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Sports Musings for week of Feb. 22

Andrew Hanlon
  • The Milwaukee Brewers lost their season-opening series to the Minnesota Twins 2-1 at Miller P … errr … American Family Field. But it certainly wasn’t without fireworks. Trailing 5-2 entering the ninth inning on opening day, some defensive miscues by the Twins allowed former Milwaukee star Travis Shaw – who has seen the ultimate highs and the ultimate lows of an entire career by age 30 and is now back in a Brewers’ uniform where he had his best season in the majors – brought more than 11,000 fans (Fans! In the stands!) to their feet with a two-out, two-run double which capped a rally that sent the first game of the season into extra innings. From there, one of the best relievers in baseball threw perhaps the best inning of his career as Josh Hader fired in fastball after fastball at 100 mph to keep the Twins off the board. Then, of all things, a weak bouncing ball that never made it to the infield dirt scored Lorenzo Cain – in his first regular season action since 2019 after opting out last year – for a 6-5 walkoff win. 
  • Pitching and defense are going to be the key for Milwaukee this year, and hopefully, the 2019 version of the Crew’s offense returns with an assist. So far, the defense has been promising, and the pitching … kind of promising? There have certainly been highlights: the series’ second game was totally dominated by pitching. For the Twins, it was Jose Berrios, who didn’t allow a hit in his seven innings of work. Milwaukee managed just one hit all evening. For the Brewers, though, it was a fantastic start from Corbin Burnes. Though he took the loss because his team’s offense couldn’t come through against Berrios and three Minnesota relievers, Burnes threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one hit – a home run – while striking out 11. Opening Day starter Brandon Woodruff pitched just okay, but as the Brewers’ ace, it’s within reason to assume he’ll be fine this year. And my guy, Freddy Peralta, who made the rotation as Milwaukee’s fifth starter, struck out 6 batters in two innings, scattering two hits. We’ll ignore the fact that the Brewers gave up 8 runs in the rubber match of the series Sunday.
  • What an ending to the Gonzaga-UCLA game in the Final Four Saturday night. Best game I’ve seen all year in college basketball, and I’m pretty sure most fans would agree. We all want buzzer beaters – and lordy did we get a buzzer beater Saturday. UCLA’s Johnny Juzang rebounded his own miss and scored with 3.3 seconds left. 3.3 seconds to a spot in the title game. Gonzaga had other ideas, though, as freshman Jalen Suggs – projected to be a top 5 pick in this year’s NBA Draft - curled toward the inbound pass, took three dribbles and banked one in at the buzzer from about 40 feet. As I was relegated to watching the games on our iPad while my fiancé and kids watched whatever on TV, I felt a sense of retribution when I leapt up and screamed as Suggs’ heave went in and frightened everyone in the room. 
  • Baseball’s Opening Day means a lot of things to a lot of people; it always has. Perhaps, more than any other year, though, it means more now. There’s a saying around the sport that on Opening Day “hope springs eternal.” As a country, we need more hope now than we have in a long time. Baseball won’t cure anything; it’s not even the most popular sport in America anymore, and maybe it barely cracks the top three. But it still means something special. Opening Day means spring – the beginning of a new season, the beginning of a new year. In places like Wisconsin, Brewers’ Opening Day means warmer weather and sunlight are just around the corner. The darkness and dreariness of winter is giving way to the brightness and sun of spring and summer. Bob Uecker is on the radio. The sounds and smells of grills being lit and beers being cracked open are starting to echo. Sports can be a metaphor for life; maybe now, more than ever, Opening Day is the most fitting metaphor.