Category: Sports

“Introducing your Beloit _______!”

Wisconsin had a whole batch of so-called “organized” minor league baseball teams.

There now are two — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, an affiliate of the Brewers, and the Beloit Snappers.

That is, they were the Snappers (and before that the Brewers when they were a Brewers affiliate). The team is moving to a new ballpark next year, and with that they are changing their name.

To what, you ask? Well, that may depend on you. The franchise is conducting an online poll through next Friday. The five finalists, chosen out of more than 1,000 fan-submitted ideas, are:

Beloit Cheeseballs: Residing in the nation’s cheese capital, dive into the cheese life with the Beloit Cheeseballs. Producing over three billion pounds in 2019, Wisconsin has been America’s largest cheese-producing state for over 100 years straight years. The New York Times once wrote about Wisconsin that “Cheese is the state’s history, its pride, its self-deprecating, sometimes goofy, cheesehead approach to life” and the Beloit Cheeseballs will add a fun new slice to Wisconsin’s cheesy pride.
Beloit Moo: With its affectionate “America’s Dairyland” nickname, over 1.2 million dairy cows call Wisconsin home, living on more than 7,000 dairy farms across the state. Cows help power a bovine-based economy in the region, helping Wisconsin hold a leading spot in the production of cheese, milk, and agricultural products across the nation. Pay homage to the farmers whose fields surround Beloit and the cows that help feed families across America with this catchy team name.
Beloit Polka Pike: Wisconsin residents have been tapping their toes to polka, the state’s official dance, as long as they’ve been pulling fearsome pike from the Rock River. Grab your accordion and your fishing pole and head to the ballpark where every night will be a music-filled festival as the Polka Pike pay tribute to the river that neighbors the stadium and the state’s history.
Beloit Sky Carp: A slang term for a goose that would rather stay home in Beloit in the winter than migrate south, the Sky Carp name whimsically represents the future of our city, a flourishing, innovative town so strong that no one wants to leave. With the new stadium’s riverside views, flyovers from flocks of sky carp will be common at games for years to come. Join the gaggle of geese fans as this creative team name takes flight next year.
Beloit Supper Clubbers: From relish trays to Old Fashioneds, supper clubs represent an iconic and traditional part of our region’s culinary character. Just like our new ballpark will, supper clubs serve as a popular gathering spot for families young and old, offering great food, great music, and great times night after night. Join the club and place your order for extra fun in 2021.

Two are dairy-based, which puts them in competition with two one-time Timber Rattlers alternates:

Promotions Watch: Turn Back the Clock Nights | Ballpark Digest
The Timber Holsteins?

Wisconsin Udder Tuggers: Timber Rattlers rebrand makes a splash

That isn’t even close to the ultimate T-Rats alternate …

Wisconsin Brats Lineup & Game Notes: June 9, 2018 | by Christopher J Mehring | Rattler Radio

… the Wisconsin Brats.

 

The latest American division

Rod Dreher:

Gallup’s new poll has some pretty interesting news about the widening schism in American life. It seems that the Great Awokening of professional sports has alienated a lot of white non-liberal Americans:

The sports industry now has a negative image, on balance, among Americans as a whole, with 30% viewing it positively and 40% negatively, for a -10 net-positive score. This contrasts with the +20 net positive image it enjoyed in 2019, when 45% viewed it positively and 25% negatively.

This slide in the sports industry’s image comes as professional and college leagues are struggling, and not always successfully, to maintain regular schedules and playing seasons amid the pandemic. Professional football, baseball and basketball games have also become focal points for public displays of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

While it’s not clear how much the various challenges and controversies swirling around the industry are each responsible for its slide in popularity, it is notable that sports has lost more support from Republicans and independents than from Democrats. In fact, Democrats’ view of the sports industry has not changed significantly in the past year, while Republicans’ has slipped from a +11 net-positive score in 2019 to a net -35 today, and independents’ from +26 to -10.

The sports industry’s image has also deteriorated more among women than men, and among older adults than those younger than 35. Sports has also lost more support from non-White than White Americans, but given the extraordinarily high ratings from non-White adults a year ago, this group continues to view the sports industry positively on balance today. That is not the case with White adults, who now view the sports industry more negatively than positively, and by a 22-point margin.

Here’s a graphic:

That is remarkable. Sports used to be a unifying phenomenon in American life, but no more — not since athletes got woke.

I can’t find the crosstabs for Gallup’s results about the media and the entertainment industry, but we know from other polls that conservatives feel quite negatively about them.

Look what the Madden video game announced yesterday:

Colin Kaepernick can’t get a job on a professional football team, but he has been affirmative-actioned into virtual football by the woke capitalists at Madden. Insane.

What does it portend for American life to have so many millions of Americans alienated from pop culture institutions (sport, entertainment, media)? Sports, of course, is the big one, because sports never before was politically charged. Now it is. The NFL season is going to be the big one. If conservatives and independents turn off the TV because they don’t want to be preached at by woke football players, it will signal a sea change in American life.

How to woke yourself out of the playoffs

Jason Whitlock wrote this after the Bucks fell behind 2–0 in their NBA conference semifinal series against Miami:

The refs bailed out Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night.

Yep. You read that right. The refs saved the Greek Freak with the bogus touch foul that sent Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler to the line for the game-winning free throws with no time on the clock.

Miami 116, Milwaukee 114.

The 5th-seeded Heat now own a 2-0 advantage in their best-of-seven playoff series against the NBA’s best regular-season squad.

