2018 is shaping up to be the best year in Wisconsin professional sports since 1982.
You remember 1982, don't you? Well, I really don't. I was four at the time, and probably focusing on setting up my Castle Grayskull to correct specifications.
But, let's review. The Brewers had their finest season in team history, winning 95 games and the American League pennant before losing their only World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Bucks, in their Green and Growing phase, won 55 games and the Central Division title, but bowed out to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in six games.
The Packers were 5-3-1 in a goofy, strike-shortened season. They qualified for the expanded playoffs, that year called the Super Bowl Tournament, for the first time since 1972. They wouldn't be back until 1993.
So, why the optimism? The answer is really quite simple: The Packers have a healthy Aaron Rodgers. The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo. And the Brewers have a young, talented roster buoyed by off-season acquisitions (with the promise of more to come) that has all fans truly excited for the first time since 2011.
No, the Packers won't enter camp as a favorite for the Super Bowl. The Eagles will be terrific again, the Rams are an up-and-coming team and with the rise of the Vikings, they might not even be the favorites to win the NFC North.
But the Packers have the league's ultimate X-Factor at the game's most important position. They also have a new power structure, led by GM Brian Gutekunst, that appears primed to help the team right away with a few key free agent acquisition. Despite their 7-9 record, I don't believe the Packers are far away from again contending for a Super Bowl berth.
The Bucks are probably one impact player away from making a deep run in the playoffs, but this is still the franchise's finest team since they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals back in 2001. If they can add a legitimate big man without giving up several core pieces before Thursday's trade deadline, the prospects could be even brighter.
The Brewers are coming off a feel-good 86-win season that was evidently enough for GM David Stearns and owner Mark Attanasio to go into win-now mode. Just how aggressive they are will be determined in the coming weeks as several big-ticket free agents and trade targets are still rumored to potentially be heading to Milwaukee. Particularly if they can add a talented, proven starting pitcher (anyone from Yu Darvish to Alex Cobb would fit the bill for me), nothing short of a Wild Card berth should be a realistic goal for this team. Miller Park will once again be a hot spot this summer.
Since 1982, there have been just a few contenders for the best year in Wisconsin pro sports. Here are five to remember:
• 2011: The calendar year began with a Packers Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh. The 2011 Packers went 15-1, and since that loss to the Giants in the playoffs didn't occur until 2012, we can conveniently pretend it didn't exist for the purpose of this exercise. The Brewers had their best season since the celebrated `82 team, winning a franchise-record 96 games and making the National League Championship Series before being bounced by the Cardinals in six games. The Bucks, as is so often the case since 1991 or so, were the fly in the ointment, finishing with just 35 wins.
• 2001: The Bucks had their best season since 1987, coming within one game of advancing to the NBA Finals. The Packers were 12-4, with Ahman Green's first great season leading a surprising division title team. This time it was the Brewers who fouled up the equation, as they celebrated their inaugural year in beautiful Miller Park by going 68-94. Not ideal.
• 2007: The Brewers had their first winning season since 1992, going 83-79. However, they were 24-10 in May and basically collapsed down the stretch to hand the division to the Cubs. The Packers had a rather shocking 13-3 campaign (again, we'll ignore a Giants playoff loss), and the Bucks, well...they went 28-54.
• 1987: One of the most fondly-remembered Brewers teams ever began the season 13-0, won 91 games and featured a 39-game hitting streak by Paul Molitor. This was the last really good Bucks team under Don Nelson, as Terry Cummings and Sidney Moncrief. The team won 50 games in the regular season, ended Dr. J's career in the playoffs, then lost to the Larry Bird-led Celtics in a hard-fought (literally) seven-game series. The Packers? 5-9-1 in a strike-shortened year. Yuck.
• 2010: This was the Packers' last Super Bowl season, but before the final two games, some might forget this was an exercise in frustration. The team was 8-6 before going on a historic run...most of which took place in 2011. The Bucks had a memorable season which will forever go down as the Fear the Deer team. They won 46 games, and pushed the favored Atlanta Hawks to seven games before bowing out in the first round. The Brewers endured a frustrating 77-85 campaign that featured a horrendous pitching staff.