The summer is winding down.
Cooler weather is approaching, and that means America’s favorite sport is here – football.
The Wilmot Panthers, fresh with new head coach Erick Kaiser, will attempt to notch back-to-back Southern Lakes Conference titles.
On the NFL side, the Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears rivalry that invigorates the Wisconsin-Illinois border will once again makes friends enemies and family members bitter rivals.
But we have the next three or four months to talk about football.
For now, let’s take a look back at some of the summer’s biggest sports stories, including the continued success of the Milwaukee Brewers, a bright future for the Chicago Cubs, believe it or not, and the Summer of LeBron, part deuce.
Once again, LeBron James has restructured the NBA landscape. The four-time MVP and two-time champion enjoyed another summer of free agency, but this time was far less theatrical than “The Decision” in 2010.
There were no TV cameras. There wasn’t a live broadcast, and King James didn’t proclaim he would be taking his talents anywhere.
It was much more simple and humble, as the 29-year-old soon-to-be father of three revealed he was coming home.
James is returning to his roots of Akron, Ohio, and re-joining his first team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The same fans that were burning his jersey in the streets when he left for Miami in 2010 were lining up in downtown Cleveland to sing his praises.
Once the biggest villain in the NBA, everything changed on July 11 when James’ article was published on SI.com.
Now, everyone is back to loving James, who I believe is the best player in the game since Michael Jordan.
As soon as the Cavs’ No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins is eligible to be traded Aug. 23, Cleveland will pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade that will send Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a 2015 first-round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for all-star forward Kevin Love.
Love is one of the 12 best players in the NBA, and he is an Olympic gold medalist (2012) and all-NBA performer (second team). The 6-foot-10 rebound machine scored 26 points per game and snatched 12.5 boards per game last season.
Though Love has the body of a post player, he is a lethal 3-point shooter, and his outlet passes are of legendary status, sometimes traveling the entire length of the court with pinpoint accuracy.
With Love, James and Kyrie Irving, a point guard who was the All-Star game MVP last season, the sky’s the limit for Cleveland, a franchise that has never won an NBA title in its 44-year existence.
Four decades of futility aside, Cleveland is now the NBA’s front-runner. Las Vegas odds-makers already have Cleveland with the best odds (16/5) to win the 2015 NBA championship.
Bulls bound for glory?
What does this mean for the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks, two teams that have a powerhouse in their stacked division along with Indiana?
Well, Chicago, a team many in southeastern Wisconsin still drool over even though Michael Jordan has been gone for 15 years, may be the biggest threat to the Cavs in the East.
In fact, former MVP Derrick Rose, who is only 25 years old, is back in the fold after missing most of the previous three seasons with knee injuries.
Currently, he is playing for the U.S.A. team in the World Championships, and Rose looks like quick, explosive game-changer who captivated Bulls fan en route to the 2011 MVP award.
Chicago got rid of forward Carlos Boozer, a former All-Star, but brought in two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol from the Lakers to provide front-court depth.
Sharpshooting rookie Doug McDermott adds a dangerous dimension to space the floor for Rose, and Joakim Noah is one of the best big men in the league.
If Rose stays healthy and returns to MVP form, the Eastern Conference Finals will most likely be a Chicago-Cleveland showdown.
However, the pure talent of Cleveland’s “Big Three” should outlast the Bulls in the end.
The other NBA team in this area, my Milwaukee Bucks, have enjoyed plenty of change this offseason as well.
Herb Kohl finally sold the team, for a cool $550 million, nothing major. If you think that’s a lot of money, consider two hedge fund billionaires purchased the Bucks.
They’ve already made a splash, hiring future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd as the new head coach. Also, the Bucks landed their highest draft pick in nine years and took Jabari Parker with the No. 2 overall pick.
At 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, Parker is a beast who can score from anywhere on the floor. Along with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Parker is another potential All-Star.
Another couple years of losing should yield a few more high draft picks, and the Bucks could be right back in the division title mix by 2016 or 2017.
Furthermore, Kohl donated $100 million toward the building of a new arena in Milwaukee, which would replace the outdated, run-down BMO Harris Bradley Center.
New owners, a new coach and the dreams of a new arena have Bucks fans salivating. The team has won one NBA title (1971) in 46 years and hasn’t really been legit since 2001’s Eastern Conference Finals run.
An eventual Bucks-Bulls rivalry could spark more area interest in the NBA.
Brewers-Cubs still a great rivalry
“You’re a cheater.”
“You’re a cheater.”
The Cubs fans made sure Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun heard loud and clear how they felt about him during a ninth-inning at-bat Monday night.
But Milwaukee, as it has all season, had the last laugh on its division foe with a 3-1 victory.
Yovani Gallardo tossed a gem, allowing one run in seven innings, and Scooter Gennett came up with a big RBI single in the ninth to give the Brewers a nice cushion.
Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez battled Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo in a 13-pitch at-bat in the ninth and eventually struck him out. Rodriguez allowed a base runner finished the game with another strikeout on a wicked changeup.
He recorded his 36th save.
Milwaukee improved to 66-53 overall and remained in first place in the National League Central, a place they’ve dwelled since April 5.
Now, the Brewers hold a 2.5-game lead on Pittsburgh and a three-game lead on St. Louis. The lowly Cubbies sit in last place at 50-67.
Though the Brewers will most likely battle for the division crown thanks to a powerful lineup and a solid starting rotation, I predict that St. Louis will edge out Milwaukee in the end based on experience. I hope I’m wrong.
Don’t worry, Cubs fans, all of these losing seasons (this will be Chicago’s fifth straight) won’t last forever.
The franchise that hasn’t seen happiness since 1908 could soon turn things around thanks to the best farm system in Major League Baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Although they traded their ace pitcher Jeff Samardzija to Oakland, the Cubs received Addison Russell, a shortstop ranked No. 7 in the list of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects.
The Triple-A Iowa Cubs also featured power hitter Javier Baez (No. 6), third baseman Kris Bryant (No. 4) and Jorge Soler (No. 54).
Russell plays for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies, and he is joined by No. 41 prospect Albert Almora.
With five prospects currently in the top 54, Chicago has become the best farm system in the league, which could a whole lot or absolutely nothing.
The 21-year-old Baez possesses out-of-this-world power and has already hit three home runs in seven big league games.
If the Cubs can pick up a pitcher or two to boost their rotation, this crop of tomorrow’s stars along with Rizzo and Starlin Castro should provide a potent offense.