Lucky for Giannis and the Bucks everyone will spend [Thursday] talking about the sloppy officiating that first allowed Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton to knot the score at 114 with three gift-wrapped free throws and then four seconds later handed the game back to Miami.

Milwaukee fans will likely focus their animus toward referee Marc Davis, who made both sketchy foul calls. That’s fine. But all of Milwaukee should be talking about Jacob Blake’s role in Milwaukee’s terrible start to the second round of the playoffs.

The Bucks dug this hole the moment they diverted their attention away from basketball to fight for the life of a criminal suspect who doesn’t care all that much about his own life.

The Bucks are suffering from Post Traumatic Black Lives Matter Disorder. It’s the mental lapse that happens when a professional athlete realizes he’s allowed Twitter race-hustlers to dupe him into caring more about the life of a criminal suspect than the criminal suspect cares about his own life.

Twenty seconds of an edited cell phone video provoked the Bucks to shut down the NBA Bubble and other parts of the sports world. The shutdown accomplished nothing. Skipping work rarely does.

It was a well-intentioned publicity stunt orchestrated by people who believe in the power of publicity to end racism, cure cancer, spark world peace and stop police from shooting resisting criminal suspects.

The Bucks are mentally lethargic because they’ve spent the past four or five days coming to grips with the immaturity, recklessness and futility of their response to events in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Giannis, George Hill, Kyle Korver and the rest of the Bucks are the official public relations team for Jacob Blake, a man accused of serial sexual assault against a black woman. The Bucks knew nothing about Blake when they decided to go on strike moments before taking the court against the Orlando Magic. All the Bucks knew at the time is what the Twitter race-hustlers told them.

A white cop shot Jacob Blake while Blake was innocently trying to break up a fight. That was the original fairytale floating across the Twittersphere.

Now we know the rest of the story. Blake allegedly had a history of sexually abusing the black woman who called the police. He allegedly stole from her. He wrestled with the police. He admitted having a knife. With his kids in the car, he ignored the commands of police at gunpoint.

Blake behaved in an incredibly irresponsible manner. He behaved like a man who didn’t care whether he lived or died. Think about it. You’re somewhere the courts have ruled you should not be — at the residence of the alleged victim of your sexual assault. Your kids are in the car. You fight with the police. The police draw their guns and you attempt to get inside the car where your three children are.

You’re endangering your own life and the life of your three completely innocent children.

The social media mob and Black Lives Matter dictate that we only evaluate the behavior of white police officer’s in these situations. It’s illegal, immoral and racist to second-guess Jacob Blake’s behavior.

BLM seemingly believes Blake has no responsibility to protect the safety of his three kids, to protect his ability to provide for them. According to Bigots Love Marxism, it is the sole responsibility of the government and white police officers to make sure nothing bad happens to Blake, a suspect they’re trying to arrest for visiting a woman he allegedly sexually assaulted.

Bigots Love Marxism thinks black men are incapable of consistently making decisions to protect themselves and the welfare of their children. Blake responded to police like a man with a death wish and no regard for his children.

Did he deserve seven shots in the back? No.

Am I going to skip work and mourn Blake’s tragedy as if the government sanctioned the KKK to physically harm Martin Luther King, Michael Jordan, Patrick Mahomes or a sophomore at Morehouse College? Absolutely not.

The Bucks made fools of themselves. They chose the wrong hill to plant a flag. It’s easy to lie to yourself via social media. The algorithms, Russian bots and blue-check, bubble-approved sports journalists protect the influencers promoting BLM Derangement. It’s unlikely anyone will ask the Bucks if their Blake stunt shook their focus.

And if the question is asked, they’ll be allowed to pretend it was all worth it.

“The Bucks started a conversation. They raised awareness. They showed empathy.”

Inside the social media matrix, it’s better to slap a slogan on the back of your jersey, kneel during the national anthem or perform some other  symbolic gesture on behalf of a criminal suspect than it is to take action in support of a high school or college kid attempting to make a positive impact on society.

The Bucks are “ride or die” for Jacob Blake.

If they die in the second round of these playoffs and Giannis leaves for Golden State, Milwaukee made the ultimate sacrifice for someone unwilling to sacrifice his pride to protect his three sons.

Trust me, not everyone on the Bucks’ roster is foolish enough to believe justice for Jacob Blake is worth a 0-2 playoff deficit.

According to Wisconsin court records, Blake has been in court three times for not paying child support. The charges for which Kenosha County courts issued an arrest warrant include third-degree sexual assault — domestic abuse (maximum penalty 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine), criminal trespass to dwelling — domestic abuse, and disorderly conduct — domestic abuse. That is who people are defending.

To no one’s surprise, what pro athletes — and, for that matter, Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes — thought happened in Blake’s arrest is not what happened. But don’t believe me, read the state Department of Justice‘s investigation yourself. (The DOJ, by the way, is run by Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat.)

There would be some cosmic justice if the Bucks ended up losing this series. The Bucks’ owners are well-known Democrats. Fiserv Forum, built with $250 million in taxpayer dollars, was built in part to attract the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which of course wasn’t really held in Milwaukee due to the coronavirus pan(dem)ic. (Someone predicted that Milwaukee would take a bath over the convention. He was right for reasons that didn’t exist when he thus opined.)

Beyond the political issues (actually, not, given the Democratic governor’s shutdown of this state earlier this year), the Bucks clearly suffer when not playing at home. The NBA “bubble” has had the impact of completely negating home court advantage. It’s as if the NBA designed it to eliminate the Bucks’ chance of getting to the NBA FInals, let alone winning.

