PantherU

No-Nonsense Mailbag #1

So, it’s finally here. After a solid ten months since I proclaimed that I would get around to answering your questions about anything and everything, as long as it has some vague connection to the Panthers or is at least easily bridged to there. Or not. Whatever. I wanted to riff on anything and everything and this is what I decided to do with it. I call it the No-Nonsense Mailbag, which is a joke because a lot of this is going to be nonsense. If you like the idea, keep the questions flowing to Jimmy@PantherU.com:

1. Can the Panthers still win the McCafferty Trophy without basketball scoring at all? – M. Brylski

I figured we’d get the obvious one out of the way. This was one I got almost immediately after posting the initial thread on the forum and it was the only one for awhile. That said, we can still talk about it even though we know the results (Cleveland State won with 45 points, the smallest championship point total since 2000).

Essentially this is what it is: the points scored are on a descending track for each sport, with your champion getting seven points, second gets five, on down. Indoor and Outdoor track are averaged out, as are every regular season and tournament champion. So, despite finishing 2nd in the regular season, the men’s soccer team’s tournament championship scored the school 6 points in men’s soccer (7 tournament title, 5 regular season 2nd place).

This is why Milwaukee didn’t win the championship last year. The Panthers are, undoubtedly, a fall sports program. The soccer and volleyball programs are usually good for a couple titles, and with volleyball on its off year and Kelderman in his first year at the helm, all we had to show for championships last fall was in women’s soccer (nice job coach Henschel).  Other schools – mainly UIC and Cleveland State – load up on spring sports that we don’t play (softball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s tennis) or we aren’t particularly good at (tennis). This is why Milwaukee’s almost always leading at the winter break and only wins half the time (six McCafferty Trophies since 2000).

Another back breaker for our chances in many years is that it’s your best five finishes in each gender. So, if you’re loaded on the men’s or women’s side, there are chances you aren’t doing well. I believe it was 2006 where we had a championship on the women’s side that didn’t get counted because we were already champions in five women’s sports. Oh well.

The fact of the matter is now that men’s soccer is back and baseball seems to be hitting its stride, the Panthers should take home a McCafferty Trophy regardless of where men’s basketball finishes.

2. What do you do without the Panthers for the summer months? Every conversation I’ve ever had with you seemingly ends up talking Panthers at one point or another. In my imagination you’re sitting in your parents’ basement paging through old media guides with a tinfoil hat. – Mark P.

Well Mark, I can tell you that these days I have my own basement to lurk in and I’m chewing my fingernails from the last pitch of the baseball tournament until soccer kicks off.

Honestly though, I think it could rank up there with the great fetishes of the world. Some people like Star Trek, some football coaches like feet, and this guy could spend hours a day talking BS on the Panthers from morning until night. That includes summer.  This past summer was a productive one. You’re looking at the site redesign (I’m considering a forum upgrade for next summer), we started the Black and Gold Club and I wrote about 300 pages of my novel.

But the Panthers are never too far from my mind. Come on, who wants to be enjoying the sun and Summerfest when you could be sitting on the phone listing your ten favorite basketball moments of the past decade?  I’ll tell you what’s better – doing that at the tiki bar on Bradford Beach while one of our cheerleaders works her summer job refilling your margaritas.

I think of it like everyone else in and around the program. The players are building up muscle, the sports information department is building the website and the media guides/record books. I’ll be figuring out how to build the Black and Gold Club.

3. You’re casting the next Avengers movie but you can’t use anyone outside of the current basketball team. You gotta figure that Rob Jeter is Nick Fury, after that then what? – JD

I don’t know. Rob Jeter could easily be the Powers Boothe character who decides to nuke New York because they aren’t decisively winning a battle with an alien army. Yet. Holy alarmist Batman. Seriously, was there any overreaction worse than that? If the Chitauri beat the Avengers in the Battle of New York and got out of the general area, we still had the American military and S.H.I.E.L.D. ready as a second line of defense. Instead you want to nuke Manhattan? The aliens are coming out of a portal connected to the other side of the galaxy. Killing millions of people would look stupid if the aliens just keep coming out. We also don’t know if radiation would kill these guys. Maybe they feed off of it?

No, Rob Jeter couldn’t be the Powers Boothe character. The “Council” is most definitely the Freak board, who will turn on this basketball team the second they lose a string of games in a row. Rob Jeter is Nick Fury. If only he would call them “stupid-ass” to the board’s face.

