12.30.2007

Weekly Wisconsin Sports Wank 12/30

Packers. C+?
I'm not sure what to think of the Pack this week. They lost horribly in horrible conditions at Chicago last Sunday. This week they swamp the Lions in Green Bay in typical winter weather so I'm not sure what that is a sign of. Or if it's a sign of anything. Even in the Packers best Super Bowl-reaching years they never had the best record in the league (13-3 both years I believe) and they always had one or two "what-the-fuck" games they would lose to the seemingly most unlikely opponent.

Do the Bears just have the formula to beating this year's team that playoff opponents could easily blueprint and apply to bring about the Pack's demise? We all know the supposed glaring weaknesses of this team: no running game, very average offensive line play, etc. But the whole league has known this since the first couple of weeks. Hasn't every team we played been trying to attack those same weaknesses? Somehow though, our record indicates, we were able to overcome those weaknesses just enuff to win the game more often than not.

So maybe that loss to the Bears was not a foreshadowing of a nightmare playoff loss to come, but just a bad performance mostly due to the weather conditions (we hope, fingers crossed).

University of Wisconsin men's basketball. A+
this week for the huge win over 4th ranked Texas in Austin. Hmm that's two lowly Big Ten teams that a high powered Texas team with a player of the year candidate has lost to within the past week. Could it be that the Big Ten is a tougher conference in basketball than the mainstream media would believe? Probably not according to the latest RPI, and we probably should win a game in the BigTen/ACC challenge before trying to jump bad. But still a very good win (on the road and without leading scorer Trevon Hughes) for a Wisconsin team that will need wins like this to impress the selection committee come seeding time. Also good to observe that Marcus Landry is coming along well with his goal to become Wisconsin's next Alondo Tucker ( read extremely clutch player).

Marquette University men's basketball. B+
Continuing to cruise, ranked 13th in the country (that should go higher because Texas lost to Wisconsin whom Marquette beat), standing at second place in the Big East. Now comes their first test against an in conference foe when they play Providence Thursday. This for me will be the point in the season when I start to look for clues on what kind of team this really is and what kind of shot do they really have at making a deep tourney run.

Bucks. D+
As I've said before I don't expect much from the Bucks this year but damn, be professional. Show effort on the court. That should be their New Years resolution as a team "show effort". They just got blown off the court Monday in Detroit by over 40 points, with Andrew Bogut admitting to the local media that the Bucks were probably just looking forward to traveling to Miami that night (where they play the Heat Wednesday) and were really not focused on playing the Pistons. this third worst loss in franchise history is highlighting the fact that this might just be the least talented roster in the leauge. We depend on guys like Charlie Bell and Royal Ivey to be consistent performers! Our best player, Redd, has turned himself into a perennial all-star but he's more of the "always the best player on a mediocre team" type (think Mitch Richmond) than the "rock-solid-franchise-player-you-would-never-even-think-of-trading" type. Doesn't look like things will turn around anytime soon either (and by "soon" I mean the next 5 to 6 years) with a front office that seems to want to avoid taking risks by not making any aggressive moves (besides taking Yi and refusing to trade him) and an owner (who is only several years removed from trying to sell the team) who might be gun shy after going deep in his pockets with the team that went to the Eastern conference finals 6 years ago (George Karl, SamIAm, Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, etc.).

Brewers. C+
For their work so far this offseason. So far other than Mitchell Report alum Eric Gagne and a few other minor pickups they have not done much, and this Journal-Sentinel article suggests there may not be much done this year in free agency. Reasoning from Melvin seems sound on this: the Brewers don't have that many glaring gaps that they need to fill, a major trade might bring improved talent but would blow a hole in the team unnecassarily, a lot of teams making major moves this winter are doing so to get to where the Crew is, etc. I think he just basically means they need to learn how to hang onto season-long division leads in the last month.

University of Wisconsin football. B+
On the season as a whole. They finish 9-4 after a uninspired loss to Tennessee of all programs (I went to college and lived in Tennessee for 10 years and had to listen to those bamas every second of it). P.J. Hill might have had 132 yards on 16 carries but Wisconsin's running game never seemed to really get on track. Tyler Donovan was pounded all afternoon behind a usually very sound offensive line. Our best receiver, Travis Beckum, was basically a non-factor. Plus Tennessee's defense played up to its reputation.

