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A little bit about me

…and also Bob Uecker, Brett Favre and Tom Crean

Jul. 1, 2008
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With this column, I am in an enviable situation where I can talk about Wisconsin sports with immunity. I do thank the folks at the Shepex for this window. I’ve covered the teams—pro, college and otherwise—for 15 years so it can’t be said I haven’t seen my share of the landscape. I’ve seen team managers, general managers, public relations and media managers come and go. I’ve been lucky to have off-the-record talks with coaches, stars, bench-warmers, Hall of Fame players. I’ve listened to jokes next to the batting cage told by Ken Griffey Jr., and have laughed at some risquokes offered by Gorman Thomas. I don’t aspire for a job in sports, so I can call them like I see them. I don’t proclaim to be a sports journalist, but rather more of a writer and observer. If I run off on a tangent, stay with me. It’s the extemporaneous nature of this column I hope will be fun.

There have been some great players, nice guys and real tools in this industry, both on the roster and in the front office. From time to time, I can freely comment on my experiences with them with no fear of damaging credibility, largely because I don’t have any. I know many of the radio and television personalities you watch daily. I have a head-nodding relationship with a lot of print guys, higher-ups with teams. They may not know my name, but my mug is lodged somewhere in their collective memory. Even Bob Uecker gives me his patented, “Hey buddy,” when he sees me. That should be interpreted as, “I’ve seen you around, but have no clue who you are and ultimately don’t care.”

That said, please don’t misinterpret my feelings for Uecker. Bob has always been one of the good guys. He signs autographs, has a razor sharp wit, especially during the national anthem, and anyone who knows him will tell you he’s as nice as they come. It would be hard to imagine anyone else in his seat. Say just part of his name and people automatically know who you’re talking about. Like Cher, Jordan or Prince. Wait, that could mean two people these days.

That large sucking sound you may have heard was the last vestige of true sports respect extracted from the puckered lungs of the great state of Wisconsin, the day Brett Favre retired. This isn’t a retirement akin to Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Cal Ripken or even Michael Jordan. I can’t recall one single man who meant more to the collective masses than Favre. He transcended sports, he was head and shoulders above politics, he was a common denominator. I was assigned to cover one of Favre’s first press conferences, after a win at the old and worn CountyStadium. Favre approached the podium armed with his trademark ear-to-ear grin. Bright eyed, and equipped with an excitement he never seemed to lose over his 17 year career. He didn’t just play the game, he lived the game. Each time he took the field we took the field with him. None of us have ever shared his sheer athletic gifts and mental toughness, but we nonetheless felt a part of him and ultimately his success. In some sense, his departure is like the loss of a family member. Like Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, I believe Favre would have played the game for food money. Who knows what he will decide to do. Last week a report had him looking to get back into the game with another team. His agent says Favre is just plain old tuckered out. Perhaps he’ll consider a career in broadcasting, a field in which he would be a wonderful breath of fresh air because you know he’ll call it like he sees it. I can’t imagine him going the political route, he’s far too genuine. Maybe he’ll do nothing. And he’s deserves every moment of doing nothing he desires. He’s the kind of guy I wish I could call a friend: funny, honest and a straight shooter to the core.


Was anyone truly surprised to learn of Marquette coach Tom Crean’s announcement he was leaving? I was for a moment, then immediately embraced the thought of a talented guy moving on to bigger pastures. Besides, he made no secret of the fact he was looking, you came to expect he had one eye on the bigger picture. It’s a fact he gave some stellar years to Marquette, resurrecting a rather moribund program into a respected contender. Crean wasn’t banging the cheerleaders, (as far as we know) or going out on drunken sprees on Water Street,(again, to the best of our knowledge.) He was about basketball, a throwback to a time when the game and student athletes were the focal point of the program. You can no more blame Crean for leaving than you would a co-worker for accepting a promotion. Granted, there is a little more emotion involved with a team and sports program, but it is a promotion nonetheless. I have some empathy for the new recruits who were undoubtedly hanging their hats and basketball futures with a coach they possibly liked, even admired. I don’t know how much a coach tells a potential recruit about the future. Maybe he tells them he could get canned or move on to another job, maybe he tells them he’s not going away until they cart him off on a stretcher, like Joe Paterno or Ray Meyer at DePaul. Either way, a new recruit must feel a bit disconnected or perhaps betrayed by the move. Marquette is a better program for having Crean for as long as they did—even if his departure may have some seeing Indiana red.

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