I could have taken the high road.
A lot of sports editors choose to go out on a positive note. They’ll write the final columns of their tenures as poignant goodbyes, wrenching readers’ hearts with stories of favored moments, inspirational athletes and moving athletic achievements.
I have to admit that I always enjoy reading those columns. They’re really sweet. And, for a few minutes, I even strongly considered writing one of my own. I was going to get all teary-eyed in print while I drudged up my “10 favorite moments in the past year of Badger athletics.”
But, really, who’s kidding whom? It would’ve been a load of crap. I don’t think that — a mere five days after I wrote a column discussing the virtues of steroid-enhanced athletics — anyone was going to buy that I had suddenly developed some sort of sentimental perspective on the sporting world.
So, as usual, low road it is.
Instead of discussing what’s good about Badger athletics (which, I must say, right now is far easier than usual), I’m going to take a shot at what’s not. Here are the four things that, in my year as a sports editor and three-plus years as a sports writer at UW, have driven me insane — the four worst things about sports at Wisconsin:
4) The swing offense: I’ll admit that a part of me loves the swing offense. It’s the same part of me that would die if the Badgers didn’t put together some sort of NCAA tournament run every March. The swing offense makes sure that UW always has a chance at winning a given game. I can appreciate that.
But, that said, how boring is it to watch the men’s basketball team execute on offense these days? With high-flyers like Alando Tucker running around, it’d be nice to see the Badgers tossing in alley-oop passes NBA Jam-style. It’d be nice to see Kammron Taylor, who Sharif Chambliss says has “one of the quickest first-steps” he’s ever guarded, put that step to use and drive the lane once in a while.
Call me old fashioned, but I like monster dunks, crazy plays and quick penetrations. Would a system better incorporating these crucial portions of basketball be as effective as swinging in for a guard to take an open jump shot or a big man to pound the rock to the glass? I think Florida’s consistently underachieving offense can answer that easily enough. But it’d sure as hell be more fun to watch.
3) Jerry Schumacher: The Wisconsin men’s cross-country team is probably the most consistently impressive team on this campus. Did you know that? Not many do.
The reason is a vast lack of media coverage.
But, as is so rarely the case, that shortcoming is not on our part. I don’t like covering sports I don’t understand, but I obviously like covering teams that rank among the nation’s best. Unfortunately, Coach Schumacher has all but outlawed this with regard to the UW men’s cross-country team. Seems he doesn’t want his athletes distracted during the season.
Did I miss something? Since when did a couple interviews every week turn into such a distraction? It’s not exactly as if cross-country runners have more of their skill linked with confidence (and are, thus, more susceptible to negative articles) than other athletes. If anything, they have far less.
Tell me that John Stocco or Bernd Brückler doesn’t want to read his name in the paper and I’ll understand. Their confidence is crucial to their personal success and thus to the success of their teams. But a nasty article isn’t likely to slow down Simon Bairu.
2) Soccer: It’s not precisely soccer that I dislike. Well, that’s not true. It certainly is soccer that I dislike.
Always has been. The banality of a game designed to thrill its viewers with 0-0 slugfest ties just bothers me a little bit too much to enjoy all the “skill” that everyone keeps telling me is being displayed on the pitch.
But whether the rest of the world somehow finds a way to be entertained by incessant midfield passes or not, I don’t really care much about soccer. The fact is that it just doesn’t really affect me much. The MLS barely ever cracks the first three pages of sports sections, the WUSA is a distant memory and the World Cup, thank God, only invades highlight reels every four years.
The thing that really kills me is that at Wisconsin, a school smack-dab in the middle of America’s heartland, you can watch “the world’s most popular sport” but not America’s pastime. I understand the Title IX drivel that predicates the University of Wisconsin’s lack of baseball, and, while I certainly don’t buy into that, I also don’t see why baseball would be the logical first cut.
Could we not just take all the money and scholarships that UW doles out to its men’s soccer squad and reapportion it to baseball? Not having a team, while fans at every other Big Ten school (yes, even Northwestern) take their baseball-viewing pleasure for granted, is just plain embarrassing.
1) Bo Ryan’s rants: So, Bo, you and your friend from high school used to sneak onto Penn’s campus to shoot late-night hoops? Arthritis can be funny some times? The company that makes buzzers for college hoops is a good stock option to pick up? Diet Coke feels all warm and fuzzy in your stomach?
Didn’t I ask about Alando Tucker’s injury status?
There may not be a better nonsensical tangent monger than the quirky Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s head coach. Bo’s stories are, unwaveringly, hilarious. But I have a feeling he could actually tell us all a bit about something we care about — basketball — if he tried.