Thursday, October 29, 2009

On the Road A Lot

As high school football teams travel all over the state this week for the playoffs, I'm going to let you in on a story that has been greatly under-reported: Fans should get used to longer road trips in the future.

The WIAA is looking to re-draw conferences throughout the state--doing away regional groupings and moving toward having everyone play schools the same size. That would unfortunately mean the end of the Fox Valley Association for football.

Under the current version of the plan, the state would be divided into eight sections--with eight classes of schools based on enrollment. There would be eight Division One teams, eight Division Two teams, etc. per section. Schools would play seven "conference" games and two "non-conference" games--with the top four teams in each section automatically making the playoffs--regardless of record.

Thanks to a concentration of bigger schools on the north end of the Fox Valley, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac would be assigned to a district with Manitowoc, the two Sheboygan schools, Neenah and Hartford. According to an on-line calculator, the switch would double the average distance Oshkosh teams would have to travel for all their conference games. Kimberly and Menasha would get grouped with schools in the Green Bay suburbs and Plymouth--also seeing their travel distances double. The Appleton schools would get paired with the Green Bay city schools--and Wisconsin Rapids--which has few other Division One schools near it.

Omro would be the biggest loser in the new alignment--as their average travel distance for conference games would be 60-miles--with a nice 113-mile trip to Marshfield in there. One school that would win big time would be Oshkosh Lourdes--as their travel would be cut by a third--with a grouping that includes Laconia, St Mary's Springs and Markesan.

Sectional groupings would also change as school enrollments fluctuate over the years. It's entirely possible that Oshkosh North could fall to a D-2 classification--meaning they wouldn't be in the same conference as West--although the teams could schedule a "non-conference" game. And that classification could change several times--meaning North would face a different slate of opponents every year--making it difficult to develop or maintain the rivalries that kids and fans love.

Right now, the re-districting plan applies only to football. I guess the WIAA realizes a trip to Manitowoc from Oshkosh on a February school night in a snowstorm might not be the best for basketball teams--but they could always change their mind in the future. Normally, I would encourage you to send letters or e-mails to protest this change--but having to deal with the WIAA, I know they don't give a rat's behind what people other than fellow WIAA executives think. So add a little bit more to the gas budget, fans--and get ready for that big trip to Hartford.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where Are All the Quarterbacks?

Bob and I were having a conversation on the air the other day about how we can't remember a time when there were so many bad teams in the NFL. When so many teams went out there on Sunday with no real chance to win--unless they were playing another pathetic team. We came to the realization that the root of the problem is the lack of talented quarterbacks in the league.

Right now, I would say there are only four "elite" quarterbacks in the NFL--guys who give their teams a chance to win every Sunday. They are: Peyton Manning (the current King of All Quarterbacks), Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. That's it, just four guys with Hall of Fame talent playing right now.

They are followed by the "Second Tier Guys"--the quarterbacks that on good days can lift their teams to victory single-handedly, but still have a few too many "stinker games" to be considered elite. They would be: Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton and the walking dinosaurs Brett Favre and Kurt Warner.

In the "Good but overrated" category you have Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb (there goes my chance of owning an NFL team!)--who run about 50-50 on their quality performances.

If we stop at the second tier guys, you have just 14-quality quarterback in a league of 32 teams. And those just happen to be the 14-teams competing for the 12 playoff spots. Not even half the teams have QB's that even give them a chance to win a game. When I was a kid in the late 70's and early 80's--you would have had no trouble naming all 28 quarterbacks in the league. Even the worst franchises like the New Orleans Saints had guys like Archie Manning and Kenny Stabler at QB. The Packers played the St Louis Rams (who have lost an entire season's worth of games in a row--16) just a few weeks ago--can you remember who was their quarterback? And this week the Packers get the Browns--whose Derek Anderson this month completed just 2 of 17 passes in a game--AND STILL WON OVER BUFFALO!!

