Wisconsin Sports Fans — Be Thankful

OK, my preseason prediction of Packers over Panthers held true. I predicted a closer game, but obviously didn’t know in September that both Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme wouldn’t be playing. Nor did I know much about this guy named Ryan Grant. Anyway, another dominating performance.

On to Thanksgiving’s matchup against Detroit. After slaughtering Denver at home three weeks ago, the Lions have dropped two straight to fall to 6-4, three full games behind the Pack.

Is Detroit done? Has their previously promising season fallen apart, leaving only the laughable, bumbling, joke of a franchise that we’re all used to in the Motor City?

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Losing at the 5-5 Arizona Cardinals is not the embarrassment it once was (the Cardinals did beat the Steelers at home earlier in the year), and they did hang with the New York Giants, losing only 16-10. But clearly any discussion of Detroit winning the NFC North has to be put seriously on hold. At least until they can summon up a running game — in the past two weeks they’ve totaled seven yards on the ground — and stop the turnovers — Jon Kitna’s had five interceptions in the past two games and the team has lost four fumbles in that same span.

In contrast, the Packers have looked completely dominant the last couple of weeks, thanks largely to the continued great play of whats-his-name at quarterback and the emergence of Ryan Grant at running back. The only complaint Packer fans could have with last week’s game against Carolina was that the pass defense got a little sloppy in the second half, allowing the aged Vinny Testaverde to throw two touchdowns. The Lions do have a strong passing game, ranking fourth in the NFL (the Packers rank second) in passing yards per game. If the Lions have a prayer to beat Green Bay, and they did beat them the last time they played on Turkey Day, it’s going to be through the air. But it’s not going to happen. I suspect disheartened Detroit fans will be looking for sweet solace in their turkey and stuffing by the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Packer fans will be feeling mighty thankful this year. And in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, here’s my list of what Wisconsin sports fans should be giving thanks for this year:

1. Brett Favre is already hinting that he’ll be coming back next season. Not only should this be welcome news based on his stellar play this season, but it will save us all from the endless “will he retire” blather that has dominated recent offseasons.
2. The Packers missed out on the opportunity to hire Brad Childress as their head coach in 2006. After McCarthy started the 2006 campaign 2-4 and Childress started 4-2 with the Vikings, McCarthy has gone 15-5 and Childress has gone 6-14. The Packers have beaten the Vikings four straight times in that span. McCarthy has been impressive, proving many doubters (including myself) dead wrong. Childress is a lame duck coach who will be lucky to be coaching high school football next year.
3. It’s early, but after losing Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker, there appears to be plenty of life left in the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team. Hughes is shooting lights out, Brian Butch has been solid in his return, and the team is blowing out the teams it’s supposed to be blowing out. All eyes on that game on Tuesday at Duke. That’ll be fascinating to see how the Badgers match up against that powerhouse — and it’s even on ESPN, so Charter Cable subscribers can see it!
4. The McRib is back at McDonald’s. Well, that’s not sports-related, but we can all be happy about that, can’t we?
5. After a very promising 2007 season, things are definitely looking up for the Brewers — especially if they can land catcher Jason Kendall to replace the injury-prone hothead Johnny Estrada and if they can resign closer Francisco Cordero. I thought fans’ optimism about the team last season was a year too early; I’m betting on them in 2008. Well, not literally “betting,” as that would be wrong, like sampling bulk foods without paying and watching TMZ.
6. That NBC Sunday Night Football opening only airs once a week. Why does this thing bug me so much? Oh, I know: Because it’s insane. Why are these NFL players going to this theater? To watch football? But — excuse me if I’m wrong — football is usually played in a stadium, not a theater. But they’re there to watch NBC’s coverage of it, you say, on a big screen. OK, even if I were to buy that NFL players would flock together like the Osmonds on Thanksgiving to watch a football game on a big screen, then why are Al Michaels and John Madden there? Aren’t they at the stadium? I know John Madden doesn’t like to fly, but is NBC suggesting that Al and John don’t go live to the games and just do their broadcast from some offsite football watching party? Can I get Al and John to come to my house to do their broadcast? If so, can Al keep his political views to himself and can John curb his appetite or do my kids have to hide their fruit roll-ups? Have I mentioned I hate this opening? And I haven’t even gotten to the incessant Sprint product placement or the moronic rewrite of Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” which is the worst bastardization of a song since Celine Dion saw fit to cover AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” In fact, the only way this credit sequence would be worse would be if it had Celine Dion in it. And didn’t you retire a while ago, Celine? Argh! Where’s my medication?
7. OK, this list started off a good idea and now I’ve lost the thread. I best be on my way. I need to rest up for hours of turkey, mashed potatoes, and football. Oh, and that special Survivor Thanksgiving-night recap. You know, that new episode that isn’t really a new episode, but rather a quickly patched-together “best of” of voted-off losers like Chicken and Jean-Robert. Seriously, CBS, I don’t care about these people now that the tribe has spoken. And stop with the finale reunions too. It made sense when Survivor was the most talked-about show on television, but now that it has all the buzz of Barney Miller, it’s enough already. I’d rather watch the lost episodes of Viva Laughlin.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Enjoy the Packers victory.

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