Buckets and buckets and buckets of buckets

The irony for fans of basketball in Wisconsin of this summer-like weekend is that many didn’t get to enjoy much of the summer-like weather.

Unless, that is, they had a portable TV or were able to watch the cornucopia of basketball on a laptop or mobile device. (Of course, the weather was still nice enough Sunday night after all the hoop-la ended to write a blog on his laptop sitting outside … until his meowing cat kept interrupting him and his laptop ran out of battery.)

Saturday was the technically-still-winter version of the weekends this past fall when the Badgers were marching toward the Big Ten football title and the Packers were headed toward the best record in the NFL. (Which prompted a UW Marching Band alumnus to describe things appropriately: “Fear the beer!”)  To wit:

  • The Badgers beat Vanderbilt 60–57 to clinch their second consecutive Sweet 16 slot, which has never happened before in program history.
  • Marquette beat Murray State 62–53 to accompany Bucky in the Sweet 16.
  • UW–Green Bay, having been royally screwed by the NCAA women’s basketball tournament selection committee, had the last laugh by beating Iowa State 71–57 in Ames in the first round of the women’s tournament.
  • UW–Whitewater beat Cabrini 63–60 won the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament.
  • And on a non-basketball  note, St. Norbert beat Oswego State 4–1 to win the NCAA Division III men’s hockey tournament.

Even no-longer-Wisconsinites did well. Indiana, coached by former Marquette coach Tom Crean, defeated Virginia Commonwealth, coached by Oregon native Shaka Smart. Milwaukee native Rick Majerus’ Saint Louis won one game before losing Sunday.

Proving that the weekend wasn’t perfect, Wisconsin lost the NCAA Division I women’s hockey tournament to Minnesota 4–2 Sunday afternoon, the second time UW lost the national championship after having one of its players, defenseman Brianna Decker, win the Patty Kazmeier Award as the nation’s best college women’s hockey playe.. On the other hand, the Milwaukee Wave, the best Wisconsin professional team no one’s heard of, beat Baltimore 12–10 in overtime to win the Major Indoor Soccer League title.

Almost lost in the college March Madness was the high school March Madness, the WIAA boys’ basketball tournament. The highlight of Championship Saturday was the finish of the Division 5 championship between Sheboygan Lutheran and Racine Lutheran:

After the awarding of the gold trophy, Dekker was named the state’s Mr.  Basketball, an award determined before state. It’s a good think Dekker appears to like playing at the Kohl Center, since he’ll playing for the at-least-sweet-16 Badgers next season.

So how are my brackets so far? Well …

In the UW alumni band bracket, I have all four East Region teams (#1 Syracuse, #2 Ohio  State, #4 Wisconsin and #6 Cincinnati), two of the South Region teams (#1 Syracuse and #3 Baylor), two of the Midwest Regiona teams (#1 North Carolina and #2 Kansas), and one West Region team (#1 Ohio State) left. All four Final Four teams remain, which is good.

In the Efficiency bracket, I have all four East teams, three Midwest teams (North Carolina, Kansas and #13 Ohio), and one each from the South (Kentucky) and West (Michigan State). I picked one 15-over-2 upset right (Lehigh over Duke), but not the other (Norfolk State over Missouri), which is why I’m missing one Final Four team.

The thrill of still having all four Final Four teams in one pool and three in the other, part of getting nine of the Sweet 16 correct (which means you picked at least 18 games correctly) is moderated by the fact that nine of 16 is a slightly better ratio than could be expected from flipping a coin 16 times. Which is why I wait until after the games to check my brackets, because the fire of a thrilling game is drowned by having the team you picked lose, if you take the brackets too seriously. (I’m tied for 22nd out of 40 with the Efficiency bracket, and I have 38 out of a possible 64 points in 1590624.)

The reality of won-or-done tournaments, of course, is that ecstasy can be replaced by agony one game later. UWGB plays Kentucky Monday at 8:45 p.m. on ESPN2. Wisconsin plays number-one-seed Syracuse in Boston Thursday at 6:15 p.m., with the great Verne Lundquist and Bill “Onions!” Raftery calling the game for CBS. Marquette plays seventh-seed Florida Thursday at 9:17 p.m., with Wisconsin native Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Len Elmore on the call for TBS.

Yes, Wisconsin has made the NCAAs every year since 1997 and every year in coach Bo Ryan’s UW career. But this is an anomaly in UW basketball history; the 1947–94 desert of tournament appearances is more normal, and many of those tournament seasons featured a stay so brief one wondered why one bothered. That’s why, as with football this past fall, Badger fans need to appreciate what’s happening right now.


The day the blogging started

This blog will reach its first birthday, or anniversary, on March 31.

March 18, 2008 was the first day the Marketplace of Ideas blog started. Since I’ve been blogging continuously since that day, March 18 represents my first day as an opinionmongering blogger, I guess.

Following is what I wrote on the original Marketplace of Ideas blog and in the March 18,  2008 Marketplace Magazine. Obviously, Marketplace doesn’t exist anymore, but some things haven’t changed.

Before Jay Leno and Johnny Carson, NBC-TV’s “The Tonight Show” was hosted by humorist Jack Paar.

More conversationalist than comedian, Paar secured a space in TV history forever by the way he quit on the air in 1960.

NBC’s Standards and Practices department (that is, “censors”) had cut a four-minute-long joke, without bothering to tell Paar, in which an English tourist inquired about “W.C.” (“water closet”) facilities with a Swiss schoolmaster who spoke little English. The schoolmaster based his response on his belief that “W.C.” stood for “wayside chapel.” (The whole joke, which today’s middle schoolers might find amusing, is at http://www.tvacres.com/censorship_jack.htm.)

