As a sports city, Milwaukee doesn't have the history of Boston or New York; the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles; the national cache of Chicago. Blockbuster movies aren't set in Wisconsin; the rich and famous don't have lake houses here; Fortune 500 companies look to build their offices on Wall Street, not Water Street.
Nope. We are just humble, hard working, blue-collar Wisconsin. But guess what, fellow cheddar-head? We just might be sitting in the middle of a sports utopia.
Using my ultra-scientific-in-every-way formula, Wisconsin has not only had its best ever year in sports, we are having a better year than the other 49 states as well. Considering in 2011, we have seen, in order:
- A Rose Bowl runner-up
- A Super Bowl Champion
- Two teams in the Sweet 16
- A team in the MLB playoffs
Those are just the so-called "major" teams. In addition to the Brewers, Packers, Badgers (football and basketball) and Golden Eagles, the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team won the NCAA Championship, the UW-Whitewater football team won the Division III title, and the Milwaukee Wave won another MISL Cup.
Major sports, minor sports – it doesn't seem to matter. Right now Wisconsin has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the teams we cheer for. Even today, with our major football teams a combined 7-0 (although the Badgers haven't really played anyone yet with Nebraska on tap for Saturday) it seems as if we have forgotten what it's like to have a loser.
Using the measures of major team sports that we care about (NFL playoffs, BCS games, NBA playoffs, NCAA Tournament (specifically the Sweet 16 for our purposes because just getting to the NCAA Tournament itself really isn't that hard to do), and MLB playoffs) no other state has had the amount of success Wisconsin has had. We have had more teams participate in these events than sports hotbeds Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and Texas. Does this mean that we are better than every other state?
Yes. Yes it does.
States that had NFL teams in the 2011 playoffs:
- Wisconsin (home of the current champion Green Bay Packers)
- Pennsylvania (2)
- New York
States that had NBA teams in the 2011 playoffs:
- Texas (2) (home of the current champion Dallas Mavericks)
- Florida (2)
- New York
States represented in the 2011 BCS:
- Alabama (home of the current champion Auburn Tigers)
States represented in the 2011 Sweet 16:
- Connecticut (home of the current champion U-Conn Huskies)
- Wisconsin (2)
- North Carolina (2)
- Florida (2)
- Virginia (2)
States represented in the 2011 MLB Playoffs:
- Georgia or Missouri
- Massachusetts or Florida
- New York
- TBD (World Series Champion)
The final tally shows the Badger State with a slim lead in the overall standings:
- Wisconsin (5 total playoff appearances, 1 championship)
- Florida (4 (or 5, depending on the AL Wild Card) total appearances)
- Texas (4 total playoff appearances, 1 championship)
- Pennsylvania (4 total playoff appearances)
- Virginia (3 total appearances)
- Connecticut (2 total playoff appearances, 1 championship)
What does this all mean? The bottom line is that when you add everything up, no year has come close to seeing the kind of success 2011 has had. In 1982, we saw a World Series runner-up, an NFL playoff team, and an NBA Division Championship, but Marquette exited the NCAA Tournament in the first round. As for the Badgers, their football team won the Independence Bowl and their basketball team went just 6-21. Using the above rankings, our state would have gotten a score of 3.
Looking back into our collective state's sports history, never before have we seen multiple teams have success at the same time.
The 1930s and 1940s belonged to the Packers. The 1950s saw the Milwaukee Braves win Wisconsin's only World Series title. The 1960's were dominated by the five championships the Packers won. Al McGuire and the Marquette Warriors ruled the 1970s. In the 1980s it was the Brewers heyday. In the 1990s there was a football revival that was split between the Packers two Super Bowl appearances and the Badgers three Rose Bowl championships.
The 2000's was a hodgepodge of fleeting success: Wisconsin and Marquette both made it to one Final Four; the Packers won several division titles but had little playoff success; the Bucks came within one game of the NBA Finals, and the Brewers made one playoff appearance.
But someway, somehow, all of the stars have seemed to finally align here in 2011. For a state that prides itself on hard work and pride in our accomplishments, we should all stand up and take notice of what our sports teams have provided us this year: unparalleled success across most spectrums of sport. And while we puff out our chests at Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and others, know that you now have the facts to back up our bravado.
Oh, and if you are forced into backing up my formula outline above and there is any question as to whether or not my rankings are really scientific and foolproof?
Yes. Yes they are.
Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at OnMilwaukee.com.
Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.
Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.
Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.