What a great time to be a Wisconsin sports fan.
From the Deer District, to the Molitor parking lot outside American Family Field, to State Street in Madison, to Anduzzi’s Sports Club in Green Bay and Sobelman’s Pub and Grill on the campus of Marquette, the Dairy State is buzzing.
The Milwaukee Bucks are one win away from the franchise’s first NBA championship since Lew Alcindor led the team to the title 50 years ago.
The Milwaukee Brewers, despite an anemic offense, lead the N.L. Central by seven games thanks to arguably the best pitching staff in baseball.
In Madison, hopes are high for the 2021 football season as the Badgers welcome back a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball.
Aaron Rodgers has been the No. 1 offseason story in the NFL, and although I’m not a die-hard Packers fan, I know fans are eagerly awaiting No. 12’s decision on whether he will or won’t return to the team when training camp opens later this month.
And as much as I loathe Marquette basketball—it’s required when you graduate from the UW—I know the Golden Eagles are in good hands with Shaka Smart taking over.
His first recruiting class was stellar, and he’s already proven himself by winning consistently on a national level.
The excitement level around the state has peaked with the Bucks’ return to national prominence.
It’s the most I’ve seen fans come out of the woodwork for a team and jump on the bandwagon since the Chicago Cubs rode a magical postseason to a 2016 World Series title.
Giannis could run for governor of this state or mayor of Milwaukee and win by a landslide.
I’ve not made it down to the Deer District yet for a game, and I’m probably one of the few Bucks fans in that category. More than 23,000 packed what should’ve been called the Deer Garden for Game 5 last Saturday, and I can’t imagine how many will try and squeeze in for Game 6 tonight.
The Bucks have added another lot and big screen and some estimates have the total crowd inside and outside tonight at 80,000-plus.
The Deer District has drawn national attention with it’s postgame fireworks after a Bucks win and for the incredible amount of people that have behaved despite being packed in like sardines.
The Bucks have been my team since I was little. I don’t remember much of the Alcindor and Oscar Robertson days, other than I remember how crushed my dad was when Milwaukee traded Alcindor to the Lakers.
My love affair began in the late 1970s and early 80s. While a senior at Janesville Parker in 1982, I got to pick up former Bucks great Sidney Moncrief at the Rock County airport and escort him to the Janesville Mall for an autograph session. Sponsored through Parker’s DECA program, I thought I was pretty big stuff sitting next to the former Razorback that adorned Sports Illustrated with one of the greatest cover shots ever.
The Brewers are the feel-good story of the MLB season. Despite a rash of injuries and the fact that Keston Hiura and Jackie Bradley Jr. can’t hit their weight, the team is pulling away in the N.L Central. If Christian Yelich can somehow regain his MVP form, Lorenzo Cain can stay healthy and Woodruff, Burnes and Peralta are as good in the postseason as they’ve been in the regular season, the city of Milwaukee could have its second ticker-tape parade by the end of the year.
A first-place team, the return of tailgating and fans in the stands have made most die-hard followers forget all about the fact that they were mad in the first place that their beloved Miller Park became American Family Field.
As a UW graduate, I can’t wait for the 2021 football season. The Badgers should have the fans at Camp Randall jumping around more than ever. The defense, led by Janesville Craig graduate and the top NFL Draft prospect on the team, Keeanu Benton, should be stellar. If Graham Mertz can regain his throwing touch and quit throwing passes to the wrong team, the offense could flourish with the return of wide receivers Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis, along with one of the top tight ends in the country in Jake Ferguson.
More than anything, it will be great to see Mad City bustling once again on game day. Nothing compares to the smell of brats in and around Camp Randall, the end of the third quarter and “Jump Around,” and the marching band’s infamous fifth quarter production that always includes “On Wisconsin” and “When You Say Wisconsin, You’ve Said It All!”
The Rodgers saga has to end at some point, but it sure has riveted the nation and those covering the NFL. It’s clear that he doesn’t want to be there, but he’s also smart enough to realize that his best chance for a second Super Bowl ring is in Green Bay. He’s got arguably the best wide receiver in the game at his disposal in Davante Adams, along with top 10 running back Aaron Jones and what many consider the best offensive tackle in the game in David Bakhtiari. He’s not finding those studs in Denver or any other possible trading spots.
My guess is that the two sides find a way to mend fences, and Rodgers returns for one more Super Bowl run.
Like I said, there’s plenty to be excited about if you’re a Wisconsin sports fan.
That excitement could hit a crescendo tonight.