Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 5/13/2013 11:00am
Dear friends and gentle hearts,
This is the last regularly-scheduled No Pepper Games I will write for this website.
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a sports columnist to separate himself from the blog which has so graciously hosted his musings for the last two years, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind state that the guy ought to state the whyfore that he's giving himself the heave-ho.
Some months back, an out-of-state professional opportunity was dropped in the water in front of me, and I; large-mouth bass that I am, clamped down hard on the hook and am now flopping around in a Styrofoam cooler far from home.
Madison is not an easy town to say goodbye to. They say it's 77 square miles surrounded by reality. Let me report from the outside that "reality" looks a lot like the parking lot of a Red Lobster.
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 4/1/2013 10:55am
It is a brisk northern wind that chills us. Blowing down from Canada at 250 kilometers per hour, which translates to about 30 litres per second, or 90 footballfields per scoville unit. It sure doesn't feel like Spring.
It should. It's Opening Day. The Brewers open the season 6 1/2 games behind St. Louis. There just aren't the arms in the rotation to expect much this year. Even the old Milwaukee Braves rotation mantra: "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" doesn't hold true under a retractable roof. Now it's "Yovani Gallardo and pray for tornado."
There should be basketball excitement, but there isn't around these parts. In college hoops, Marquette was smothered by Syracuse's defense, a Cinderella story turned to Desdemona. As for the Badgers' brief blip in the tourney, Mrs. Van Lingle said it reminded her of our wedding night.
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 3/18/2013 11:00am
How does the Cinderella story end?
Cinderella, you'll recall, became an orphan when she lost her starting point guard at the beginning of the season. Still, with a lot of heart, stifling defense, and spunky pluck, she persevered all season long.
One day, an invitation came to a dance. Cinderella's ugly stepsisters, Michigan and Indiana, didn't want her to go to the dance. Friendly woodland creatures, like mice and birds and Sam Dekker came off the bench to help Cinderella. However, to get a date with the Big Ten Championship trophy, our heroine would have to get past their wicked stepmother from Columbus, Ohio. This, sadly, is where our fairy tale ends.
The coach turned back into a pumpkin at 11:52:57pm.
With 7:03 left in the second half of the Big Ten Championship game, Sam Dekker hit a layup to give the Badgers a 41-39 lead over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
It was the 13th lead change of the game.
It was the last field goal the Badgers would make for the evening. Seven scoreless minutes are not usually a problem for Bo Ryan's Badgers. This is a team that has its shot clock measured by the UW Geology Department. The problem comes when the opposition ends the game on a 9 -2 run.
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 3/4/2013 12:00pm
There are no professional sports in Madison.
We have the Badgers. We bask in the reflected glow from Milwaukee and Green Bay, but we have no professional sports teams to call our own. Even our baseball team is naught but a collection of unpaid college kids.
What a thrill it was, then, sitting here at my desk on the 47th floor of the Dane101 building to get the press release telling me that the Capitol City will finally be getting a professional sports team. My old heart palpitated as I read. What would it be? Could it be minor league hockey? Single-A baseball? Cricket? Rugby? What professional team sport will be gracing our fair isthmus?
Some charlatans calling themselves the "American Ultimate Disc League" are going to charge money for a "sport" they're passing off as "professional ultimate Frisbee."
What manner of hempen eco-vegan foolery is this?
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 2/18/2013 11:30am
I have logged a few years on this earth, and this gives me the right to be cranky. A lot makes me cranky today. Charles Woodson and Donald Driver have gone on to that land where the ex-Packers go. The Brewers are in camp, which should be cause for rejoicing. They finally have two healthy knees at first base. One belongs to Mat Gamel, and the other to Corey Hart.
But of all the things making me cranky today, none is more irritating than this nonsense about "Presidents' Day." Today is George Washington's birthday.
By that I mean to say that if one reckons days according to Pope Gregory XIII, this coming Friday is George Washington's birthday. If one reckons like the Romans, George Washington's birthday was a week ago. In Washington's lifetime, there was a switch of the calendars, and there was some confusion about his birthday for the rest of his life. It does no credit to his Republic that his holiday was declared on a Monday, which cannot mathematically happen on either of his actual birthdays.
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 2/4/2013 1:23pm
I pull into my local watering hole last night at about 5:20 p.m. to pay proper homage to the most quintessential of all American sporting spectacles--the Super Bowl.
I park myself on a barstool just in time to see a children's choir sing "America The Beautiful." I announce to the bar that I loathe children, especially when they sing in a mob, and I am instantly given the stink-eye by every patron.
The bartender tells me sharply that these kids are from Sandy Hook Elementary and that I should shut up and show some respect. I shut up. I know how my local watering hole can get when things turn ugly.
It's then that I notice a strange man in antique finery on the stool next to me. I do a double-take, and sure enough, it's Alexis De Tocqueville, author of the famed "De la démocratie en Amérique," an 1835 book where he tried to explain the New World to his fellow Europeans. I remember it well from grammar school. We read it in the first edition. I am surprised to see him.