So 9-4 and a bowl game is pretty good I guess. So far so good in the Brett Bielema era. But when (if ever) will the program take that next step to perennial national title contention?

Lastly but not least this week a shot out to the Tennessee State University men's basketball team!!! who beat Illinois in their last non-conference game. Nice win for my alma mater after a couple of good efforts in close loses to Vandy and Indiana. No the Illini aren't that hard to beat this year but it is still an accomplishment for the Tigers program. Hopefully they can take lessons learned from their tough early season schedule and have a good showing in OVC conference play.

12.28.2007

Making moves in Music City

Want to highlight a new link in the CLICK THIS! section of this blog to the website of an associate of The (original) Rogue State crew and member of the Rogue Nations who is trying to do some uplifting for a black community in Nashville that needs it just like many other communities in so many urban areas of this country. An active local artist/musician (hate to say local because her sound is truly universal)in Nashville who has been on the grind for years paying dues her visions involve reaching out to her fellow man rather than focusing solely on personal success. Her site is a bit basic now as she just started it but by all means check it out. Artists, mucisians, and intellectuals if you're in the Nashville area and want more info contact her.

12.20.2007

Weekly Wisconsin Sports Wank 12/18

Packers. B+
Pack is looking good right now after trouncing the hapless Raiders and Rams, but that loss to the Cowboys is still sticking in my craw. Especially after they just lost to the Eagles who we beat earlier in Week 1. I just would like to know though how a team that we kicked the crap out of twice already this year and is only two games over .500 get double the number of players elected to the Pro Bowl that the division leader does. But it could be worse I guess if your are the NFC South division leading Bucs or the 10-4 Jags who got 0 players on the roster. It's a particular travesty that Fred Taylor did not make it, one of the most underrated running backs of this era and maybe all time.

Really I should probably be giving the Pack A+s all season becuz who expected 12-2. But I've let all the media hype get me caught up in looking at the Pack as an elite team again. And elite teams don't have successful seasons unless they are going deep into the playoffs. That being said they have a good chance to do just that, even if the NFC Championship is played in Dallas. I just don't want to play the Vikings again in the playoffs. Beating a team three times in one season is not impossible, but not easy either.
Update: What the fuck was that!!? Can we just not beat the fucking Bears anymore!!?? Announcers making excuses for Brett saying he looks cold, he plays for the Packers!! I'm really disappointed in Brett he usually plays pretty good in sloppy weather. Way to jack off home field advantage guys. But if you're going to make a run with a team like this, might as well do it the hard way and earn it.

Bucks. C-
Bucks are assuming the position figuratively and literally, settling down into the Eastern Conference 8-spot after leading the Central a couple of weeks ago. I think one of the problems is they don't really have that defined identity as a team yet. It's like they are emotinally torn between becoming more of a defensive team like Krysto wants or being the team that will just try to outscore you and not even pretend to defend. According to Brew Hoop Coach K might be looking to shake things up to give some people a kick in the ass starting with Moe Williams. But again this is kind of what I expected from Milwaukee this season so I'm not really sweating it. This season really will probably only be useful to develop Yi into a consistent performer since we've found out he doesn't totally suck as I feared.

UWM basketball. C+
Yes at 4-7 and at the bottom of the Horizon Leauge it looks like the Panthers 15 minutes of fame in the national spotlight left town with Bruce Pearl two years ago. They're really just not getting the same talent that Pearl was able to attract. But I'm not bailing on the current coach Rob Jeter just yet. He has a solid foundation of knowledge after playing for and coaching under Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and he's being consistent in showing what kind of players he wants on his team. This is the kind of guy where your gut feeling tells you it's only a matter of time before he has the program back on the rise again. And that he's not the kind of coach who would bail for a higher profile job after the first breakthrough season.

