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Monday, 21 December 2015 11:31

One sports junkie’s 12 days of Christmas

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University of Wisconsin linebacker Joe Schobert, an All-Big Ten and All-America selection, and the Badgers will play in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30. University of Wisconsin linebacker Joe Schobert, an All-Big Ten and All-America selection, and the Badgers will play in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30. David Stluka/UW Athletics

Unlike Ralphie Parker, star of the 1983 holiday classic “The Christmas Story,” yours truly always believed a football was a great present to receive Dec. 25.

Peter Billingsley’s character dreamed of ripping open an official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range-model air rifle and getting off spectacular hip shots in his backyard in northwestern Indiana during the early 1940s.

This scribe’s younger self dreamed of a genuine cowhide Wilson, tucked next to his left rib cage, catching passes from Bart Starr, dodging would-be tacklers and diving into snow banks in north-central Wisconsin during the early 1970s -- and without the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.

The heck with a compass in the stock; I longed for the intoxicating smell of that unsoiled leather and placing my fingers perfectly between the laces while suiting up in the Super Bowl.

Although, speaking of playing for championships, a Daisy BB gun might come in handy these days. Target practice could alleviate lingering frustrations of watching the 2015 Green Bay Packers’ offensive woes -- they haven’t shot their eye out, but they’ve shot themselves in the foot regularly the past two months.

I digress, but not much. Throwing the old “pigskin” around and acting like a kid again would do a lot of us a lot of good. But for me, those bygone nights of touchdowns in the bitter cold with my brother have been replaced by too many afternoons and evenings in front of the boob tube. Such is the life of an aging sports fan, and an aging sports writer.

However, here’s my triple-dog-dare for readers not to enjoy the holiday season of sporting possibilities. So, regardless of what replaces those dancing sugarplums in Stateline area sports fans’ heads, there should be something for all.

Here is one sports junkie’s wish list for an ideal 12 days of Christmas, most of which would be spent reclining on the sofa with the remote in hand and plenty of goodies and beverages within reach.

Those who can’t watch live can give their DVD/Blu-ray recorders the workout that they themselves won’t be getting anytime before or after their New Year’s resolutions. Or unlike me, someone who has never used the DVR function, fans still can watch their favorite sporting events in between the family gatherings.

Dec. 25

This is the one day, and rightfully so, that family takes center stage. Besides, falling on a Friday this year, the NFL takes the day off, and none of the mind-numbing 41 college football bowl games are scheduled.

So, that means plenty of good food and company, not to mention all of the exciting new gifts that could arrive. Just like Old Man Parker when he opens the huge, wooden crate containing his major award, there could be anything in my stocking or under the tree, including sports apparel to complement my wardrobe for the next 11 days.

Dec. 26

Depending on family commitments, easing into the second day of the itinerary sounds good, perusing the new haul leisurely after such a hectic day of feasting and unwrapping.

Six bowl games dominate the TV schedule, only two of which are remotely familiar. However, it might be nice to nibble on a couple, such as Brett Favre’s Southern Miss Golden Eagles playing Washington in something called Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

It also might be wise to take a break from the football frenzy; the Milwaukee Bucks face Toronto in a 4 p.m. tip off from the Bradley Center.

Dec. 27

Sundays remain the NFL’s domain, and a preview of a potential playoff match-up sees Green Bay traveling to Arizona in a late afternoon showdown.

The last time the Packers and Cardinals hooked up in the desert was a wacky Wild Card contest a week after Green Bay stomped the hosts in the same venue in a meaningless regular-season finale. The Cardinals posted a 51-45 overtime triumph on a controversial Aaron Rodgers fumble in January 2010.

This game likely will mean more to Mike McCarthy’s squad, which could be trying to nail down its fifth consecutive NFC North crown or fighting for its playoff life. It also could go a long way in determining playoff seeding.

Dec. 28

The fourth Day of Christmas will require some decompression time, and going back to work might not be the best remedy -- can we say sick day?

Regardless, it might be a great opportunity to jump on the seldom-used exercise machine or take a hike and see what El Nino has to offer, anything to get the blood flowing after such a taxing weekend.

Knowing that the chances of actually following through on getting much-needed physical activity aren’t good, preparing for the inevitable lounge time would be pertinent.

So, a football movie sounds in order, and yours truly’s favorite gridiron film is “Rudy,” which is about a huge underdog who easily could have been a target for ruffians like Scut Farkus and Grover Dill. Backup plans would include “Remember the Titans,” “Brian’s Song” or “Friday Night Lights.”

