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Meanwhile in Oz: A hopeful fan of all Wisconsin sports teams
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As a life-long fan of the Milwaukee Brewers, I've enjoyed following the team this year as it holds onto a lead in the National League's Central Division.

Growing up in southern Wisconsin led me to understand quickly about professional sports' rivalries. I was raised to be a fan of the Brewers, Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and then all of the teams fielded by the Wisconsin Badgers.

My parents did a good job of getting my sister and I indoctrinated as fans of Wisconsin's pro sports franchises. I went to Packers training camp for the first time when I was 10. There was good fan involvement in Green Bay during training camp during the 1970s. I recall meeting Johnny Gray and Steve Luke standing outside of the Hall of Fame one afternoon while we were at camp. They stood and talked with my dad and me just like we were friends of the family.

We went to pre-season games for the Packers. There wasn't a high demand for the tickets then. You could see a pre-season game quite reasonably. For me to be able to go to such a game was a big deal. I can remember Lynn Dickey throwing passes to James Lofton and Paul Coffman. Those were players I idolized. On defense, I was a big fan of Ezra Johnson and Johnny Gray.

Our fan connection to the Brewers was much deeper because we went to a lot of games. My parents had marked down all of the home doubleheaders that were on Saturday and Sunday and we went to as many of those as we could. We would sit in the upper deck at County Stadium or in the bleachers. The teams we watched eventually became the historic 1982 American League Champion Brewers. I remember knowing all the stats for Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper and Ben Oglivie at any time during the season.

Some of the kids in my neighborhood were fans of the Chicago Cubs or New York Yankees. I had a hard time understanding how anyone could be a fan for a team outside of Wisconsin.

When I was in my teens and playing hockey, I was lucky enough to occasionally get invited along to a Badger game by one of our hockey families. Sometimes the Badgers played against special opponents. I had a ticket to watch the Badgers play the Red Army team of the Soviet Union back during the Cold War. When the Red Army team scored a goal it barely celebrated. The Red Army team won the game, 7-0.

While there are still rivalries in sports, there were few bigger international rivalries than the United States vs. the Soviet Union in Olympic sports. Things have changed, but during the Cold War the rivalry was amazing and made watching the Olympics intense. My favorite sports memory of all time was the Miracle on Ice. I followed the U.S. Hockey team from the start of the Lake Placid Olympics, because I just started playing youth hockey as a Pee Wee and I didn't know much about the NHL. So, with two Badgers (Mark Johnson and Bob Suter) on Team USA, I soaked up everything about that squad.

I watched all of the games, including the first game of pool play when the United States came back to tie Sweden, 2-2. I remember the final minutes ticking down and being amazed that Team USA stayed so close. I had expected them to get blown out. But the tying shot in the last minute came. That said something to me as a fan with a little bit of hockey knowledge - I knew that they could contend for a medal. Later, when they defeated the U.S.S.R. in the first game of the medal round, that was a magical, "miracle" time. Many people think the game against the Russians was the gold medal game, but it was not. The United States eventually played Finland and overcame a 2-1 deficit in the third period to win, 4-2. That win sealed the gold medal for the United States.

This last year I took my stepson and two of his friends to a Milwaukee Bucks game. Milwaukee won and that helped make the experience at the Bradley Center worthwhile. The Bucks have had one of the youngest rosters in the league in the past few years and I've hoped that with Jason Kidd as coach they would make a run at the Eastern Conference finals, but we've had no such luck.

Milwaukee has one of the best basketball players in the league in Greek sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo. For some reason, the Bucks do not stick with a starting line-up too long and it just seems they can't put together a team that is competitive over time.

I will always be a Bucks fan. My dad and I would listen to the Bucks on the radio whenever we were working in the garage or driveway.

I hope the Brewers can keep it together and make a run into the championship series. I'm a hopeful fan of so many Wisconsin sports teams. During the NFL season, things just don't seem right on Sunday night unless I'm going to bed and Green Bay has chalked up another "W."

- Matt Johnson is publisher of the Monroe Times. His column is published Wednesdays.