So is Roger Goodell going to be fired as NFL commissioner because of the Ray Rice fiasco? Put it this way: If none of the transgressions of the rouges gallery of NFL owners (Wilf, Irsay, Haslem, Snyder, Richardson, Davis, Jones et. al) were worthy of Goodell’s sanction, it was probably because he knew he would need their support when the time came that one day he would come under fire. And Goodell has plenty of chits to call upon considering the behavior of the aforementioned. As much as some may want him to go, he’s staying put.
Speaking of the NFL, every Friday during the season teams put out a report saying who’s injured, who can play and who can’t. The reason for this is to prevent the kind of childish, bush league games that University of Wisconsin head football coach Gary Andersen engaged in immediately after and at least 72 hours after the Badgers blew a 24-7 second-half lead and lost to LSU 28-24. It may well be Andersen was trying to “protect” players from various questions about their health statuses but it was done in such a ham-handed and duplicitous manner that it only invited more questions and allowed rumors to spread about player revolts and halftime lockerroom arguments to bubble above the surface because of the lack of straight answers coming from the top. In fact, the situation got so bad that Andersen had to take back the very press release he helped author about quarterback Joel Stave which in truth, wasn’t technically inaccurrate at all (He’s injured – mentally or physically it doesn’t matter – and not he’s not playing, period.) College coaches make media mistakes and even Barry Alvarez had his fair share of them, especially when he first started. Andersen, however, is not a new coach and should have realized he’s not in Utah anymore when comes to media coverage at Wisconsin. I’m sure there are many continued learning and post-graduate courses that deal public relations and the media at the UW over the winter and summer semesters. It would be a good idea Andersen enroll in one so he doesn’t subject his program to another unecessary, stupid and Mortonesque media fiasco. “I don’t know” is not a good way for a coach, or anyone in charge of anything for that matter, to answer a question.
And yet despite such a fiasco, the Badgers may still be the best team in the Big Ten. That doesn’t say much for the league (as one witnessed last weekend) but it does say if UW quarterback Tanner McEvoy continues to improves, as does the Badger wide outs, and if the defense stays healthy, Wisconsin has a good schedule to run the table with until the Big Ten Championship game. If LSU, perhaps the fifth-best team in the SEC, does just as well, then Wisconsin is still in the conversation for the new national championship playoff believe it or not. After all, UW led 24-7 and lost by four despite injuries to its best running back, two starting defensive linemen and former starting quarterback. Had it not been for Andersen’s media incompetence, that could have been and should have been the narrative for Wisconsin’s play in the national press. Instead it was “I don’t know why my Heisman trophy candidate didn’t have the ball much in the second half.”
Same old, same old with the Packers? It sure had to feel this way the last few weeks first starting with the season-ending injury to defensive lineman B.J. Raji and then a beatdown by a better team in a nationally televised game, in this case the Seattle Seahawks. Players get hurt and Green Bay can’t get past good teams. Well, the Packers still have a full season still ahead to change perceptions about them. At least they have enough back-up QBs on the team this season. They’ve got that going for them if nothing else.
Will the Vikings be better than people think? Minnesota sure showed they looked vastly improved, albeit against the Rams. Much is going to depend on whether the young defense learns quickly and stays healthy. If the Vikes’ offense can just maintain a level of competency compared to years past then Minnesota will certainly be better than last season. Pre-season games may well be meaningless but they’re a great way to building a winning mentality for a team desperately needing one and that summed the Vikings in a nutshell going into this season. Going 8-8 isn’t much but’s a nice floor for expectations to start at.
Will the University of Minnesota football team be better than people expect? From a personnel standpoint they’re one of the top teams in the Big Ten, or at least the Western Division, especially on defense and special teams. They have an established running game and good potential at receiver. But the fact the Gophers are struggling to throw the football, even with a veteran quarterback like Mitch Leidner (both of the U’s first two opponents outgained them in total offense), has to give the U cause for concern. That cause becomes even greater when Leidner went down with a knee injury and nothing but freshmen to back him up. A great deal of responsiblity for the U’s fortune this season was placed on his shoulders. If he’s hurt and or not effective, then what potential on paper the Gophers have may not matter. Depth with this ballclub, especially when opponents find it easy to score on the Gophs’ back-ups in the fourth quarter, is also a major concern. Any rash of injuries and this team would be devestated.
It’s rebuilding round three for the Minnesota Timberwolves as the post-Kevin Love Era begins this season. The question is whether the new young talent coming in can mesh together well into a cohesive unit, not jsut among themselves but also with their remaining teammates. Young and exciting is nice but losses are losses and they will mount for the T-Wolves this season considering the conference they play in and the youth on their roster. With Minnesota this season, one must not pay attention until late February and early March of 2015 to see if the team is starting to jell and if past mistakes have been learned. If so, then the future is bright. If not, well, more parts may need to be ordered.
Forget about the playoffs, the Brewers are in danger of not having even a winning season unless they dramatically turn around their fortunes after such fortunes were turned around 180 degrees these past two and half weeks. If even a seasoned writer like Charlie Pierce can’t figure out what’s wrong with the team after watching them play recently, it’s hard to fashion the players or manager Ron Roenicke putting their finger on it either no matter how many team meetings they have. Injuries to Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun could be explanations for struggles on offense, but to watch the pitching staff impode to at the same time is truly baffling. One baseball writer said at the beginning of the season (which I quoted back in the spring) this was a team with fourth-place talent. Maybe that talent is finally starting to catch up after months of playing over-their-heads. Thus, Brewers fans are going through the cruelest part of the sport: successful logevity means nothing when the time comes to produce results. If indeed Milwaukee misses the playoffs (and Roenicke will be fired if that happens) and stumbles to the .500 mark or below, it will be one of the worst collapses in the sport’s history. Not even the infamous 1969 Chicago Cubs team fell so far, so fast.
Since Sept. 1, major league baseball teams can expand their rosters and most teams, especially the bad ones, have been calling up their best prospects to see if they can play in the majors. The Twins’ record since then is 3-6. At 62-84, Minnesota is heading to its fourth straight 90-loss season. But if there’s but one reason to watch this team in the remaining weeks of the season, it’s to see if these prospects can prevent that from happening. If they can, then there’s reason to hope in 2015.
Requiem im Pacem Bob Suter. Olympian, gold medalist, national champion, UW star, pro, you were all those things and more. No one better personified East-Side hockey in Madison than you did.