In between her frequent demands for more Backyardigans videos and her alarming tendency to use me as a punching bag, my three-year-old daughter will often ask her mother or me to make her a “friendship snack.”
Now, for those of you reading this column who do not presently attend preschool (and my editor does say that most of my page views come from daycares and prisons), a “friendship snack” is a concoction that is produced when several kids combine their individual favorite munchies into a huge, group-sized treat.
(For the Record, the snack usually ends up being pretty similar to Chex Mix or Crispix Mix, though most preschools frown on the inclusion of nuts due to allergies. In addition, there is usually one kid who brings in something a little more bizarre, like Twizzlers or gummy bears.)
I started thinking about this method of producing something unique out of a collection of unrelated items when it came time to post this week’s column. I was dragging my feet a little bit because I couldn’t decide exactly what I wanted to write about, when of course it dawned on me to, like the kids in my daughter’s preschool, combine a bunch of individual-sized munchies into one big treat.
So, to my loved ones and enemies alike, I present to you my first “Friendship Blog”:
1. Hoosiers at Wisconsin. After two exhilarating victories, it looked last week like Wisconsin (despite coming off a bye) was finally going to fall prey to one of the most feared occurrences in sports. Worse than a groin pull or a visit on the mound from Morganna, The Kissing Bandit, I’m talking about the dreaded letdown.
The Badgers were sluggish in the first half against a Purdue team that had been outscored 93-10 over their last two games. But as good teams do, Wisconsin — particularly its defense, which tallied three second-half interceptions — eventually wore down their overmatched opponent, ending Purdue’s upset hopes by outscoring them 28-3 in the final 30 minutes of play.
Playing at home Saturday against an Indiana team that has yet to win a Big Ten game, it’s doubtful that Wisconsin will give Hoosier fans the glimmer of hope it afforded Boilermaker nation. However, those fearing an upset may point to Wisconsin’s injuries, especially at running back, where both John Clay and James White are dealing with nagging knee injuries.
While the Badgers clearly will miss having Clay and White at full strength (Bret Bielema has said that all three will play somewhat), anybody paying attention over the last couple of weeks knows that Montee Ball isn’t exactly an embarrassment.
Although Indiana’s defense has played better lately, I like Ball to get it done (even with center Peter Konz likely out with an ankle injury).
I also like the Badgers’ defense to take advantage of Indiana’s one-dimensional offense, although QB Ben Chappell will undoubtedly prove a worthy start for those playing fantasy college football. Hey, I know that there’s such a thing as fantasy NASCAR, so don’t scoff.
Final score prediction: Wisconsin 30, Indiana 17.
2. Badgers Hoops Back Again. Every year, largely due to the dominance of football, basketball season sneaks up on me. But here we are again, and here Bo Ryan’s team is again with somewhat limited expectations.
People who claim to know a lot more than I do simply aren’t mentioning the Badgers as a possible Big Ten champion. This despite the fact that their annual presence at the NCAA tournament is as consistent as my wife’s annual presence at Kohl’s on Black Friday. And this despite the fact that although the losses of seniors Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon are huge, the Badgers return two of the better players in the conference in Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor.
There is no question that the Big Ten is going to be tough this year, with many analysts saying the conference — with powerhouses Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue (even with the loss of Robbie Hummel), along with improving programs Illinois and Minnesota — is the uncontested best in the country.
But even though center Keaton Nankivil has as many bad nights as good, and even though watching a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy is less painful than watching forward Tim Jarmusz try to shoot the ball, I like Rob Wilson, I like Ryan Evans, and I love Bo Ryan and the Badgers’ chances of beating anybody — anybody — at home.
At the very least, gimme the Badgers finishing in the top half of the Big Ten and returning once again to March Madness. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see that wind up as a modest prediction.
3. Brett Favre. OK, everybody’s tired of him, so I’ll make this brief. While fans drooled over his comeback victory last week over the Arizona Cardinals, few seemed to appreciate that Favre’s most recent spectacular game was probably his last.
I’m not buying the talk that the 3-5 Vikings are now suddenly back in the NFC North hunt or even the playoff hunt. The purple needed a Herculean effort from Favre just to beat one of the worst teams in the NFC at home.
What once looked like an easier second-half schedule now looks like a collection of games full of land mines: They have to play a rested Packers team coming off their bye, they have to play the Giants, one of the hottest teams in football, and no matter who they get to play on the road, Minnesota hasn’t won a game away from Minneapolis since last year’s victory at Lambeau Field.
Favre, who I actually believe when he says he’s not coming back next year, could have another great game against Buffalo in week 13, but by then, will anyone care?
4. Randy Moss. If you have him on your fantasy team, don’t start him. If you have him over for dinner, don’t give him one of those “comment cards” to fill out. I can’t imagine, after seeing the lack of effort he displayed during his short return to Minnesota, that he will be a productive player for the Titans. But hey, I was wrong about the public’s desire for a Hawaii Five-O remake. I could be wrong again.
5. The Green Bay Packers at Midseason. Who can figure these guys out? After losing two straight games against teams they are clearly better than, they come back with three straight wins against 2009 playoff teams. Sure, the Vikings and especially the Cowboys aren’t the teams they were last year, but you know that victory over Minnesota was huge for the team and for Aaron Rodgers in particular.
And although the offense was disappointing in New York, the defense was stunningly good in a game that few honestly gave the Packers a chance of winning. And against the Cowboys, they did what good teams should do to bad teams: Embarrass them like embarrass my son by singing Big Time Rush songs loudly in public.
Although the Packers’ upcoming schedule is a beast (the next four of five are on the road, followed by a tough home game against the Giants), the only predictable thing about Mike McCarthy’s banged-up group is that they will finish the season as NFC North champs.
6. The Milwaukee Bucks. Gee, the Bucks always seem to get overlooked by the Madison-area media, don’t they? And who am I to reverse that trend?
Thanks for sharing my “friendship blog” with me. Now get your mats out. It’s time for a nap. With half of the NFL season, the college basketball season, the NBA, and plenty of college football left, we need to rest up.