game).
Second, Travis Beckum is really good. Keep Posh Spice away from him. I guess the recruiting services-- having ranked him as a mythical "five star" talent-- know something after all. He and Stocco seem to be getting on the same page, which was a concern at the beginning of the year given his inexperience on offense, and Stocco's lack of camp time due to getting his trick knee 'scoped. Beckum has publicly made mention of wanting to be as dominant as (Sergeant) Kellen Winslow, and at some point in the season I'll have to do a comparison between their respective numbers. I bet they compare pretty well so far. Some random guy at the Blue Moon said that pro scouts were watching Thomas primarily, and Beckum was a close second. You'd think if he fills out a bit, doesn't lose any speed or agility, and becomes at least decent at blocking, he could be a first day, if not first round, draft pick, like Winslow. But for now, I'll be happy if he stays healthy and helps us beat Purdon't next week. And avoids motorcycles.
Third, ESPN sucks. All of you who watched the game at home are with me, I hope. For those of you who missed it, for the second time in three weeks, the worldwide leader in sports cut away in the third quarter of our game, because we were up by so (apparently, too) many points. The problem is, I love it when UW (or the Packers, for that matter) is up huge; a good stomping is no stress, just pure enjoyment and relaxation. And in college you get to see all the back-ups that you have high hopes for, like Elijah Hodge, run around and try to impress the crowd. But ESPN thinks that people are more interested in seeing West Virginia give Syracuse a decent beating. Bizarre. I can understand doing that when it's close to the end of another game, and one team is on the verge of pulling an upset, but that didn't happen in either case. It just went to other, crappier, slightly more in doubt contests. That seems silly, especially when they know we're going to be waving the axe around at the end of the game-- clearly a picturesque moment. Anyway, with the Indiana and Minnesota switch-aways, and the NU game being only on the internet, it seems like the worldwide leader hates Bucky. Maybe they're mad that Barry signed on with Fox. Whatever the reason, I object. But at least the bastards are showing UW/Marquette this year, unless they cut away in the middle of that one.
That is all. I'm going to fall asleep to the Steelers/Chefs game, while intermittently waking up to check whether my fantasy football opponent has caught up with me. It looks bad: Phillip Rivers is on fire, and he has T. Bell running against the Raiders tonight. Maybe in the great tradition of Denver professional athletes, he'll have some sort of animal related injury. You know, falling down stairs while carrying deer meat, tripping over a dog. That sort of thing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Bus/Band Denouement

The mystery has been revealed! Male band members danced around the bus with their shirts off, shaved someone's head (as a former swimmer I have absolutely no experience with this type of horrific behavior), and made comments about sex. Goodness. I'm surprised Chance' Wiley didn't put them on double secret probation.
But it was nice that the administration recognized that they overreacted. Now of course, they didn't admit that explicitly. College administrators are never, ever wrong. Don't you know that's how they're selected? One must live an incredibly boring life, never making any public mistakes, in order to even be considered for such a post. You see these days the ability to avoid mistakes is mistaken for wisdom and tact. Never mind that you can't really learn anything unless you've made serious mistakes, ah, but I digress.

The way UW administrators admitted their overreaction was by mentioning prior, more scandalous incidents. They realized that if they had really publicly threatened to ban the band just because of some shirtless dancing (by men), people would be upset. (See this also). So they launched some countermeasures, cherry-picking the most offensive of past antics: making female band members kiss before being allowed to use the bathroom, inciting someone to fellate a dildo, you know, typical bachelorette party activities. Oh, and younger band members had to fetch beer and carry bags for older band members. Wiley totally must have felt like Colonel Kurtz ("the horror!") upon learning about those debaucherous shenanigans.

Apparently, the administration forgot that the make up of the band changes every year. The entire band turns over every four (ok, five; alright, maybe six) years. Regardless, harshly punishing today's band members for harmless antics because different members were worse in the past makes zero sense, and is patently unfair. Maybe they're just trying to force Mike Leckrone (the septegenarian band director, a legitimately wonderful guy) into retirement. Hmm, suddenly the picture above and Chancellor Wiley are merging in my head.

Plus, this is making Bucky look tight-assed. That can't help with recruiting, or with increasing the number of applications, and thus the university's ever important U.S News and World Report ranking. Well, maybe with the tight-assed crowd. You know, the Wisconsin residents who look at Madison as some kind of Gomorrah. Pretty much everyone in the State. Whatever. My hope is that any negative publicity regarding our awesomeness will be balanced out by Hollywood casting Rachel Bilson as a Sconnie student in The Last Kiss. And her character's in a band! Although, not in the band. She plays a music student, a flautist. How awesome is that? (That's a rhetorical question, because the answer is "definitively"). Here's what I'm talking about, folks. Hello! And yes, I'd say there are definitely women at UW who are just as, if not more, attractive than the nubile Ms. Bilson. I've seen them walking around downtown. They can't all go to MATC.

Finally, how fantastic is it that UW has to transport the band and the cheerleaders/spirit team separately, because the band teases them too much? Sounds like Revenge of the Nerds 33 and 5/3rds, brought to you by 5th 3rd Bank.
God, do I love those kids.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"No More Fun of Any Kind!"

