Category: Sports

The silliest thing you will read today

It has nothing to do with the election. It comes from Sports Illustrated, which wrote what the 15 National League teams need to do to win:

Milwaukee Brewers: Get good years from some rookies

It was just a few years ago, in the fall of 2011, that the Brewers were two wins from the World Series. Four long seasons later, only Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun remain from the team that won 96 games and the NL Central. In its stead is a roster in transition backed by one of the stronger farm systems in baseball, headlined by top 10 shortstop stud Orlando Arcia. Milwaukee, deep into a rebuild and chasing three 2015 playoff teams in its division, is admittedly one of baseball’s longest shots to win the World Series. To do so the Brewers need not only strong performances from stars Lucroy and Braun, but also big rookie seasons from Arcia (once he’s called up), rightfielder Brett Phillips and pitchers Josh Hader and Jorge Lopez. Does that sound like too much to ask? The Cubs reached the NLCS last year with three rookies in their starting lineup, so it can be done. Besides, Bud Selig’s old team should always have hope and faith.

Why should the Brewers have “hope and faith” when the only way the Brewers could make the playoffs is if all their opponents forfeit their games? It is ludicrous that the Brewers are marketing their 2016 (and 2017, and 2018, and 2019, and …) season as Major League Baseball when the Brewers’ major league roster is full of has-beens, never-weres and never-will-bes, with the Brewers actively trying to get rid of their two players with any skill, Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun. Paying full price for a Brewers ticket for the foreseeable future makes as much sense as paying full price for a UW football ticket in the late 1980s.


Presty’s Positively System-Free March Madness picks!

Go ahead and laugh at my 2016 Bracket Challenge March Madness bracket:

2016 March Madness bracket

In the past I have tried to figure out a system for March Madness. One year I spent valuable time figuring out Net Efficiency — efficiency on offense and defense. That system worked as well as throwing darts on a dartboard, putting two bowls of food (each representing a team) for your dog to choose, etc. For one thing, the most offensively efficient team is St. Mary’s of California, which is not in the tournament. The second most offensively efficient team is Indiana, but Indiana is coached by Tom Crean, and you should never pick a Tom Crean-coached team.

The only thing that comes to mind out of this bracket is that my Final Four picks accidentally fit the Blue Rule — that is, picking blue teams, because the biggest historic NCAA powers — Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, etc. — wear blue. I also routinely refuse to pick Big Ten teams to go far, and indeed I have picked three Atlantic Coast Conference teams to go to the Final Four, because the ACC is to basketball what the Southeastern Conference is to football.

Frankly, it’s a boring field, with three number one seeds going to the Final Four. Since I’ve been busy with sports of my own, I have not really followed NCAA basketball that much except for Wisconsin …

Yes, that is my UW Band trumpet I’m playing.

… and apparently I have them going to the Sweet 16, largely because of my feeling that when you have a non-traditional power with a high seed, that is a ripe situation for an upset. But it’s only a feeling.


The WIAA and open meetings and records

The Post~Crescent committed a flagrant act of journalism last week:

The business of high school sports tournaments has never been bigger in Wisconsin, generating $7.6 million last year from ticket sales, broadcasting rights, sponsorships and other sources.

The paychecks of top Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association executives have followed suit, according to nonprofit tax records reviewed by USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

The WIAA reported paying its top six executives $1.1 million last year, a 72 percent boost from 2001 tax filings that outpaced hikes in other workers’ compensation.

Executive director Dave Anderson received a $162,000 salary in addition to $78,000 in benefits, including retirement contributions. His predecessor’s salary in 2001 was about $37,000 less and his benefits cost $47,000 less.

The WIAA receives most of its funding from operating the state’s annual postseason athletic tournaments. …

Until this year, hundreds of public and private school districts have also directly funded the association through membership fees and dues. School district funding last year totaled $424,000, according to the WIAA’s tax filings.

USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin took a closer look at the WIAA’s spending in light of a proposal moving through the Capitol that would require the association to comply with government transparency laws. Some legislators say the WIAA is so strongly tied to public schools that it deserves equal scrutiny.

