Steve Brownlee column: Packers, Tigers lead way for fans despite attention-grabbing scoundrels

You know that feeling?

I know you know it, that feeling you get when everything is going along perfectly, but in the back of your mind, a sense of dread creeps in that somehow you forgot something, or there’s going to be some bump in the road you haven’t anticipated.

Well, that’s what I have – except in the opposite way.

Let me explain:

I’ve been covering the sports desk quite a few mornings in July with everyone else taking vacation time. Don’t worry about me, I’m joining the exodus next week.

While sifting through the stories that come in from The Associated Press related to sports, I’ve gotten overwhelmed with all the bad news, what with steroids and human growth hormone, constant money grabs by teams and leagues, and scandals related to sex and violence.

The list goes on and on – and then on some more.

It’s hard to judge what’s more depressing: old stories that get recycled with new names, like the Biogenesis drug scandal snaring a long list of baseball players, or new, more bizarre twists on old themes, like whether former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez has one-upped O.J. Simpson by committing not just one murder, but a whole string of them.

So why am I feeling so optimistic, so buoyant – maybe even cheery – when I think about the sports world?

Glad you asked. It’s because this really is a golden age for those of us who follow pro and major college teams in Michigan and Wisconsin, where there’s a wealth of champions and contenders.

If all the doom and gloom gets to be too depressing, aggravating or just plain annoying, you can always tune it out, whether you’re reading The Mining Journal, watching TV or surfing the Internet.

My best guess for our teams’ success is tied to the trend toward competitive balance in virtually every league and conference.

Even when you’re down, your not necessarily out for long. With a key acquisition, draft pick or coach, suddenly it’s boing! and an amazing rise through the ranks.

Salary caps of varying effectiveness are employed by the NFL, NHL and NBA, while the NCAA does a similar thing by limiting the number of scholarships any school may grant.

Baseball has resisted this trend, but only because it somehow has also achieved an acceptable amount of balance. If it was always the Yankees or Dodgers taking every World Series title, the call for a cap would’ve built to a crescendo there, too.

Right now, we have the Detroit Tigers, a team that seems to underachieve at times but is still in first place and has been to two World Series in the past decade.

Things don’t look nearly as rosy with the Milwaukee Brewers, but even they nearly made it to the World Series two years ago and were contenders for the playoffs last year before falling short.

Seemingly there’s still enough talent there to build back to a high level with a few deft moves.

Wisconsin and Michigan switch places in pro football. Wisconsin, of course, claims the Green Bay Packers, one of the NFL’s most storied franchises.

Isn’t that what you say only when your team hasn’t been any good for forever? But the Packers have been consistently one of the best teams in football, making the playoffs four straight years and 15 of the past 20. I don’t even have to mention Super Bowl championships in 1997 and 2011.

Like the Brewers, the Detroit Lions were in the playoffs just a season before last and look like they have the talent to regain that form.

In hockey, we have the Detroit Red Wings, a team that has made the playoffs for an amazing 22 years in a row. And with the way the crazy NHL playoffs work most years, the No. 8-ranked team is really just a No. 1 in waiting.

Even in basketball, the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks at least show glimmers of hope. Neither is the Miami Heat, but they’re also not the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, who measure success by reaching double digits in wins each year.

Collegiately, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin all vie for Big Ten titles in both football and basketball year-in and year-out.

Think about other cities. Cleveland has gone crazy this summer for their baseball Indians, who have been out of contention for a decade. The football Browns could only wish their futility had lasted that short of a time.

Pittsburgh is going just as nutty for the Pirates with a team that has suffered 20 straight losing seasons.

And then there’s Los Angeles. It takes two baseball teams to find one contender, which has only happened in the last month with the Dodgers, and two in the NBA as the formerly awful Clippers have risen as the Lakers fall.

The Kings in hockey are an afterthought, and then there’s the NFL team, the … uh …

Oh wait, there is no NFL team in L.A. Oops, my bad.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is