By Doug Russell Special to Published Nov 29, 2011 at 11:00 AM

2011 was certainly a year that I will never forget. There were the unprecedented highs of being able to cover the best sports year Wisconsin has ever seen; for me it was a joy and a privilege to have a front row seat for history.

My 2011 began on the road – literally. Not even having an inkling that the next month would be a whirlwind of airports, hotels, ice storms, and different time zones, I awoke to 2011 in Burbank, Calif. covering another Wisconsin Badgers team in the Rose Bowl. Not having any possible clue that Russell Wilson would soon head to Madison, nor knowing that Montee Ball would become a Heisman-worthy record-setter, I thought this might be the last Badgers team we would see in Pasadena for a while.

Of course, we all know what happened that fateful day in the south shadows of the Angeles National Forest, with the bitter pill of disappointment to come home with.

However, on a positive note, the Packers had miraculously played their way into the playoffs, taking us all on a ride that included stops in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, and finally Dallas before bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy home.

All told, I spent time on the ground in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana, and Wisconsin within the first 14 days of the year. Texas and Arizona would soon follow for the Super Bowl and spring training, respectively, and that was all before March Madness and a pair of Sweet Sixteen teams.

There were times I didn't know where I was waking up. But the sports I got to cover? What an incredible dream.

While this year I have had some professional transition, as well, my own personal "Best of 2011" was being welcomed with open arms at and Yahoo! Sports Radio after spending the previous four and a half years waking up in the middle of the night so I could talk sports with you first thing in the morning. With that, I am able to bring you my best and worst of 2011:

Best sports moment: Ryan Braun pointing his bat towards the sky the instant after launching his 32nd home run of the season into orbit. Braun's eighth-inning, three run blast all but clinched the division for Milwaukee, and perhaps gave the Brewers signature player his first MVP Award.

Best sports souvenir: Lombardi Trophy-shaped confetti scooped up from the turf at Cowboys Stadium the evening of Feb. 6. A local radio talk show host brought some back and offered to send a few pieces out to anyone who sent in a self-addressed stamped envelope (fine, I'll consider it my good deed for the year).  I have heard from many that they have theirs framed as an heirloom that will be passed down from generation to generation in basements all over Wisconsin.

Best trade: Doug Melvin solidifying the Brewers bullpen at the All-Star break by trading two minor league players to be named later to the New York Mets for Francisco Rodriguez. The trades for Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Nyjer Morgan were big, but shortening games an extra inning gave the Brewers the edge they needed to win their first division in 29 years.

Best free agent pickup: Russell Wilson, University of Wisconsin. You look at the season he led the Badgers to and you wonder how in the world NC State didn't want him back. In just one year, Wilson has become the best quarterback the Badgers have ever had. Without him, a second straight trip to Pasadena wouldn't be possible.

Best coach: Keith Tozer, Milwaukee Wave. Tozer has been involved in indoor soccer literally since Day 1. Tozer was the first player drafted in the first indoor league and has spent every day of his adult life in the game. Tozer has won five championships with the Wave and is the U.S. national futsal (a hybrid of indoor soccer with a hard court playing surface and no dasher boards) team coach. Within soccer circles, Tozer is world renown.

Best bang for your buck: Milwaukee Admirals hockey. You won't pay more than $26 (and usually a lot less) for the best seat in the house for the second-best hockey league in the world. Over the years, NHL stars such as Pekka Rinne, Darren Pang, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and more have all played for the Ads on their way to the next level. Plus, the Admirals are the Gold Standard for a well-run, total class minor league sports franchise, with giveaways and concerts that make their games a full entertainment experience.

Best show you're missing: Milwaukee Mustangs arena football. For $90 you can get a pair of season tickets for nine home games at the Bradley Center. Before last season, the Mustangs were on the brink of extinction until new, stable ownership came in and saved the franchise. Problem was no one seemed to notice judging by all of the empty Bradley Center seats. No one will try to convince you that the Mustangs are a superior product than the Packers, but your football thirst can get at least momentarily quenched with edge-of-the field seats for a tiny fraction of what you would spend in the NFL.

Best tradition: Jump Around, Camp Randall Stadium. The stadium shakes. The press box sways. Drinks sitting on otherwise flat surfaces spill when everyone in the Wisconsin student section goes wild during the chorus of House of Pain's 1992 seminal hit. My only plea for all other stadia in our fine state: leave "Jump Around" to the kids in Madison. Having 17 bundled up Packers fans attempting to capture the same atmosphere that has existed since 1998 at Camp Randall Stadium is silly.

Best sportscaster: Dennis Krause, Time Warner Sports Channel 32. Hands-down the most prepared, versatile, quick-witted and erudite professional in the business. He downplays the accomplishment, but there is a reason he keeps winning "Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year" honors. Honorable mention: Tim VanVooren, FOX 6. Has covered a game in every stadium in the NFL (which is no small feat) and has five Emmy's to boot.

Best sportswriter: Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A Packers features reporter for the last 13 years, Nickel is an understated pro's pro. Not one to ever seek the spotlight herself, Nickel instead lets her remarkable work speak for itself. Her relentless passion to tell us something we did not already know beyond the playing field is only eclipsed by her unbridled professionalism. I am honored to call Lori a friend, and I continue to learn my new craft from her every day.

Best media promotion: Greg Matzek, WTMJ Radio. Matzek began at the radio station in 1999 as an intern and never stopped working at being the best broadcaster he could be. When Bill Michaels was released in March, Matzek became the No. 1 sports guy at Milwaukee's signature heritage sports property. He has rewarded the faith that new program director Joe Scialfa showed in him when he was elevated by his superior caliber of work.

Best prediction for 2012: The Milwaukee Bucks will make you care about basketball again. Remember how much fun we all had in the spring on 2010 with the "Fear the Deer" playoff run? There were lofty expectations to recapture that last season, but injuries decimated the team from opening night on. John Salmons was a bust after signing a long-term contract, but he has been jettisoned, as was Corey Maggette, who just never fit in to what the Bucks were trying to do.

Best sports personality: John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers. Maybe Canadians just don't take themselves as seriously as the rest of us do. Axford is the epitome of the guy who won the genetic lottery and knows it. He regularly interacts with fans via his Twitter account (@JohnAxford) and is one of the players most likely to be found at JoCats after a game being the life of the party.

And his fastball isn't bad, either.

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

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.