 

On protestball

The latest act in this week’s Protestarama was National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball players’ deciding not to play games in protest of the police shooting in Kenosha earlier this week.

Jason Whitlock said this before this week, but one assumes he still believes what he said:

Nearly 30 years ago, in a 1993 Nike commercial, professional basketball legend Charles Barkley fired the first shot at the “role model” concept popularized by Columbia University sociologist Robert K. Merton in the aftermath of the 1960s counterculture movement. “I am not a role model,” Barkley proclaimed in the half-minute spot. “I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

Barkley’s words landed with a force every bit the equal of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem knee 23 years later. Former Vice President Dan Quayle defended Barkley, while Barkley’s fellow NBA superstar Karl Malone criticized him in Sports Illustrated. Leading news magazines, including Time and Newsweek, published articles exploring the controversy. Newspaper columnists from coast to coast—on and off the sports pages—also weighed in. The topic still sparks debate today.

Of the many phrases and concepts Merton coined—including “self-fulfilling prophecy” and “unintended consequences”—“role model” has had the most impact. On the surface, the argument that young people tend to model their behavior after high-profile, successful adults is harmless. However, in retrospect, the elevation of athletes and other celebrities as primary figures in the formation of behavioral norms for young people helped create the conditions that are powering the destructive Black Lives Matter movement today.

Merton’s role model concept undercuts the importance of parents and nuclear families. That was the point of Barkley’s criticism. Feminists and other progressive critics of America’s “patriarchal” society—including the Black Lives Matter movement, whose Marxist-influenced statement of purpose opposes “the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”—have used Merton’s concept to great effect. Muhammad Ali, Pete Rose, Farrah Fawcett, Barbara Streisand, Mick Jagger, Marvin Gaye, and Burt Reynolds infringed on territory primarily reserved for mom, dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and teachers.

Technology has helped advance the process, diminishing the influence of traditional authority figures and strengthening the reach of celebrities. Kids shut their bedroom doors, turn on their televisions, laptops, and game consoles, plug in earbuds, open social media apps, and disappear into a world far removed from mom and dad. With a mere push of a button they tune out the worldview of their families and tune in the worldview of athlete LeBron James, actress Lena Dunham, rapper Snoop Dogg, social media race-baiter Shaun King, and others like them.

On top of all this, we now see America’s enemies, particularly China, using these modern role models to promote racial division and destabilize our country—with those on the political Left as their accomplices. Today, they have coalesced around the Black Lives Matter movement to push America toward a level of racial dysfunction and animus not experienced since the Civil War.

It’s fitting that Charles Barkley fired the first shot against this trend, because American sports have become the Gettysburg of what some have called our “cold civil war.” And if China and the Left complete their radicalization of sports, our nation may never recover.

***

Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.

Nelson Mandela, the South African freedom fighter-turned-statesman, spoke those words in an effort to heal the country he came to lead after spending a quarter century incarcerated for opposing apartheid. Mandela embraced sports’ power to bridge racial divides, looking on athletic competition as a kind of antibiotic for racial animus and discrimination. South Africa’s victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and Mandela’s presentation of the Webb Ellis Cup to team captain Francois Pienaar stand as an iconic symbol of unity in post-apartheid South Africa. Clint Eastwood directed a movie, Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, that memorialized the importance of the moment. It bears re-watching today.

Since sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and boxer Joe Louis scored a first-round knockout over German heavyweight Max Schmeling in 1938, sports have served as a powerful racial unifier in America as well. The victories earned by Owens and Louis punctured Hitler’s Aryan superiority myth, unified black and white Americans in celebration, and established Owens and Louis as this country’s first black national heroes.

Owens and Louis laid the foundation for Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey’s partnership with Jackie Robinson to integrate our national pastime, Major League Baseball, a decade later. Robinson’s successful integration of baseball, in turn, inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s.

Indeed, Barack Obama, America’s first black president—the world’s first black leader of a predominantly white country—credited Robinson’s career for his own political rise. “There’s a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here,” Obama said in January 2017, while hosting the world champion Chicago Cubs at the White House. He continued:

There’s a direct line between people loving Ernie Banks, and then the city being able to come together and work together in one spirit. . . . Sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us. And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team and playing the right way, and celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be.

Yes, America is a shining example of sports’ transformative power. The games we play, the games at the center of our social behavior, combine with our founding principles to enhance the American experience. America’s enemies know this, which is why the culture war has moved to our arenas and stadiums. Sports are now in the same crosshairs as our Founding Fathers, under attack for past racial sins and unappreciated for their vital role in cultivating racial unity. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but by writing the Declaration of Independence he made the emancipation of slaves inevitable. American sports were once segregated, but no American industry can match sports’ empowerment of black men.

The black-player-dominated National Football League is the most powerful force in American popular culture. It provides the number one television show on five different networks—CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, and the NFL Network. In this era of have-it-your-way TV, where consumers record and watch shows when they want while fast-forwarding through advertisements, only live sporting events can be consistently counted on to deliver audiences that sit through commercials.

But while American sports have never been more influential, they’ve also never been more vulnerable to foreign influence. Their partnership with global brands and their desire to build global audiences have given foreign countries a pathway to manipulate American sports and culture.

Look at how China, with its 1.4 billion consumers, rules the National Basketball Association and its de facto parent company, Nike, the same way it rules Hollywood. Access to China’s consumers and Asia’s cheap labor (even sometimes slave labor) is the key to Nike’s economic growth. The Portland-based shoe and apparel manufacturer generates $40 billion a year in revenue. Its global reach, agenda, and revenue streams dictate the strategy of the $8-billion-a-year NBA. Many are unaware that Nike, and not the NBA, controls basketball. One could make a fair argument that the NBA is nothing more than the in-house marketing department of Nike.