Tax filings, open to public review under federal laws, already provide some insight into the association’s operations and how paychecks at the top have climbed even through years in which public school officials complained of state funding shortages.

About 13 cents of every dollar raised by the WIAA ultimately flows into the pockets of its top six executives: Anderson, four lower-ranking directors and an association spokesman. Each received a six-figure salary and more than $57,000 in benefits last year.

Anderson, in response to our review, said salaries are approved by a member-elected board of school officials and reflect industry rates. He said directors now work 10 more hours per week than in 2001 and noted rising consumer prices as a factor in pay changes.

Anderson disputed the fairness of comparing total compensation reported in tax filings, saying federal laws today require nonprofits to account for benefits differently than 15 years ago. By the WIAA’s calculations, the reported cost of Anderson’s benefits last year would’ve been about $28,000 lower under 2001 reporting laws.

Still, Anderson and three WIAA board members interviewed by USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin didn’t challenge our core finding that executive pay has grown alongside the association’s expenses as a whole. The combined salaries of the top six executives alone have climbed by about 40 percent since 2001 and one person’s salary has nearly doubled.

Anderson isn’t a public employee. But as the WIAA’s executive director, he now earns more than just about every administrator at a WIAA-member public school as well as the state’s superintendent and governor.

Recent calls for greater transparency at the WIAA trace back to December when a Hilbert basketball player was suspended for 4½ games because she used an expletive on Twitter to criticize the association for banning crowd chants such as “air ball” and “scoreboard.” …

The fallout prompted John Nygren, a Marinette Republican in the state Assembly, to resurrect a proposal requiring the WIAA to comply with state public records and open meetings laws. The proposal was previously introduced by a Democratic legislator in 2009 but failed to gain traction.

Nygren has argued the WIAA is a quasi-government entity and that more transparency after the suspension would’ve saved the state from international ridicule. The WIAA is opposing the proposal with the aid of four lobbyists, arguing it would set a dangerous precedent for any nonprofit that works with tax-funded agencies.

“This is a fast-tracked punitive bill that is a slippery slope eroding the privacy protections of other private entities,” Anderson wrote in a Feb. 10 memo to Assembly legislators. “Schools pay no membership dues or fees. The WIAA receives no public tax dollars from the state.”

Only recently has the WIAA cut direct ties to tax dollars, though. Member school districts, the vast majority of which are taxpayer-funded, have contributed more than $6 million to the association since 2001, according to its tax filings.

The WIAA voted in April last year to cease membership dues for two years, citing an interest in distancing the association from taxpayer funds and easing financial pressure on school athletic budgets. The association plans to vote again next year whether to continue the break, Anderson said.

Nygren’s proposal passed the state Assembly last month. It next heads to the Senate and possibly Gov. Scott Walker’s desk, where is faces an uncertain fate. Asked about the proposal last month, neither Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald nor Walker endorsed the bill and only offered that it would be considered.

A recent veto by Walker also suggests he might oppose the proposal. Explaining a veto last summer related to student eligibility for public school sports, Walker said, “I do not believe state statutes should stipulate the participation and membership requirements of a private athletic association.”

That position may be foretelling in this case because Nygren’s proposal would effectively thrust state transparency laws on the WIAA via new limits on school district participation. The proposal says no district may join an athletic association unless that association elects to comply with state laws.

While the WIAA is lobbying against Nygren’s proposal, several association leaders told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin that they don’t entirely oppose following state transparency laws because the association is already so open with its business.

“We got absolutely nothing to hide,” said Mike Beighley, the superintendent public schools in Whitehall and a current WIAA board member. “We already put everything else out.”

Association leaders pointed to allowing news reporters at Board of Control meetings where financial reports and other internal business are discussed, and their publishing of meeting minutes online like a government agency.

Simple requests for information are also routinely honored in spirit with the state’s Public Records Law, they said. Indeed, they answered most of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin’s questions and released internal figures to back up some statements.