Brewers. B+
So typical of the Brewers luck that their first big name free agent signing in a while (since Richie Sexson??) is immediately involved in the latest/biggest scandal of the steriod paranoia era. In Gagne's case though I think there might be some legitimacy to the argument that a lot of the players named in the Mitchell Report took steroids to aid in recovery from injury, not saying that makes it ok just a little more understandable as to why a professional athlete might take that risk. If he can stay healthy and avoid any kind of reprecussions for his name appearing on that report Gagne could be a good pick up for the Crew. For the first time in a long time they are being pretty active in the free agent market this year, even rumored to be thinking of signing Kenny Lofton. Wow, just like an actual MLB franchise (sniff).

UW Basketball. B+
Badgers holding steady like they are supposed to do before hitting the Big Ten schedule, just got finished beating up on in-state rivals UWM and UW-GreenBay. As long as they can stay healthy I think they have a good chance in the top three at the end of the season. Minnesota worries me though. They have decent talent and just got a big upgrade at coach with Tubby Smith.

Marquette Men's Basketball. A-
I can't really fault Marquette this week. They're ranked 13th, have been blowing out the teams they are supposed to, and Dominic James is looking real smart for having decided to take another year in college to polish his game. Most nights he is leaving no doubt that he is the best player on the floor.

UW-Whitewater Football. A+
Warhawks are NCAA Division III champions after defeating perennial power Mount Union in the title game. Whitewater is kind of a Div. III powerhouse themselves having been in the title game in 2005 & 2006 also. The DIII state schools in Wisconsin all generally have pretty good football programs and are part of a in-state conference that is very competitive. Known locally for being a bigger party school than the one in Madison (but on the low) I myself have some fond memories of Whitewater from when my older brother attended school there. Congrats all current students and alumni on some well earned national exposure.

12.12.2007

Why I Am Here

The other day I had some precious and rare free time to myself in the afternoon and flipped the tube to the History Channel, which I find usually has something interesting on when I don't feel like watching reruns of 'I Love New York'. I was not disappointed.

On July 30, 1866 a group of African American soldiers who had served in the Union Army during the Civil War congregated at the Mechanics Institue in New Orleans, Louisiana to try and get some information about benefits they had been promised to by the United States government from Union Army officials who had set up temporary offices inside.

A group of former Confederate soldiers, already stirred up and irate because of Republican party efforts to abolish the Black Codes laws in the south (particularly Louisiana), learned of the gathering and attacked the African American soldiers outside of the institute. Not satisfied with that the mob kicked in the door of the Institute and attacked the Union officials who were inside.

Most official accounts of the incident lists casualties of around 30-40 African-Americans killed along with 7-10 Union soldiers but there are many other accounts of that afternoon, detailing among other things the savagery of the attack and how bodies were carted away from the scene of the massacre before they were identified, which indicate the actual number of casualties was much higher.

Race. A man made concept that has no basis in scientific fact, but nonetheless is a topic that has been debated, warred over, romanticized, etc. about by humans since the beginnings of written history. It's the topic that in America everyone thinks about but no one wants to seriously address.

The historical account I cited at the beginning of this post was an event that I had previously never heard of. It took place during the Reconstruction period of U.S. history when there was much racial tension throughout the whole country especially in the South between recently freed slaves and defeated Confederates. This was just one of many incidents, some of which have never been reported.

Someone not of African descent who happens to read this post might feel like this is just another typical 'black-revolutionary-whitey-keeping-me-down-fuck-the-man-and-Mr.-Charlie' blogger who is too busy trying to blame my (and other black peoples') own personal laziness on society and white people to see the role we have played in our own demise as a people. They may say what does what some fucked up white person who was not related to them did over 100 years ago have to do with them? They know they don't have feelings like that because they treat all human beings the same regardless of race. They don't even see race and if someone else sees it or brings it up then it is they who are racist not themselves.

See the problem with that stance is that the stuff that happened over 100 years ago still happens today. Oh no I'm not necessarily refering to the lynchings, random unprovoked murders, Jim Crow laws, and strict segregation enforced with hostility (even though some of those things do still happen today). I'm more talking about the mindset that fueled those actions. And if you think there are no white people around today with the same mindset that most white Southerners had back then, are you serious?