Both Nike and the NBA kowtow to China, which explains their silence on the horrific human rights abuses inside China and the suppression of Hong Kong freedom fighters by China’s communist government. More important, Nike and the NBA’s China agenda helps explain why Nike pitchmen LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick enthusiastically smear the United States as inherently racist and evil. From Joseph Stalin to Fidel Castro to our own time, the communists’ favorite propaganda tactic has been to paint the West, and the U.S. in particular, as racist.

The militant social justice messaging of James and Kaepernick serves the interests of not only the Chinese Communist Party and globalist corporations like Nike, but also our political Left. Kaepernick’s National Anthem defiance in 2016 gave the Left an opportunity to politicize football, America’s new national pastime, and force it into the kind of “progressive” posturing already commonplace in the NBA and Hollywood. Arrogance, lack of foresight, and the advice of an inner circle that included former Clinton administration press secretary Joe Lockhart as the NFL’s vice president of communications, explain commissioner Roger Goodell’s laissez-faire approach to Kaepernick’s protest. Underestimating the determination of the Left and the power of social media to intimidate corporate America, Goodell and the NFL’s TV partners wrongly thought that the Kaepernick controversy would fade over time.

Instead, four years after Kaepernick first knelt, the Leftist mob has forced the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association to take their own knees and pay homage to the dishonest Black Lives Matter narrative on police brutality. The NFL plans to paint social justice messages across its end zones this season and to allow players to wear helmet decals with the names of alleged police victims. The San Francisco 49ers fly a BLM flag next to an American flag at Levi’s Stadium. MLB opened its COVID-shortened season with “BLM” carved into pitcher’s mounds, and the Boston Red Sox put up a 254-foot BLM billboard outside Fenway Park. NHL players are now regularly kneeling during the National Anthem. The NBA’s basketball bubble at Disney World is a virtual shrine to BLM: “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the court, players wear social justice messages on the back of their jerseys, and it’s major news when a player stands during the National Anthem.

The entire American sports world—a culture that traditionally celebrates victors, meritocracy, colorblindness, and patriotism—has suddenly immersed itself in black victimization and left-wing radicalism. This immersion threatens to do permanent damage to American culture as a whole. It has certainly undermined national pride. A country that no longer believes in its founding ideals cannot prosper and survive.

***

If our sports stadiums and arenas have become the Gettysburg of the culture war, Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick are playing the roles of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, fighting to divide the nation even further than it is. The mainstream media is only half right in casting them as modern-day equivalents of Muhammad Ali. Ali’s religious sect, the Nation of Islam, was certainly divisive: it championed black secession. But unlike the BLM movement, it also rejected victimhood. Its founder Elijah Muhammad and its spokesman Malcolm X promoted bootstrap self-reliance and were disdainful of liberal politics. “The worst enemy that the Negro [has],” said Malcolm X,

is this white man that runs around here drooling at the mouth professing to love Negros and calling himself a liberal. It is following these white liberals that has perpetuated problems that Negros have. If the Negro wasn’t taken, tricked or deceived by the white liberal, then Negros would get together and solve our own problems. I only cite these things to show you that in America, the history of the white liberal has been nothing but a series of trickery designed to make Negros think that the white liberal was going to solve our problems.

Pro-BLM athletes today have moved beyond the idea of a role model that was debated in 1993—the idea of modeling behavior to be imitated, such as self-reliance, hard work, responsibility, and good parenthood. Through the power of social media, to which they are addicted, these modern role models exert influence by promoting commercial products and political causes. In the case of NBA athletes like Lebron James, this means turning their backs not only on the oppressed people of China and Hong Kong, but also on the poor and underprivileged in America among whom so many of these wealthy athletes grew up, and who they now condemn to victimhood and dependency with their political activism.

Charles Barkley was right 30 years ago. Parents, not athletes, should be role models. Today the situation is even worse, with sports further dividing an already dangerously divided nation, rather than providing the unifying and even healing force Nelson Mandela described. Predictably, there are now calls to boycott sports, and it seems inevitable that the TV ratings of the pro sports leagues will decline. This is unlikely to matter, however, to the suddenly-woke billionaire team owners and their handpicked commissioners.

As fans, we can only hope and pray that these feckless leaders will reconsider their embrace of the BLM cult—a necessary first step to returning American sports to what it has been in the past: a force for unity and a model of a diverse and colorblind meritocracy.

The call(s)

Sports Illustrated asked a number of prominent sports announcers for their opinions of the greatest sports calls announced by someone other than themselves.

The number one call is not surprising.

Followed by …

(I have heard six calls of Gibson’s home run, including Vin Scully on NBC, Jack Buck on CBS radio, Don Drysdale for the Dodgers, Bill King for the Athletics, and this Spanish radio call. There is no bad call of this moment.)

Al Michaels, of “Do you believe in miracles?” fame, said that just popped into his head as the moment took place. He said he has never preplanned a call because then it will sound canned. That included the Miracle on Ice because before the broadcast, Team USA’s presence in that game was so improbable that, Michaels wrote, he and analyst Ken Dryden just hoped the game would be close.