“What would be different? I don’t see that as a big deal,” said Dean Sanders, the superintendent of public schools in Lake Mills and a longtime voice on the WIAA’s Board of Control.

Of course WIAA leaders have their concerns. Aside from disagreeing with the principal of extending state law to a nonprofit, Sanders said he worries that athletes would be more reluctant to speak candidly during meetings or in messages that could be released publicly.

No longer would the WIAA have discretion to allow visitors at board meetings or to release certain information. These activities would be required with the added risk of lawsuits and hefty legal bills over failures to comply.

Beighley said he worried that open meeting laws could slow the WIAA’s response in unusual situations, such as an athlete who needs an emergency waiver of association rules, or invite frivolous requests that increase costs.

“Is it going to change our operation? No,” Beighley said. “Is it scary to me? Yeah.”

Sanders and Beighley, both past presidents of the WIAA’s Board of Control, are familiar with government transparency laws in their work as superintendents. They are reimbursed for meals and mileage by the WIAA but do not receive a paycheck.

The Board of Control includes nine public and two private school officials. Sanders and Beighley said board members vary in clocking hours for the WIAA. Some use taxpayer-funded school district time for WIAA meetings and personal time for tournaments.

“I’m on school time and expected to make up whatever I do on Sunday when I’m home,” Sanders said. “My (school) board knows that I put in enough time.” …

Sanders and Beighley scoffed at comparing WIAA paychecks to compensation at member school districts, saying the Board of Control instead looks at other high school athletic associations. The head of Minnesota’s association, for example, earned $61,000 more than Anderson in 2013, the most recent year for which comparable tax figures were available.

“We’ve always tried to be right in the middle. I also don’t think Wisconsin athletics should be right in the rear,” Sanders said. “By being in the middle, we’re saying we respect what you do, we respect what you’ve done.”

Beighley also said the WIAA hasn’t increased revenue merely to boost executive pay, noting that tournament costs, legal bills, insurance, printing and other expenses have risen over the years as well.

“I don’t think we’ve set out to make more money to pay people more money,” he said.

The WIAA has been able to provide larger paychecks to its executives over the past 15 years in part due to hikes in ticket prices, referee licensing fees and broadcasting partnerships.

In just the past decade, association figures show revenue from operating the state’s high school tournaments has grown from about $5.9 million to $7.2 million annually while royalties have increased eight-fold to $476,000.

In some cases, those royalties have come from media organizations seeking to cover high school postseason competition. The WIAA in 2009 sued The Post-Crescent and the Wisconsin Newspapers Association over the broadcasting rights of state tournament contests held in public schools. A federal appeals court sided with the WIAA, rejecting the argument that the games were public events. The Post-Crescent is part of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

The WIAA operates more than 3,000 competitions annually, with more than $2 million flowing back to host schools through payments that vary by sport. For example, hosting a basketball tournament pays $60 per game compared to $80 per game for football.

Sanders said growing revenue was critical to eliminating membership fees and dues last year. The Board of Control wanted to make the decision permanent, he said, but that can only happen under a vote of all member school districts.

“It’s been a goal of (Anderson’s) ever since he took over as executive director,” Sanders said.

The most interesting comment on the story came from …

… I was on the WIAA advisory committee for hockey back in the olden days. When we want to enhance the WIAA State HS Hockey tournament and use The Minnesota State High School League’s State Hockey Tournamenr as a comparison, the WIAA’s response from Tom Shafranski was quote. “We don’t compare ourselves to Minnesota when structuring our state tournaments.”

The WIAA had no problem comparing themselves to Minnesota’s High School League executives when it benefited their pocket books.

The WIAA’s claim of not using taxpayer resources is false, irrespective of whether or not the WIAA charges membership fees for state high schools. Where are the vast, vast majority of those 3,000 high school sports events (including all 20 boys basketball sectional finals Saturday) played? In high schools, funded by those school districts’ taxpayers. Who pays coaches? School districts, which means local property taxpayers and state taxpayers (through state aid). Who pays the teachers and other staff who man the games? Same answer.

