Dear Coach McCarthy, First, I respect you and believe, overall, you have done a very good job as Green Bay Packers' head coach. Your overall record is exceptional, and I know you are very well-respected among your peers and beyond. However, as a longtime sports journalist and Packers' follower, I disagree with your decision to start QB Brett Hundley rather than Joe Callahan on Sunday. In one breath, you say preseason games are for evaluating talent. In another breath, you say there is a huge difference between preseason games and regular-season games, but the evaluation process has already begun. Isn't that a little bit hypocritical? Although the Packers and Detroit Lions are both out of the playoffs and are playing a meaningless regular-season finale, I understand your reasoning for trying to finish 8-8 rather than 7-9. Winning is the name of the game. However, wouldn't it would be an ideal time for Callahan to get some "real" action in a regular-season game. Are you saying you believe Hundley is the best choice to back up injured quarterback and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers? Are you saying once Rodgers retires... whenever that may be, that Hundley automatically steps into his shoes? Are you auditioning Hundley for another NFL team? Are you sitting Callahan to protect him from other NFL team evaluations? Or, do you simply feel Callahan isn't an NFL caliber quarterback yet? These questions deserve answers.
Should he, or should he not play?
The Green Bay Packers survived another week. Good. Great. Wonderful. The Green and Gold's golden-armed quarterback Aaron Rodgers could also be back behind center on Sunday when the team travels to Carolina. Is that good news or bad news? For the Packers and their fans, it's great news. That's all we have been waiting for... survive another week with QB Brett Hundley until Rodgers returns and bails out the team again. However, there are several questions beginning with a bone density scan Rodgers is scheduled to have sometime this week to determine if his surgically repaired collarbone is completely healed. If so, will he be cleared? Rodgers obviously wants to return as witnessed by his actions and body language during the Packers' 27-21 overtime victory over the hapless Cleveland Browns on Sunday. I admire the future Hall of Famer. He's a gamer, a fighter, a tough competitor and a team player. He wants to be the starting quarterback against the Panthers this week, the Minnesota Vikings next week and the Detroit Lions in the regular-season finale. Now, let's be realistic. The Packers (7-6) must run the table and finish 10-6 to at least have a shot at a wild-card berth. I know, I know. We all remember Rodgers' "run the table" remark when they were 4-6 last year. But there's no way Green Bay wins the NFC North Division with a 10-6 record this year. The Vikings (10-3) are a virtual lock to win it unless they lose all three of their final games against Cincinnati, Green Bay and the Chicago Bears. Green Bay is one of five teams still alive for a wild-card berth, but are longshots at best. The Seahawks are 8-5, Detroit, Green Bay and Dallas 7-6, and Arizona 6-7. If the playoffs began today, The Eagles (11-2) and Vikings would be the first and second seeds, respectively. The sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons (8-5) would face the third-seeded Los Angles Rams (9-4), while the fifth seeded Panthers (9-4) would face the fourth-seeded New Orleans Saints (9-4). By the way, the Vikings certainly didn't do the Packers any favors on Sunday by losing to the Panthers. Getting back to Rodgers, let's play out this scenario. Tests reveal he is 100 percent healed and cleared to play, which means he will start unless the Green Bay brass says otherwise. However, that would cause a furor in Titletown to say the least. Consider the buzz among the "talking heads," too. If Rodgers is cleared and does play, what if he gets injured again? Social media would go viral from fans as well as radio and TV members telling us that he shouldn't have played anyway. Finally, I hope Rodgers CT scan comes out well, but not 100 percent and he's not cleared to play. Why? Because realistically, it's not worth it. Have Rodgers come back healthy next season. Even the most loyal Packers' fans must know this season is over already. There's no question Green Bay is a much better team with Rodgers at the helm. However, their secondary is in shambles and we all know what happens to a poor defense in the playoffs. The Packers can hope for a 9-7 finish, and then regroup for 2018 with a 100 percent healthy Aaron Rodgers.