I have a strange mental exercise before big games. I always write out my opens so I get in what I want to without the, uh, you know, kind of verbal wandering that, um, can happen. On the opposite end of the broadcast, I sort of plan what I will say — not a clever catchphrase, but the mechanics of it — if the team I am covering loses, as in “(insert win here) beats (insert loser here) (insert score here); the (winners) go to state, and the (losers’) season ends at (number of) wins and (number of) losses.”

I have a psychological rationale I figured out some years ago. George S. Will once said that pessimists are the happiest people because either something happens and they were correct, or they are pleased to be proven wrong. I am not a fan of announcers who lose their, uh, stuff when the wrong team wins:

I got to do one of those kinds of games earlier this season — a girls basketball team that had gotten to the sectional level three previous seasons without getting to state. The sectional final was the last and best chance to get to state for the undefeated team.

Presty the DJ for Aug. 5

First, a non-rock anniversary: Today is the 95th anniversary of the first broadcasted baseball game, on KDKA in Pittsburgh: Harold Arlen described Pittsburgh’s 8–0 win over Philadelphia.

Speaking of Philadelphia … today in 1957, ABC-TV picked up WFIL-TV’s “American Bandstand” …

… though ABC interrupted it in the middle for “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

Today in 1966, the Beatles recorded “Yellow Submarine” …

… and “Eleanor Rigby” …

… while also releasing their “Revolver” album.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Aug. 5”

Some things never change, NFL QB edition

Pro Football Rumors:

The Jaguars have agreed to trade Nick Foles to the Bears, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). In exchange, the Bears will send a compensatory fourth-round pick to the Jags. The former Super Bowl MVP will restructure his hefty contract as part of the trade, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets.

It’ll be new surroundings for Foles, but he’ll have plenty of familiar faces to help him adjust. Head coach Matt Nagy is among the staffers that have worked with him in the past, which will help with the learning curve.

The Bears have been exploring alternatives to former first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky this offseason, though they’re not necessarily out to replace him. Instead, Foles figures to serve as competition for the soon-to-be 26-year-old.

Trubisky showed plenty of promise in 2018 as he led the Bears to an 11-3 mark in 14 starts, a campaign that resulted in his first ever Pro Bowl nod. However, things got really rocky last year – Trubisky had just 17 touchdowns against ten interceptions and the Bears’ D couldn’t make up for the shortcomings. The Bears went 8-7 in Trubisky’s 15 starts and finished .500 on the season, leaving them short of the playoffs.

Chicago initially insisted after the year that they’d roll with Trubisky in 2020, but reports soon emerged that they were going to look for a veteran to push Trubisky. They’ve been connected to a number of signal-callers including Foles, Andy Dalton, and Teddy Bridgewater, and we heard Monday that they were focused on trading for either Foles or Dalton.

The Bears will take on the last three years of Foles’ contract, which pays a base value of $50M before the restructure. The Jaguars will be left with a substantial dead money hit of $18.75MM in 2020 and a mid-round pick. Jacksonville seems prepared to turn things over to Gardner Minshew, the sixth-rounder who went 6-6 last year as a rookie and finished the season with a top-10 interception rate.

Foles has had plenty of success at Soldier Field, as his last win as a starting quarterback was in Chicago in the wild card round of the playoffs two seasons ago in the infamous ‘double-doink’ game. While the Bears have insisted they aren’t giving up on Trubisky, it would be highly unusual to pay a backup quarterback as much money as Foles is getting, and it would be surprising if he doesn’t take over at some point.

Chicago now has even less draft capital, as they’ve already shipped out a bunch of picks in previous deals. They now have the 43rd and 50th overall selections in next month’s draft, but no other picks in the first four-rounds, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes in a tweet breaking down all of their picks.

Keith Olbermann said this in the late 2000s, and now this needs updating:

So the Bears have a quarterback problem. Thus has it been for the length of the era of Rex Grossman — and the eras of Kyle Orton, Brian Griese and Jeff Blake; Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, and Craig Krenzel; Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Jim Miller, Cade McNown, Shane Matthews and happy Hank Burris. Well, that takes us all the way back to 2000.

Following Orton’s return three years after the first of his two benchings came the era of Jay Cutler … and Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown, Jason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer. That takes us from 2009 to 2017, when the Bears let Cutler leave, signed Mike Glennon and drafted Trubisky.

Bears fans wring their hands when after two games, Rex Grossman’s quarterback rating matches the speed limit. But this is one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions. With brief interruptions of stability from the likes of Jim McMahon and Billy Wade, the job has been unsettled since Sid Luckman retired.

Wade was the quarterback when Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title. The next season, Wade was replaced by Rudy Bukich, only to replace Bukich one season later, only to be replaced by Bukich one season after that. Bukich was out by 1967, when Jack Concannon arrived, only to be replaced by Rakestraw for two games. Bobby Douglass and Virgil Carter arrived the next season when the Bears inexplicably cut Rakestraw.

This is how Da Bears could have two Hall of Fame players — running back Gale Sayers and linebacker Dick Butkus — and end up with two winning seasons (their first, 1965, and 1967, the first and last of the Packers’ threepeat NFL titles) and zero playoff berths. (Sayers’ career ended in 1971, two years before Butkus retired.)

There has always been a Rex Grossman, he has always underperformed, and they have always been about to replace him. The Bears have had 13 starting quarterbacks in the last eight seasons and 40 in the last 47. They’ve started Moses Moreno, and Larry Rakestraw, and Doug Flutie for two games in 1986, and Peter Tom Willis — all three of him.

