In A-side/B-side, two Milwaukee Record writers tackle various city issues in an informal, crosstalk style. Insults are hurled, feelings are hurt, and everyone learns something in the end. Maybe.
Vince Morales: Here’s a question for you, Tyler: Who carries the torch in Wisconsin sports? Ours is a state that is known for its fandom and borderline obsession with our local teams. That love of the home teams often leads to the stars of those teams being treated like capital-G Gods. (Until they are traded or drop a crucial third down pass.) It’s these icons that drive the Wisconsin sports machine, but who is the best of them? Who is the one that stands above the others?
To answer this question, I’ve narrowed down the list to six candidates, two from each of our major sports team. College athletes come and go, but contracted athletes stay a bit longer. Those heroes are:
• Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks — The high draft pick with the Duke pedigree. He is the physical manifestation of the “future” in the Bucks’ never-ending “Own The Future” campaign. He is definitely the guy on this list that your parents want you to pick.
• Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers — Local boy done
• Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers — His flowing blonde locks and glistening muscles seem better fit for the cover of a romance novel than a game day program. He is the object of much desire and sexual fantasies among fans.
• Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers — The former golden boy-turned-big bad jerk who ruined everything-turned-steadying presence who we kind of want to stay. We love him because no one else will, but also because our options are pretty limited now that Lucroy is gone and the team is rebuilding.
• Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers — He’s the only Super Bowl champion and NFL MVP on this list, which gives him something like 50,000 points in his favor, but his hold on the crown feels less sure that it has in the past.
• Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks — Fun and excitement personified. He definitely has the most upside of anyone on this list as he is still just 21 years old, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be an NBA Star. Plus, there’s that whole thing with the Bucks still being bad.
In my mind, the person who carries the sport torch is the one who instills pride in the fanbase. The guy who, win or lose, keeps you connected and feeling hopeful. When fans from other teams start teasing you about all of their championships you can say, “Yeah, but at least we have ___.” Who do you say? Who is the one that makes you proud to root for these teams?
Tyler Maas: This distinction seems to routinely get injected into sports talk radio shows and discussions and awkward family gatherings alongside such gripping topics as Olivia Munn being a distraction, the assembly of a multi-era all-[insert franchise] team, and heated arguments as to whether a 20-something millionaire’s physical anomalies make him “scrappy” or a “gamer.”
In Wisconsin, though, this reheated debate has been more cut and dry than in many other sports markets. Throughout the 1980s, Robin Yount seemed like the obvious choice, as the Brewers enjoyed success—at least by the organization’s standards—while the Packers floundered and the Bucks were hit and miss. Just as Yount was leaving baseball and plotting his lemonade empire, Brett Favre rose to prominence, assuming the unofficial distinction for roughly 15 years until Aaron Rodgers took over under center and in the hearts of Wisconsin. Maybe Ryan Braun wore the crown in 2008. Maybe. But since winning a Super Bowl, the Wisconsin sports crown has been Rodgers’ to lose.
However, Wisconsin gets behind a winner, and at 4-4 with five seasons (and counting) since he last hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, the tides could be changing. Still, the Bucks aren’t quite ready to compete for a title yet and the Brewers are (finally!) in the throes of a full rebuild. If John Kuhn still played in Wisconsin, this would be settled. Dude might even still win as a write-in candidate. Sadly, it’s not that easy. If only Aaron Ripkowski had a touchdown on his career stat line! Back to the drawing board. The list you gave is pretty good. It’s not exactly the one I’d go with, but close. Instead of, like, looking up stats like some kind of dweeb, I’m going to run through the candidates you laid out before arriving at my chosen winner.
• Scooter Gennett — Nope. As far Brewers runner-up honors are concerned, it’s probably going to Jonathan Lucroy, since many casual fans don’t even know he was traded last year. Or Hank The Dog.
• Jabari Parker — He’s a great piece on an exciting young Bucks team and seems to be extremely likeable, but he’s only played one full season as a part of what’s historically been the state’s third most popular pro sports team. Plus he’s from Chicago and played for Duke, at least one of which automatically disqualifies him in the eyes of many of his Badger State contingent.
• Ryan Braun — Don’t you mean Ryan FRAUD? That “trader” lost my vote when he roided, which tasks me with potentially having a tough conversation with my (yet-unborn) children…assuming my (yet-unmarried) wife wants them to watch sports. But seriously, he’s been consistently productive, yet it’s tough anoint a king whose salary accounts for about half the payroll of a team that just finished 16 games below .500.