I get a kick out of how the NFL analysts are going crazy over the Miami Dolphins running the "Wildcat Offense" with the direct snap to the running back--like the old single-wing days. They like to call it a "work of genius". I think its an act of desperation--a white flag if you will--saying "my offense actually runs better if I don't even have a quarterback involved in the play." The fact that I see some colleges and even high school programs running the "Wildcat" now says to me the quarterbacking situation in the NFL isn't going to get better any time soon. Enjoy those five interception afternoon fans!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What to Do With the Juggalos

I have a few suggestions for "fixing" the problem of the Juggalos in downtown Oshkosh. For those of you not familiar with the group--it's basically a bunch of kids who hang out, skate and sometimes harass people in Opera House Square. They take their name from fans of quite possibly the worst rap group of all time The Insane Clown Posse. Downtown business owners want the group gone--saying they scare off customers.

My first suggestion is to adopt an approach used in Europe and Australia when local governments wanted to disperse the riff-raff--pipe in music nobody can stand. In England they used classical music. In Australia, one town blasted Barry Manilow into high crime areas. Given that the kids hang out in OPERA House Square--that would be the obvious choice for Oshkosh. But I think some of the worst oldies and country songs of all time would be better. We could start by repeating "Loving You" by Minnie Ripperton and following that up with an hour's worth of "Achy Breaky Heart" by Miley Cyrus' dad.

If that doesn't work, we'll make Opera House Square the "Popular Place to Hang Out". The Juggalos like to pass themselves off as the "social misfits" who don't do what the "cool kids" do. So let's infiltrate their ranks with the very people they want to avoid. Create a wi-fi hotspot in Opera House Square so kids with laptops and Blackberries can log on for free and tweet each other from three feet away. Set up sidewalk espresso carts. Host skateboarding contests with temporary half-pipes set up in the Square. Of put out Nintendo Wii Systems for people to use for free on Tuesday nights.

Or we could have Oshkosh Police find out who these kids are and call their parents. You know, just ask them "Hey, do you know where your kids are and what they are doing right now?" How many parents will say "Yeah, hanging out downtown and harassing people"? Let's be honest, that is where the Juggalos problem starts--and where it needs to be solved. The Business Improvement District can complain all it wants--and the Common Council can pass all the ordinances it wants--but until parents give a darn about what their teenagers are doing, it won't fix a thing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You're Welcome

The good folks of the Fox Valley and Northeast Wisconsin won't have to worry about any early season major snowfalls this winter. I don't have any special meteorological insight--and it has nothing to do with "global warming". I know there won't be any major early snowstorms this year because I have a snowthrower that actually works.

You may recall the mild winters we had in the early part of the decade. Well, during that time I was a renter--not responsible for snow removal--so it really didn't matter how much it snowed, or how often it snowed. But, two years ago my wife and I bought a house--meaning it was now my job to clear the driveway and the sidewalk. At the time of the purchase, I scoffed at my wife's suggestion that we buy a snowblower. I told her the driveway was short enough that it wouldn't be worth the cost--and besides, we haven't had a bad winter in years thanks to "global warming".

Of course, we had a major storm the weekend before Thanksgiving that year--with that kind of wet, heavy snow that just busts your back trying to shovel it. We had to have the neighbors come in with their snowthrowers just to get out of our driveway. That storm was followed by several more feet of snow--all before the holidays. Once it became phyically impossible to throw the snow over the piles along the driveway by hand, I broke down and admitted we needed a snowblower. After making that purchase, I used it just three more times the rest of the winter--when I could have used it about ten times before buying it.

So then comes last winter. I figured I was set, because I had the snowthrower in the garage--warding off big storms like it had done the year before. But, I had made a fatal mistake--I hadn't made sure it would run. Again we got a big early snowfall before Thanksgiving--and I couldn't get the darn thing to start. The same thing happened storm after storm in November and December as we set record snowfall totals for those months. Finally, I got a repair man out there (twice) to finally get the thing running again around the holidays. Just like the year before, I only needed to use it a handful of times after that.

