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“Pain Is Temporary, Pride Is Forever” Says Badgers Star Freshman Guard Brad Davison + First Spring Training 2018 Notes

In a rare under-.500 season for my Wisconsin Badgers, first-year Brad Davison has been a breakout star. He’s playing with a chronically dislocated left shoulder that came out for the fifth time this season in the Sunday February 25 loss to Big Ten champion Michigan State.

I dislocated my left shoulder over 50 years ago while a grad student in Madison so I know all about the excruciating pain. But I was running for a bus - Davison has battled all season the big guys in the very physical Big Ten. He will have surgery after the season but he has toughed it out all season, even playing point guard on a team that lost two key guards, Kobe King and Trayvon Trice, early on to season-ending surgery.

The injured shoulder didn’t stop Davison from scoring a career-high 30 points and contributing mightily though Wisconsin lost a thriller 68-63 loss on Senior Day in Madison. Michigan State is a potential Final Four team and no disgrace to lose to them.

A former high school quarterback in the bordering state of Minnesota, Brad Davison epitomizes the term “gamer”. His motto is: “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.”

Columbia, my other alma mater, is still alive for the Ivy League four-game tournament on the weekend of March 10-11. A tough loss to Yale on Saturday didn't help their situation but they do hold a tie-breaker over Cornell with whom they are tied at 5-7 in league play as they head into the final weekend of the season.

They play at Dartmouth and at Harvard and the latter game will be especially tough. Though the Big Green is in the basement of the league, they are improving and the Lions' 3-point shooting and defense will have to be operating well to win.

Kudos to the track and field Lions who won four individual titles and one women's relay title at the Heptagonal Games at Dartmouth this weekend. 1000-meter runners Sarah Hardie and Alek Sauer repeated as title-winners in their events as did 400-meter runner Akua Obeng-Okrofi. Kenny Vasbinder was a first time winner in the 5000 meters.

Meanwhile, spring training games have started and fans are paying high prices to see minor leaguers play almost all the time. There used to be an unwritten rule that visiting teams bring at least three regulars on road trips. Because it is “unwritten” in an increasingly litigious baseball world, teams nowadays usually bring just one regular if that on the road.

The season of ridiculous quotes is at hand because there is no real game news until the season starts on March 29. My candidate for the dubious quote of the year so far comes from what an anonymous Houston Astros executive told mlb.com's national baseball writer Mark Feinsand: “I wish we could just fast-forward to opening day.”

Hey, man! Spring training should be the most leisurely time of year when the bodies get slowly but surely ready for the long grind of the baseball season. The Astros are also blessed with a new facility in Palm Beach, Fla. that they share with a perennial NL favorite (and usual playoff-disappointment) the Washington Nationals.

I know that injuries are the greatest fear in any spring training but can’t you just enjoy things a little bit? I guess because the Astros will undoubtedly be favored to repeat their World Series appearance, with the Yankees the co-favorites, people in Houston are already getting impatient for the coronation to begin.

I say: Not so fast Houston. THE HARDEST THING IN SPORTS IS TO REPEAT, and I’ll repeat that in lower case: The hardest thing in sports is to repeat as champion. Everyone will be shooting for you and if you have the slightest relapse in intensity the competition will come up and bite you.

It is far too early to make a prediction for 2018 except that certain teams will not be able to compete for a title. This development is very sad - the willful decimation of rosters by the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Kansas City Royals because ownership wants to cut payroll is not a good augury for the future in those cities.

It is true that there are always surprises in every baseball season because the season is so long that bad teams will inevitably win at least 60 games and good teams lose at least 60. Yet even in the best of circumstances, the surprise teams rarely make or go deep into the playoffs.

The current situation is distressing and there is no easy solution. The current labor agreement has three more years to run and there is no automatic re-opener as far as I know. So my advice to others as well as myself is to enjoy the little moments of development and delight that baseball always brings. On every level of the sport from little league on up.

Heading to the 25th annual NINE baseball magazine conference in Phoenix. Will be participating in a closing panel on “Baseball and the West” with two authors versed in Walter O’Malley, Andy McCue and Jerald Podair, and the able historian of the SF Giants and Horace Stoneham, Rob Garratt.

Will also catch the Brewers-Rockies at the handsome Salt River Fields complex and the Rangers at the A's Ho-Ho-Kam park in Mesa. Back with news on Arizona baseball
next time. In the meantime - Take it easy but take it!
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Dealing With Wisconsin's Bleak First Saturday in December & More Angst In The Life of an Ardent Fan

The undefeated Wisconsin Badgers football team went down on Saturday night Dec 3 to an inspired Ohio State Buckeyes team, 27-21. It marked the third time in four years that the Badgers had lost the Big Ten championship game.