I got this question in May, right around the time Iron Man 3 came out. Iron Man is for sure Jordan Aaron. He’s got all the talent you can pack into a 5’6” frame, but he’s totally a primadonna who will start playing me-first the second he makes a big shot. It would totally kill. You just have to think, is he the guy who carries the nuke into space (sacrificing the big game-winning shot for an open man) or is he the guy Captain America is trying to pick a fight with because he turns everything into the Jay-O Show? If Aaron is Iron Man, we’re at the character development stage in Iron Man 2 when Rhodey (Don Cheadle is way better than Terrence Howard) steals the Iron Man suit because Stark is being a selfish prick. Pretty obvious. Which makes Paris Gulley the War Machine because he’s a similar player that isn’t as successful and isn’t around for the Avengers (2013-14 is the Avengers’ season).

Austin Arians is Hawkeye. This much is obvious. Jeremy Renner is one of those actors who is a leading man if he has the right script (Hurt Locker) and the perfect supporting character for blockbusters (Avengers). Not to mention, sharpshooter-marksman is where you want Arians and it’s just a match. He could be a star if the mix is right, but he’ll be part of a much more successful ($) season if he’s part of an ensemble cast. Plus I don’t know if anyone would watch a team based all around Arians. I mean I would, because I’m psyched by the development from a defensive liability/spot shooter to offensive mismatch/capable defender.

If you’re going to try and find a spot for Captain America on this team, it’s going to be either Steve McWhorter or Bobo Niang. I tend to lean toward McWhorter because he’s running the point and he really ties the team together. This team would still be flailing wildly if Jordan Aaron had the ball in his hands as much as he did last season. Iron Man 2 flailed around, then the Avengers came in and POW it’s a totally different story. McWhorter as Captain America also works because he isn’t the guy who is really going to carry his own movie – Captain America has easily been my least favorite of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) so far after Iron Man 2, and it really is only saved from that because Hugo Weaving was fantastic as the Red Skull.

So this leaves us with the Hulk, Thor, the Black Widow and miscellaneous characters. It’s probably a good point to mention that it sucks so much that Marvel (now a subsidiary of Disney) doesn’t have the film rights to the Fantastic 4, Spiderman and X-Men. Having Wolverine and Spiderman available for double-duty (they’re Avengers in the comics – well, most characters are at one point or another) would make my job  a lot easier.  Except when it comes to one guy.

Tiby is the hardest to place. This question came when Tiby was sitting out the spring semester, so I wouldn’t have had to account for him then. But I’m answering it now, and so now I’ve got to answer it. Tiby would work as Spiderman, Thor, Deadpool, or the Hulk. But since Deadpool is owned by Fox (and was wasted in some BS Wolverine “Origins” trash) and Spiderman is owned by Sony (I can’t wait for the next guy to totally get the character wrong), we’ll stick with the two in the MCU. The long locks and loud mouth coachspeak would lean towards Thor, but he tears throw opposing teams like the Hulk.

Last year Demetrius Harris would have been the Hulk for obvious reasons. Maybe if we stick one of the other guys into the other role we could find one for Tiby. JJ Panoske and Kyle Kelm are the ones that badly need some placement. I’d say that Kelm looks to be Thor, for a couple reasons. #1, he’s got the flowing locks – the fact that students have been calling him “Basketball Jesus” is a testament to that. But Kelm is also skilled far more than the other post players, both in offensive post moves and on the pass. I wouldn’t call it Godlike, but it’s for sure a skill level the others can’t match on a consistent basis – Tiby hasn’t shown Kelm’s flair for passing and Panoske isn’t

So that makes Tiby the Incredible Hulk. Which is good because that’s what I thought immediately. He’s a bull in a china shop, everything James Haarsma could have been if he weren’t 6’4” and a locker room cancer. When I first saw tape on him during his recruitment, we were coming off Haarsma’s junior year when it looked like this was going to be his team moving forward. Tiby looked like just a taller version of Haarsma, which is something we have needed badly the last couple years – remember all those 12 point and 6 rebound games Haarsma had that would have been 16 and 10 if he were a few inches taller? Go look at Tiby’s numbers. The funny thing is he is the antithesis of Haarsma. He commands the respect of his teammates in the locker room, already a leader despite playing as a sophomore.

He’s the kind of player that can change the culture of a program, which is the same thing Hulk did to the Avengers. The beginning of the fight with the Chitauri wasn’t out of hand, but they didn’t really start kicking ass until the Hulk joined in and went on a rampage (also, the only Hulk character worth its salt. Edward Norton was all right, Eric Bana was god-awful). Tiby gets the rest of the team to start following his lead, you’re going to see an entire team play winning basketball for good. We haven’t had a player with the intangibles of Tiby since Rob Jeter’s first season.

Which means JJ is the Black Widow. Sorry JJ.

