"Where Were You In '82?" Doesn't Matter Anymore

Let me ask a new question: Wasn’t it great in 2008?

Being in the stands on Sunday afternoon when the Brewers clinched the Wild Card and their first trip to the post-season in 26 years was nothing short of amazing.  I have seen some very exciting games in a number of different sports, and I was there for every home game when the Milwaukee Bucks nearly made the Finals in 2001.  But I think this was probably better, or at least, more surreal.

When I got to the park at about 20 minutes to 12 on Sunday, I just wanted to take some time mill around and soak up the atmosphere on what I knew could be the last day of the season.  I listened to or attended almost every game in 2008, and overall, it was a great time to be a fan; I wanted to cement some things in my memory, regardless of what the day’s outcome would be.

I watched the Brewers take batting practice for a while from a number of different vantage points– I tried to push my way toward the field near homeplate.  I stopped for a few minutes in right field and stood with the kids flexing and patting their gloves, waiting for a ball to fly out.  I slowly made my way all the way around the stadium, and as I recall now, I had no thoughts of the team moving on at all.  I’ve never seen it.  I had no idea what to even imagine.

Dave and I settled in to our seats, and for the first 6 innings of the game, I didn’t have a lot of confidence.  How can you when it’s been so long, and you’ve been thrilled but ultimately disappointed by this team so many times over the years?  Sitting amongst a swath of fans from Chicago, who always seem to know just how to condecendingly twist the knife never helps.

Then it was the 7th, and we realized that CC had gone from laboring to dominating.  It was a 1-run game, and nobody was going to pile up a bunch of hits.  If we could manage to push a couple across, I started to like our chances.  They tied it at 1 with PATIENCE AT THE PLATE, and after 161 games and 7 innings, the season was down to the last 6 outs.

When we got to the bottom of the 8th, one of the Cubs faithful in front of me said something like, “Aww, not Homerun Howry!”  And he turned out to be absolutely right.  Braun blasted that 2-run shot after Mike Cameron had singled, and the stadium exploded as the dreams of 40,000 people began to come into focus.  A scoreboard check showed that the Brewers were up, and the Mets were down.  If both could hang on for a couple more innings, it was going to happen.

I wasn’t nervous during most of the game.  I had sort of resigned myself to the notion that we would either not make it, or at best not have our fate decided that day– quite honestly, I felt like Milwaukee would be traveling to Shea Stadium on Monday for a head-to-head matchup with New York.  But once they got the lead, I broke into a cold sweat.  The Cubs remained a great team, and they were only down by 2 runs.  I needn’t remind the Brewers faithful of what had happened just 10 days before.  They were up, but not quite in.

The difference on this day was CC.  What an amazing performance to cap such a remarkable season!  If the Brewers go anywhere in October, it will be because of this guy.  And if he leaves for greener, lu$her pa$tures after it’s done, I know that I’m one fan who won’t blame him.  I’ll just hang on to the memories of this glorious summer of baseball that finally pushed through to fall.

So now it’s time to shake off those unflappable monkeys that are the 1982 Brewers– it’s true, this incarnation hasn’t won a league championship yet, but they have a chance every bit as good as that group did 26 years ago.  The stories of these current players are no less compelling.  The fever around the city is no less severe.  Like Favre and White and Holmgren finally silenced the ghosts of Starr, Hornung, and Lombardi up in Green Bay 12 years ago, so can these players do for the Brewers.  Not because anyone wants to forget the great days in the past, but because we want to believe they’ll be here again.

161 Down, 1 (or maybe 2) to Go

What a baseball week.  Today, I will attending my 5th of 6 games on this final Brewers homestand.  It’s been a helluva ride this year, and now it all comes down to today– the Crew is tied with the New York Mets for the NL wild card.  If one team wins today, and the other loses, the winner makes the playoffs.  If both win or both lose, there will be a 1-game playoff in New York tomorrow.

