OPINION: A Decade of Hell?



For a variety of reasons, I have been reflecting on one of my favorite television show quotes in recent weeks.

“I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

The quote was uttered by The Office’s Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), but is applicable to the last few months for fans of the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers. In the last year, Bucks fans have weathered rumors of Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving before he ultimately signed an extension, Packers fans are living in 2008 all over again with the Aaron Rodgers saga and Brewers fans have dealt with regression from Christian Yelich from his MVP form.

All three instances are reminders of how fleeting success can be in sports. Expiring contracts, Father Time, injuries and disputes with management are inevitable obstacles on the road to sustained success.

As Giannis went down with a knee injury last week in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals, some were quick to contextualize their grief by saying it must be part of some overarching curse on Wisconsin sports. One Twitter post I saw circulating even listed it alongside other Brewers, Packers and Bucks shortcomings in championship games since 2010 and called the summary “the decade of hell.”

Most sentiments like this are being expressed by people under 30, but even as a member of that age demographic myself I do not feel tempted to use the same hyperbolic qualifiers. I was not around for the 70’s and 80’s Packers, the late 80’s and early 90’s Brewers or the early 90’s Bucks. One does not need that context in excruciating detail to appreciate what Giannis, Yelich and Rodgers have provided for the last decade.

One of my favorite teams I have ever followed was the 2011 Brewers. More than any other specific team or year following any other sport, that team undoubtedly made me fall in love with the sport of baseball. I tuned in nearly every night to watch Nyjer Morgan’s latest antics in center field, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder shadow boxing after home runs, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford shutting things down in the pen and the starting rotation led by Zack Greinke. That team ended up losing in the NLCS to the Cardinals, but that really has not taken away from all the fun I had following that team.

Wisconsin sports fans have undoubtedly had their share of championship shortcomings and letdowns, but focusing on that exclusively is an almost criminal level of entitlement. You know what truly is “hell” as a sports fan? Years of uncompetitive teams. Losing to hated rivals. No division titles. Watching the entire postseason play out without even an appearance by your team. No stars that can take over a game. Constant draft busts. Never sniffing the big game in the first place. Hell as a sports fan to me is all of these, and knowing management cannot do anything to change it. Ask a New York Jets or Cleveland Browns fan what hell in sports really looks like.

Wisconsin sports teams are not cursed, they are competitive, oftentimes out-punching their weight class. To boil down enjoyment of sports to championships won is to overlook a lot of “good old days” that can be few and far between.

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