They’re Going To Show The Pandas What?

The question I keep hearing these days as I travel the state conducting my unofficial “listening sessions” (I’ll be at the Subway in Tomah this weekend; again, nothing official, I’m just there for the Subway B.M.T. and to lay down some smack talk on the unsuspecting Sandwich Artists) is “can the Badgers go undefeated in the Big Ten?” People seem to forget that the college basketball season is very different than the college football season (not to mention the postseasons are different with a decided advantage going to hoops) — unlike in football, where one game can cost a team its season, there isn’t that kind of pressure in basketball. Barring a complete collapse that at this point in the season seems almost unfathomable, the Badgers will be seeded high enough in the field of 65 to make what should be a very deep run in the men’s tournament. And they won’t have to win every game in January and February to do it. As we’ve seen over the last couple of games, teams are giving the Badgers their best shots and wins over Purdue and lowly Northwestern have been anything but easy. It wouldn’t stun me at all if the Badgers lose Saturday at Illinois or at the end of the month in Indiana. It would stun me if people groused about it. While I would have liked to have seen more convincing victories in the last two games, it’s tough to grouse much about these Badgers. We should all be enjoying this ride.

What I’m not enjoying is the absurd “Favre Watch” that can be seen everyday in one of the local daily papers. Didn’t we all get enough of this last year and the year before that and what seems like every year since Bush Jr. took office? And even though there is no story or controversy at all this year — Favre is laying low quietly weighing his options instead of waffling in the press and the Packers’ front office has made it very clear that they want him back unlike last year when they seemed as indifferent as my Senior Prom date — some insist on throwing this in our face on a daily basis. For me, there is no story here and there will not be a story even when he announces he’s coming back, as I fully expect him to. The only story will be when he announces his retirement. Then get set for the biggest sports media saturation not seen since the words “steroids” and “baseball” were first grouped together.

Not to sound like a bad stand-up comedian, but what’s the deal with the Wisconsin women’s basketball team? Oh, I know. They’re lousy. They have a recent tendency to get breathlessly far behind in games — they missed 20 of their first 22 shots in their most recent loss — and can’t dig themselves out of the holes they make for themselves. What’s worse is when — like the last two games — they get so far behind while playing at the Kohl Center, which quickly and thoroughly quiets the home Badger crowd. What’s to blame for the slow starts? Seems more and more like how junior guard Jolene Anderson goes, so goes the team, and Anderson’s first half numbers have lately been about as impressive as Charles Nelson Reilly’s film career. Let’s hope the team can pick it up for the Minnesota “Raise the Roof” game on January 28 if not before . . .

Oh, aren’t there a couple of football games this weekend? You’re hearing plenty about these games from other people, so I’ll keep things brief. I like the Patriots and since I can’t in good faith pick both road teams, I’ll take the Bears. Wait. The Bears barely won last weekend and the Saints are playing a hell of a lot better than the Seahawks. I’ll take both road teams. I’d like to see Peyton get the monkey off of his back, but I also can’t find any reason to root against the Patriots. They’re just really hard not to be continually impressed by. And New Orleans? Who can root against them? Well, Barack Obama for one . . .

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