The next night, Paar announced, live on tape, that he was quitting, saying, “There must be a better way of making a living than this.” And off he went, leaving announcer/cohost Hugh Downs, looking as if he’d eaten some bad hors d’oeuvres, to fill the rest of the show.

One month, a trip to the Orient and a formal apology from NBC officials later, Paar returned to The Tonight Show. He began his opening monologue with this classic opening: “As I was saying, before I was interrupted. …” One round of applause later, he added, “When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living than this. Well, I’ve looked. … There isn’t.”

The preceding is how I decided to announce my return to Marketplace, after a stint of nearly seven years in institutional public relations. That story won out over lyrics from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”) or John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back,” which, I kid you not, I heard on the radio the morning I accepted this job. The headline is, of course, from the horror movie “Poltergeist” … or perhaps from WBAY-TV’s digital channel, the Retro Television Network, which appears to have been programmed with most of what I watched on TV in the 1970s and 1980s.

I’m not going to insult your or my intelligence by claiming that there is no better way of making a living than being the editor of Marketplace Magazine. It is, however, the best job, I believe, in print journalism in northeast Wisconsin. (As for the best broadcast job, tune in to Green Bay Packers announcer Wayne Larrivee this summer.) The editor of Marketplace directs the work of writers in interviewing interesting and successful people successfully doing interesting things. Marketplace readers are better educated, wealthier, more accomplished and more successful than your typical newspaper reader. What could be better for an ink-stained wretch than that?

I didn’t leave Marketplace in a Paar-style huff in 2001. The world of institutional public relations is occupied by many former journalists, as I discovered in a story I wrote on that very subject in 2000. It was a good experience, working in one of the most pleasant work environments in this area. (For one thing, being on the other side of the media-vs.-public-relations divide impressed on me the quality — or, more appropriately, lack thereof — of so many journalists in northeast Wisconsin and elsewhere.)

I’ve concluded, though, that for me journalism is either a chronic disease or an addiction. You can be in remission from disease or in recovery from an addiction, but it never really goes away. Even after I left Marketplace I would still scour the magazine section of bookstores looking at interesting magazine design. I’ve read, I believe, every issue of Marketplace since leaving Marketplace.

I look at publications like no one else I know, critiquing arguments in columns, photos, choices in layout and headline wording, the quality of lead paragraphs. One of the funniest books I’ve recently read was written by National Review founder William S. Buckley Jr., consisting solely of letters to the editor and Buckley’s responses; it’s called Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription (a sentiment shared at one point by everyone who has ever worked in the print media). And I’ve missed not being more “in the know” — to be in possession of more information than ever gets publicized. There is something bracing about having your name on a story for everyone to like, hate or otherwise critique. (The worst thing you can ever say to a columnist is not “I hated your column”; it’s “You write a column? Never heard of it.”)

This is not to suggest I’m the same person who left Marketplace in June 2001. The son I had when I left now has a younger brother and sister, the latter of whom believes the world revolves around her. I’ve become more skeptical and cynical about many things. (As someone once pointed out, make it idiot-proof, and someone will make a better idiot.) I’ve come to detest pretense and self-entitlement in people. Reading the following in a business magazine may shock you, but I’ve concluded that you should not love your job, because your job does not love you. I constantly struggle to match what I do and how I feel about things with what should be my priorities.

So why am I back at Marketplace? It’s because … it’s important. The readers of Marketplace deserve the most accurate, most timely, most insightful, most useful information about business in northeast Wisconsin — or should I say “The New North”? — that you can get. You deserve a magazine that will tell your story and understands the central importance of, among other things, profits. The productive people of northeast Wisconsin deserve an island in a sea of media mediocrity in which currents of hostility flow through a basin of apathy.

Presty the DJ for March 19

Today in 1965, Britain’s Tailor and Cutter Magazine ran a column asking the Rolling Stones to start wearing ties.  The magazine claimed that their male fans’ emulating the Stones’ refusal to wear ties was threatening financial ruin for tiemakers.

To that, Mick Jagger replied:

“The trouble with a tie is that it could dangle in the soup. It is also something extra to which a fan can hang when you are trying to get in and out of a theater.”

Jagger is a graduate of the London School of Economics. Smart guy.

Today in 1974, Jefferson Airplane …

… became Jefferson Starship.

That name remained until Jefferson ______’s Paul Kantner left the group and threatened to sue the group if it used its name, so the group changed to Starship.

The number one single today in 1981:

In the world of premature celebrity deaths, this might be the most stupid: Today in 1982, Ozzy Osbourne and his band stopped at a small airstrip near Leesburg, Fla., on the way to Orlando, Fla., after a most-of-the-night drive following a concert in Knoxville, Tenn.

The bus driver talked keyboard player Don Airey into taking a flight in a 1955 Beachcraft Bonanza. After Airey’s flight landed, the driver took up guitarist Randy Rhoads and Rachel Youngblood, a hairdresser and seamstress on the tour, on another flight. This time, the bus driver/pilot decided to try to buzz the bus. On buzz number three, the plane’s left wing clipped the bus, the plane spiraled and crashed into a house and burst into flames. Rhoads’, Youngblood’s and the pilot’s bodies were burned beyond recognition.

The number one album today in 1995 was Bruce Springsteen’s “Greatest Hits”:

In 2006, Shakira released a single only via a Verizon download:

Birthdays begin with Paul “Don’t Call Me Fort” Atkinson (that’s a Wisconsin joke, by the way) of the Zombies:

Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters:

Derek Longmuir of the Bay City Rollers:

Ricky Wilson of the B-52s:

Billy Sheehan played bass guitar for Mr. Big:

Bruce Willis, more proof that singers can act but actors usually can’t sing:

Terry Hall of Fun B0y Three:

Two other deaths of note today: Paul Kossoff of Free in 1976 …

… and Luther Ingram in 2007: