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Strange Brew: Brewers Give Fans Something to Cheer About

At first glance, the Milwaukee Brewers and 70s super rock group Led Zeppelin might not appear to share many similarities. However, while organizing my CDs this winter, I noticed that several Zeppelin song titles encapsulate what it feels like to have been a Brewers’ fan for the last ten or so years: Trampled Underfoot, Heartbreaker, The Song Remains the Same. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. And after the 2003 season, just when it seemed that long-suffering fans had a glimmer of hope in a team that displayed a blue collar work ethic and go get ’em attitude, the club’s brass began to whistle a tune that’s become all too familiar: Nobody’s Fault But Mine. In case you forgot, let me refresh your memory. The stadium board voted to slash the team’s payroll. The Seligs were accused of cooking the books. And Richie Sexson, one of the few major league players on a roster replete with bush-league talent, was traded for a gaggle of nobodys. You can hardly blame the public for lashing out in newspaper forums and sports talk radio, berating the inept handling of a hopeless franchise. Then something strange happened. Spring rolled in and the Brewers actually started winning. By the time June had come and gone, the 2004 edition had done something that hasn’t happened in Milwaukee since Jimmy Carter was in office, stringing together three consecutive winning months. Turns out the Seligs were innocent, and that guy who used to play first base here — Richie who? — has been buried in the local sports lexicon beneath names like Overbay, Moeller, and Spivey. Last time I checked, “winning” wasn’t listed as a narcotic by the U.S. government. But it clearly has a mind altering effect — in the case of Brewers’ fans, replacing a decade’s worth of sour memories with a sort of guarded optimism. At least that’s the feeling I had attending the June 6 game against the Chicago Cubs, something I was hesitant to do after last season when, elbow deep in north-siders, I endured a verbal bludgeoning for the better part of nine innings. Predictably, the air at Miller Park crackled with anti-Brewer sentiment. While Cubs’ fans lack the intellect for tossing barbs any more creative than the “Brewers suck!” mantra, their sheer number is distressing. I sought refuge among the Buckethead Brigade, an entire section of die-hards who show up each Tuesday wearing headgear fashioned out of trash cans, ice cream pails, and various other household containers. The Brigaders and I watched with glee as the Brewers whipped the “World Series contender” Chicago Cubs, 4-2 en route to flushing them back down I-94 with a series sweep. Wins like these breathe life back into a fan base that has been beaten into a coma since the departure of Robin Yount and company. So how does it feel to support a team within spitting distance of first place halfway through the season? That one’s easy. As Led Zeppelin once said, dancing days are here again. Brian Kalish, a teacher by trade, spends his summers obsessing over baseball.