Other Stuff Besides Football

Well, with nearly a week gone by since the debacle in Dallas/disaster in Dallas/devastation in Dallas/tragedy in Texas and still several days until the Packers thump the Oakland Raiders — on WISC-TV, no less — it’s time to look at other sports besides football. I know that this time of year I get to be a little myopic in my sports view, so I’ll try to correct that with at least a cursory glance of sports not played with a spherical ball.

But first I need to address something I saw this morning. And I need to precede this with the reminder that my opinions here in this blog are not reflective of the opinions of WISC-TV management, its media partners, sponsors, cable or satellite carriers, or viewers. Now then: One of the fine television stations in Madison is broadcasting a promotion — what we in the business call a “proof of performance” — congratulating itself on its coverage of the snow we had on Saturday, December 1. The spot includes the requisite shots of reporters standing out in the snow, meteorologists standing in front of graphics that read “snow,” etc. What’s most interesting is the spot’s snide boast that during all of this, “the other stations had football,” implying that the station running this spot was the only station in town aware that the snow was newsworthy.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. All it really means is the station running the spot happens to be affiliated with a network that has let its sports division become a laughing stock that prides itself on coverage of fringe sports like poker and something called Championship Off-Road Racing (or “racer-tainment” as its Web site claims). As such, the station, unlike the other two major network affiliates in town, had no network sports obligations in the 5 PM time period and — shocker of shocks — filled its regularly scheduled 5 PM newscast with — wait for it — news! Wow, no wonder the pride is showing. Anyway, the station in question is basically criticizing the other stations in town for fulfilling their network obligations by airing college football games of major BCS importance when in reality if it was affiliated with a network with a real sports division it would have been only too happy to do the same thing. So I’d hold off awarding them a Edward R. Murrow Award for now.

OK, enough of that. Let’s talk baseball. Lots of comings and goings for the Milwaukee Brewers in the past few weeks, some good and some bad. Obviously bad was the departure of Francisco Cordero, who with 44 saves and only six blown ones, was about as dependable a performer as the Brewers had. Worse was the fact that Cordero went to divisional foe Cincinnati; although Cincinnati seems far from a championship team, in a division as tight as the NL Central, sometimes it takes just one or two key players to make a big difference. Along with the less-devastating loss of Scott Linebrink, the Brewers now have a very questionable bullpen. Granted, the acquisition of David Riske will help — Riske actually posted a lower ERA than either Cordero or Linebrink in 2007 — but with Derrick Turnbow still struggling with control issues, what was a strength of the Brewers is now more of a question mark.

A change in the catcher position, however, has much more potential for success. Whereas the departed Johnny Estrada backed up his mediocre play with an attitude that alienated him from his teammates and his manager, newly-signed Jason Kendall is sounding like a guy thankful for the fresh start the Brewers are giving him. Whereas his 2007 campaign was disappointing, there is no reason to believe the three-time All Star isn’t poised for a bounceback year. Plus, he has postseason experience (which we all hope continues this year) and his overall experience should be a real plus for a young team that lost veteran leadership when Geoff Jenkins’s contract was not renewed.

Well, I’m running out of time here. Let’s see: Bucks, after posting impressive wins against the Lakers, Mavericks, and Cavaliers, are already coming back down to earth. Men’s basketball, looks poised for another tournament run. Women’s basketball, not quite living up to preseason expectations but Janese Banks is playing well. And, oh yeah, Carl Renezeder has won every single Championship Off-Road Racing Event ever held. But you knew that.

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