by Troy Sparks
As I approach my fourth year of covering sports for the Milwaukee Community Journal, there have been some near misses with our local sports teams. I’m talking about the Brewers and Packers, who had great regular seasons but fell short of the ultimate goal in their respective sports.
I was in the loop for making my second straight trip to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Packers didn’t meet that goal. The 15-1 record, winning their division and grabbing home field advantage throughout the playoffs meant very little because they lost to the New York Giants at home in the divisional round.
Playing right out of the gate a week after the regular season ended would have been beneficial to the Pack. There would have been a sense of urgency, especially if they knew that a playoff loss would end their season. It worked last year. Look what happened. Green Bay played three playoff road games last season – actually four if you count the Super Bowl – and won them all. The media put the Packers’ chances of making it back to the big dance very high.
Well, since Green Bay bowed out of the postseason in the second round after a first week bye, my plans to go to Indianapolis went caput. I set aside two weeks of vacation from my day job to bask in the glow and the atmosphere of another Super Bowl experience.
Last year, I traveled to Dallas to see firsthand what the Super Bowl experience was like. Since it was an opportunity to go, I paid my own travel and lodging expenses and wrote it off on my taxes. There I was sitting in Cowboys Stadium and looking at the huge jumbo screen. Among all the hoopla and the pregame activities that take place before, during and after the big game every year is the fact that the game itself is just another game.
I couldn’t imagine how much the fans paid for their tickets to see the game. With help from MCJ editor, Thomas Mitchell, myself and photographer Kim Robinson were one of the over 5,300 media members to get in for free. Like I said, I was hoping for a repeat experience to this year’s Super Bowl, but, oh well.
The Brewers had a goal to win the National League Central Division, and they wrapped it up in September of 2011. Once that was accomplished, their next goal was to secure home field in the first round of the playoffs. They had to finish at least a game ahead of Arizona.
The first round series against the Diamondbacks went to the wire. It was nerve-wracking for Brewer fans because Arizona left Miller Park down 0-2 and came back for Game 5 with the series tied at 2-2. The D-backs would either disappoint Brewer Nation or exit stage right. It took extra innings for the Crew to win and move on to the NL Championship Series. After the St. Louis Cardinals upset the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round, they played us.
The Cards carried that same momentum as the Giants did. Neither team had anything to lose because they were the underdogs. The underdogs won the World Series and Super Bowl, respectively. Oh well. It was really fun watching October baseball at Miller Park, and I took in some great games during the NL Division Series and the NLCS.
I can’t talk about the Bucks with enthusiasm and neither can any other basketball fans right now. If they don’t make the playoffs in this abbreviated season, then it will be time for head coach Scott Skiles to leave. I have that feeling it will happen.
The other events I covered besides the Brewers, Bucks and Packers included auto racing at the Milwaukee Mile. NASCAR didn’t come back to the Mile last summer. Indy Racing League was skeptical about returning because of a financial issue in 2010. They came back in 2011 and will come back again this year.
Also, over the past year, I made numerous appearances on a national blog talk sports radio show called “The Batchelor Pad.” It’s a popular show that runs from 5-7 p.m. Milwaukee time. Now they know a little about Milwaukee and what’s going on with our local sports teams.
I covered two Wisconsin football games in Madison. “Mad-Town” is very lively on game days. They party all day and night. Try walking on Regent St. on the narrow sidewalk about half a mile from Camp Randall Stadium from where you park. The overflow of people carries you into the street. And you have to watch for oncoming traffic to avoid getting hit.
Inside the stadium, there is a sea of red and white clad fans. The press box shakes like an earthquake when they play House of Pain’s “Jump Around” song before the start of the fourth quarter because everyone jumps up and down during that two minute period.
There were also a couple of arena football games and a mixed martial arts event at the Bradley Center that I took in. I tried to take some pictures at the MMA event because my ace photographer didn’t show up yet, but their media relations director said I couldn’t because I didn’t have a photo credential. My guy finally arrived before the main event fight. I almost lost confidence, but he showed up in the nick of time, took some pictures and disappeared into the night.
I saw him about three days before the Brewers played their first home playoff game since 1982. We both looked forward to watching the game together like we did other games in the press box of Miller Park. No one, not even me, thought that it would be the last time we would see Harry Kemp. The sports stories he told me at basketball of baseball games were a classic, and they kept me going. It will be a void left in the Brewers media press box. My plan is to celebrate another year of covering sports for the MCJ at all levels.