Can we get all of Wisconsin’s major sports teams (even the Bucks) into one blog? Yes we can!
First: The New York Times plays Fun with Maps:
Twice so far at the Upshot, we’ve published maps showing where fan support for one team begins and another ends — once for baseball and once for basketball. Now we’re pleased to offer another one: the United States according to college football fans.
Unlike professional sports, the college game is much more provincial, with scrappy regional programs dominating their corners of the country. Texas and Oregon are two of the most popular teams, but together they account for only 25 percent of territory in the lower 48 states. There is no team with a level of national support that approaches that of, say, the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox or the Los Angeles Lakers. …
All told, 84 programs can reasonably claim to be the most popular college football team somewhere in the United States.
Like the other sets of maps, these were created using estimates of team support based on each team’s share of Facebook “likes” in a ZIP code. We then applied an algorithm to deal with statistical noise and fill in gaps where data was missing. Facebook “likes” are an imperfect measure, but as we’ve noted before, Facebook likes show broadly similar patterns to polls.
The most consistently loyal fans in America live in Wisconsin. More than 87 percent of fans in some Wisconsin ZIP codes support the Badgers, a level that isn’t reached anywhere else, our estimates show. That’s why the red in the map is so dark. Though the numbers aren’t nearly so high elsewhere, Wisconsin territory also stretches into Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan.
Minnesota has won 57 games and lost 56 in its long-running battle with Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, but you wouldn’t know it from the map. Wisconsin, which recently went to three straight Rose Bowls, more than holds its own in its state and wins in some counties in Minnesota, including the Twin Cities; it even wins in the home ZIP code of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium (also the temporary home of the N.F.L.’s Vikings). Bucky rules.
Much of this, of course, has to do with the presence of only one Division I football team in the state, as in Nebraska. There is no Wisconsin State (except in the pages of the novel Gotcha Down) to pull off fans from Wisconsin. (Though it would be nice for Marquette, or UW–Milwaukee, or UW–Green Bay to have football.) However, Badger fans deserve credit for sticking with Bucky despite decades of bad football and basketball in the 1970s and 1980s. And it’s also good to see inroads outside the state lines given the annoyance of, when I came to Southwest Wisconsin in 1988, Iowa fans in Wisconsin. (One Iowa fan in Wisconsin is one too many.)
On to the real America’s Team. The NFL Spin Zone ranked all 32 NFL teams by historic greatness (or lack thereof), and guess who won?
1. Green Bay Packers: 714 Points
Established 1921 – There is something poetic about the team from the smallest market in the NFL being atop this list. It’s an ode of sorts to the founding of the NFL; which was comprised of numerous small market teams. Canton, OH., Muncie, IN., Duluth, MN., Rock Island, IL., Kenosha, WI., all had franchises early on, too. How did the Green Bay Packers, who are owned by the fans, not only remain but make it to the top of this list as, statistically, the greatest franchise in NFL history? Well, they have had numerous periods of greatness (aka success), including their dynasty of the 1960s — which some consider the NFL’s first real dynasty. Prior to that they won a league-high nine World Championships and have won four total Super Bowl Trophies (a trophy named after their legendary coach Vince Lombardi). Their 13 NFL Championships are the most all-time. They have the second-most Hall of Fame inductees (22) and have made the playoffs 29 times. Their seven AP MVP awards do not hurt their point total either. Green Bay’s combination of ancient, modern, and current success has landed it atop this list. And they’re current roster, led by Aaron Rodgers, shows no signs of slowing down.
As everyone knows, the NFL starts and ends at the quarterback position. And the Packers’ collection of top-tier quarterbacks, namely Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, is second to none. They are, or should I say will be, the only franchise with three Hall of Fame, Super Bowl winning, AP MVP quarterbacks. And don’t forget about Arnie Herber, a Packers quarterback from the 1930s who has a bust in Canton, too. Green Bay may not be your favorite franchise in the NFL, but there is no doubting it’s place among the NFL’s elite. Not to mention, it’s the oldest franchise to stay in one location. And that location is Titletown USA, home of Earl “Curly” Lambeau and the historic stadium built in his name. You hear that Titletown natives? It’s time to add another title to your resume as: The Greatest Franchise In NFL History…for now.
Icons: Vince Lombardi, Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Brett Favre
Which makes, incidentally, Super Bowl XLV between the Packers and Pittsburgh (ranked third, and listed as the greatest NFL team in the Super Bowl era) the greatest Super Bowl ever — two iconic franchises, both of which ownership harkens back to a simpler era. (The Packers are of course community owned, and I of course am an owner, while Art Rooney purchased the Steelers with racetrack winnings.)
