Dan Devine’s bold, controversial move paid off big time for Packers

Some news and views while wondering when we’ll see a sell-out crowd at a professional sporting event again:

  • As noted in “The Last Dance’’, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf took a lot of flak when he named Jerry Krause as the team’s general manager after the latter had been working primarily as a baseball scout.

Reinsdorf’s bold and controversial move reminded of when, back in 1971, then Packers coach and general manager Dan Devine hired a young and driven public relations director for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team to be the Packers assistant GM.

Devine also took a ton of heat on that move, but hiring Bob Harlan proved to be one of the shrewdest moves ever in Packers history. Every time I wander into Lambeau Field, one of the most iconic sports venues on the planet, I immediately think of Harlan and all of the hard work invested into having the facility renovated.

While transforming Lambeau Field from a drab stadium into a state-of-the-art one may been Harlan’s crowning achievement with the Packers, he made a spate of other notable decisions, including the hiring of Ron Wolf as general manager who, in turn, traded for Brett Favre. The rest was history.

  • Speaking of gutsy calls, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst’s decision to draft Jordan Love with the team’s first-round pick in the recent NFL draft was unequivocally one of the gutsiest moves in Wisconsin sports history.

With Aaron Rodgers still playing at a high level and having plenty of fuel in his tank, who knows if Love will ever even play in Green Bay and, if he does, if he’ll be any good. One can safely assume Love better pan out in Green Bay or Gutekunst days there will be numbered.

As for those who compare Gutekunst’s selection of Love to former GM Ted Thompson’s selection of Rodgers, I have one word for them: poppycock.

 Favre had publicly hinted at possibly retiring on several occasions and Rodgers was regarded as one of the prized prospects in the draft and miraculously fell to the Packers. It was a no-brainer to take him.

  • Of all the major sports, I contend the NBA is going to have, by far, the toughest road back to normal. And that’s because of social distancing. It isn’t going away anytime soon.

NBA games, unlike Major League Baseball and NFL games, are held in relatively small, compact arenas. The vast majority of NBA arenas have seating capacities between 17,000 to 22,000. With social distancing in place, it’s hard to imagine any NBA game drawing even 10,000 fans.

Until a vaccine comes along and/or players submit to drastically reduced contracts, it’s inevitable NBA teams are going to struggle to survive, much less thrive. It’s no wonder why I’m hearing whispers some NBA owners are looking to sell.

  •  During this virus pandemic, a slew of athletes have stood up but no one taller than Drew Brees. The New Orleans Saints hall of fame in-waiting quarterback and his wife, Brittany, generously donated $5 million to the state of Louisiana to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. That amount, to the best of my knowledge, is significantly more than any other athlete has contributed.
  • While Brees is at the top of my “favorite athletes’’ list these days, Blake Snell is at the bottom of my “least favorite athletes’’ list. The Tampa Bay Rays ace pitcher had the audacity to say he won’t pitch this season if he has to take a pay cut.

Snell, who was scheduled to make a “paltry’’ $7 million this season, should be on his knees every night thanking the Lord for the job he has and be reminded more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims and millions of others are clinging on to their jobs.

  • I’m betting Charles Oakley, who was a Jordan teammate in Chicago and Washington, could have dropped some fascinating tales if he had been a part of “The Last Dance’’.
  • The Bucks have a league-best 53-12 record, an .815 winning percentage.

The 1971 NBA champion Bucks posted a 66-16 record, an .805 winning percentage.

  • Like millions of others, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Last Dance’’ Now, wouldn’t it be awesome to see more docs on other iconic athletes and teams? Can you imagine an unfiltered, in-depth look at Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys? Or Joe Namath’s Jets? Or Mickey Mantle’s Yankees? Or Al Davis’ Raiders? And, closer to home, Favre’s Packers?
  • As much as I liked “The Last Dance’’, I may have enjoyed “The Scheme’’ even more. It’s an HBO doc on how the FBI, with marginal success, attempted to bring down some unsavory individuals in the wonderful world of college basketball recruiting. Whether you’re a basketball buff or not, “The Scheme’’ is revealing, riveting and worth checking out.
  • Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich is in quest of his third consecutive National League batting title, something that hasn’t been achieved in more than two decades.

In fact, the last NL player to string together as many batting titles was San Diego’s Tony Gwynn, who won his fourth straight title in 1997.

The last three-peat batting champ was Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera from 2011-2013.

  • Wisconsin has to be the most underrated basketball states in the union. To wit: in last year’s NBA draft, two Wisconsin natives were chosen in the first round: Milwaukee born Tyler Herro, who played at Whitnall High School, was taken by the Miami Heat with the 13tH overall selection, and Jordan Poole (Milwaukee/Mil. Rufus King H.S.) was the 28th overall pick, taken by the Golden State Warriors.

In this year’s draft, whenever that is held, Tyrese Haliburton is a lock to be chosen in the first round. Haliburton, who was born in Oshkosh and attended Oshkosh North High School, played the last two seasons at Iowa State and is generally regarded as a lottery pick (a top 14 selection).

And you can look for two more Wisconsin prep products to be chosen in the 2021 and 2022 drafts: Jalen Johnson, who was a star at Nicolet H.S. and now bound for Duke, and Patrick Baldwin Jr. of Sussex Hamilton H.S. Each has a legit chance of being a lottery pick.

  • I can’t think of one concrete reason why I’ll want to watch an NBA game that doesn’t have fans in attendance, although former NBA coach David Fizdale claims there’s one good reason.

Said Fizdale: “Now you’re gonna hear everything. You’re gonna hear dialogue between people. You’re gonna hear a lot of vulgarities.’’

That’s great. I’m sure every parent in America can’t wait.