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The Fairly Detached Observers

Jan. 28, 2009
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All great partnerships can benefit from occasional times of separation. And so can the Observers, or at least half of them.

Frank: There’s been big football news since we last met, but I’ll need help with details. As you may have heard, I recently spent some time in California.

Artie: Oh yeah, I got a clue from the dozen phone calls when you rhapsodized about the 70-degree sunshine while the City of Festivals was frozen solid at minus-200 or so.

Frank: I knew you’d be happy for me.

Artie: My favorite was when you called from the outdoor swimming pool.

Frank: That was my favorite call, too. I was at Stanford University and got to use their 50-meter pool. My Olympic-length debut!

Artie: So now you have visions of competing at London 2012?

Frank: Well, you tell me. To a guy used to 25-yard pools, this one looked like an ocean. I went 800 meters, for which the world record is about 7 1/2 minutes. I did it in about 27, so I can proudly say I’m less than four times slower. Or is it more than 25% as fast?

Artie: I’ve never figured out that Commie metric system, but I think you’d better shoot for 2016. But then I don’t know much about swimming, except every month when I pay my rent and see if my head’s still above water.

Frank: Anyway, because I was having outdoor fun in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Monterey, I missed the NFL conference championships and the Packers’ change of defensive arithmetic from 4-3 to 3-4 by hiring Dom Capers as coordinator. What’s that mean?

Artie: Essentially, you need three really big linemen to take up space and stop the run. And four very good linebackers— the insiders helping stop the run, the outsiders rushing the quarterback, but all of them needing to defend against passes, too.

Frank: Isn’t stopping the run something the Packers couldn’t do with four linemen?

Artie: Seems like the Pack is short on players that fit the 3-4. What are they gonna do with Aaron Kampman, their best pass rusher? Do they move him from end to outside linebacker, and if they do can he drop back and cover anybody?

Frank: And on the line, apparently you need not just one huge Gilbert Brown type, but three?

Artie: Yup, basically three tackles, with some speed a plus. Cullen Jenkins, who missed most of this season, could fill that role. And Ryan Pickett, who’s like 330 pounds, takes up space. As for the linebackers, the current bunch never seemed to be able to cover anybody this season. The other teams’ tight ends were always open.

Frank: We were saying that in April they’d better draft linemen and more linemen, on both sides of the ball. Now it’s linemen, linemen and linebackers.

Artie: Trouble is, linemen are a priority for most other teams.

Frank: I guess Mike McCarthy thinks the world of Capers, hiring him even though it means completely revamping the defense.

Artie: What do they have to lose? The defense was lousy this season. I figure it can’t get any worse. Plus, how can you go wrong with a name like Dom Capers? Sounds like a Gotham City crime lord, ain’a?

Super Selections

Frank: If the Cardinals win the Super Bowl, they’ll be the first team with seven losses to do it. The only other team that got this far after a 9-7 regular season was the Rams in January 1980.

Artie: The Cardinals have a chance, but I’m taking the Steelers. I can’t root for anything from Arizona. Who lives there? Rich white people who used to live somewhere else, and now they’ve given up their hometown teams and jumped on the Cardinals’ bandwagon. And that weather—”Yes, but it’s dry heat.” Right, it’s 116 but feels like 112—”Hey, where’s my sweater?” Screw Arizona!

Frank: I’m going with the Cardinals because it’s so off the wall that they’re in the big game.

Artie: Give me Steeltown. Tremendous defense—a 3-4 to boot—and how can you not root for a team from the Rust Belt?

Frank: One question for the Steelers is whether Hines Ward can play effectively, or at all, with his knee-ligament problem.

Artie: He really didn’t play much in the Baltimore game, and they were able to plug in for him. I just think that defense will drive Kurt Warner crazy.

Frank: If he can get the ball away, Larry Fitzgerald is just a fabulous receiver. I’m pulling for the Cardinals for the hell of it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers shut them down.

Artie: Pittsburgh, by at least one point. Take that to Vegas.

Princely Sum, Glaring Void

Artie: Now with Michael Redd out for the rest of the year, the Bucks’ oncepromising season seems over. So let’s talk some baseball: How about Prince Fielder’s new contract?

Frank: Two years, $18 million. I guess the Brewers save a little money from what he might have gotten through arbitration this year and next, and Prince gets his first guaranteed fortune, which should make him happier here.

Artie: For as long as that might be. I think they’ll move him before the contract is up.

Frank: He doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2011 season, so I think the decision time will be two years from now.

Artie: To me, Fielder’s most valuable quality is that he’s a left-handed bat, the only one in the starting lineup. It

so happens that Mat Gamel, the big minor-league prospect, hits lefty, too. My advice to the Brewers: Start Gamel’s transition from third base to first, pronto. And sooner or later, send Prince to San Francisco for pitcher Matt Cain. Who’s more of a Giant than Prince?

Frank: Have you given up on Tim Lincecum, the Cy Young Award winner?

Artie: OK, Prince for Cain and Lincecum. I thought that might sound greedy. But here’s something that’s not greedy: Wanting the Miller Park Walk of Fame to add a couple of names, for cripes’ sakes! It didn’t happen last year and it won’t happen this year, thanks to the latest vote tally.

Frank: Yeah, that’s odd, with all the former Brewers and Braves who deserve it.

Artie: As a guy who grew up with the Braves, I simply say Joe Adcock, Lew Burdette, Del Crandall, Johnny Logan. None of them got enough votes for a sidewalk plaque outside the stadium.

Frank: And former Brewers on the ballot included Mike Caldwell, Charlie Moore, Ben Oglivie and Pete Vuckovich. All stars on the only Brewers team to reach the World Series.

Artie: How about the only Series ever won by a Milwaukee team? Burdette won three games in ‘57 when we beat the hated Yankees.

Frank: The voters are local media members and Brewers personnel. I’ve seen reports that “about 100” people are eligible to vote, but this time there were only 42 returned ballots. Burdette got 31 votes, one short of the 75% needed. Adcock and Teddy Higuera got 26, Vuckovich and Oglivie 22.

Artie: Who the hell are these voters? I know I didn’t get my ballot.

Frank: Higuera getting more votes than any 1982 guy makes me think the voters skew a bit young. Maybe a lot of them never saw the ‘82 Brewers, let alone the Braves. But you’d think they know at least some of the history.

Artie: And just what does “media members” mean? Hey, Alex Sanchez actually got one vote. Please don’t tell me that the gal who makes the coffee at WLUM gets a vote while Art Kumbalek— one-half of this town’s most respected sports-blather duo—does not.

Frank: Send both of us ballots next time. That’ll skew things older in a hurry.

Photo: Is there a position for Packers’ sack-leader Aaron Kampman in the new defense?

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