That’s right, I said it.
But I don’t actually mean it.
The Green Bay Packers have ruled the Wisconsin professional football landscape with a cheese-filled fist for decades. But in the wild early days of the NFL, the Dairy Land was home to at least 3 other professional football teams, including the infamous Milwaukee Badgers (not to be confused with the collegiate UW-Madison Badgers).
How does the largest city in the state not remember our own local NFL team? Did Curly Lambeau and his ACME Packers run a scorched earth campaign years ago scrubbing the Badgers from the history books and cementing their grip on our beer-soaked consciousness?
No: the Badgers did themselves in due to terrible records and shady dealings.
While the rest of Milwaukee was embracing Dan Hoan and the Sewer Socialists, the Badgers were debuting professional football. They ended their 5 seasons, 1922-1926, with a total record of 16-27-6, including only one season above .500 and one season at 0-6.
The Badger’s lack of success was not for lack for talent, as their rosters featured three future hall of famers: Jimmy Conzelman, Johnny “Blood” McNally, and Fritz Pollard. They were open to anyone with skills, and employed one of the largest contingencies of black players in the league. For whatever reason, they simply didn’t succeed.
In fact, neither did their playing field. Originally named Athletic Park, Borchert Field eventually became home to the Green Bay Packers’ Milwaukee games and the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers. The football-turned-baseball field was destroyed mid-century to make way for the I-43 interstate. The only remnant is the name of the surrounding neighborhood (Borchert Field), and supposedly a rusty old sign in a nearby park.
The Milwaukee Badgers and their playing field barely make the footnotes in local history books; however, the team was a main player during one of the Arizona Cardinals’ championship seasons (with a giant asterisk).
Back in 1925, the NFL’s champion was simply crowned to whomever had the most wins. The rub was that the league did not organize games; the coaches did. That year the conniving Chicago Cardinals (who later became the Arizona Cardinals) scheduled two extra games after the season ended in order to gain a win-loss advantage over the presumptive-champion Pottsville Maroons (why don’t we still have these awesome names?).
Enter the 0-5 Milwaukee Badgers and the “1925 Chicago Cardinals–Milwaukee Badgers scandal“. The Badgers had already disbanded for the season, so players were grabbed from a local Chicago high school, thrown into uniforms, and tossed onto the field to get obliterated by the Cardinals, 59 to 0. This win put the Cardinals ahead of the Maroons in the win-column, and with it the championship title. It was the Deflategate of their time. Pubertygate? Promgate? Underagegate?
The NFL inevitably found out, fined both teams, and intended to nullify the win. However, to this day the win and the championship title still stand in the records books, and Pottsville, PA has never fully recovered.
This fine was the eventual downfall for the struggling Badgers, who disbanded the next year. The Green Bay Packers quickly took over our local football interests, and the only other team to wear brown-and-orange and be as bad as the Cleveland Browns faded into obscurity.
For the record, they did go 0-9-1 all time against the Packers, which is one tie better than expected.