If you need an example look no further than the numerous racist comments proliferated throughout the internet in the wake of Michael Vick's indictment. Even I, who am by no means naive to the current state of race relations in this society, was amazed at the volume and tone of some of these comments. A lot of those posts were charachterized by undisguised joy about the downfall of a rich, black athelete and generalized derogatory comments about the nature of black males.

So I guess this post is meant to be kind of an answer to the non-African-American reader who thinks that it is mostly African-Americans keeping the issues of race alive and wonders with righteous indignation why it is so quick to be mentioned whenever there is some contraversial issue that hits the headlines. It is brought up because it exists.

12.08.2007

Weekly Wisconsin Sports Wank 12/8

Hello friends and greetings as we head into the sweet spot of the sports year. Two major sports leauges are in full swing (three if you count the NHL but who does anymore), one is just winding down to choose a quasi-champion (college football) and one is starting to get interesting approaching the leauge play part of it's season (men's college basketball). In my last edition I went pretty easy on our beloved Wisconsin teams accepting their marginal success as some sort of accomplishment. But I think it's time I get tougher with my opinions. I think part of what makes successful franchises successful is the expectations of their fans. Simply put I think sports teams have a tendency to be more accepting of perpetual failure if that's what most of their fans generally expect (kind of like Clippers fans used to be). Higher fan expectation = better team performance fueled by that outside pressure.

So with these thoughts in mind I begin my weekly wanking.

Packers. C+
The Packers were an average team this past week. They had their chance to put a defining win on this season in Dallas and once again made all the worst mistakes at the most inopportune times. They picked their biggest game of the season to play their worst game this season (yes even worse than the turnover filled home loss to the Bears, our only previous defeat). The only reason I'm even giving them a C+ is because they were never out of the game, even after Brett went down and Aaron Rodgers managed to prove that he wasn't a total waste of a first round pick. Plus they did get jobbed on some of those calls. I'll be interested to see if they can refocus against a better-than-you-think Raiders team.

Update: It did look kind of close in the beginning, but then the Pack turned on the jets and put up 38 in a rout. Guess they got refocused. Doesn't change my grade though.

Wisconsin football. Incomplete
Big 10 season is over. But the Badgers have an opportunity to end the season on a good note and once again provide some nationally televised proof that the conference is better than people think by handling a Tennessee team that I'm guessing most sports heads are picking to roll against a typically 'stodgy, slow, unathletic' Big 10 team on New Year's Day. Don't think so? Yeah that's what people said last year before we played Arkansas. We beat them so bad their star quarterback transfered and their fan base turned into a lynch mob.

Milwaukee Bucks. C-
After being pleasantly surprised by the Bucks division leading start and good wins against some quality teams I'm seeing them now settle down into the kind of pattern of play I expected when the season began. At least Yi is turning out to be not horrible as I noted last week. I'm optomistic that the Bucks can make the playoffs this season (the East is still looking like the weaker conference to me despite the resurgent Celtics and suddenly dominant Magic) but my mind is telling me that at least next years draft should be so stacked with quality players that not even Larry Harris could fuck it up.

Wisconsin men's basketball. C+
Badgers are a solid team at 6-2 but have lost to both of the ranked teams they have played so far, Duke and Marquette. No shame in those losses early in the season I guess but Wisconsin is going to have to win some of those games down the road if they hope to be selected (because they will not win a Big Ten regular season title, maybe the automatic tournament bid but you can't depend on that). I'm not really mad they lost to Marquette though. It was an in-state battle that someone had to lose. But the game was good enough that Wisconsin will get credit for effort in a 'good loss'. A interesting subplot of this game was the personal rematch between Marquette guard Wes Matthews (whose father starred for Wisconsin basketball in the '70's) and Wisconsin forward Marcus Landry who also faced off against each other their senior years in the Wisconsin state high school basketball championship game. Matthews won that one too so that's gotta be eating at Landry a little.

Marquette men's basketball. B+
I'm going just a little light on Marquette because they are ranked in the top 20 and have a 1-1 record so far against ranked teams, also losing to Duke. They are right about where they should be heading into the Big East regular season schedule if they're going to make some noise. I guess an A+ would be if they had beat Duke. I hate Duke.