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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

BMO Harris Bradley Center, home of your Milwaukee Bucks. (PHOTO: The Milwaukee Bucks )

Bucks take city's name national tonight


Our Milwaukee Bucks take on the Miami Heat tonight in a nationally televised game on TNT.

That means some of my friends back east will once again be reminded exactly where I live.

"So, you still in Minneapolis?" was what one friend in Washington D.C. asked during my visit a few months ago.

No, that's Milwaukee.

Another friend in Philly always wants me to give him the skinny on the local celebrities in my adopted city.

"You see Prince around town much?"

No, that's Minneapolis.

Believe me, most of them will be watching the Bucks game from the BMO Harris Bradley Center tonight and they will have no problem remembering in which city the game is being played. (The game is also being shown locally on FoxSports TV.)

That's why, in the continuing civic debate about building or renovating the Bradley Center in order to ensure the local pro basketball teams stays in town and keeps our city on the national radar, what often gets lost is the proper perspective about sports franchises and their impact on a community.

No, not everybody in town is a rabid Bucks fan or a fan or professional basketball in general. Even some passionate fans don't regularly support the team due to the cost or a preference to watch televised games locally. And, yes; the Bucks have been god-awful more times than not during past decade or so. For a lot of residents, if the team left it would not leave a gaping hole in their daily lives.

But I think it's just as important to understand that having the Bucks as part of the Milwaukee brand does provide an invaluable service for fans and non-fans alike even if they don't immediately realize it. It's a big league connection that won't truly be appreciated until the time it doesn't exist anymore.

I've seen the issue of a new arena bubble up time and time again over the decades just to be placed on the back-burner; this time, it seems most civic leaders and the businesspeople who end up deciding big picture projects like this one have reached an agreement that something has to be done.

Most importantly, Bucks owner Herb Kohl, newly retired from the U.S. Senate, has pledged to step up to the table with money for a new arena out of his own pocket. The millionaire owner didn't actually give an exact amount but seemed to realize that coming up with a new home for the Bucks – whether he's still owner or not – will be a large part of his legacy.

I think there's a lot of intangible cache attached to living in a city with a pro basketball team; there are only 3o (including one in Canada) NBA franchises in the entire league and most don't have the long tradition and rich history of the Bucks.

Remember, we won an NBA title in 1971 and launched the career of someone named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who happens to be the top scorer in NBA history so Milwaukee and the NBA aren't strangers by any means.

The remaining group that needs to be convinced about the need for a bigger and better sports/entertainment arena are taxpayers who insist there's no way they'll ever be convinced to fund a multi-billion dollar project for rich owners who could probably get the thing built with their own money.

These days, nobody wants to be taken for a sucker even if it ends up being just pennies on the dollar; the landscape of sports is littered with failed stadiums built on the citizen's dole that never lived up to expectations.

But if a new arena can't be built or the old one can't be drastically improved, Milwaukee stands a good chance of losing the only basketball team most of us have ever known.

The people who dismiss that attachment in a cavalier fashion are also being dismissive of the team, the sport and the city. You don't have to be a basketball fan to want the Bucks to keep making all of us more relevant. You just have to be someone who thinks Milwaukee deserves to stand with other big league cities without making excuses.

The millions of TV viewers – yes, millions – who will watch the Bucks try to get a home win against the favored Miami Heat tonight will have Milwaukee on the brain for at least two hours.

Hopefully, the cable TV producers will order some of the typical exterior shots that most visiting media use to show off the home city in a positive light. And, hopefully nobody mentions Prince, who I always have to remind my out-of-town friend, doesn't live here.

This is Milwaukee.


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