GM Stearns has Brewers on right track
I am really starting to believe in David Stearns. The young Milwaukee Brewers' general manager seems to be pushing all the right buttons. Let's be clear. None of us were too happy when the Brewers cleaned house, trading away several talented starters - minus Ryan Braun - in 2015 and 2016 for draft picks and young farm club players from other organizations. However, the Brewers now have the best farm organization in the Major Leagues. The Brewers took on a new look with all their young talent in 2017. While most sports writers and talking heads predicted a fourth or fifth place finish in the Central Division, the Brewers surprised everyone with their runnerup finish in front of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. And lest we forget they were in a chase for the final wild card going into the last weekend of the season. Credit goes to Manager Craig Counsell and his coaching staff. They moved players around all season, finding the best position to display their budding talent. The Brewers also watched their young pitching staff mature. From their starting rotation to the bullpen, they grew into one of the best young staffs in the big leagues. The Brewers made Stearns the youngest GM in the Major Leagues when they signed him away from the Houston Astros in September of 2015. The data-driven Stearns started with Houston in November 2012 with the rebuilding Astros coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons. They lost 111 games in 2013, but were postseason bound by 2015 when Stearns departed for the Brewers' top job. This year's Astros' team is one game away from winning the World Series. Stearns is relying on the same blueprint that carried the Astros to where they are today. He's also a firm believer in analytics in today's modern world of baseball. He also believes in acquiring, drafting, developing and keeping talent as proven by the recent signing of starting pitcher Chase Anderson and utility man Eric Sogard. The Brewers recently signed Anderson to a two-year contract through the 2019 season with club options for 2020 and 2021. "Signing Chase to a multi-year contract furthers our strategy to acquire, develop and retain talent throughout our organization," said Stearns. "Chase's 2017 performance elevated his stature in the game and demonstrated that he has the capability to lead a rotation. Since he arrived in Milwaukee, Chase has been a model contributor to our community both on and off the field. We are happy for him and his family, and look forward to Chase's contributions for years to come." Anderson, 29, who was eligible for arbitration, went 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 25 starts for the Brewers in 2017. He set career highs for victories and strikeouts (133) and tied his career high with 13 quality starts. Anderson has gone 17-5 with a 2.69 ERA over his last 37 starts dating back to July 25, 2016. His ERA since that date ranks fourth in the Major Leagues among starting pitchers (minimum 35 starts). Anderson was acquired from Arizona as part of a five-player trade on Jan. 30, 2016. He owns a career record of 36-28 with a 3.87 ERA in 104 games (103 starts) with Arizona (2014-15) and Milwaukee (2016-current). He is 21-15 with a 3.59 ERA in 56 games (55 starts) as a Brewer. The Brewers also signed Sogard to a one-year contract shortly after signing Anderson. "Eric brings to the team a veteran presence who possesses the ability to play multiple positions and reach base at a high rate," Stearns said. "We are pleased to welcome Eric and his family back to Milwaukee for the 2018 season." Sogard, 31, batted .273 with 3 HR and 18 RBI in 94 games during his first season with Milwaukee after missing all of 2016 with a left knee injury. He made 60 starts at four positions (37g at 2B, 20g at SS, 2g at 3B, 1g in LF). He posted a .393 on-base percentage, which would have led the team if he had enough plate appearances, as he walked 45 times compared to just 37 strikeouts. Sogard, who was eligible to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2017 postseason, was originally signed last December 15 as a non-roster invitee to spring training. He owns a career batting average of .245 with 11 HR and 123 RBI during seven Major League seasons with Oakland (2010-15) and Milwaukee (2017). Are the Brewers on the right track? Thanks to Stearns, YES!