If school districts and other governments are required to abide by state open meetings and open records laws (and they absolutely should be), then the WIAA, which also uses taxpayer dollars, absolutely should be bound to those same open government laws. The state Senate has until Tuesday to vote on Nygren’s bill. The Senate should approve Nygren’s bill, and Walker should sign it.

March Madnesses

Tonight, I get to have another professional thrill by announcing the WIAA girls basketball state tournament, for the second consecutive season, on this outstanding radio station.

I will be announcing Mineral Point, one year after I announced the Pointer boys at boys state in Madison. This is the first state trip for the Pointer girls in school history, and their radio announcer hopes their state experience ends like mine did.

The only downside of announcing girls state is that it’s at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, which is a great facility at an inconvenient end of the state, as I have discussed here before.

The Resch Center works better for girls state in contrast to Madison arenas because it is (1) nicer than the UW Fieldhouse, (2) smaller than the Kohl Center, and (3) not several miles from the UW campus as the Dane County Coliseum — oops, Alliant Energy Center — is. A high school girls game at the Kohl Center is analogous to a state football title game at Camp Randall Stadium, which usually is one-eighth filled. (Which is still better than the last days of Don Mor(t)on.)

The Resch Center is the home of UW–Green Bay’s men’s basketball team, whose announcer made news one day before the Phoenix clinched, the, uh (its? their?) first NCAA berth in 20 years. The Green Bay Press–Gazette reports:

UW-Green Bay men’s basketball radio announcer Matt Menzl briefly was off the air during the game during Monday’s Horizon League semifinal victory over Valparaiso after referee Pat Adams kicked him off press row for what Menzl described as a misunderstanding.

Full audio | Hear Menzl’s ejection here

Menzl said Adams thought he was waving him off after a call went against the Phoenix. Adams thought overwise.

“I talk with my hands,” Menzl said. “I was trying to describe that we had two guys fighting for the ball, and he took it as I waved him off, like saying that’s a horrible call.

“At first he gave me a warning. Then two seconds later said, ‘I want this guy removed and I won’t start the game until he gets removed.’”

Menzl had to hand over his headset to an Oakland play-by-play announcer and went into the tunnel, where he explained the situation to UWGB athletic director Mary Ellen Gillespie and Horizon League spokesman Bill Potter.

Potter told Menzl to go back and that they’d deal with it.

“I maybe missed actual game action, a couple minutes,” Menzl said.

This is what it looked like on TV:

And this is what it sounded like on the air back to Green Bay:

Nation of Blue adds:

Audio has surfaced of referee Pat Adams ejecting the Green Bay radio guy and it makes Adams look even worse than we originally though.

The radio guy appears to be calling the game and suddenly Adams can be heard screaming, “who is this guy?”

After a commercial break, the Green Bay guy is replaced by another radio guy who is filling in.

Given where I will sit for tonight’s game, two-thirds of the way up in the stands, this is not going to happen tonight. However, where I usually sit to announce UW–Platteville games, more often than not courtside, it theoretically could happen, though I would hope I would be professional enough to not get myself tossed or assessed a technical foul. You’d hope the officials would be professional enough to not have rabbit ears, too, but apparently that’s too much to ask in Adams’ case.

Menzl deserves credit for being professional enough to not pop off on the air about Adams’ bullylike behavior. (Adams apparently is a legend in college basketball, and not for good reasons.) There have been announcers over the years who have not been so self-controlled over official calls. That includes legendary Wisconsin announcer Jim Irwin, who would heckle NBA officials on the air during games.

Menzl is not the first radio announcer to be asked to leave a game. Apparently in 2003 during an NCAA tournament game between Cincinnati and Gonzaga at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, this happened:

For a recap of Thursday’s action, we turn to Bearcats play-by-play radio announcer Dan Hoard, who described the key moments of second-half action on WLW-AM 700.

“Coach Huggins has just been ejected, and he’s about to be joined by my partner!”

