New Years Day kicked off 2009 with a familiar tradition, a Big Ten team showing up a lame duck to the Rose Bowl. This time it was Penn State lost badly to USC by a score of 38-24. The halftime score was 31-7, so the final score really did Penn State more justice than they really deserve. The chatter was that this was the game that would decide whether the Big Ten was a major joke or a major conference. At 1-5 so far, with one game left the Big Ten is officially an invalid of a conference.
I look at this and then think back over the past few years and have come up with a question I think needs to be answered.. Does the Midwest just suck at sports?
Just a little while ago the Big Ten basketball teams lost their 10th ACC-Big Ten challenge. They came close at 6-5 overall, but lost ever high profile game. The futility of the Midwest is simply staggering. It goes from college to the pros as well.
The NFC North is touted for its old school Midwest tradition, but has little to show for it. The Green Bay Packers were terrible, the Detroit Lions went 0-16, and the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears had a playoff chase that was almost as bad the AFC West. Really both teams suffer from the same problems.
They both have no quarterback (Kyle Orton is not the answer), the have no decent wide receivers (Bernard Berrian and Devon Hester? Please), and both have defenses that have outdated expectations (the Monsters of the Midway and the Purple People Eaters are nicknames that are decades old and no longer apply).
The AFC teams are no better. Only the Indianapolis Colts have playoff tickets for fans that might last beyond the first round.
In the NBA in the 21st century the Midwest has suffered along with the Eastern Conference as the Leastern Conference. The Detroit Pistons won it all in 2004, but that was thanks more to the discord between Kobe and Shaq than the lauded tea play of the Pistons. There is hope with LeBron James, but all signs point to him playing in New York as of 2010.
Then, there is baseball. The Chicago Cubs had a great summer, but Cubs tickets only went as far as the first round before the Los Angeles Dodgers swept them. Over in the American League, the Central division was similar to the NFC North. It was supposed to be one of the more competitive divisions, but ended with a whimper. The Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins had multiple losing streaks as tie ran out in the pennant race.
I simply want to know why sports are so bad in these states. Is the love for beer, cheese, and encased meats? Is it that these teams have such devoted fans that owners and administrators see no reason to try and actually put out a truly competitive team capable of winning it all? Or is it part of the cycle of sports dominance that simply has every major sport suffering at the same time? I do not know, but I wish I had the answer as every one of my teams drives me to drown my sorrows with whiskey and PBR.