Dec. 29

Bo Ryan’s surprise retirement aside, this day’s schedule presents Badgers fans a nice opportunity to check out the Wisconsin men’s basketball team without the legendary coach as it hosts Purdue in a Big Ten Conference opener at 6 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

No doubt many boosters from the Stateline area will venture to the Kohl Center in Madison and see Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and company in person as Bucky tangles with the Boilermakers.

Dec. 30

Those not among the throngs of thousands already spreading their cheer in San Diego likely will be glued to TVs at home or their favorite sports bar to watch Paul Chryst’s UW football team in the Holiday Bowl.

Wisconsin is playing in a bowl game for the 14th straight year and 26th time overall, entering its contest against Southern Cal with a 12-14 record.

The game isn’t scheduled to kick off until 9:30 p.m. Wisconsin time on ESPN.

A nice prelude would be finding a YouTube copy of the Jan. 1, 1963, showdown between top-ranked USC and the No. 2 Badgers, the first such meeting in a bowl game and the last time these two schools met on a football field.

Pete Beathard and the Trojans dominated the action en route to a 42-14 advantage early in the fourth quarter, but Wisconsin counterpart Ron Vander Kelen directed a spirited comeback as the Badgers registered 23 unanswered points to almost pull out the shocking upset.

Dec. 31

The Peach Bowl features two top 20 teams, but the spotlight on the last day of 2015 will shine brightly on the national championship semifinals.

The Orange Bowl kicks off at 3 p.m. in Florida and pits top-seeded Clemson against fourth-seeded Oklahoma. Meanwhile, second-seeded Alabama and third-seeded Michigan State clash in the Cotton Bowl in Texas at 7 p.m. Like most of the lesser bowls, these match-ups are on ESPN.

But better yet for a pro football devotee raised a couple of hours from Lambeau Field, why not dig out a DVD and take a nostalgic trip back to the Ice Bowl on the anniversary of one of the NFL’s greatest games and the best in Green Bay history?

The frosty images from this battle of wills between the Packers and Cowboys in the tundra are frozen in memory, and the interviews with the athletes who braved the conditions that day in Titletown are priceless.

Jan. 1

Nothing else needs to be said: The Rose Bowl. After all, it’s “The Granddaddy of Them All,” a tradition since 1902.

It hasn’t been the same since the powers that be introduced the Bowl Championship Series, meaning that it no longer would be strictly the Big Ten and PAC-10 winners fighting it out, a tradition that started Jan. 1, 1947.

Still, there are no more iconic collegiate football backdrops, and who can forget Keith Jackson’s voice?

No. 5 Iowa tangles with No. 6 Stanford in the best match-up outside of the Final Four. It’s at 4 p.m. on ESPN.

Jan. 2

Quit laying there like a slug and walk over to your computer for a break from the television -- unless your iPhone or laptop is handy -- and check out ticket availability for the Milwaukee Brewers’ annual On Deck celebration, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, at the Wisconsin Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee.

Unless diehard fans get a surprise in their stockings, advance tickets are $15 for adults and $9 for children age 14 and younger; $20 and $15 day of the event, respectively.

If nothing else, thinking about pitchers and catchers reporting always creates good vibes.

On that note, you can’t go wrong with a baseball movie classic such as “Field of Dreams,” “The Rookie,” “Eight Men Out” or “Bull Durham.”

Jan. 3

The Packers entertain Adrian Peterson and Minnesota in a grudge match that likely will determine the NFC North championship, and what a better setting than Lambeau?

These two rivals have split four meetings in regular-season finales, with the Vikings dashing Green Bay’s playoff hopes in 1992 and beating the Packers, 34-31, in 2012 to clinch a postseason berth -- they squared off the next week with the Green and Gold prevailing.

What a way to add an exclamation point to the holiday season, taking down a heated rival, ala Ralphie during the Scut Farkus affair.

Jan. 4

Oh fuuudge! Only I won’t be saying “fudge” about returning to work, although the afterglow of a victorious weekend for Cheeseheads could help the psyche tremendously.

It’s still five days until the NFL playoffs begin, and the college football national championship game is a full week away, so what to do?

A little time could involve spending a gift card or two, if   they were part of the holiday haul.

Jan. 5

The 12th and final day of Christmas should include a little time for reflection. It also could involve a good book, perhaps a copy of “Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game” from the folks at Sports Illustrated, or whatever else tickles your fancy.

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