It was nuts, all right.

With Gonzaga up 47-40, Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins went gonzo on referee Mike Kitts after Bearcats forward Jason Maxiell was called for traveling in the back court when Huggins clearly thought his player was fouled.

Huggins screamed in protest and received a technical for leaving the coaching box. A few seconds later, Huggins was hit with a second technical for refusing to leave the floor. He was escorted away at the 16:17 mark, jawing to police officers as he was led up the corridor.

This is the same Huggins who, last Sept. 28, suffered a near-fatal heart attack in Pittsburgh, a traumatic experience that apparently has not tempered his on-court passion nor his hair-trigger temper.

Meanwhile, courtside, Bearcats color commentator Chuck Machock did not wish to confine his feelings only to his listening audience. When Kitts got within earshot, Machock blistered the referee with a foul-mouth tirade.

Officials of other sports sometimes butt heads with announcers as well:

This also reminds me of my favorite college basketball technical foul, well earned by former Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs:



The intersection of football and politics promotes the season-opening Badger football game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay against LSU:

The 2016 college football season opener pitting Wisconsin vs. LSU could be played anywhere on the planet and it would be a marquee event.

Powerhouse schools from the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences rarely make time for one another outside of bowl games, so when they do the national spotlight is going to be intense regardless of where the meeting takes place.

This is one of those moments when the venue makes the contest ultra-special.

UW will play the Tigers in Green Bay on Sept. 3 in the Lambeau Field College Classic, marking the first time a major college game will be played at the legendary 59-year-old NFL shrine.

“Tradition-rich Lambeau,” Wisconsin Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said. “You mention that name and people’s eyes light up.”

Though it will be played in the state and 150 miles from Madison, it is classified as a neutral-site game. The format is similar to 2014 when UW opened the season playing the Tigers at NRG Stadium in Houston.

A sellout crowd of 71,599 saw LSU rally for a 28-24 victory over the Badgers two years ago, but it’s expected that tickets to the rematch will be much harder to come by at 80,735-seat Lambeau Field.

According to a dispersal plan drawn up by Packers officials, Wisconsin will get 40,000 tickets, LSU 20,000 and the NFL club will control the rest, which consists mostly of premium seating (suite and club seat). Ticket prices range from $91 to $118. Student tickets will cost $48. …

This marks the third straight season the Badgers will open with a neutral-site game against an opponent from the SEC. In addition to the loss to LSU in ’14, they dropped a 35-17 decision to eventual national champion Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, last September.

All three games were negotiated separately, according to Alvarez, who added there are multiple benefits to playing them at neutral sites.

“I think it sends a message that we want to schedule stronger,” he said. “Our league has made a commitment that we’re going to improve our non-conference games.

“I think it’s healthy. I think it’s good for our players and staff to really focus in the offseason. I think that it’s fun for our fans — especially this one because you’re playing in-state.”

Alvarez said there have been preliminary talks with the Packers about playing future neutral-site games at Lambeau Field. UW currently has an opening for its 2018 season opener.

“It’s easier to get a neutral-site game,” Alvarez said. “Some schools don’t want to play a home-and-home. They’d rather do a one-year deal than home-and-home.”

Alvarez said multiple Power Five schools have expressed an interest in having a home-and-home series with the Badgers and he’ll continue to pursue such an arrangement.

Neutral-site opportunities provide flexibility at a time when the Big Ten is moving from an eight-game schedule to a nine-outing format. UW bases its annual budget on staging seven home games at Camp Randall Stadium, but there will be years when there will only be four league games at home instead of five, and that revenue void needs to be filled.

Demand for Wisconsin-LSU tickets figures to rival the moment in 2011 when Nebraska made its highly-anticipated Big Ten debut at Camp Randall.

Fans of the Cornhuskers began arriving in Madison four days before the game. There were so many of them that they rented out Union South for a viewing party and UW officials obliged the throng by setting up a theater area outside the stadium for those who couldn’t get tickets.

