For those who still don’t know where in the wild and woolly Midwest Wisconsin is located, here’s a clue: It’s in the midst of sports euphoria
When you consider big-time sports in America, it’s best not to be too rational. It’s not a subject that lends itself to common sense.
How do you make sense of the fact that the biggest sports stadiums in the country are owned by public, taxpayer-supported institutions founded to pursue higher learning?
Every man, woman and child who lives in Ozaukee County could fit in the University of Michigan’s stadium and there would still be 25,000 empty seats.
Beaver Stadium, the second largest in the U.S., where the Penn State football team plays, is slightly smaller than Michigan’s 110,000-capacity arena, but it would still hold
almost 10 times the population of Port Washington.
These facilities are for games played by students at the universities, right? Technically, yes. But then consider Russell Wilson, the stellar quarterback who plays for the
Wisconsin in Camp Randall stadium (80,000 capacity).
A student in name only who perhaps attends a graduate class or two, he came to Madison as a graduate of North Carolina State University, after having played not only for
that school’s football team, but as a professional baseball player in the Colorado Rockies organization. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has blessed this
college version of free agency as perfectly acceptable.
The NCAA definitely did not bless the pay-for-play shenanigans at Ohio State that cost the head coach his job earlier this year. The new coach hired Monday to take over
the scandal-plagued program will be paid $4 million for his first year.
Don’t try to apply common standards of rationality to professional sports either. Even a public inured to seven or eight-figure salaries for run-of-the-mill jocks could be taken
aback by Prince Fielder’s coming foray into free agency. Here’s a first baseman, currently of the Milwaukee Brewers, who became a star playing for a team that this year
contended for a World Series berth, whose fans adore him, whose management wants to pay him an astonishing amount of money to stay in Milwaukee, but who will likely
be moving on because the $20 million a year the Brewers offered him is not enough.
Or how about some sports irrationality on a tiny scale? Try to make sense of the fact that people who buy something in, say, the Village of Belgium, which receives
approximately zero economic benefit from the Milwaukee Brewers, have to pay a sales tax to help pay for the baseball team’s stadium, which is owned by a private
It’s better to be emotional, rather than rational, about sports. That way all of its excesses seem like a small price to pay for terrific entertainment without which life would
surely be duller. Especially in Wisconsin.
Let’s just say it: Wisconsin is America’s capital of sports excellence.
It’s not just winning games. It’s winning with class and style, often David vs. Goliath style.
The Brewers, playing in one of the smallest markets in baseball, nearly win the National League championship and have the league’s most valuable player in Ryan Braun.
The University of Wisconsin football team, part of a big-time college sports program, of course, but one that has not been shamed by the scandals that have sullied other
major universities (getting Russell Wilson was smart, not scandalous), gets to play this Saturday for the Big Ten championship.
And the Packers. What to say about the Green Bay Packers, playing in the smallest city in the NFL, owned by the public, Super Bowl winners, the only undefeated team in
Maybe the team said all that needs to be said with its Thanksgiving Day spanking of the Detroit Lions. While the Lions carried on like thugs and punks, the Packers acted
like smart, disciplined, fair-playing, not to mention superb, athletes.
What accounts for Wisconsin’s sports superiority? Midwest values? Work ethic? Cheese? We’re pretty sure it’s not the last, though the “cheesehead” perception seems to
endure among some TV announcers.
Wisconsin has always had a problem getting the respect it’s due. There’s a funny scene in the play “Lombardi” in which Marie Lombardi pulls out an atlas after her
husband tells her he’s been offered a job as the Packers’ coach. There probably still are sports fans who, like Mrs. Lombardi back then, are fuzzy about where in the world
Wisconsin is located.
That’s OK. If they knew they might want to move here and get in on the fun of being Wisconsin sports fans. Sorry, our stadiums are full.