It’s hard to imagine things being more tense and exciting at Miller Park than they have been over the last few days.  We’ve seen Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder hit walk-off homeruns in extra inning games.  We watched Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung combine to pitch a fantastic game against the Cubs.  We cheered as loudly as we could watching Ben Sheets try to gut one out, and the team rallying from a 3-run deficit on Saturday afternoon, only to finally succumb in the 9th.

I imagine the playoffs would be better, if only because the Miller Park faithful could relax.  Everyone in the stands understands what’s going on, and what a tragic waste it would be for this team to miss the post-season.  Still, only one can make it, and no matter what, it’s been an amazing week of baseball.

See you at the park, for at least one more day.

Some Love Pity For a Rival

Obviously, the Detroit Lions are a team that I enjoy watching the Packers beat twice every year.  No football fan ever wants their team to lose a game within the division.

At the same time, I think that as an honest-to-goodness sports fan, you must have had some pity for the Lions and their fans during the tenure of Matt Millen as the GM.  The dufus was hired out of the broadcast booth with no personnel experience to speak of, and it showed, day in and day out.  Today, the Millen Era is finally over in Detroit.  All I can say as an NFL fan is, “Well, there’s a move that’s only 4 or 5 years late.”  The saga of ineptitude was simultaneously hilarious and sad from the outside looking in.  I can only imagine how painful it’s been for the tens of fans that the Lions still have.

Rejoice today, oh Detroit faithful– the dawn has finally come.

Still Hooked After All These Years

Caught myself watching VH1 for a while this evening while I was making dinner and getting some stuff done on the ‘tubes.  They were showing the 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s.  It’s basically exactly the same thing as I Love the 90s, but without any other pop culture references– just the music.

I have to admit that I still get caught up in these lame VH1 shows whenever I come across them on the dial.  It all started with I Love the 80s, and since then, I think VH1, as a network, has just turned into one non-stop greatest hits album, with an endless commentary track by Michael Ian Black and Hal Sparks.  It’s really stupid.  And yet I can’t look away.

What is it about pop culture that I find so compelling?  I really have no interest in pop culture as it happens, but in retrospective summary, I eat it up like a fat kid on Halloween.  Just can’t get enough.

And for the record, as soon as I saw the title of the program, I KNEW that Smells Like Teen Spirit would be #1.  That’s just the way that network rolls…

Still Three to Go

I have three more Brewers games to attend this season: Wednesday with Michelle, and then Friday and Sunday w/ Schrubbe.

I have to admit it’s going to be tough to get up and stay excited for this last week of the season.  If the Mets are able to beat the Cubs a couple times this week, the Brewers playoff-missing fate could be sealed before the weekend.  It’s been just an amazing turn of events.  Now I know how the Mets must feel about LAST season…

Meanwhile, I am REEEEEEEEALLY looking forward to vacation in October.  In a very serious way.  I’m toasted, man.

Enjoy While They Last

It’s a hell of a Saturday out there.  Not a very good time to be blogging; better to be out taking advantage of one of those last nice weekends before the weather takes a turn toward autumn.  Just a couple quick comments then:

  • The Brewers have taken a turn toward winter, about 8 weeks early.  As amazed as I would have been if you’d said to me on August 31, “the Brewers will not make the playoffs,” I will now be SHOCKED if they manage to get in somehow.  The Phillies and Mets are neck-and-neck in the NL East, and really, what we need to do is overcome both.  It would a feat as spectacular as the September collapse to turn it around now.  But I will be there until the bitter end…
  • Michelle and I are leaving shortly to head out to my cousin Aaron’s housewarming party in Cross Plains.  I think it’s pretty remarkable that Aaron set himself a good goal of staying with his folks and saving up for a house, and it took some time, but he did it.  I envy that sort of discipline.  We’re looking forward to the party, too…
  • Kyle and I are going to try our hands at podcasting in the near future.  We’re going to have our first go of it very soon, and we’ll see if anything interesting comes of it.  Stay tuned for details and/or to download.