He explains that America has changed so much that he's been sent back to update the book. He is worried, he says, about the soul of the young pioneer nation he witnessed all those years ago.
Post by dane101 on 1/22/2013 5:30pm
The second bout of the Mad Rollin' Dolls roller derby season saw the Vaudeville Vixens pull off an upset against the Quad Squad and the Reservoir Dolls fall just shy of beating out visiting Windy City team the Hell's Belles, Jan. 19 at the Coliseum.
The Vixens hadn't won a game in just over a season, but clawed their way into the lead toward the end of the bout with impressive displays of both tight defense and some scrappy jamming. Sugalumps in particular showed off serious agility with a handful of apex jumps that left the Quad Squad's blockers in her dust.
In the end it was Vaudeville Vixens 253, Quad Squad 242.
The Windy City Rollers sent in one of their home teams, Hell's Belles, to face off against MRD's own Reservoir Dolls - who held off the interlopers until the last jam, when the women in red pulled into a slim lead and sealed the deal.
Final score was Reservoir Dolls 207, Hell's Belles 215.
Dane101 photographer Janet Campbell (@janetlcampbell) was on hand to document the action. The full gallery is available on Facebook.
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 1/21/2013 12:03pm
Despair, Packer fans. Weep, ye scions of Green Bay.
Yesterday, we endured a depressingly Packerless NFC Championship game, and while the game was an entertaining spectacle, the whirling nothingness we face leaves our faces long and our hearts hollow. The void is made worse by the sight of a celebrating Colin Kaepernick. What a loathsome specimen is Kaepernick, a strutting popinjay whose signature move is to kiss his own risible, prolix biceps.
It will be a long time until football matters again.
Basketball will not matter until the playoffs, when the resurgent Bucks earn the right to be flattened by Miami in Round One. The most entertaining part of the hockey season is over. Now the lawyers have stopped bickering and we're subjected to the drudgery of the actual games.
Pitchers and catchers will not report to camp for another month. The Hall Of Fame voting, despite a ballot with names like Bonds, Piazza, Clemens, and Sosa, yielded precisely zero inductees. In the meantime, Cooperstown's halls were diminished by two passings. Stan Musial swung a sweet stick the Cardinals for two decades, and played a mean harmonica to boot. As for the late Earl Weaver, I'd like to think that when the Grim Reaper came that there was a spittle-filled, profanity-laden screaming match and that dear old Earl kicked a mountain of dirt on Death's bony feet before he finally stormed off the field for the last time.
This is a blank and lonely time of year.
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 1/7/2013 3:52pm
This was a blessedly drama-free weekend. There have been fireworks at Casa Van Lingle before when playoff schedules conflicted with Downton Abbey. It is for the good of all that the Packers played on Saturday and the Crawleys played on Sunday.
Of the two events, the Packers game offered a lot less drama. The Packers took a lead midway through the first quarter that they never relinquished. There was no more tension than the Harlem Globetrotters playing the Washington Generals.
The only person for whom the night was memorable was the Vikings backup quarterback, Poor Joe Webb.
There is a nightmare, as old as the human mind. The lights are on. The crowds are in their seats. There you stand, sans trousers, upon the unforgiving stage. You do not know your lines. You cannot sing. The restless crowd begins to boo.
You and I, spectators that we are, can awaken and escape these dreams.
Poor Joe Webb cannot. A few short hours before kickoff, the Vikings backup quarterback learned that he was to go on in place of Christian Ponder. There was bursitis in Ponder's elbow. There were headlights in Webb's eyes.
Poor Joe Webb, who hadn't thrown a pass in an NFL game in over a year, was tossed into the Lambeau maelstrom. He flailed. He floundered. He sputtered, choked, and coughed. Poor Joe Webb will remember this game long after it's a footnote for the rest of us.
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 12/24/2012 12:18pm
The crowd holds its breath. TV cameras focus. Careers, money, fame hang in the balance. An athlete prepares to do - the thing.
Somewhere in early childhood this athlete showed the magic genes, gift of the sporting Gods, and since that time, the athlete has prepared to do - the thing.
Dates have been missed. Schoolwork sloughed off. Friendships broken. Hours spent in weight rooms and on tracks. So much sacrifice in service of - the thing.
The thing may be putting a golf ball. The thing may be running 1,500 meters. The thing may be pitching a baseball. The thing may be kicking a leather ball between two uprights.
This pursuit of the thing is the lifelong quest for these athletes. Like all good quest tales, there are demons. Some athletes bring their own inner demons, some have them supplied by grasping parents and martinet coaches. Sometimes, the demons arrive unannounced and unbidden.
The thing no longer works. Short putts roll wayward. Free throws sail off course. Pitches go wild. Field goals clank off uprights. Neurologists call it "focal dystonia." Golfers call it "the yips."
No mantra will soothe the yips. No amount of extra practice will work them away. Once sighted, the yips rarely disappear for good.