If there’s similar interest from LSU fans, accommodations could possibly be made at the Resch Center across the street from Lambeau. That decision would involve Green Bay president Mark Murphy and his staff.

“We’ll have to see how tickets go and what the demand is,” Alvarez said. “If it makes sense, that’s something we’d look into.

“The Packers have been great. Murph and his whole crew have been easy to work with. They’ve always been very cooperative with us and I look forward to working with them.”

The Badgers have played football games elsewhere in the state going back to 1889 — Beloit, Marinette and Milwaukee — but never in Green Bay.

The Wisconsin men’s hockey team played an outdoor game at Lambeau Field in 2006, but that’s it.

There is, however, a potential major problem with the opponent. The New Orleans Times-Picayune and States-Item reports:

Gov. John Bel Edwards laid out an absolute worst case scenario Thursday night (Feb. 11) for Louisiana if state lawmakers refuse to go along with the package of tax increases he has proposed.

In a rare statewide televised address, Edwards told viewers that the state would be forced to take extreme action — such as throwing people with off of kidney dialysis and shutting down hospice services — if new taxes didn’t go into place over the next few months.

“The health care services that are in jeopardy literally mean the difference between life and death,” Edwards said during a live address carried on several television stations.

The governor didn’t stop at health care services, but also detailed catastrophic cuts to higher education. He said new revenue was needed to prevent universities from running out of money before the semester ends. LSU, the state’s wealthiest higher education institution, would only be able to pay its bills through April 30, unless some tax increases went into place.

The governor went so far as to say that LSU football was also in jeopardy, due to a threatened suspension of spring classes that would put college athletes’ eligibility in danger next year. He said the state would no longer be able to afford one of its most popular programs with middle class residents — the TOPS college scholarship — without tax hikes.

“Student athletes across the state would be ineligible to play next semester,” Edwards said. “I don’t say this to scare you. But I am going to be honest with you.”

The governor’s staff announced Thursday that the state’s current year budget deficit has reached $940 million — a price tag larger than the annual spending on LSU’s Baton Rouge campus and all of New Orleans public higher education institutions combined. The state must find a way to close the gaping budget gap by June 30, when it shuts the books on the fiscal year.

Once it resolves that budget crisis, Louisiana will be facing an immediate $2 billion shortfall in the next fiscal cycle, which starts July 1. Edwards is proposing cuts — but also large tax hikes — to deal with the financial crises both this year and next year.

Note that Edwards mentions LSU classes, not LSU football spending. An comment claims …

LSU football grosses about  $74.3 million, with about $25.8 million in expenses, netting about $48.5 million profit.  He’s using scare tactics to push his tax increase.

Well, of course Edwards is using scare tactics to push his tax increase. Louisiana is to the South what Illinois is to the Midwest in terms of corruption and bad government.

However, LSU football is bigger in Louisiana than any UW sport is in Wisconsin, and that’s in a state that has more than one Division I football team. If Edwards’ threat is carried out, Edwards runs the risk of duplicating the fate of Huey Long.


The WIAA vs. taxpayers, Open Meetings edition

Proving that politics makes strange bedfellows, former superintendent of public instruction Herbert Grover writes something nice about a proposal by a Republican, Rep. John Nygren (R–Marinette):

No elected official has any authority over the decisions of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association in spite of the fact that the organization dictates a substantial portion of the program offered by our public schools. The Department of Public Instruction has a nonvoting liaison to the WIAA board.

WIAA has absolute control of sports activities in our public elementary and secondary educational institutions. The — impossible — alternative of a local school board would be to drop sports activities if they disagreed with the WIAA.

The WIAA budget comes from membership fees and money generated by tournament activity performed in public facilities plus some advertising revenue captured largely during the tournaments. There is no elected public oversight of the money raised or how it is spent. …

For all practical purposes WIAA is a private organization that dictates activities of public schools. WIAA should be required to submit to the Wisconsin open meeting law. The public is entitled to know the salaries and fringe benefits of all WIAA employees. The public should know if all the board members, including WIAA employees, are members of the state retirement system, and if not what other retirement program is provided. …

The public should know how many meetings are held, where they are held and what expenses are picked up for board members by the WIAA, including entertainment expenses. The public should know what types of agreements WIAA board members have with local school boards when absent from the school district for WIAA activities. …

I find Rep. John Nygren’s voting record on children, public education, taxes, the environment and whole list of issues repugnant.

