by Troy Sparks
When was the last time that our state was the center of attention for several major sporting events in the same weekend? Don’t answer. It might take too long.
It would have been really cool to be everywhere for the Wisconsin sports trifecta, but I didn’t get access to cover one of them. As the rocker Meatloaf once said, two out of three ain’t bad.
Since I was at the bottom of the totem pole as a member of a small media organization, and the Wisconsin vs. Nebraska football game, Oct. 1, generated a big demand for media requests from the UW Athletic Department, I wasn’t given access. If I was, I would’ve been at Camp Randall Stadium mixed up in the madness that surrounded Madison.
That was okay, because there was some hoopla around Miller Park as the Brewers hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the NLDS. The 1:07 p.m. start that Saturday meant the game would end before the Badgers played their 7 p.m. game.
I had a somber moment before arriving at Miller Park that almost brought me to tears. I enjoyed talking sports, politics or music during the game with a man who never had a bad word for anybody who knew him. And he wouldn’t be there to share his thoughts while we watched the first Brewers playoff game together since 2008.
About 10 people found me in the packed Miller Park press box and offered their condolences regarding the passing of Harry Kemp. I remembered saying goodbye to him after the last regular season Brewers game, Sept. 28, and that I would see him a couple of days later for the playoffs. The next day isn’t promised, and the bond that we had at the baseball and basketball games came to an end. He will be missed.
It was a zoo inside and outside Miller Park. The fans waved their white rally towels. I think that the game should’ve been played with the roof open to bring in the elements. The teams that are in the playoffs and have open air stadiums have to deal with it.
The battle between Cy Young candidate Ian Kennedy and our ace Yovani Gallardo suggested that it would be a low-scoring game. Between those two guys, you would be lucky to see a final score of 1-0. Arizona would’ve taken an early lead in the first inning, but MVP candidate Ryan Braun made a perfect throw to catcher Jonathan Lucroy at home to nail Willie Bloomquist.
“He made a great throw,” Gallardo, who struck out nine batters to tie Don Sutton’s team playoff record, said. “That base hit by (B.J.) Upton . . . Who knows? If that run scored, it would be a whole different ballgame.”
Jerry Hairston Jr. brought home Braun from third to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. Yuniesky Betancourt tripled in the sixth and scored on Lucroy’s hit for a 2-0 lead. Prince Fielder’s two-run homer in the seventh inning made it 4-0. The Diamondbacks got a homer from Ryan Roberts in the eighth. John Axford saved the game in the ninth for a 4-1 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The players who were on the 2008 playoff team approached this postseason differently. “The first time you go and you get to the postseason, everything happens so fast,” Braun said. “You don’t really know how to prepare yourself. Everybody’s routines changed. There are a lot of things going on off the field. And a lot of things you realize take away from what you normally do. So I think recognizing that and understanding what’s important to try to maintain our same routine to stay relaxed and just treat it like it was just another game.”
Game 2 between the Brewers and Diamondbacks began almost an hour after the Green Bay and Denver game at Lambeau Field. Since I couldn’t be in two places at one time, I went to Green Bay. The same situation happened to me in 2008 when both teams played on the same day. I did the same thing then. I chose the Packers over the Brewers.
There wasn’t a drop-off from the Packers in offense from the previous week. They rolled to a 28-17 halftime lead against the Broncos. The lead was 35-17 midway through the third quarter. Let’s say that the Packers were on a roll once again. They won, 49-23. They are 4-0. Rodgers threw for 408 yards with four passing and his two rushing TDs.
The Wisconsin sports victory trifecta was almost complete. The Badgers annihilated the Cornhuskers, 48-17. The Packers did their job to stay undefeated. What about the Brewers?
“We held up our end of the deal,” said Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy after the game. “I hope the Brewers hold up their end.” The baseball game was on in the media auditorium, and the Crew had a 9-4 lead in the seventh inning at that time.
McCarthy knows that the success of the team begins with his quarterback. “Our offense starts with Aaron Rodgers,” he said. “It’s built to make the quarterback successful. He’s doing a great job managing it.”
Added receiver Greg Jennings: “We have a very special bond. What he was able to do, he being Aaron, is spread the ball around and getting everyone involved. I think that it’s a credit to him and all of us trying to work to get open to make sure that when our number is called, we can make a play for him.”
The Crew held on to win, 9-4, to take a 2-0 series lead. Maybe they can wrap that baby up in Arizona and move on to the next round. So there it is. The Wisconsin sports trifecta is complete with three wins by three teams in the same weekend.