I hope you saw this. (also here and here). Apparently the number one problem of the UW Chancellor is sophmoric intra-marching band antics. So much so that he feels the need to gather the entire band and give them some mass dressing-down.
Chancellor Wiley (not sure if he's related to the coyote of Warner Bros. fame) further proved that he's not living up to the name of his paternal forefathers by following this meeting with a public threat to banish the band. The exact message was adhere to my vague standards of behavior or face "virtual extinction for a significant period of time." Yeah, that'd be a popular move. It's not like they're the most popular students on campus, or absolutely beloved by alumni.
And Wiley won't even say what the kids did. (So far, my efforts to pry information out of a random sampling of band members have been for naught, as have Deadspin's). But perhaps we can deduce some information from what's publicly known.

Wiley Wiley's letter demands that there must be no more "gratuitous vulgarity, sexualized banter or joking, hazing, or other forms of demeaning conduct" and objects to behavior that runs the gamut "from boorish and offensive to patently dangerous and unlawful."
Besides obliging these intensely vague demands, the band must also attend "harassment training." So I'm guessing people were cursing, making sex jokes, maybe recreationally drinking and/or using drugs, and potentially teasing other, probably younger band members. Call Amnesty International, immediately. Now, I don't mean to diminish the feelings of those who have been painfully teased. Obviously unwanted non-playful harassment can be a terrible thing. But as long as there's an opt out point in the informal hazing, and band members know that they can pull a Nancy Reagan and just say no, I don't want to play, then what's the problem? I don't see one.

Does this remind anyone of the trial scene in Animal House? Specifically, when they're marching out humming the Star Spangled Banner, and Dean Wormer yells "No more fun of any kind!" No more "boorish" behavior? How else are you supposed to act on a bus? My advice: get a grip you crazy 'yote. The state legislature isn't going to threaten to cut off your funding for this one. And at that, I will potentially violate copyright laws and leave you with the conclusion of Otter's speech, which seems oh so appropriate:

But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Begin the Beguine

Alright, so Welcome to the Terrordome or something. As per usual, I procrastinated the hell out of this (like a t-shirt for the UW Biomedical Engineering Society that I saw at the UW/NU game claiming that "I biomedically engineered the hell out of that"). The key stumbling point was a name, something that incorporated both the Badgers and the Packers. After appealing to my pantheon of deities, and to an assorted group of friends and family, I settled on the name above, honoring both legendary stadiums where I've spent so much pleasurable time. But some of the other proffered options were quite entertaining, including:
Remote Control Cheese Curds
Bucky, Brett and Beer
Every 30 Years
Big Girls Need Sports, Too
LeRoy Butler's Trick Leg
Could've Had Troy Vincent
and then getting to the mostly inappropriate:
Free Mark Chmura
Where's the Manure?(my wife's favorite)
Chmura and Rande El Are Innocent
and, perhaps winning the inappropriate award--
Gantner's Daughter

Uh, yeah, my father put that one out there. Getting beyond all the silliness, this season the Packers and the Badgers have been a distinct contrast. Both teams have a new, youthful coach with zero head coaching experience, but that may be the only similarity. Bielema stepped into a very solid situation, with a defense full of talented returning starters, an underrated senior quarterback, a brutish young running back, and the best left tackle in the country.
McCarthy has a plethora of rapdily aging veterans at key positions (LT, CB, QB, RB, DE, TE and WR), supplemented by unproven and questionably talented young players at OG, WR, and LB. Not the most inticing job for a new coach. Perhaps that's why Ted Thompson felt the need to interview Wade Phillips last offseason. By the way, I hope you reacted to that like I did. Something along the lines of-- "uhhh, please tell me this is a joke."
But despite the varied circumstances of my football teams, I'm optimistic, in the long run, about both coaches. After being around Lou Holtz, Hayden Fry, Dan McCarney, and Brad Childress, I have a firm suspicion that Barry knew what he was doing when he chose Bielema. Plus, he's supposedly an excellent recruiter, and he brought in a staff with several guys (Kerry Cooks, Dave Doeren) who are also known as excellent recruiters. Madison and UW should be an easy sell. (I mean, I've been to Champaign; that's like selling houses in Dearborn, Michigan these days). And, although they've been beating up on iffy teams lately, the Badgers seem to be getting better as the season has gone along, just like Alvarez's best teams. This bodes well for the coaching staff as a whole.
As we are all well aware of, McCarthy has not had similar success. But he is in a much, much worse situation, personnel-wise. And I like the games he's called. Despite having a new offensive system, no legitimate running back, an iffy o-line, and no dominant receivers, our offense has been passable, ranked 18th in Football Outsiders' weekly ranking, despite the utter debacle against the Bears. In the Rams' game, the running game actually worked, so the zone blocking scheme may finally be settling into place. So the improvement in the area of the team that McCarthy actually controls, the offense, has been noticeable. I also like how McCarthy's dealt with the team's failures: he's pissed, and he's holding people accountable. Eventually he'll have to hold some defensive staff members accountable, and I'm confident he will. But he cares, he demands that people own up to their mistakes, and he's not pear-shaped.
(Sorry, Mike I hope you and Ron achieve great things down in East Texas).