First the football game, specifically the NFC Championship tilt between the Vikings and the Saints. While the obvious story in these parts centered on Brett Favre, I viewed it a bit differently. Yes, I love watching Favre play, and his performance this season was far better than I thought possible, but I don't personally know him.
I do know the former Badger assistants who are on the Vikings coaching staff, starting with head coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Sitting here in the middle of Packers country, I had very mixed emotions watching that wildly entertaining game. While most of the media world continues to focus on Favre, I can't help but feel badly for Chilly, Bevell, Jim Hueber and Brian Murphy, all former members of the UW staff.
Do I feel badly for Favre? Not really. Even he says it has been a terrific season. He was brilliant throughout the year, especially against the Green Bay Packers. All season long I kept waiting for him to force the issue, to make bad decisions. He avoided those mistakes until his last, fateful toss in the final minute of regulation in New Orleans. That said, he made his point to the doubters, myself included. Oh yeah, Favre also made $12 million. So no, I don't feel all that badly for 'ol number four. I just hope he comes back next season and gives the Packers a couple of more shots at beating him.
Then there was that basketball game between the Badgers and Penn State. Going into any game, I try to keep an open mind and expect anything. Notice I said I try. Prior to tipoff on Sunday, I wondered how Penn State would play, knowing it came to Madison winless in six conference games, with most of those losses being close. I made a dangerous assumption that the Nittany Lions, coming off a very disappointing setback on Thursday night to Indiana, would be flat against the Badgers. They were anything but flat. Talor Battle, who has struggled against Wisconsin throughout his career, came alive. He also had scoring help from his teammates, something that has been in short supply this season.
It is one thing to rally once, but on Sunday the Badgers had to rally twice. Trailing 52-36 midway through the second half, the Badgers ripped off 15 straight points to pull within one. Penn State countered with a run of its own, and with two minutes to play, the home team was down eight. Then it really became must-see TV. Jordan Taylor, who was oh-for-Sunday from the field, went on to score the final eight points of regulation. He finished with 20 points, 18 in the final seven minutes of the contest.
For a team to sustain that type of energy speaks well of its conditioning. Scott Hettenbach is the team's coach in that department. Trevon Hughes played 45 minutes. Jason Bohannon logged 43, and Keaton Nankivil went up and down the court for 42 minutes. No doubt a loud home crowd helped, but I have to think that all that work during the summer, plus running in the hill in the fall, paid off for the Badgers.
Yes, they know they can't keep expecting to dig out of double-digit deficits. Yes, they know they need to shoot the ball better. Yes, they miss Jon Leuer. But you have to love the heart of this group, and while the Badgers have developed a habit of winning the hard way, they are still very much a factor in the conference race.
Now that is reality TV worth watching.