That is why I spent all afternoon yesterday making sure the 'thrower runs, the auger turns and that all the important parts are lubricated. And that is why I am so sure that there will be no major storms early this year--if there will be any at all--just because I'm ready for them...for a change.

You're welcome.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let It Go

I cannot wait until Wednesday. There's no special anniversary or event scheduled for that day--it's just the day that I think I might finally not have to hear about Brett Favre versus the Green Bay Packers ad nauseum. I spent the weekend in the Twin Cities and I can tell you that the hype machine over there is set to SUPER HIGH as every talk show (not just sports-talk) is nothing but Brett facing his old team.

The conversation, however, is anything but "we love Brett". It sounded to me like many of the reporters who cover the Vikings have already grown tired of the soap opera "As the Brett Favre Turns". Last week's win on a last-second pass is best remembered by most people not for the unbelievable catch by a guy who signed with the team the week before the game--but instead for Favre laying on the Humpty Dump turf until someone came to pick him up because he was so "exhausted". Three different hosts on three different stations called Favre a "drama queen" this weekend. It took them just three weeks to realize something that it took Packers fans 14-years to figure out.

The general belief among the Minnesota press--and the way it sounded from the call-ins, the fans as well--is that Favre is pretty much running his own show with the Vikings. Right now, winning games (pretty much without the need for a lot of "gunslinging") is covering up a lot of the animosity within the organization. But every Purple Fan is dreading that two game losing streak--which will likely be caused by a half-dozen interceptions--that will completely torpedo a promising season. So Packers fans living in fear of Number Four bringing a Lombardi Trophy to the Twin Cities can probably rest easy--it ain't gonna happen.

As for tonight's game, it won't be Favre that sticks "The Dagger!!" into the Pack--it will be Adrian Peterson running for almost 300-yards that gets Minnesota the win. Then on Thursday, we can start breaking down that first Favre game at Lambeau on November 1st.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dousing the Flame

As much as I love sports, I would actually prefer that Chicago NOT get the 2016 Olympics. The reason is simple: it will just be a huge waste of money.

There is no city more known for graft and corruption than Chicago--and the huge contracts that would be handed out for construction of Olympic venues are prime sources for every crony of Mayor Richard M. Daley to get his pocket lined. Make that pockets stuffed so full that many of them won't be able to walk. Whatever they estimate it will cost Chicago to host the Games, add 25-percent--then another ten percent for "unexpected overruns".

And the Olympics are not the "amazing sporting event" that people think it is. Tickets for the top events are reserved for International Olympic Committee members and their cronies--along with the corporate sponsors that have completely taken over the Games. The Olympics are an "amazing money-making event" for a select few. The actual focus on sports went out the window when Peter Ueberroth proved that you could make money by hosting in LA back in 1984. Unfortunately, the last few versions of the games haven't made money--and taxpayers in the hosts cities and countries have been left footing the bill. Cook County already has a 10.5 %sales tax--how high would it go if the Chicago Olympics lose a billion dollars or so?

Some think that Wisconsin will be getting plenty of benefit from the Games--namely people staying across the border and driving into the City for the events. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Governor Jim Doyle has somehow committed some of our tax dollars to help Illinois pay for this thing. Nobody gets anything for free anymore.

And think about all of the Olympic tie-in advertising. The "official refreshment beverage of the 2016 Chicago Games", "the official tire of the 2016 Chicago Games", "the official home building supplier of the 2016 Chicago Games". I'll have to make this the "Official Blogsite of the 2016 Chicago Games"

If the City of Chicago is going to spend all of the money necessary to build venues and an athlete's village--along with transit upgrades and all of the security necessary to prevent disaster--why not just spend the money anyway for the CTA and police--without having to put up with three weeks of hassle?

I would cast my vote for Rio, Brazil. South America has never hosted the Games--and it's their turn. Besides, except for baseball and hockey, sports is better on TV anyway.