As compared to 13 starting quarterbacks in eight seasons a decade ago, Da Bears have done much better in the past eight seasons — nine starting QBs. Dating back to the 2010 season, when Da Bears teased their fans with an attempt at a Super Bowl run (and needed three quarterbacks to lose the 2010 NFC championship to the Packers), the count is 11 starting QBs in 10 seasons.

Moreover, once the Bears told George Blanda he was too old to do anything but kick any more. This was in 1958; he would quarterback the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game in 1970.

They drafted Bobby Layne and traded him, and they drafted Don Meredith and traded him, because who would need Don Meredith when you already had Ed Brown and Zeke Bratkowski?

So there’s no explaining this revolving door at quarterback for the Chicago Bears. But if history is any indicator, it is sending this message to Chris Leak, the Florida quarterback whom the Bears cut last month: stay in touch, your era may be next.”

A decade later, there still is no explaining this revolving door at quarterback for the Chicago Bears, which indeed remains one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions.

 

A day unlike any other

I mentioned Thursday that I was getting to announce my 16th state tournament in Green Bay Thursday morning.

The radio announcer and visitor in 2015, when the radio guy got to cover two state champion teams.

And I did. But it was, as CBS-TV’s Jim Nantz intones in Masters golf tournament promotions and as I said in my hastily created open, a state tournament unlike any other.

The girls basketball team was already in Green Bay. The high school fan bus, band coach and radio personnel left Thursday morning. About 20 miles on the way to Green Bay, we got a phone call from our guitar-playing son that the bus was going back to Platteville. Less than 12 hours after the WIAA said state would take place according to plan, the WIAA decided the games would take place but without spectators, except for 88 per school.

Suffice to say the ambiance was not what it usually was. At the beginning of the second game, a player was injured. The Resch Center was so quiet that up at the top, you could hear the TV announcers down on the floor.

All this took place while other breaking news was taking place back in Platteville that the newspaper editor (with the assistance of the passenger) got covered as BREAKING NEWS!

Readers know that one of the biggest events of my young life was playing in the band at the 1982 state tournament. I know how incensed I would have been had we been told that we couldn’t play at state. And that’s exactly what happened to our guitar-playing son, who got a shoutout by a team member at Wednesday’s pep rally at the high school. The WIAA’s decision, justified or not, basically ruined the state experience for everyone who wasn’t a player.

We left officially believing Platteville would be playing in the state Division 3 championship Saturday afternoon. Last night, the boys sectional semifinals were played, with the winners also to play Saturday to go to state.

Or not. Between Wednesday night and late Thursday night, the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League suspended their seasons, the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled its basketball tournaments, and Major League Baseball suspended spring training and the start of its season.

And the WIAA announced late Thursday night that state and the rest of the boys postseason was canceled.

In a sense it’s the NBA’s fault, because it pulled the plug first, and, as a radio colleague said, “Monkey see, monkey do,” and everyone followed suit, justified or not.

It is strange to me that the NCAA flat out canceled its tournament instead of postponed it. It is similarly strange to me that the WIAA canceled its tournaments instead of postponing them. The players and coaches absolutely would have jumped at the chance to finish the tournaments in April, or May, or this summer.

I feel also for the people for whom my hobby is their line of work. The Facebook sports announcers group was full of people who are paid per game to announce, for instance, high school and college basketball and baseball. No games, no work.

Gary Wipperman had a similar experience Thursday. His conclusion is that life isn’t fair. And it’s not. And the kids who didn’t get to go to state at all, and the kids who didn’t get to finish the state experience they had earned, learned that the hard way.

This was used once. It was supposed to be used Saturday too.

 

Stories I never thought I‘d see

At 1:15 or so this afternoon I will again get to announce a state basketball tournament on this radio station.

Someone on a sports announcer Facebook page asked the members how many state tournaments they had gotten to announce. In my case, the answer is five football championship games, three boys basketball tournaments, two girls basketball tournaments (with the right teams winning in each), two spring baseball tournaments, one summer baseball tournament, one boys soccer tournament and one girls volleyball tournament. That list includes six state champions. Not bad for a part-time announcer, who feels very blessed to be able to this as essentially a hobby that, unlike most hobbies, makes money.

And now, this message from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association:

The WIAA State Girls Basketball Tournament and the boys basketball sectionals scheduled for this week are continuing as planned.

The WIAA Executive Staff has been in continuous discussions with local and state health officials and organizations, as well as other high school associations in the Midwest. We continue to look at all the medical evidence and breaking information regarding COVID 19 to make the best decision possible with the information available to us.

While circumstances may change, all of the leading health resources we have been working with indicate the best way to proceed is to be overcautious and reinforce the universal guidance and precautions to know your health risk, especially those at higher risk for severe illness; wash hands repeatedly with soap or sanitizer; cover your sneeze or cough; keep hands away from your face; and if you feel sick, stay at home.

We will continue to monitor any new information, and if anything changes with our Tournament Series events, we will issue a statement. …

At this time, we have discussed options for continuing to conduct the WIAA Basketball State Tournaments. The staff at the Resch Center has been diligently working to ensure that the 2020 WIAA Girls Basketball State Tournament can be conducted in a safe environment.

  • Obviously increasing all of their cleaning efforts. This includes all departments
  • Wiping down all areas with disinfectants
  • Providing hand sanitizers for all of our staff working the event
  • Providing hand sanitizers available to the public and all of our restrooms will make sure all of our restrooms have hot water and soap
  • Concessions taking extra care with wiping down all counters and equipment
  •  Overnight staff will be cleaning all confined spaces—locker rooms, elevators, meeting rooms will all be sanitized
  • Allowing and promoting if patrons want to bring in their own hand sanitizers or Purell
  • Major signage in the venue both static and electronic with messages provided by the CDC

… While we hear that universities and colleges have been closing their campuses, it is important to keep in mind that their student populations include international students who are returning to campus from spring break and countries which may have been infected more. In addition, those students are being quarantined as they return. …

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the immediate health risk in the United States is low for the general public.

