What Am I Doing Here?
By all accounts, I should not be a Milwaukee Bucks fan. I grew up in an era of mediocre Milwaukee basketball in a city where the Bucks play third fiddle to the Packers and Brewers. I can hardly blame the fans. The Bucks haven’t won a playoff series since 2001 when I was only 11 years old. Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to the year I was born, 1989, before you’ll find the second most recent playoff series win. Although the Brewers haven’t fared much better over the same time period, they have the beautiful Milwaukee summers and the allure of pregame tailgating to keep their fandom interested.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, they play during the brutal Wisconsin winters where the allure of free hot chocolate is the best the Bucks organization can muster to coerce fans to come out to a Monday night game in January with wind chills in the negative thirties. Now, I shouldn’t speak for Milwaukee collectively. There are fans out there, my wife and I included, who would have attended that particular game sans hot chocolate. And although the records show that over 11,000 fans attended on the evening of the revered polar vortex 2014, I have serious doubts. So what is it that caused my wife and I to brave the historic wind chills, make the 15 minute walk from Water St. and Juneau Ave. to the Bradley Center, and watch the 8-35 Milwaukee Bucks take on the L.A. Clippers on January 27th 2014? (besides my absolute refusal to pay for parking in downtown Milwaukee) One word. Hope.
Earlier that season we happened to get a front seat view (Nearly literally. I think lower bowl center row F seats were going for $15 on StubHub that night.) of this play against the Spurs in 2013:
Yes, I know it’s garbage time, and this angle doesn’t quite do the play justice, but this was the play that had me talking to people at work the next day saying, “This kid has the opportunity to be not just good, but great.” In 2013, we had real hope in the Bucks for the first time in over a decade.
Why Aren’t You Here?
Over the past 5 years that hope has grown and has rewarded us with some extremely entertaining seasons and playoff series, but the city of Milwaukee hasn’t received the memo; at least not totally. A day I won’t soon forget is April 25th 2015. It’s was a Saturday afternoon playoff game and the BMO Harris Bradley Center was absolutely packed. There was just one problem. It was packed with Chicago Bulls fans. There are no official numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were more Bulls fans than Bucks fans at this particular game. No fan should have to endure such an embarrassment in their home arena. In fact, I nearly got into a fight with a particularly rowdy bunch of broom wielding Chicago natives as their team went for the sweep over the Bucks. For those of you that did show up, I can’t stress enough how important your support was that day. Thankfully, we were rewarded with this gem of a finish:
Note the pitiful number of rally towels being waved during the aerial shot afterwards. While I was absolutely elated after this game and fiercely chanted “Milwaukee! Milwaukee! Milwaukee!” on my way out of the Bradley Center, I can’t help but look back and be disappointed with the turnout for this game. The Bucks won this game in spite of Milwaukee. Although game 6 of the series saw a much better turnout for Bucks fans, let’s please agree to never speak of that game again. Deal?
You’re Beginning to Figure it Out Now, Aren’t You?
Since then, the Bucks have continued their mediocre ways, but the city has slowly been figuring out that there is hope in this Giannis Antetokounmpo kid. I recall the first time I could seriously say I was proud of the turnout at the Bradley Center. On April 20th, 2017, the Bucks completely trounced the Toronto Raptors in game 3 of the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Bradley Center was absolutely rocking. I don’t say this lightly. I had issues both hearing and talking for the next couple of days as I struggled to keep up with the tremendous roars of the Milwaukee crowd. If you have the opportunity, watch this entire video. If not, at least watch the first 2:30.
Almost every fan is wearing their provided “Fear the Deer” t-shirt. Many fans stand and raise their arms after each incredible play. The roar is deafening after each score. It may have been the several liters of Haufbrau beer I consumed just down the street prior to the game, but I’d be lying if I said this game didn’t bring a tear to my eye. Once again I had hope. But not just in the Bucks. This time, I had hope in the city of Milwaukee as well.
Drink the Kool-Aid.
Just writing this post has brought on a roller coaster of emotions, no Haufbrau necessary. I remember the many years it was difficult to be a fan because the product was so bad. I remember the anger I had at this city as the team continued to improve, but the fan turnout didn’t. The anger turned to pure rage as I nearly lost my beloved Bucks to Seattle as the team threatened to leave if public funding could not be secured to build a new arena. Since then, my mood has been steadily improving. The team has been improving. The fan turnout has been improving. There hasn’t been a better time to tune into the Bucks in over 15 years. If you haven’t hopped on the bandwagon yet, I have one question to ask you. Why? If you’re on the fence, I hope I’ve enticed you to drink the Kool-Aid and give this team a chance. This season has the looks to be a historic one. Giannis has solidified himself as a bona fied superstar in this league. The Bucks have arguably one of the top basketball minds as their head coach in Mike Budenholzer. The Fiserv Forum is, without a doubt, one of the most imposing arenas in the NBA.
So consider this a public service announcement. The Bucks are about to begin a journey that we will remember for decades. How do you want to remember this journey? Please come out and do your part in making visiting teams fear the Fiserv Forum all season long.
Go Bucks Go!