Have a great Saturday!

Replacement Prognostication, Week 3

If you missed last Friday, you can clickity-click-click back on the 12th of September off to your left there, and get the skinny on prediciting the NFL games.  I decided I would (poorly) cover for Josh this year.  That said, we’ve come to Week 3!

  • Packers – win
  • Bears – win
  • Lions – lose
  • Vikings – lose
  • Chiefs – win
  • Dolphins – lose win
  • Seahawks – win

Season Record to date: 4-2

Voting Catholic

I don’t think it’s a simple matter to reconcile one’s Catholic faith with the issues in the presidential election.  The issues are at least as complex as the Church’s teachings, and it leaves a lot for a person to think (and pray) about.

I picked up this article in the New York Times on Wednesday, and it talks about these very struggles for Catholics in Pennsylvania.  The writer basically divides the faithful into one of two camps– those that will vote exclusively on the issue of abortion, and those that apply a more comprehensive-Church-doctrine lens when examining the candidates.  It’s an interesting read.

I would put myself in the second camp, but I am also inclined to resist yet another divisive label (and within the same church, for that matter).  I really do feel like voting exclusively on the issue of abortion (or exclusive on ANY one issue) is a cop-out.  If you want to say “I will only vote for the pro-life candidate,” that’s OK, but remember that this year’s “pro-life” candidate is the same one that is willing to prolong the Iraq War as far as necessary and has a hair-trigger on finding an excuse to invade Iran (and who knows where else).

Outlawing abortion isn’t going to make it go away.  I think that choosing abortion is a sad choice, but I also DON’T think that working to protect life should stop at the moment of birth.

A List of Former Brewers Players That Could End Up As Brewers Managers (Cont'd.)

  • Robin Yount.  Widely regarded as the Greatest Brewer Ever, he was the bench coach in 2006, then abruptly resigned.  Now that he’s serving in the same capacity under Dale Sveum, hiring him would be complex.  If he wanted the job, he could write his own ticket.  The fans could take a LOT of losing seasons before they would turn on The Kid.
  • Jim Gantner.  Has managed the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League for two seasons.  I think he’ll fit right in with our team concept…
  • Paul Molitor.  Widely regarded as the Second Greatest Brewer Ever, and the only one of that classic 80s Brewers infield to win a World Series (the year after he was run out of town, with the then-hated Toronto Blue Jays, in 1993).  Has served as an occasional spring training assistant/volunteer with Minnesota and Milwaukee.  Either would jump at the chance to have him back as a coach.
  • Cecil Cooper.  Former Brewers bench coach (2002) and current manager of the Houston Astros.  I didn’t say he was a candidate TODAY, but why not?  A former Brewer, and now experienced with the big job.
  • Gorman Thomas.  Oh, sure he could.  He’s around the ballpark all the time, anyway.
  • Pat Listach.  Current manager for the AAA Iowa Cubs, starting to be talked about as an eventual big league skipper.
  • Felipe Alou.  Played for the Brewers in 1974, and carries a .503 winning percentage as a manager, spanning 2054 games.  He’s still alive, right?
  • Bill Castro.  Current Brewers bullpen coach, he’s the only guy that’s survived the last 3 4 managerial regimes.
  • Jeff Cirillo.  Led some very mediocre Brewers teams in batting a couple times, technically a “free agent” right now, but also a Brewers television personality in 2008.  I’m not saying “next year,” but maybe someday…
  • Don Money.  Former all-star third basemen for the Crew manages the double-A affiliate in Huntsville.
  • Ed Romero.  Current 3rd base coach for the Houston Astros.
  • Terry Francona.  Current manager of the Boston Red Sox played in 90 games for the Brewers in forgettable 1989.
  • Dan Plesac.  Brewers all-star closer in 1987, 88, and 89 is a TV personality for the Chicago Cubs.
  • Willie Randolph.  Former Mets manager and Yankees bench coach played 2nd base with the Brewers in 1991.

Did I forget anybody?