OPINION: Wisconsin Sports State of the Union
My fellow Wisconsinites, I come before you in the midst of trying times for fans, players and all who appreciate, participate and effectuate professional sports in Wisconsin.
Over the past year, the promise of spring quickly gave way to a cruel storm of pandemic, injustice and turmoil. In an instant as the COVID-19 pandemic made landfall in the United States, the NBA season heading towards the playoffs and MLB season about to get under way grinded to a halt.
For Bucks fans, that meant curtailing a dominant season in which Giannis Antetokounmpo appeared poised to not only repeat as MVP, but lead the top-seeded Milwaukee team to the NBA Finals. The prospect of hanging a banner in the Fiserv Forum as 17,341-plus fans roared their approval seemed less and less a pipe dream, and more and more an inevitably. After a more than four-month layoff where it looked as if the season wouldn’t continue, Disneyland proved to be where dreams are snuffed out rather than come true.
Christian Yelich and the Brewers likewise were just concluding their preparation for the 162-game grind with new pieces who could have found their footing at Miller Park under normal circumstances. They would not be afforded that luxury however, as an abridged and fanless season led to offensive struggles as the parking lot sat empty without even a whiff of a tailgate brat.
Green Bay gave Wisconsin a reason to cheer late into January once again, as the Packers brought much-needed optimism at a time when that seemed to be as hard to come by as a package of toilet paper. However, in what was emblematic of disappointments from the past decade in conference championship games, Green Bay came up short with a chance at playing for the Lombardi trophy on the line.
While 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered by some for what we did not get to see come to fruition as Wisconsin sports fans, I remain abundantly thankful for the experiences that were salvaged. We may not have been able to pack into Fiserv, but we got to see Giannis finish his second-consecutive MVP campaign. We also witnessed a Bucks team that rose to the challenges of our time, seeking reform and justice in the community they play for night-in and night-out.
There were no tailgates at Miller Park, but there were 62 games of Brewers baseball and a return to the playoffs for the third-straight year. Lambeau Field bleachers sat unoccupied for most of the NFL season, but Aaron Rodgers returned to MVP-caliber form while nearly taking Green Bay back to the Super Bowl. Athletes from each of these teams assumed tremendous risks to themselves and their families by playing this year. Their efforts to give us a taste of normal and keep their segment of the economic wheel turning should be met with deserved gratitude. Yelich and Antetokounmpo also made inspiring commitments to us in the form of their contract extensions, for which they deserve enthusiastic ovations.
Our sporting union remains strong, with ever-brighter days ahead. We have persisted through challenges, looked out for our neighbor and rooted for the home team from home.
May God bless us with a safe return to allowing fans at games, so we can get back to high-fiving strangers, rolling out the barrel, jumping around and having twice the fun in 2021.