By Doug Russell Special to Published Sep 12, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Sports can be a fickle mistress sometimes.

We love our games. We love our teams. They just tend to frustrate us from time to time.

Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field, the Packers lost their first season opener since 2006 by getting dominated in almost every phase of the game by the upstart San Francisco 49ers, who are every bit the legitimate contender they were one year ago.

Tuesday night at Miller Park, the Brewers shut out the Atlanta Braves 5-0 to climb back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 24.

Fans have expectations. This is a good thing. Expectations raise the bar and do not allow for absence of effort. Of course, results are never a guarantee; but without accountability to the real bosses would lead to apathy. Apathy is the enemy.

Thankfully, apathy is in very short supply when it comes to our teams. And while this can be frustrating and even annoying to the powers-that-be in our team's respective front offices, at the end of the day it is what drives us to listen to sports talk radio, tune into pre- and post-game shows, have Packers parties, cook out at Miller Park and even read this column.

We'll start with the Packers. Two years ago, they took all of us on a magical ride that ended with the hoisting of a Lombardi Trophy. For a NFL-record 13th time, our team was the best in the league.

Except that it wasn't.

Oh, I know that the record book says it was by virtue of being the last team standing, but after losing to the Miami Dolphins in Week 6 the eventual Super Bowl Champions were a quite pedestrian 3-3. After losing to the New England Patriots after their 14th game, they were a slightly better than mediocre 8-6.

How many 8-6 teams do you think are the best in football?

By virtue of results proven out over the course of the regular season, the evidence of the best team in 2010 was either the Patriots (14-2) or the Falcons (13-3).

But this isn't how we measure ultimate success. Championships are.

Likewise, last season the Packers followed up their Super Bowl title with a thrilling 15-1 campaign that ended in a thud to the Giants in the playoffs.

Of course, the Packers lost that game the same way they lost to the 49ers on Sunday; with the inability to defend when it mattered and a lack of plays on offense to make up the difference.

My point is not to tell you what you already know. My point is to say that all of the criticisms of the Packers and all of the vitriol heaped upon them by angry fans over the last three days is quite valid, and even the just and proper reaction.

No, the Packers are not a terrible football team. But they do have some concerning holes that need to be addressed. And while the Packers were, record-wise, the best team in football last season, they were far from the most complete squad.

Last season, Aaron Rodgers' other-worldly campaign bailed out what was a terrible season for the defense. Last year the Packers couldn't touch the quarterback, got mediocre play from top 10 draft picks A.J. Hawk and B.J. Raji, and never came close to replacing safety Nick Collins.

Sound familiar?

Yes, Sunday was only one game. But hardly anyone could have been shocked at the final outcome if you knew the personnel from both clubs. The fact of the matter is that the Packers lived a very charmed existence in the calendar year 2011.

2012 already has not been nearly as kind to the team from Titletown. And while one loss is not cause for concern, surrendering 186 yards on the ground to San Francisco is. Allowing the 49ers to march into the end zone on drives of 92 and 84 yards is too.

No, Rodgers terrible interception in crunch time did not help, but that was more of an aberration. What is not an aberration is Green Bay's defense. It isn't good, and that is cause for concern. It is also license for Packers fans to demand better. After all, that is what good, passionate fans do.

Good, passionate fans get cranky when their teams lose. They demand better. They demand accountability. And while some of the demands take things too far, the passion that compels otherwise ordinary people to paint their basements in team colors and invest thousands of dollars to watch their teams in person is a constituency that teams simply have to have if they are going to be worth anything at all.

But sometimes fans can be a little bit goofy. Take the curious case of Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, for example.

Roenicke, a true gentleman of the game, was a decent but never great player with six different teams. Following his playing career and a stint as a minor league manager, Roenicke was on Mike Scioscia's staff for a decade before becoming the surprise choice to lead the Brewers after Ken Macha was fired.

In 2011, just as it did for the Packers, nearly everything went right for the Brewers. The clubhouse turmoil that permeated the Macha regime was gone, replaced with a sense of unity in what we all knew was Prince Fielder's final season here. The Brewers pitching rotation was bolstered by the additions of stud righthanders Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, and a midseason trade for former All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez gave the Brewers the best overall club they had in a generation.

Roenicke was hailed as a genius. His style of play invigorated both the team and the fans and earned him a second-place finish in the National League Manager of Year voting.

Of course it did not hurt Roenicke that he had two MVP candidates and the hottest bullpen in baseball. That will make any manager look better.

But 2011 was but a distant memory early into this season. The 2012 edition of the Brewers began with a thud. Not only was Fielder gone, but his longtime highly-touted replacement, Mat Gamel, ripped up his knee and would be lost for the season. Newly-acquired shortstop Alex Gonzalez and starting pitcher Chris Narveson both quickly went down with injuries as well. Hot-hitting catcher Jonathan Lucroy missed significant time with a broken hand. The injury bug that the Brewers largely avoided in 2011 was rearing its ugly head early and often in 2012.

Compounding matters, Rickie Weeks and new third baseman Aramis Ramirez couldn't hit anything, and oh yeah, that magical bullpen? They couldn't get anyone out.

Of course none of this was Roenicke's fault, yet there were some knee-jerks howling for his dismissal. Fact of the matter is, considering the hand he was dealt, there was no manager in the history of the game that could have succeeded.

But something funny then happened. The Brewers started getting hot. Players that either were not contributing or were not expected to began surprising all of us. Ramirez and Weeks started hitting. Ryan Braun showed he may be the greatest player the Brewers have ever had by shrugging off all of his extremely negative national attention and no Fielder to protect him in the lineup by posting better numbers than last season.

All of a sudden, Roenicke is a genius again, right? Of course the reality is no more so than last year, but fans are what they are.

Passionate. Critical. Boisterous. Opinionated. Irrational. Unrealistic. Loud. But with all of that comes loyalty. And that loyalty, while sometimes disguised as any of the previous adjectives, keeps the powers that be on their toes, and prevents that dreaded word – apathy – from infesting the team's culture.

So continue to rant and rave; keep calling the sports talk shows; writing those letters to the editor; comment below if you wish. Because all of that criticism only shows that you care. And while some of the criticism heaped upon our teams isn't always fair, so what? They are all big boys. They knew what they were getting into when they got into professional sports.

Remember, the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is apathy.

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.