This is an appropriately measured response by the WIAA.

This, from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, is not:

The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panelBased on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance. While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.

A basketball game, and life

Tonight, Ripon College opens the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament at St. John’s of Minnesota.

This game is taking place 20 years after St. John’s and Ripon faced off in the D3 tournament at Ripon College — the last time RC hosted (and probably will host given changes in the tournament format) an NCAA playoff game. Ripon and St. John’s freshmen and sophomores were not alive yet during the story I’m about to relate.

This was the first year that my friend Frank and I announced Ripon games. I had been a fill-in announcer the previous season, when I learned about what Midwest Conference road trips were like. Then the radio station made a broadcaster change and brought in Frank (who had announced for the station previously and was the long-time timekeeper at RC games) and myself. We hit it off immediately because we had similar interests in cars and sports, in addition to a similarly warped sense of humor. Frank tried to be helpful to opposing referees, yelling “WHERE’S THE FOUL?” during key offensive possessions.

(Cases in point: We did two games at Carroll University’s Van Male Center, where the heat had gone out. I heard a vacuum cleaner running that sounded to me like a Zamboni machine, so I cracked up Frank by saying coming out of commercial, “Back at Van Male Ice Arena.” Later that season before a game I helped Mrs. Presteblog, then pregnant with our first child, up the bleachers to our broadcast position on the top row. Frank, who was already setting up our equipment, said, “Is this man molesting you, ma’am?” My response: “Too late, Frank.”)

The previous two seasons Ripon had won the Midwest Conference regular-season and tournament titles, the latter of which, then as now, gave the winner the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. That didn’t happen in the 1999–2000 season, because Lake Forest College went undefeated in the MWC season, giving them the right to host the tournament.

The Sunday before the conference tournament, we decided to make a baby-furniture run to Ikea in suburban Chicago, in search specifically of a crib and a changing table, preceded by brunch at Cracker Barrel (whose Appleton location was known as the “Pig Trough” by my business magazine coworkers) in Menomonee Falls. Plans immediately went awry because other diners had the same thought we had, and the excessive wait prompted us to go to a nearby Country Kitchen. (That should have been foreshadowing for what was about to happen.)

I was driving the first of our two Subaru Outbacks, an all-wheel-drive station wagon with such equipment as heated seats and a five-speed manual transmission. On our way to Ikea we stopped at a bowling alley not far from the Gurnee Mills outlet mall. While I was a business magazine editor, I was also applying for a job at Mercury Marine, owned by Brunswick Corp., which had a bowling alley that was a test facility for the latest bowling equipment.

I spent about a minute at the bowling alley, then drove off to Ikea, stopping at an intersection to make a right turn to get to the Tri-State Tollway. I shifted into first … or tried to. Nothing happened other than horrible grinding noises whenever I tried to shift to any gear other than neutral.

I had owned manual-transmission cars before the Outback. I had never blown a clutch on the previous cars. (It turns out that if the manufacturer upgrades the engine but not the clutch, the clutch might last only 68,000 miles.)

So here we were in north suburban Chicago, a husband and pregnant wife and disabled vehicle, knowing no one in the north suburbs to call for help, and, back in the days when cellphone service was more dependent on carriers than today, without a working cellphone. Fortunately a man in a minivan saw our plight and let me use his phone to call the Amoco Motor Club, of which Mrs. Presteblog was a member through her employer, Ripon College.

The club sent a flatbed truck and driver to take us to the nearest Subaru dealership, Libertyville Subaru. (He also charged us $4 because the tow was $4 more than the $50 allowance of club membership.) I filled out a form at the dealership, threw my keys in the envelope, and stuck it in the box.

Libertyville is about 140 miles south of Ripon. So we were 140 miles south of home without a way to get home. Across the street from the dealership was an Amoco station with a police car. We walked across the street and explained our plight to the officers, and they gave us a ride in the back of their squad (featuring a plastic shield separating us from the officers and a plastic-covered seat, and interestingly no seat belts) to the police station.

Mrs. Presteblog also had a membership through work for Enterprise Car Rental, which had facilities at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. Enterprise rented cars with no mileage charge, which was good since I had an 80-mile round trip for work. Since we were trying to go north back to Ripon, it seemed logical to go to Mitchell Field for the rental car, but that required getting to Mitchell Field.

It turned out that Libertyville is right in between O’Hare and Mitchell Field. Perhaps because of that, the phone directory was full of airport limousine services. We selected the least expensive appearing one, and were driven in a Lincoln Continental limousine to Mitchell Field. (Which was at least my first limousine experience, because for our wedding we were chauffeured by Mrs. Presteblog’s sister and husband, who owned a camper.) Cost including tip: $85.

We got to Mitchell Field and rented a Pontiac Grand Am for me for the week. The cost was more than $200, but it would have been worse with a mileage charge. We found dinner (Edwardo’s pizza) and went home, without our car, more than $300, and the intended baby furniture.

