The Milwaukee Bucks have the best record, best point differential, best net rating and best home record in the NBA as of January 9th. The team has looked completely different than the last few years with increased three point shooting, better depth, and the emergence of players that were deemed lost causes. For the last 20+ years, we have been introduced, told, taught, learned, and suffered from Rule #1 of Bucks Fandom: Never Trust The Bucks.
There have been glimmers of hope between the 2001 Light it Up team to 2010’s Fear the Deer squad who had the look of a team that could take the next step, but never did. But sometimes rules are meant to be broken, and if there was a time for it, this would be the season. Still, as the season goes by and Milwaukee racks up wins and awards, there is a lingering feeling that the Bucks are not getting the dues they should receive. How much of that is true and doesn’t matter?
Milwaukee hasn’t really gotten much coverage in the past from the national media like ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC etc. Most of the coverage had been solely on superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, or the potential of a Giannis-Jabari Parker-Khris Middleton trio. Even that trio was often hidden under the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers potential. However, as Giannis has become a force to be reckoned with, and Milwaukee keeps winning, the national coverage has started looking at the Bucks.
Sure, there will be moments that Milwaukee will be buried and cause an ill-advised twitter rant. This fun has also brought out former, washed has-been players (*cough* Ryan Collins *cough*) who have made some dumb claims. Granted, these takes are from people who haven’t watched the Bucks with the fandom’s level of dedication, so we have to take it with a grain of salt.
The smart basketball people (ie. Zach Lowe, Howard Beck, Ramona Shelburne, Nate Duncan or Danny Leroux, etc.) know about Milwaukee and have been pretty correct about their observations. They will be better suited to handle the national Bucks coverage more frequently than talking heads that randomly appear on a debate show that needs to throw poor takes for views. Lately though, it has been the coverage in the state of Wisconsin that has been the talking point.
If you had to rank the popularity of teams in Wisconsin, the order would probably be the following
- Green Bay Packers
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Wisconsin Badgers
- Milwaukee Bucks
That will always be the case no matter what Milwaukee does. The Packers are the golden child of the state, while the Brewers and Badgers will get attention from the majority of the state. That leaves the Bucks as the forgotten middle child, and for the last 30-odd years, it made sense. Milwaukee was either bad or mediocre, but never great besides one season.
In comparison, the Brewers have made two NLCS appearances, the Packers won a pair of Super Bowls and the Badgers have made multiple final fours and Rose Bowls. This isn’t to say the Bucks can’t be viewed more favorably, but it will be a long term build and not an immediate turnaround. The Bucks and local media topic seems to be a focal point as the Packers season ended last week, the Brewers season ended months ago, some Bucks fans have taken notice and raised some points about it.
Is this true though? Depends on who you ask. Stations like 105.7 FM and 620 AM in Milwaukee have covered the Bucks with some frequency, while the news stations and Journal Sentinel have highlighted Bucks scores after every game. While there has been coverage, some people haven’t been fully convinced.
.@Bill_Michaels Show today— Joe Zenzola (@RadioJoeSports) January 8, 2019
10 What do you think about LaFleur, #Packers fans?
10:48 #Bucks recap
11:20 More LaFleur reaction
12 Should LaFleur bring in his own staff? Which coach should he keep?
You have the same attitude as a lot of people. That's what I've been telling the die hards....it's not that people dislike the Bucks, it's that people are waiting for them to win in the post-season. https://t.co/upqOGvQD0c— Bill Michaels (@Bill_Michaels) January 4, 2019
I think it’s the wrong mindset to have that a team HAS to win in the postseason to get better/more coverage. Eric Buenning captured it perfectly:
If you don't like them, that's fine. We shouldn't care. But the weird standard that ONLY the Bucks are held to in Wisconsin? I don't understand it.— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) January 4, 2019
The Bucks are the ONLY team subjected to this. The underperforming Milwaukee Brewers teams during the late 90’s and early 00’s got media coverage. When the summer of 2008 came around for their Wild Card run, not only had they not won in the postseason, the Brewers weren’t winning at all. The Bucks have shown for the first time since 2001 this team could contend and make a deep run, so lack of postseason success shouldn’t be their hold up with the gatekeepers in the media.
Milwaukee will never be as popular as the Brewers and the Packers, and that's understandable and possibly inevitable. But there has to be more balance whether it’s in opinion, coverage or a simple acknowledgment. Does the local media intentionally skip on covering Milwaukee? No. Does some of local media possibly skip over the Bucks to talk about the MLB winter hot stove or the head coaching search? It’s likely. Slowly but surely though, the Bucks will become the talk of the state. Even if it’s not happening during January, let’s hope it’s during June.
Stay tuned for part two in the coming weeks...