Sep. 11, 2013
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It borders on treason, but Frank missed the Packers' season-opener while vacationing in a country that does NOT care about the NFL. The Observers will get back to Wisconsin's supreme interest next week; meanwhile here are some topics that had landed on the back burners...


Item: The Bucks stay active.

Frank: What do you think of the Bucks landing Caron Butler?

Artie: Excellent move! They still needed depth at small forward and this guy can still play at 33. And he's home-grown, a Racine guy.

F: By my count, this makes 11 guys on the 15-man roster who'll be new to the team this fall, including three welcome-backs in Carlos Delfino, Luke Ridnour and Zaza Pachulia.

A: Why not? The bunch that got blown away by Miami in April was dysfunctional on and off the court.

F: Which Larry Sanders alluded to recently after signing his contract extension. He said, "A big team goal for me is unity, undeniable unity. The brotherhood that has been missing for a couple years, that is a key part of winning, I believe."

A: In retrospect, there sure wasn't any brotherhood in that Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis backcourt.

F: Sanders' extension, starting in 2014, is for $44 million over four years. Is he worth it?

A: Every long-term contract is a risk, but this doesn't seem extreme to me. Sanders had a breakout season, and big guys who are young and proven as shot-blockers and rebounders are rare.

F: I have some reservations about his volatility, in terms of drawing technical fouls.

A: Yeah, he gets a little testy on the court, but overall I think he has the right makeup as a teammate. This deal is a little like the Brewers' "leap of faith" with Carlos Gomez. That seems to be working out well, provided Gomez can reduce his collisions with outfield walls. I'd say Sanders is a good risk.

F: Now, with all the roster changes, how about the view that the Bucks might actually hurt themselves by being too good next season? That is, good enough for another low seeding in the playoffs but thereby missing the lottery in what is supposed to be a loaded 2014 draft.

A: There are teams that are in total rebuilding mode and basically writing off next season, like the 76ers and Celtics. But I think Herb Kohl and John Hammond have to try to make the Bucks pretty competitive now. There's been too much losing already for a dozen years. And you can't deliberately "tank" when there's going to be a push for a new arena. The fans won't accept that.

F: And really, next year's team could be a real scrappy, high-energy bunch that's fun to watch. A lot like the squad that surged to the playoffs in the spring of 2010. But is that enough to break out of the Bucks' 21st-century cycle—battling to get above .500, making a quick exit in the playoffs, then falling back again?


Item: UWM basketball heads back downtown.

F: Talk about a “no brainer.” The Panthers all but disappeared last season when they left the U.S. Cellular Arena and played on campus at the Klotsche Center.

A: I doubt it's a coincidence that the school just got a new athletic director, Amanda Braun, who succeeded that fossil from Ohio State that they had as an interim guy.

F: Andy Geiger, who served a year starting in May of '12.

A: And his crowning achievement was moving the games to the Klotsche? Who hired that guy in the first place?

F: The move was supposed to be the first step in building a new multi-purpose arena on campus. But UWM got nailed when Horizon League hoops took a big hit with Butler's departure for greener pastures. Now Braun says the first priority is to build a new practice facility on campus.

A: I heard there were complaints about parking for the Klotsche games, which is nothing new for that whole UWM area.

F: Plus there are hardly the options for pre- or post-game dining that there are Downtown. And I'd guess the students would prefer the, um, partying options on Water Street or wherever.

A: And besides all that, the Arena is just a much better facility.

F: We all remember what a great place it was for MU and Bucks games before the 11,000-ish capacity became outdated for those programs. And after renovations the facility is a lot cleaner and brighter.

A: If the Panthers can become a power—even in a down-scaled Horizon—the place could be hoppin' like it was in the Bruce Pearl era.

F: One reason for the return was that UWM got a lot better deal on rent from the Wisconsin Center District. And why not? It's better to have the facility in use than just sitting there for much of the winter.

A: There are only so many Zig Ziglar motivational seminars you can schedule.


Item: Where are the top foes going?

F: Did you notice Wisconsin's ridiculous Big Ten football schedules for 2014 and '15? In each of those seasons, the Badgers will NOT be playing Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State.

A: Boy, I can smell those national championships right now.

F: The reason, apparently, is that the rejiggered Big Ten division system that starts in '14 will have all four of those teams in the East while the Badgers will be in the West.

A: Instead of those goofy “Legends” and “Leaders” names.

F: But still, there have to be “crossover” games, and in '14 and '15 those opponents will be the conference newcomers, Maryland and Rutgers.

A: I suppose if you're looking for the Badgers to stomp someone, those patsies will be fine. But I like to watch UW play the best!

F: Which will happen again, but not until '16, when the Big Ten goes to nine conference games instead of eight. That year UW will play Michigan, MSU and OSU, but in '17 it will be only the Wolverines.

A: I'm starting to get a headache.

F: What all this tells me is that for all the Big Ten blather about traditions and rivalries, the divisional system has always been about one thing: the television money that a conference title game produces.

A: It's probably the same way for a lot of teams, losing games against big-time opponents because of how East-West will set up.

F: I guess Nebraska will become the new Ohio State for UW, since the Cornhuskers will be on the schedule every year.

A: And if the Badgers make the league title game, they're almost sure to face the Buckeyes, Wolverines or Spartans.

F: But why not make sure some of those big-time matchups happen more often than once every three or four years?

A: I'll tell you, I have absolutely zero interest in seeing the Badgers play Rutgers or Maryland.

F: Even though they're probably guaranteed W's?

A: Yeah, but if the Badgers' chances for a national playoff come down to computer rankings, lopsided wins over lousy opponents might actually hurt them.

F: And I supposed that even in a playoff format, which begins with four teams in 2014, there will be rankings and tiebreakers involved. Now, if you want to see the Badgers against the best, they'll face LSU in '14 and '16, the second game at Lambeau Field. And mark your date book for Sept. 5, 2015. That's when they'll take on Alabama in Dallas.

A: Of course by then it might be a 'Bama team that's lost 15 scholarships and is banned from the post-season because of stuff they did to win the last two national titles.


Item: Look who's got a theme song.

F: After our item on ex-Brewer Izzy Alcantara a few weeks ago, something remarkable came up at my weekly visit to Paddy's Pub.

A: Izzy was there? Oh man, if I missed a chance to meet him...

F: No, but as I was telling one of my friends about Izzy's 2001 karate-kicking of a catcher as a minor-leaguer, another friend said, “There was a song we used to sing as kids called, 'Whose Izzy Is He?'”

A: They don't name 'em like that anymore.

F: My friend went to her “smart phone” and found a YouTube rendition of the song, which goes back to the '20s. Here's the first verse:


Whose Izzy is he? Is he yours or is he mine?

I'm getting dizzy over Izzy all the time.

He said that he'd be true to me.

I should have got a guarantee.

Whose Izzy is he? Is he yours or is he mine?


A: Not exactly a Sinatra standard, ain'a? But it sure would have been a natural for Alcantara's “up to bat” song.

F: The “dizzy” part sure seems to fit Mr. Alcantara, particularly his defensive skills, or lack of them, in the outfield.

A: Boy, Izzy must have had a lousy agent. He could have landed Izzy one of those lawyer commercials: “Don't drop the ball like I do, make the call.” Or better yet, a commercial for Stein Optical!

F: It also would have helped if Izzy had lasted more than 16 games with the Brewers.


Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek would love a contract extension.

The Sports section of the Shepherd Express is brought to you by Miller Time Pub.