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Two Minutes’ Hate: Who cut the cheese?

March 29, 2013

A weasel. Annoying. Minnesota-lite. Any way you slice it, being labeled a badger is a fine way to bring additional shame from one’s already disapproving parents.

The Wisconsin Badgers hockey team has certainly had an interesting season. They started off the year much as everyone expected: like hot, putrid garbage water. Picked to finish fifth in the WCHA (one point ahead of lowly Duluth), the weasels sputtered out of the gate to the tune of a 1-7-2 record, leaving many a western coach kicking himself for ranking this squad of rejects four spots too high. Then they went on a “tear”, winning nine of their next ten games; although in the interest of fairness, we think we should point out that six of those nine wins were against Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska-Anchorage – two teams who went a combined 7-46-8 on the season. Wow. Was the Colorado School of Mines booked solid?

We don’t want to say that the Badgers played a soft schedule, though. One has to consider the handicap of being one of those teams no one wants to play. Much like your UConns and Bentleys, one can take no joy at all in laying a beating on a squad whose state continually shames itself by giving the world, in order of ascending horribleness, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and Frank Caliendo. This is a team where you look at the schedule and say, “Ugh, these guys again?” Not because the prospect of taking the ice against a team whose coach has so little pull on campus he couldn’t squeeze his own borderline-illiterate thuggish son through admissions — much to the relief of the rest of the WCHA since no one wants their netminder hospitalized — mind you. But rather because Madison is a nightmarish hinterland that makes residents of Orono look around and say, “Man, there is nothing to do here.”

Just how bad are these badgers? They found a way to humiliate the denizens of their state further (if that’s possible) by losing to Penn State, and despite putting together some wins later in the season, they still failed to meet those deeply pedestrian fifth-place expectations and ended the regular season in sixth.

By the demented grace of some foul ritual involving animal sacrifice and, we imagine, a healthy dose of Rocky Rococo’s disgusting pizza, Wisconsin managed to win the WCHA tournament. We understand that the WCHA traditionally cannot hold a candle to Hockey East. One need only look at a list of the last several national champions to find this universal truth upheld, and we think it’s nice that the rest of college hockey gave a hellhole like Duluth something to be happy about just once, because charity, after all, starts at home.

But we fear that the Badgers’ just reward for squeaking out, ahem, “impressive” postseason wins over Minnesota State (which Lowell crushed just last season), St. Cloud (arguably the worst thing to happen to Minnesota since, well, the Gophers), and  Colorado College (which Lowell beat 3-1 on their own ice even in the depths of its sandbagging start, which we now see as having been intention) was a sick joke of the hockey gods. Their reward for taking the first Broadmoor since Mike Eaves was unfortunate enough to have taken over the coaching job is the immobilizing fear of having Chad Ruhwedel bearing down on their forwards. Or rather, that sickening realization that no, Connor Hellebuyck isn’t human, and you won’t be winning. Or rather, the panic in their Div. 3-quality defenders’ eyes as Scott Wilson barrels into the zone with dubious intent.

In short, all they got was a hideous trophy and one free total and complete annihilation at the hands of a vastly superior hockey team. And they get to fly across the country, then stay in Manchester, N.H., for the privilege.

But let’s take a closer look at the state of Wisconsin, its people and find out what really makes them so unique. We’re sure they have much over which to be prideful, notwithstanding electing Scott Walker to an actual political office.

Our foray into the warped world of Wisconsin begins with the accent. The best way to describe it to someone who hasn’t had the ear-shattering pleasure would be to aptly cross a dairy cow gurgling on its own blood with Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley. Real talk: when fifth-graders from Fargo think you speak with marbles in your mouth, it’s time for some linguistic salvation.

Wisconsin does have a storied professional sports tradition. Of course, one would expect that a state where residents happily brag about having such a rich hockey base would field an NHL team. Obviously that’s not the case, although it does make sense considering there are too many other hockey hotbeds in the country; places chock full of love, knowledge and passion for the sport, such as Nashville, Tampa Bay and Miami. Now, in their defense, they do have an AHL team, one which had its name rightly usurped by a superior franchise, because Wisconsin — whose flag bears the proud state motto, “If they kicked you out of the Upper Peninsula for being a creepy weirdo…” — will never have been first in anything. Hell, it’s not even first in hockey among states with which it shares a border. It might not even be fourth.

But at least there’s football! Oh, how fans of the legendary Green Bay Packers love their football. They will talk your ear off about Brett Farve. The only thing Packers fans love more than the Packers is Brett Farve. Putting aside for a minute their relentless heralding of a known pill-popper and sexual harasser as some sort of savior, let’s put all the facts of the table: Farve was an overrated, middle-of-the-pack quarterback who has lots of passing records only because he played for almost 20 years. He’s the Jeff Sauer of the National Football League, if Sauer could explain his seemingly endless mediocrity by his having been all hopped up on goofballs for decades.

Speaking of illegal drugs, the Brewers check in next on the Dairy State’s list of tainted teams. Noted doper Ryan Braun adds his two cents Wisconsin’s claim as the dirtiest state in American sports. Winning his legal argument on a technicality, Braun was juiced more than an American Gladiator, and didn’t even get the fun of playing Hang Tough, because that’s one thing the Brewers never do come September.

The mount Rushmore of Wisconsin sports is sordid indeed. Oh, Robin Yount? Girl’s name. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Six people in the world know he played for a team other than the Lakers, and they’re all in Milwaukee or dead. Plus it says a lot about ol’ Lew Alcindor that he changed his name to avoid the embarrassment of once having lived in the state. Vince Lombardi? You didn’t hear it from us, but check McCarthy’s list again, carefully.

When we break it all done, the question that still remains is, “What IS Wisconsin?” The answer is simple.

Wisconsin is the middle child of Midwest hockey, sandwiched firmly somewhere between its much more successful siblings, Michigan, and Minnesota, and Colorado, and Illinois, and Ohio, and maybe Missouri, and definitely Arkansas. Wisconsin fans dream of having had the geographic good fortune of having been born in a place where they wouldn’t be scorned by their neighbors rooting for the Golden Gophers. Not that it stopped Phil Kessel, who wisely skipped town the second someone offered him the opportunity, and never once looked back.

The inner tears that are shed by every Wisconsin player on a daily basis stem from the desire to proudly wear the maize and blue of Michigan. Relegated to second-tier status with the likes of the directional schools, Wisconsin players have to go to sleep every night with the heavy thoughts of what could have been weighing on their enfeebled minds.

If only they had played harder in juniors. If only their parents had put them in a better prep school. If only their talent had been sufficient. Then maybe, just MAYBE they could have avoid this fate worse than going to Amherst. Jake Suter, who we’re occasionally devastated to remember is a Wisconsinite, got out just fine, and left the state’s famous loser-stink behind when he committed to a real program.

And so they struggle and will continue to do so, season after season of hearing that delightful siren’s call of M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A, or the opposing band break out into another rousing rendition of The Victors. To add flame to the fire, next season Wisconsin will join Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State in the newly formed Big 10 Hockey Conference. With the understanding that the future of Wisconsin hockey is nothing more than the basement of a six-team conference, we’re sure many a Badger player is wondering if it’s too late to transfer. To those brave souls we give this piece of advice: we hear Eau Claire has a decent squad.

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