But! On this issue he is correct. It’s our money, our schools, and our open government.

Grover, by the way, is a former state Assemblyman. A Democrat, of course.

I would be curious about how Grover feels about my modest proposal to eliminate the WIAA and have his former department regulate high school athletics, since athletics is part of education.

The end is near’s Travis Wilson writes about the onset of February Fever and March Madness:

“Rage against the dying of the light.”

That line from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas has stuck with me for many years, and I’ve found it applicable for numerous situations. To me, it exemplifies fighting with all you have against a looming end. And, it is my best advice to the thousands of basketball players who will embark upon the final legs of their high school careers in the coming weeks.

For many teams, their fates were decided long ago, through offseason work (or lack thereof), dedication to the program, genetics and even what town a family chose to move to. There is little hope for a team sitting at 4-18 to advance more than perhaps one game in the playoffs. While a team near .500 may get to sectionals occasionally, the vast majority will not come close.

But, for many other boys and girls hoops squads, their postseason success is not only still in the balance, but in their hands to a large extent. One of my favorite quotes during my time coaching was, “The difference between winning and losing is often just a little extra effort.” Focusing just a little more during practice, pushing through when you feel a bit winded, hustling just a bit harder to get back on defense on even one trip down the court. It all adds up and can make the difference.

Because let me tell you one thing: if you truly are a competitor, once it is over, you will spend the rest of your life trying to replicate it.

Perhaps you’ll be one of the 3.4 percent of high school participants that go on to play in Division I, II or III (along with a few more that play NAIA or JUCO), which will fill that gap considerably.

Perhaps you’ll look to stay involved in the game by officiating, or coaching or pushing your children to participate. Maybe you’ll become a lowly prep sports reporter.

(Or announcer, though it’s hard to replicate a career that consisted of zero games.)

Perhaps you’ll try to recapture that feeling, however fleeting, by playing intramurals, rec league, men’s league or pick-up ball. But none can truly replicate the high-school basketball experience. Running out for warmups to a rocking pep band and raucous big-game environment, the bus rides, the summer tournaments, the anticipation, the team meals, the coaches … the friendships.

Being a part of a team with someone, especially a small-roster sport like basketball, creates a bond that can be found few other places in life. There’s a good chance you’ve grown up playing with these people for years, maybe since third or fourth grade. You might not even like all of them, but that bond of brotherhood/sisterhood is still there.

Sadly, there are those that have likely checked out already, who are looking forward to the end. I honestly feel sorry for the ones who feel that way. Then again, even the toughest competitors are only high schoolers, and the power of the moment can be difficult to grasp. It often takes the finality of it being over to truly grasp how much something meant, and how rare it is to feel that way.

High-school sports are not and should not be the pinnacle of your life, but they are something unique that you cannot replicate.

So as you lace ’em up in the coming weeks, do all that you can to delay the unfortunate truth: your high school basketball career will end.

“Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Overtime Steve, next period

Last month I wrote about the number of overtime games I’ve seen and, more recently, announced.

Since then I’ve added two more free basketball games to the list, UW–Platteville’s 66–62 OT win at Stout and the Pioneers’ 78–75 OT win at Whitewater.

The former was the Pioneers’ first WIAC win after an 0–3 start. The latter was Platteville’s fourth consecutive win after said 0–3 start. That streak ended the Warhawks’ nine-game winning streak over the Pioneers, which, for those who care, puts Platteville up 105–102 over Whitewater.

Announcing college basketball is fun, even though doing it correctly requires work. Heading into the second half of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s basketball season, two teams are at 5–2, three teams are at 4–3, and two teams are at 3–4. It is hard to get closer than that.