Athletic Aesthetic

Let the Frenzy Begin

after a summer fling with soccer, time to get back to ’Merican football

Luc Anthony |

I recently found myself consumed by a full weekend of football. There were live games galore, non-stop action, and plenty of highlights and analysis of one of the hottest sports in the planet.  Ratings are up, and seemingly every network is getting involved with coverage. It became such a big deal that I caught myself referring to the sport as “football” – of course, I’m referring to the August boom in attention to English Premier League soccer.

All of the aforementioned is true, but it applies to more than one kind of football. The other being the kind of football we love here in ’Merica. Seemingly every late summer brings another round of examples of the inexorable rise in popularity of American football, be it pro, college or high school. What I find interesting about this year are the first signs that, perhaps, we have reached a peak in one respect: going to the actual games. In-stadium NFL attendance has become enough of an issue that one team will be showing the addictive NFL RedZone channel on a stadium video board while a real game is played on the field below, while another is pondering a new stadium with reduced capacity to 50,000 seats.

Every late summer brings another round of examples of the inexorable rise in popularity of American football, be it pro, college or high school.

The opposite still seems to be the case here in Wisconsin, as the Packers formally open their latest Lambeau Field expansion. The so-called South End includes features foreign to Lambeau: multiple decks, a protective overhang, 100-percent-theater-style seating. Having been to a game last season after the basic structure was completed, I can tell you that the South End really does loom over the field – and the Packers claim that the decks alone are already causing a louder cacophony for opponents approaching the southern end zone. Imagine what 7,000 actual people will do for the volume.

Thus, a larger Lambeau kicks off Athletic Aesthetic’s 2013 Football Preview (American-Style Edition), to get you prepped for the coming seasons in about 700 words. I asked fellow members of the Chippewa Valley sports media for their take on what to expect and have included some of their predictions in the column, along with the general conventional wisdom for how our teams will perform.

Playing in the larger Lambeau is a Packers team with larger expectations than most NFL franchises. This is a squad that has the longest current streak of NFC playoff appearances, and they are oftentimes mentioned with defending conference champs San Francisco as a legit Super Bowl contender. That said, the media seem to expect about an 11-5 finish, perhaps a division title but likely no appearance in the conference championship – lower prospects than a year ago, and a shaky defense is the prime culprit. As one media member put it, “We’re going to see a bunch of passing records get broken.”

A good win-loss record is what Barry Alvarez is hoping in the first season of the Gary Andersen Era of Badger football. The former Utah State head coach has replaced Bret Bielema, and he immediately has to deal with an Ohio State team in its own division that is now eligible for the postseason, went undefeated last year and features one of the best coaches in the game in Urban Meyer. Therefore, do not expect another B1G Championship Game appearance; a basic winning record (in large part thanks to a weak schedule) and a conventional B1G bowl appearance (like the Outback) are probably in store for Bucky in the eyes of the media.

Division III football in Wisconsin is sort of the same as it ever was. The predictions have UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout in the middle of the WIAC and not making the playoffs, with UW-Whitewater taking the conference title. In the high school world, Hudson and Menomonie should be at the top of the Big Rivers Conference, with Memorial behind a bit and North in last place. Glenwood City seems a consensus pick to bring home another state title, which would be their second D7 trophy in a row.

You want my picks? My Vikings will regress some, the Pack will fall short of the Super Bowl, and Aston Villa will avoid relegation – oh, whoops, wrong football. Regardless of the type, let’s get ready for the kickoff.