By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Feb 26, 2008 at 5:08 AM

Maybe it's a sign of advancing age, but I really can't remember the last time a sports team in our state began the season with expectations as high as those emanating from Brewers spring training.

Ten years ago, the Packers come off a Super Bowl victory and expectations for the next season were incredibly high. And the Packers lived up to those expectations, reaching the Super Bowl again.

In 2001, the Bucks came off a Game 7 loss to Philadelphia in the conference finals the year before. They had a solid team and hopes were very high. Injuries hit hard, though, and that group never met the expectations.

I'm not sure the expectations for the Brewers this year are any greater than those for the Packers a decade ago, but they are close. There are so many ways to tell.

The Brewers sold more tickets on the first day than ever before. Some people are talking about another attendance record and maybe even hitting the 3 million mark.

The owner has gone out of his way to say that things have happened more quickly than he expected and that his team is a really good team now.

The preview magazines, talk shows and newspaper articles all say this is the year for the Brewers.

All of the experts say this team is one of the best, most likely the best in its division and one that can make it to the World Series.

When was the last time you heard "World Series" and "Brewers" in the same sentence? It's been a long, long time unless you add the phrase "home watching" to the sentence.

There's obviously a good side to all this excitement. But there's a downside as well.

The good is obvious. At a time when we need some community excitement, the Brewers are answering the call. We are all up. People are talking about this team. The sports airwaves are jumping.

They always talk about spring training being a time for hope. With the Brewers this year, it's more than hope. It's hope tinged with confidence and realism. We are ready.

But, there is a downside to such high expectations.

What happens if the Brewers don't meet the lofty projections?

What happens if Ryan Braun proves he can't go to his left in the outfield or can't pick up ground balls or is afraid of the wall? Nobody knows.

What happens if Ben Sheets reverts to form and misses a third, a half or two-thirds of the season with injuries? What happens if the Eric Gagne gamble turns out to be a bust and we are stuck with Derrick Turnbow again?

What happens if those big bats, Hardy in the first half of last year and Braun during his rookie season, drop off a little bit? Is Prince Fielder going to hit 60 home runs or 18?

And what about the rest of that pitching staff, Suppan, Gallairdo, Villaneuva? What about Rickie Weeks?

It wouldn't take much for the high expectations of the Brewers to fade into the sunset.

If we were going into this season thinking that the Brewers might be able to fight for the division crown, then anything above that would be gravy. But, when you go into a season with your owner saying that your team is really good, and everybody believes him, you better hope that you produce.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.