Father, son share buck harvest
I always enjoyed watching tag team "pro" wrestling on TV when I was a kid in the fifties and early sixties. Well, I'm happy to say our youngest son, Evan, and I "tag-teamed" a 7-point buck on the second day of the Wisconsin gun-deer season. It was a hunt I will take to my grave, and I hope that's a long way down the road. It all began about 9:30 Sunday morning. I was in my comfortable 20-foot high "condo" deer stand. Warming my hands in front of a propane heater with worn carpet below my feet, I was looking for deer. That's what you're supposed to do when you're in a deer stand... right? Evan, 27, was in his stand deep in the brush on a sidehill. The plan was for him to walk through a major bedding area at 10 a.m. to hopefully, roust a deer toward me. "Dad. My feet are super cold," he radioed me at 9:30. "Can you wait another 15 minutes?" I replied. "Nope. I'm too cold," he said. The moment I put down my two-way radio, I heard "BLAAAAAAAT." "What the heck. That was a buck bleat?" I thought. Looking out the window below my stand was a buck with its antlers glistening in the morning sun. "Oh, boy," I thought. The buck was no more than 5 yards below me. I knew I had to move slowly to reach my .223 rifle, but I also had to avoid the hot heater in front of me. I also knew I had to get a good kneeling shot with the barrel rested against the window frame. The buck couldn't have cared less about me. He was looking north, up the logging road. As I maneuvered into shooting position, he moved out of the small meadow toward the edge of a hill... still no more than 30 yards away. For some reason, he kept looking toward his left. I had a pretty good shot, but the second I fired, he bolted. I knew I hit him. He ran only about 10 yards and stopped, looking all around. I watched him stumble through some brush as I tried to get off another shot, but couldn't. Before I could radio Ev and tell him the deer was coming his way, I looked up the logging road and saw Evan standing by "the big oak tree." Then, I saw the deer doing the military "low crawl" on the logging road in front of Evan. "It's down, but I'm going to shoot it again," he said on his walkie talkie. "Do it," I replied. Ev pointed his 30-06 toward the deer. I thought for sure the deer was dead meat. Ev didn't fire. He brought down his rifle and fumbled with it. He raised it again and repeated the same motion. "Why doesn't he fire?" I muttered under my breath. Later, Ev told me his rifle jammed and a bullet wouldn't chamber. It happened not once, but twice in those few hectic seconds. The deer crawled off the logging road with Ev in pursuit. I saw him point his rifle again. This time he fired as the deer crawled up the other side of the ravine. A few seconds later, he fired again. "It's down," he blared on the radio." "Are you sure," I replied. "Yup. For sure this time," he said. As I walked up to the 3 1/2-year-old buck, Ev said," Nice goin'. Dad, it's your deer. You hit it first." "No, it wasn't a killing shot. It would have gotten away. It's your deer," I said. Ev sort of agreed, but knowing my physical condition, Ev understood there was no way I could have trailed that deer. We checked the entry and exit holes in the deer. It was easy to see that I hit it just in front of the hind quarter. Evan's killing shot was right through the heart from 100 yards away. His other shot was through the neck. "This deer was an ironman. I can't believe it. Actually, I think I missed it the second shot," Ev said, rolling up his sleeves and preparing to field-dress it. "Remember, the doctors said I can't gut it or drag it," I reminded Ev, as I watched him field-dress the buck. I called the "Friendly Farmer's son-in law who brought the Gator to transport the deer to our Jeep after Evan dragged it downhill about 200 yards. "It's your deer, Dad," Ev repeated, shaking my hand. "You drew first blood." I told him, "No, as I told you, it's your deer. You made the killing shot because I would have never been able to keep up with it." We finally agreed we tag-teamed it. That's what hunting is all about. Not so much the kill, but the enjoyment you get by going with family and friends. Personally, I think 2017 is my best hunt ever, knowing my son and I shared in the harvest.
The do's and don'ts to removing golf balls from cups
We were playing golf a couple of weeks ago and happened to be following a foursome of elderly gentlemen. My playing partner and I became a little frustrated with our putting after rimming the cup on two of the first three holes. And then I discovered why. At least two of the fellows in front of us were removing golf balls from the cup with the heads of their putters. I understand our knees and back get old and it becomes increasingly difficult to bend and remove a golf ball from a cup in the normal, proper manner using your fingers. However, there are better ways. One way is to ask one of your playing partners to remove the ball from the cup. Another way is to buy a specially designed suction cup that goes on the end of the putting grip. My late father had one and it worked extremely well. Ripping the ball out with the head of the putter not only takes the enjoyment away from players following you, it also causes unnecessary work for maintenance crews, who must cut new cups. Keith Stoll, PGA professional and general manager at Forest Hills Golf Course in La Crosse, provides an insight into this issue in our latest video. Check it out. Remember, golf is a "gentlemen's game." Let's keep it that way.