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Aaron Rodgers isn't the only genius to play in Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
Aaron Rodgers isn't the only genius to play in Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

6 Wisconsin athletes who are smarter than you are

Yesterday, Packers fans were delighted to watch Aaron Rodgers dominate on "Celebrity Jeopardy." Indeed, it feels nice to have a smart guy calling signals under center (in your face, Jay Cutler).

But Wisconsin locker rooms have always been full of intelligent players. I came up with this quick list of some of the more obvious ones – and some of the less obvious ones, thanks to my friend Drew Olson. These guys are as brainy as they are talented. In some cases, more of the former than the latter, but who's counting?

1. Mark Loretta (1995-2002)

How many times did Brewers fans hear that Loretta, a Northwestern grad, negotiated his contracts using his business degree? During his career, he took violin lessons. Kmart wanted him for its executive training program. He was a part owner in Swig in Milwaukee. After he retired in 2009, he joined the Padres front office.

2. Junior Bridgeman (Bucks, 1975-1984)


Bridgeman has an estimated net worth of $400 million from franchising more than 100 Wendy's restaurants. Needless to say, he made much more off the court than on it.

3. Jerry Kramer (Packers, 1958-1968)


I’ve seen Kramer speak, and my jaw dropped at how eloquent a speaker he is, whether talking about football or just life. I mean, he quoted Voltaire off the top of his head. He’s also written three successful books, and is incredibly sharp for 79.

4. Craig Counsell (Brewers, 2004, 2007-2011)

We’ve been told that the new Brewers skipper was managing games in his mind while sitting on the bench during his 16-year career. Time will tell if he’s a baseball genius, but having interviewed him one-on-one in Whitefish Bay, I can attest that he’s a smart guy. Drew had him on his list, too.

5. John Axford (2009-2013)

All you have to do is follow the man, the mustache and the legend on Twitter to see his encyclopedic knowledge of film, pop culture and death metal. A Notre Dame grad, he accurately predicted 14 of the 15 …

Let's do this thing.
Let's do this thing.

Fresh start, clean slate

Something weird happened to me around the beginning August last year: I started wanting the Brewers season to be over.

I’ve asked around, and it turns out I wasn’t alone. None of us real Brewers fans understood why this team had stayed in first place, and when they started falling apart, it was not even just expected, it was tragically appropriate. Most of us knew this wasn’t a good team, and rather than getting our hearts broken in the first week of October, we just wanted a reset.

That feeling somehow stuck with me all winter, to the extent that I almost didn’t go to spring training. I worried that Doug Melvin wasn’t making the right moves (um, Adam Lind?) and we’d see another underachieving squad in 2015.

But now I’m here, sitting in the press box, and excitement is back in the air.

Opening Day is an important holiday for me. In 1998, it marked my first day of self-employment – and thus, the first real day of – and I celebrated that milestone tailgating at County Stadium.

Now, it’s a more mellow, business casual affair, but an exciting one, personally, nonetheless. I watched Brewers batting practice from the field, saying hello to fellow media and Brewers employees I haven’t talked to in a while. And now I’m watching fans very slowly stream in. The Rockies are now taking BP and the crack of the bat is a welcome sound.

My off-season indifference will start to fade as the games become real. I remain concerned about this team, but I’ve watched many far worse Brewers squads over the year.

Baseball is back, and so am I. I think I’m finally ready for a fresh start.

John Axford was a great Brewer.
John Axford was a great Brewer.

7 recent ex-Brewers pitchers I miss

One of the many reasons I love baseball is the nostalgia factor. The history and continuity between players and eras and fans melds in such a poetic way, and it’s another reason Brewers fans should be thankful that we have someone like Bob Uecker to help us bridge these gaps.

While I’ve been a Brewers fan my whole life, I stepped up my game in 1994 and haven’t looked back. I’ve seen an awful lot of bad Brewers come and go, but some of them were great.

Here are seven recent Brewers pitchers that I would love to get back. Even if these weren’t necessarily the best players, they each brought something special to the crew.

1. C.C. Sabathia

I’ve never seen a pitcher like C.C. during his short stint with the Brewers, and I doubt I ever will again. His performance in 2008 was beyond dominating, and when the Yankees poached him, I was reminded again why baseball’s salary inequity will ultimately destroy small-market teams’ chances for sustained greatness. Had the Crew signed him after that season, they would’ve won the World Series in 2011.

2. Zack Greinke

You could say the same for Greinke, although I didn’t especially like his attitude on the team (secret injury during pickup game of basketball?!?). But you can’t argue with results. What an excellent, technical pitcher. I’m surprised he’s been able to handle life in L.A., though.

3. John Axford

I just miss Ax, but mostly for his personality and love for Milwaukee. He embraced the community, the Milwaukee Film Festival and the mustache. Classy, funny and approachable, he represented the Brewers so well. I still root for him.

4. Chris Capuano

So tenacious and tough, Cap worked so hard to rehab from his multiple injuries, and he clearly wanted to be a Brewer. Another guy I wish continued success.

5. Yovani Gallardo

Yo had his personality flaws (who among us doesn't?), but he was a hard worker, and when he was on, he was great. I wonder what the future holds for him.

6. Brooks …

Brewers everywhere.
Brewers everywhere.

7 less obvious reasons I love Brewers Spring Training

My 18th annual Brewers Spring Training trip is now complete, and I’m back in chilly Milwaukee, which actually feels a little better after a few days under the beating hot sun of the desert.

This trip was a good one. A really good one. New experiences, old friends and lots and lots of baseball. But you probably know about all that if you read my blog entries this week.

Instead of rehashing that, I’d like to offer seven less obvious reasons I love Brewers Spring Training. I won’t even mention the baseball on the field or the weather in the Valley …

1. The access

There are literally thousands of baseball people running around the greater Phoenix area. With 15 teams in the Cactus League, you get all the players (big league and minors), the front office, the broadcasters and the umpires doing more-or-less the same stuff you’re doing out there. That means you’re gonna run into some of them, and they love baseball just as much as we do and are happy to talk about it (if you’re respectful, of course). From obvious baseball joints like Don and Charlie’s, to the the not-so-secret umpire bar I blogged about yesterday, to just lingering around the practice fields, this is a mecca for fans of the game. Baseball simply takes over this area each March, and it’s embraced by most.

2. The like-minded tourists

A photo posted by Andy Tarnoff (@andytarnoff) on

Similarly, you’ll find yourself hanging out with a zillion happy fans, both at the ballparks and around town. Old, young, first-time visitors and snowbirds alike, it’s fun to travel when everyone (except Cubs fans, probably) are on their best behavior. Seeing all those smiles is infectious. You’re guaranteed to make new friends, ones you might see again … because no one ever says they don’t want to come back.

3. The different nightlife

For M…