4. How is married life different from single life? Use seasons of Panther basketball to differentiate. – Rob J.

No, this wasn’t coach Jeter that sent me this question.

I guess I would say that 2012 was my own personal 2012-13 season – it was, by and large, the worst year ever. Some personal misfortune and some failings in business and elsewhere left me ready for 2013. I can think of two ways to correlate it with basketball: 2012 made me a stronger person, made my relationship with Sarah far stronger. In basketball, anyone who sat through the 8-24 season and came out fans on the other side is a stronger fan having done so. If you could watch last season and not abandon the program, you’re a far better fan.

As for this year? I think it’s the same. 2013-14’s basketball team has a lot of upside and positive thoughts for the future. I’m thinking the same since I officially upgraded Sarah from the Official Girlfriend of PantherU to the Official Wife of PantherU on September 27th.

Speaking of, if you aren’t married and plan on doing it in the future, do your best to get married on your significant other’s birthday. I’m a forgetful person, and knowing that September 27th is both our anniversary and her birthday makes it easier to remember. On the other hand, if I forget it she may stab me with a soldering iron. I’ll take the risk, and you should too!

In all seriousness, I’m astonished that not only does a woman find me attractive and interesting, but enough so that she’d lasso the rest of her life to me. Sarah is a classy, beautiful, intelligent woman with whom I’ve already experienced a life’s worth of ups and downs. The best thing is that she helps put this universe into perspective for me. I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy life with someone as I have with Sarah. She’s also as much into Green Day as I’m into the Panthers, which is something I didn’t think was possible and can give you an idea what the walls in my house look like.

5. Why keep pushing your own forum? The UWMFreak Proboard has a decade of posts and more users than PantherU has a hope of getting anytime soon. – Jennifer A.

This was the question that I decided to take as the last one because I want it to be my final word tonight. The reason I started the PantherU forum was two-fold: number one, vBulletin allowed me to set up a subscription service that could get me paid for the work I have put in on PantherU over the years, which in turn would allow me to continue putting in that work. I don’t think people are aware of this, but our fan base is one of the most educated in college basketball and my website has played a big part in that due to the work put in over the years by myself, Paul Spicuzza, Josh Griesbach, Danny Zielinski, etc.

The other reason is that I want to build the fan base. That’s pretty much my way of still being a part of the student section at games without actually being a part of it. I can join the rah-rah alumni and build up the fan base by putting forward this forum. The Freak board is great, don’t get me wrong – GhostofDylan still posts there, as do a lot of the knowledgeable diehards such as Freak himself. But you have to ask yourself this question: if you’re handing out flyers to students and you want them to join a forum (which is how many of us became diehards), do you want them going to the Freak board?

It’s an honest question.  The last year has been depressing on the Freak board, but really it has been a bastion of negativity for seven years now, and lately it has been a home for apathy as well. That’s not to say that negativity is wrong or needed or out of place. It’s a message board, and like all message boards is the perfect place to vent frustrations. But the whole tone of the board has been defeatist until about 2 weeks ago, and if the Panthers go on a losing streak of any length it’s going to fall right back into the crevasse. The fans on that board are great, and I’m happy so many of them have stuck it out as long as they have – if you’ll notice, I haven’t entirely stopped posting there, so I see value in it – but as a way of introducing new fans to the Milwaukee Panthers, it’s a terrible first step.

I remember when I first joined the board in 2005, coming off the Sweet 16. I delved into the past couple years, got myself acquainted with all of the characters – what is a student going to do now? We’re not just trying to reel in casual fans, we’re trying to get the next big fish to lead the student section. Someone who can take the numbers we saw on Tuesday and turn them into an actual student section instead of 300 kids with 20 who are actually doing anything.

You put that kid on the Freak board, and they’re going to see a whole lot of defeatism, which is going to turn them away, and a whole lot of Seinfeld references, which they aren’t going to understand. That’s not to say I would never show them the Freak board. Just not when we’re trying to convince them that we’re worth his or her time.

I don’t want to kill the Freak board and I don’t want anyone over there to think I am. I’m still a participant on that board, although obviously not as much as I used to since I started the PantherU board.

Look at it this way though; isn’t the existence of a second board, which is building slowly but surely, a sign that the fan base is getting bigger and stronger? Big fan bases like Wisconsin and Marquette support several message boards apiece, as well as subscription news sites on Rivals and Scout that don’t give them a quarter of the coverage that PantherU gives the Milwaukee Panthers fan.

Let’s hope we can beat Judson by 20+.

Want to ask questions for a future mailbag? Send them all to Jimmy@PantherU.com – no question is too stupid or too ridiculous.

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