Five days later, the conference tournament began at Lake Forest. We started the weekend by eating lunch at the previously mentioned Cracker Barrel with Frank, and then announced the semifinal, which Ripon won over Knox College to move to the tournament final against archrival Lawrence or host Lake Forest. Dinner was at a restaurant called Flatlanders in Lincolnshire, Ill., managed by a Ripon native. We went to the hotel and called Lake Forest’s sports phone line to find out the score of the other semifinal and found out that Lake Forest had been upset at home by Lawrence, setting up two archrivals, the third and fourth seeds of the tournament, for the title and NCAA berth.

On Saturday, we drove to the Subaru dealership to retrieve the Outback. In the days of $74-per-hour service, replacing basically the entire clutch assembly cost $937.50. We did not have time to go to Ikea, so we returned to Lake Forest, announced Ripon’s win over the Larrys to clinch their third consecutive NCAA berth, celebrated the tournament win at Mars Cheese Castle with the players, their parents and the coaches, and after returning the rental car returned home, having spent $1,300 or so without buying one piece of baby furniture.

This is where our story takes a sad turn. We had no children at the time, but we had two dogs, Puzzle and Nick the Welsh springer spaniels, along with Fatcat. Puzzle was a few months older than Nick, and had dealt with hip dysplasia her entire life. This didn’t stop her from being a goofball, doing such things as jumping not up, but out at people (toward a particular spot of the male anatomy), playing fetch about three-fourths of the way, and tacking like a yacht on walks while Nick, using his dog show experience, resolutely walked forward.

A Ripon women’s basketball player had watched the house and dogs while we were gone. We noticed on our return that Puzzle seemed quite sick as she had never been before then. The first thing I did Monday morning was to take her to our veterinarian, where she was diagnosed with an infection and given IVs and antibiotics. She seemed to perk up on her return home.

The Ripon–St. John’s game was Thursday night. Ripon was coached by Bob Gillespie, the son of Gordie Gillespie, college baseball’s all-time winningest coach. Bob was also the athletic director, which made him Gordie’s boss, though Bob was also Gordie’s assistant coach. Bob’s youngest son, Scott, would be a four-year varsity player for Ripon High School and Ripon College, which made me, as a TV announcer by then, sort of the Gillespie family’s personal announcer. (That’s a different story.)

The game started poorly for Ripon, which trailed 8–0 at one point, trailed at the half, and trailed by seven after a three-pointer relatively late in the game. Then came Josh Glocke, a shooting guard who proceeded to score 15 consecutive points and gave the Red Hawks a 54–53 lead with 3:43 left.

Ripon led 57–55 in the last minute, with, according to Mrs. Presteblog, the next generation of Prestegard jumping around in her womb. Then the Red Hawks committed a nine-second violation. Yes, the replay showed the inbounds pass, the referee counted to nine, and blew his whistle for what he claimed was a 10-second violation, while Frank yelled, “Oh, no! Where is the foul?” (While, by the way, the St. John’s announcers next to us were bitterly complaining about how the Johnnies were getting homered by the same officials.)

St. John’s, perhaps hampered by their leading scorer having fouled out, tried to get the ball inside but succeeded only in air-mailing the ball over the intended receiver. (“Kareem on a ladder couldn’t have gotten that!” said Frank.) One free throw and a missed three-point shot later, and the Red Hawks had the win and a date in Chicago for the second round at the University of Chicago.

Our celebration was brief. Back home, Puzzle was in worse shape. I figured she would have to go back to the vet Friday morning, and dreaded the decision we might have to make about her.

Puzzle saved us that decision. She died overnight. I took her to the vet to have her cremated. And then I had work and game prep for the next game. There was really no time for grief over Puzzle, and I’ve noticed since then that death that is not unexpected doesn’t get the same reaction as unexpected death. You get reminded in later moments, when, in this case, you’re only feeding or walking one dog, or that no dog in the house is frantic during a thunderstorm.

(We also discovered as a result of Puzzle’s death that Nick was deaf. We had always thought Puzzle had selective hearing, and she did. It turned out, though, that Nick couldn’t hear our calling for him to come inside, making me resort to waving at him, after which he would then trot in.)

Earlier in our pre-child days we would take the dogs to work with us. As bad as her hips were, Puzzle was always very curious whenever anyone brought in a baby in a baby seat and would get up on her bad back legs to sniff all those wonderful baby smells. We called her “Aunt Puzz,” but she died before she had a chance to live with a baby brother. (Nick didn’t have the same interest. He lived, however, until two weeks after our daughter was born.)

On Saturday, we (with an added guest, the radio high school analyst who doubled as former fire chief and father of the aforementioned restaurant manager) headed to Chicago, stopping again at Flatlanders, then to Loyola University for the game against the University of Chicago, hoping that Ripon might do what it had never done — advance past the NCAA second round. Unfortunately Chicago won, but it was a great experience anyway. (In part because when you announce college basketball, sports information staffs do much of your work for you.)

I remember a pleasant drive coming home, with Mrs. Presteblog snoozing, and Frank and Bob and I discussing Ripon and Ripon College things, with Bob occasionally suggesting that Jannan not listen.

A lot has gone on in our lives and elsewhere over the past two decades. We’re on a different set of pets now (two of each), with one, our Siamese cat Mocha, having died five years ago. (Also the night before a basketball game I was announcing.) The succeeding dogs also like to ride like Puzzle and Nick did.

Many other things have changed. (No kidding, the reader thinks.) Ripon College games are no longer on the radio, though they are streamed live, with announcers from The Ripon Channel, for which I formerly broadcasted Ripon High School and Ripon College games. (I stopped doing Ripon games following the next season because I got a job with another college, though a few years later I got back into Ripon games despite also doing hockey games for the college at which I was employed.)