Election’s Over. It’s Cold. Watch Sports.

If you’re like me, the same thing happens every year about this time. No, not that your child catches you eating his Halloween candy and you have to promise to take him to Chuck E. Cheese’s to make up for it. (Every smart parent knows that you take your kids trick-or-treating and then tell him that you’re keeping half the candy — the good half — for yourself as payment for all of the misery and suffering said child has caused over the year.)

No, this time of year I always find myself having a bit of a letdown following the end of baseball season yet at the same time being so engrossed in football that the beginning of hockey and basketball season sort of comes around without me paying either the attention they deserve.

Well now that it gets dark at about two in the afternoon and the temperatures struggle to get to 40 degrees, it’s a perfect time to catch up on sports, not just football, but everything. Here’s what to watch this weekend:

1. Packers at Vikings. Sunday, 12 noon, FOX. Look, I didn’t say to forget about football. This “rivalry” game is interesting not because it’s such a great rivalry — Mike McCarthy has never lost to Brad Childress — but because the teams are both tied at 4-4 and look to have weaknesses that match up perfectly with the other team’s strengths. The Packers have been lousy at stopping the run; the Vikings have Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. Teams can pass at will against Minnesota; the Packers have arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL. Whether or not the Vikings can count on injured defensive end Jared Allen to play, I like the Packers in this one. The Vikings are undoubtedly a better team than the one that played at Lambeau Field the first Monday night of the season, but that doesn’t make them a better team than the Packers. And did I mention that Brad Childress has never beaten Mike McCarthy?

2. Wisconsin at Indiana. Saturday, 11 AM, Big Ten Network. The game might not be that meaningful, but don’t you want to watch just to see Wisconsin work out its frustrations on a bad team? And wouldn’t you feel silly after complaining for a year about not having the Big Ten Network not to watch it when the Badgers are on? I say Wisconsin by 30.

3. Michigan Tech at Wisconsin. Saturday, 7 PM, WISC. Yes, college hockey comes to local broadcast TV for the first of three Saturday night games that WISC-TV will air over the next few weeks. For anyone upset about the preemptions of the “crimetime Saturday” reruns or 48 Hours, WISC will run them late night. But most of us, especially those still hanging on to free broadcast TV as their only source for boob tube entertainment, should delight in seeing the hockey Badgers. Now they just need to win both games (Friday’s game is not televised) to stop their season (1-6-1 so far) from slipping away.

4. Milwaukee Bucks. FSN. This team is showing promise. And they’ve already won two road games, which maybe doesn’t sound that impressive, but they only won seven all last season. But whether or not Michael Redd, who missed Wednesday’s game with a sprained right ankle, returns Friday night, the team has a rough week ahead — at Boston (Friday), Phoenix (Saturday), at Cleveland (Tuesday), and San Antonio (Wednesday). Even if the Bucks don’t win many of these games, how competitive they are will tell us a lot about how good this team’s going to be.

5. The NFL. OK, you’re not going to totally forget about football no matter how much attention you pay this weekend to the hockey Badgers and the Milwaukee Bucks. And besides the Packers, there are some good games to watch locally this weekend: Flip over from the Packers/Vikings game to see how the Bears fare against the undefeated Titans (Sunday, noon, CBS). The Titans aren’t going to go 16-0; are the Bears (at home) the team to finally bring them down? I give the Bears a 50% chance if Kyle Orton plays, which drops to a 20% chance if the horrific Rex Grossman starts. Then there’s Indianapolis at Pittsburgh (Sunday, 3:15, CBS). Can the struggling Colts build on last week’s win over the Patriots? Can the Steelers find some offense without Willie Parker and possibly Ben Roethlisberger? Pittsburgh is so good on defense (No. 1 overall) that it might not matter.

6. The Big Ten. Could be a weekend of lopsided games. Illinois @ Western Michigan is on locally Saturday at 11 AM on My Madison TV, while the best ABC could come up with is Penn State @ the disappointing Iowa Hawkeyes (Saturday, 2:30 PM, ABC). If Iowa plays as well as they did against Wisconsin, they might be able to pull off the upset. But I doubt it. And if you want to watch a predictable game amongst predictable games on Saturday, wouldn’t you stick with the Badgers? Come on, Bielema promised he’d behave.

Well, got to go. Chuck E. Cheese’s isn’t open all night, you know. (Although that’s not a bad idea. You know, replace Munch’s Make Believe Band with a real band, maybe a couple of cage dancers . . . I think I’m on to something here . . . )


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