When it comes to that Michigan-Wisconsin melee, too many are just plain full of it

Why can’t a thing that happens ever be about the thing that happens anymore?

SHARE When it comes to that Michigan-Wisconsin melee, too many are just plain full of it
Michigan and Wisconsin meet in disharmony after Sunday’s game in Madison.

Michigan and Wisconsin meet in disharmony after Sunday’s game in Madison.

Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by what I’ve read and heard in the aftermath of Sunday’s Michigan-Wisconsin postgame melee. Disappointed. Discouraged. Frustrated, too.

Why can’t a thing that happens ever be about the thing that happens anymore?

Instead, what happens after coaches Juwan Howard and Greg Gard get into it, leading to a chaotic altercation between the teams, is that so many of us instantly choose a side, a corner of the ring, that the fight takes on a whole new life form. We are so certain of what happened, what it means and who’s to blame that half-baked “takes” become a buffet of “facts”; we can just choose the ones that suit us.

And what’s the motivation? To score imaginary points on Twitter and other social media? To “own the libs” or “virtue signal,” phrases we use to discount those with whom we disagree? Or to be polarizing for its own sake?

Actual facts: After his Badgers won, Gard grabbed Howard by the elbow in the postgame handshake line. Howard then grabbed a fistful of Gard’s shirt and put a finger in his face. Soon after, Howard struck Badgers assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft in the face with an open hand. At least a few players threw punches after that. On Monday, Howard was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and fined, Gard was fined and three players were fined.

Anything else — the items on the aforementioned buffet — is guessing, posturing, rhetorical bloviating.

I’ll give you a sampling of what I read and heard, all of which was argued to me directly. In order to be less wordy, let’s refer to these buffet samplings from here by the handy abbreviation “b.s.”

The most idiotic of all: “If a white coach did what Howard did, he would’ve been fired.”

Based on what evidence? We could sit here all day and night and no one could demonstrate that to be accurate. This b.s. was especially foul when people began saying it, shouting it, tweeting it and so on the very afternoon of the incident in Madison. That revealed how utterly disingenuous it was, because discipline at the head coach level in major-college basketball (and football) isn’t meted out that swiftly for any offense. What a load of white grievance.

Also disingenuous and really dumb: the idea that Gard “laid hands” on Howard as a physical provocation, inviting an escalated response. If Gard had grabbed a fistful of Howard’s shirt and put a finger in his face, it would’ve been a different story. But a hand on the elbow is how one guides an old lady to a church pew.

Krabbenhoft, meanwhile, is being portrayed as either a red-ass instigator or an innocent victim, and I call b.s. on both because we have no idea. It could be he was trying to keep the peace. Have you ever seen a person attempt to break up a scrum without touching somebody? On the other hand, perhaps Krabbenhoft said things he shouldn’t have and was being overly aggressive. Again, though, we don’t know. Those of us who communicate in words for a living are supposed to be professional enough not to pretend we do.

Part of why we don’t know is the media really underdelivered after the game. Three minutes into a press conference with Howard, a reporter amateurishly took him off the hook by asking him about the game; the conversation never got back to the altercation. Somehow, Howard left the room without one word or even a hint about whatever he believed Krabbenhoft had done.

A final thing, maybe a small-seeming detail, but it’s not: Howard didn’t “punch” Krabbenhoft, so why did so many report that he did? It’s not loud enough to use “struck,” “smacked” or “slapped”? Facts matter. The real ones, not the b.s. ones.


In this “gotcha!” environment, it seems important — annoying, but important — to acknowledge that I went to Wisconsin.

No, it doesn’t color my view of what happened Sunday. And that’s no b.s.

• My latest college basketball AP Top 25 ballot, submitted Monday morning: 1. Gonzaga, 2. Arizona, 3. Auburn, 4. Purdue, 5. Duke, 6. Kentucky, 7. Kansas, 8. Texas Tech, 9. Villanova, 10. Providence, 11. Baylor, 12. UCLA, 13. Illinois, 14. Wisconsin, 15. Tennessee, 16. USC, 17. Houston, 18. Arkansas, 19. Connecticut, 20. Texas, 21. Iowa, 22. Ohio State, 23. Murray State, 24. Michigan State, 25. Wake Forest.

Gonzaga doesn’t face a murderers’ row in the West Coast Conference, but it saved its two toughest league games — at San Francisco on Thursday and at Saint Mary’s on Saturday — for last. Lose either one and kiss the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament goodbye.

• Loyola, a very-good-but-not-great 21-6, isn’t going to be in the NCAA field unless it wins the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis. You don’t have to like it, Ramblers fans, but you’d better start wrapping your brains around this reality right now.

But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, right?

• Is the Big Ten player of the year race down to two: Illinois center Kofi Cockburn and Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis?

At this point, it would be highly surprising if Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, Iowa forward Keegan Murray, Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell or anyone else won it.

Goodness, imagine those five on the floor together as teammates. We might have to go back to 2013 to find an all-league team so good. That year, it was Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas.

Somebody make this matchup happen!

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