• Clay Matthews — Between his injury-riddled past and the fact that Mike Daniels seems to have quietly usurped the role of defensive leader lately, Matthews and his distinct blonde locks make him a great league ambassador and apt pitchman, not the God of Wisconsin sports.
• Giannis Antetokounmpo — Though I wish it wasn’t the case, most of Wisconsin has yet to adopt the Bucks into their collective sports programming. That’s slowly changing, and Giannis—easily one of the most exciting (and lovable) players in the NBA—is a huge part of that. Someday, the point guard/power forward/center’s development could make him the placeholder, but that will probably come after the Bucks win a title…and the lengthy epoch of Packers winning ends, then linger listlessly for a few seasons.
• Aaron Rodgers — As long as he’s relatively effective, the Packers remain at least somewhat competitive, and he continues to be the smiling and charming face of the state’s most popular team, this title is Rodgers’ to lose. Save for Matthews, he’s also the only player you suggested who won a title, which renders him unforgettable. If you ask me, Rodgers’ remains Wisconsin Sports God until he either plays for another team and/or any in-state pro franchise wins a championship. And even then, there’d better be a clear-cut star in said team’s ranks. But maybe I’m alone in my thoughts on this. What do you think, Vince?
Vince Morales: I’m not going to defend Scooter Gennett, but I will say that when I go to games that he gets one of the biggest ovations for his first at-bat. He has captured a little part of the hearts and minds of Brewers fans and for that he deserves consideration. The same can be said about Clay Matthews, who is probably not the same player he used to be. That sort of thing doesn’t really matter when he’s the only jersey you own. Anyway, fuck these guys.
If we were to overthink this with statistics, playoff appearances and championships won, then it wouldn’t really be an A-side/B-side, would it? It’d just be a one-sided conversation about the Packers in alternating green and gold letters, with pictures of Brett Favre and little hearts all over it. I have to be honest when I say that I am really sick of that being the only thing people seem to find important around here. Let’s see what else is out there before we go with the obvious answer. Again.
You’re probably right about Ryan Braun. He may be the Brewers all-time home run leader, third in RBI, third in steals, second in batting average and second in OPS, but he’s still that guy who did that awful thing. You know, he’ll be appreciated far more after he’s gone, and that could be any day now. He could be the greatest Brewer ever, but some fans won’t give a shit when he leaves.
Jabari Parker is someone you say is “seems extremely likable,” but if he’s so likable, then why is there an entire Reddit thread dedicated to the question of whether or not he has any friends? Which brings me down to two: Giannis and (It’s) Aaron, who could really be two sides of the same coin.
There was a time when Aaron Rodgers was the young guy who made the game look fun, who had all the potential in the world, the flashy moves and the cool championship belt. He had so much promise and he delivered on that promise by winning the Super Bowl. Then he started dating an attractive celebrity whose mere existence made him stop winning, he sold his championship belt to State Farm, and let his little brother go on a reality show to say that he doesn’t talk to him. Life comes at you fast.
With Giannis, all that stuff is still in the future. Now, he’s just the kid who makes the game (and life) seem fun. He also makes the impossible seem possible as he does things that we never imagined we could see on a basketball court. The Bucks are still rebuilding, but Giannis gives you a reason to watch every night, and never leaves you feeling regret about doing so. That’s something that definitely can’t be said about the 2016 Packers.
A win for Giannis wouldn’t only be a win for him, but a win for the future of Wisconsin sports. We should cherish fun and freak athleticism over violence. We shouldn’t have to be inundated with concussed giants shorting each other’s lifespans every time we turn on our favorite sports. Sports are an outlet for us to ignore the inevitably of death. Shouldn’t that outlet be fun? You’ve all had a great time with Aaron Rodgers and I’m sure he’ll still be there for you when you need him, but it’s time we all take a step back from football and look towards the future. Giannis is that future. Who cares if you can’t spell his last name without Google? A lot of people can’t do a lot of things without Google.
Tyler: Debates like this are part of what make sports so great. We may never see eye to eye, but that’s fine, since there’s no single correct pick and the decision really has no real impact on our day-to-day lives. Plus the more star players who are vying against one another for Wisconsin athlete supremacy can only signal better times for sports in our state. All that said, you’re wrong and Aaron Rodgers is still number one.