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Etc.: From the notebook
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Journalists who cover a lot of things inevitably accumulate items not worthy of their own independent story, but worthy of mention regardless.

In a month here at your favorite weekly newspaper, I’ve accumulated a few such items:

Which Hill, men? I am aware that the Platteville Hillmen are named for legendary coach W.P. Hill. (Whose son I recently met.) The term could also be used to describe Platteville’s topography, as I’ve experienced from walking and driving around. It’s one thing to experience the geography of the Driftless Area from the driver’s seat; it’s quite another to experience it with your own two feet.

So far, I have managed to not miss any appointments despite the dangerous combination of driver unfamiliar with city streets, a plethora of one-way streets (which I should be familiar with as a native of Madison), and roads being closed due to construction. Just for my sake, though, don’t hold me to an exact time of arrival for a while.

We should drink to that: One of the happiest economic trends of the past couple of decades has been the growth of wineries and breweries in Wisconsin. I previously noted in this space the revival of the Potosi Brewery (whose Steamboat Shandy may be the perfect summer beer), and I discovered Bauer–Kearns Winery (a sunset from which now adorns the top of page 1B) during the three days of Alice in Dairyland in Grant County.

It still amazes me that in this state of 14-month-long winters (a line I stole from a Rhode Islander at a church conference) that grapes can actually be grown here. (As a part-German with a sweet tooth, I approve of their Driftless White Riesling.) Microbreweries are an example of the past repeating itself; before the invention of refrigerated trucks and improvements in roads, many small towns had breweries.

While on the subject of food (and if you’re reading this before lunch or dinner, I apologize), since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you can support southwest Wisconsin’s dairy farmers at one of the dairy breakfasts during June Dairy Month, in Seymour Saturday or Lancaster Sunday. Cheese and ice cream do go with breakfast.

This is what rivalries are for: Before Thursday’s Common Council meeting, I drove to Belmont to watch the softball regional final between Potosi and Belmont. Since 1999, one of those two teams has been to state seven times. Add Highland to the mix, and those three teams have been to state nine of the previous 13 seasons.

Even though the weather appeared more suited for a football playoff game than the softball postseason (which proves the term “normal Wisconsin weather” is an oxymoron), it was a great game with wild swings of momentum (a 4–1 Potosi lead became a 6–4 Belmont lead before Potosi tied it in the top of the seventh) and a dramatic last-at-bat finish.
The softball game ended just in time for me to get back to Platteville for the Common Council meeting. (Note to self: Don’t tell your coworkers that there are only three items on the agenda, therefore the meeting should be done quickly. The meeting took two hours.)

Either that, or attach a camera to my face: I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to clone myself, and not just because of having to race from softball game to city council meeting. On the way to Sunday’s Platteville High School commencement, I drove up to a spectacular (visually speaking) car fire on U.S. 151 at the Grant–Lafayette county line. And I couldn’t get a photo because I didn’t have a camera with me, and I didn’t have time to stop lest I be late for commencement.

Another instance in which I wish I’d had a camera handy was when I was driving on Lancaster Street one morning and had to stop for a tractor–trailer, which itself was stopped for a horse and buggy. The juxtaposition of past and present modes of transport was made more ironic by the fact that the buggy driver appeared to be wearing mirrored sunglasses.

The WIAA giveth, the WIAA taketh away: Congratulations to Platteville’s girls on their second-place finish at the WIAA state track and field meet. The silver trophy will go next to the silver trophies Platteville won in 1979 and 1992.
The timing of that is ironic given what happened to Platteville’s softball team, details of which can be read on page 16A.

On the one hand, the WIAA sets the rules of eligibility, including what happens in the case of athlete suspensions. On the other hand, it seems most unlikely that Platteville is the only school district with athletic eligibility rules different from the WIAA’s in such a due-process area as when a student–athlete appeals his or her suspension.

This issue gets to a larger point about the WIAA’s accountability, or lack thereof, to those funding the WIAA — ultimately, taxpayers. Coaches are paid by school districts, which are funded by local property taxpayers and by state shared revenue, which also comes from taxpayers. Sports venues, whether in schools or in municipally owned facilities (except in the case of private clubs — for instance, golf courses), are also funded by taxpayers. And yet taxpayers have no recourse whatsoever for a WIAA decision except to take the WIAA to court to appeal a decision.

In some states, high school athletics are a function of state government. It would be interesting to see what would happen if a state legislator proposed that the Department of Public Instruction — which is funded by taxpayers and whose superintendent is an elected position — take over high school athletics from the WIAA because the legislator thinks the WIAA lacks accountability to those ultimately funding it.

And what a way to go: The funniest graduation speech line I’ve heard came from Platteville graduate Logan Cooley Sunday: “If what I’ve read about the Mayan calendar is right, this school has literally saved the best graduating class for last.”