On to the disappointment of the year, the Brewers, for which Rant Sports has roster suggestions:
Entering the 2015 season, much of the Milwaukee Brewers’ roster will be the same, but they are not a team without needs. The Brewers may target bats at both corner infield positions and veteran arms in the bullpen. …
4. Pablo Sandoval
With players like Kyle Lohse, Zack Greinke and Matt Garza, Doug Melvin surprised Brewers fans. If Aramis Ramirez isn’t brought back, he could surprise again with a player like Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval would not only give the Brewers a powerful lefty bat that they lack, but he also plays solid defense at third base.
3. Michael Cuddyer
Michael Cuddyer would solve a lot of problems for the Brewers at first base. While he is not a great defender, the 2013 NL batting champion hits for average and power. There are concerns about his durability, but his cheap and powerful bat would look great in Milwaukee. …
1. Adam LaRoche
If the Brewers want a left-handed bat at first, Adam Laroche is the best option. He is a weapon on offense who draws walks and gets on base, and has been a Gold Glove defender. If they were to sign LaRoche, they may finally have player who can hold his own replacing Prince Fielder.
The other two are free agents from the Brewers — closer Francisco Rodriguez and third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Each was one of general manager Doug Melvin’s better acquisitions. Rodriguez pitched pretty well this season, and Ramirez played about as well as Sandoval did for the Giants. The problem with Ramirez is his age, though that’s the same issue with Cuddyer and LaRoche. Sandoval is probably going to want more money than the Brewers are interested in paying.
Getting LaRoche would be great if for no other reason than his father — former Yankees pitcher Dave LaRoche, of the LaLob pitch:
(The clip shows Gorman Thomas striking out in a game the Brewers did win. One year later, Thomas got a base hit off LaRoche, and after going to first base proceeded to give a raspberry to the Yankees bench, which broke up.)
That blog demonstrates the Brewers’ player development weaknesses under Melvin. Developing pitching has been a problem for the entire history of the franchise, as you know, and the Brewers’ finances means the Brewers have to find someone who is affordable, which means players who are damaged goods for one reason or another. Fielder was a home-grown produce who the Brewers have never been able to replace.
I hate to end on a downer, but the last franchise on our list, the Bucks, may not be long for Milwaukee if you believe Business Insider:
In May, the NBA approved the sale of the Bucks to new owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry for a then-NBA record $550 million.
Shortly after the sale, Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN.com learned that as part of the agreement, the NBA had the right to buy back the team for $575 million if a new arena was not approved, built, and ready to use by November, 2017.
This did not seem like that big of a deal at the time because there was time to build the arena and there would have been little to gain for the NBA by purchasing the franchise.
But then the Donald Sterling fiasco in Los Angeles happened and Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers for $2 billion. Now, five months later, the Bucks still don’t even have a location for a new stadium and the Bucks are worth a lot more than $575 million. …
If the Bucks can’t get a new stadium built before the deadline, the NBA could buy the team for $575 million and then turn around and sell the team to a group in Seattle for an estimated $1.6 billion. …
It would also solve the problem of putting an NBA team back in Seattle, something the NBA has made a priority in recent years.
An alternative theory proposed by [ESPN blowhard Bill] Simmons is that the NBA could agree to not buy the team if the new Bucks owners agree to not build a new arena and pony up some more money — presumably a transfer fee of a few hundred million — and they would be able to remain owners by moving the team to Seattle.
Instead of investing $550 million for a team in Milwaukee, Edens and Lasry would then have invested maybe $900 million for a team in Seattle that may be worth closer to $1.6 billion.
That’s still a pretty good deal and everybody wins. Well, except for the Bucks fans in Milwaukee.
This theory, however, is blown up by the one comment on this story:
There is another problem with Simmons’ conspiracy theory. The NBA could add to its coffers by simply adding two teams, to go from 30 to 32 teams. Seattle is an obvious expansion possibility, but so is Kansas City. So is Louisville. There are also other franchises at least as likely to move as the Bucks, namely Ballmer’s Clippers, Sacramento and New Orleans. The fact that the Bucks’ new owners are bringing in local minority owners is a point in the Bucks’ favor, though not an insurmountable obstacle to a move.
Some would argue the NBA shouldn’t expand, but should relocate the aforementioned weak franchises for on-court competitive reasons. (The Clippers are apparently the NBA’s answer to the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland/TBA Raiders, having started life as the Buffalo Braves before moving to San Diego and then L.A. New Orleans used to have the Jazz before the Pelicans moved from Charlotte. Sacramento could move and yet still stay in California, to, for instance, San Jose or Anaheim.) The NBA being a business, however, adding two teams will bring in more money, particularly in an area hungry to get basketball back (Seattle), an area with no winter sports team to follow (Kansas City), or an area with no major pro sports team (Louisville). The NBA could add two teams and still have more areas wanting to get a franchise.