The odds-makers who favored the Buckeyes by 6 or 6.5 points had it right. Wisconsin had not played any team as tough and swift as Ohio State all season. The Buckeyes scored three touchdowns on plays over 50 yards in the first half, tying the number of big plays the vaunted Wisconsin defense had allowed in their 12 previous games.

Though the 21-10 halftime deficit proved too much to overcome, the second half was thrilling and almost classic - if only Wisconsin had mounted a serious threat late in the game to save their unblemished season.

But all game the stout Ohio State defense throttled Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin’s sensational freshman running back, holding him to just 41 yards in 15 carries, far below his season average. Ohio State's freshman star running back J.K.Dobbins was much more productive and was voted game MVP.

Badger sophomore southpaw quarterback Alex Hornibrook played nobly but didn’t have the arm strength or enough game-breaking receivers to pull off the comeback. His counterpart J.T. Barrett, one week removed from arthroscopic knee surgery, played a savvy game and did just enough with his arm and his challenged legs to lead his team to victory - despite two interceptions including a pick-6 by Badger linebacker Andrew van Ginkel that kept Wisconsin in the game during the first half..

Kudos to the outstanding punting on both sides. I’m a great believer in field position in football and Drue Chrisman of Ohio State boomed his punts deep into Badger territory and kept them high enough to prevent any return yardage. The Badgers' Anthony Lotti for Wisconsin also punted very effectively.

Despite the Buckeyes' victory to claim the Big Ten championship, it was left out of football's Final Four. One-loss Alabama got the fourth seed and will have a rematch with defending champion Clemson in the Sugar Bowl semi-final on New Year's Day. Oklahoma will meet Georgia in the Rose Bowl in the second semi-final.

Ohio State will meet USC in Dallas' Cotton Bowl and Wisconsin plays in Miami's Orange Bowl for the first time on Dec 30 against home team Miami which slumped badly at the end of the year after being undefeated.

Ohio State's 31-point loss to Iowa on the road was held against the Buckeyes and their 16-point loss at home to Oklahoma early in the season didn't help. But the bruising Big Ten plays nine conference games whereas Alabama's vaunted SEC only play eight and pad their schedule with cupcakes like Mercer.

(Alabama didn't even play for the SEC championship losing to Auburn on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So they are a very dubious selection to the Final Four despite coach Nick Saban's protestations of their excellence.)

To add to the bad Saturday for the Badgers, earlier in the day the Big Ten opened its basketball season with Ohio State trouncing Wisconsin on the Badgers’ home court, 78-53. The Buckeyes led by 23 at the half and opened up a 35-point lead at one point in the second half. Wisconsin falls to 3-5 overall. The loss of four starters from last year's solid tournament team looks more and more ominous.

As if there weren’t enough sadness for an ardent fan of his alma maters, Columbia blew a 10-point lead in the second half and lost at Albany 86-82. The Lions fall to 1-6 on the season, all road games. They finally open their home season against Quinnipiac from New Haven CT this Monday Dec 4. Maybe home cooking will make the difference.

A final shout-out in 2017 is in order for Columbia’s football team that finished with its best record in 21 years, 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Ivy League good for a second place tie with Dartmouth. Except for its 23-6 loss to eventual champion Yale in New Haven - the Elis’ first outright title since 1980 - the Lions proved they could play with anybody.

Great kudos to the 32 seniors who stuck it out after their winless freshman season under ousted coach Pete Mangurian. The arrival of proven Ivy League winner Al Bagnoli from Penn has made a great difference. Now as Bagnoli has said so wisely, the key will be to stay up there as a perennial contender every year.

Graduation losses will be significant - quarterback Anders Hill, running back Jim Schroer, and punter Parker Thome among them. (Thome BTW is a distant cousin of baseball's possible next Hall of Famer Jim Thome).

But Bagnoli and his recruiting staff seem to building what Earl Weaver and Yogi Berra used to call "deep depth." The prior punters for the Lions are taking advantage of a fourth year of eligibility by punting for top Division I schools - Cameron Nizialek's leg will be on display when Georgia plays Oklahoma and Matthew Nanton will be kicking for Kentucky in the Music City Bowl against Northwestern.

That’s all for now, dear blog readers. Next time there will be real Hot Stove League baseball news and hopefully more informed speculation to write about as baseball’s annual winter meetings convene in Orlando FLA in mid-December. Until then always remember: “Take it easy but take it!”
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