||02-03-2011 09:47 AM
Braun backing Packers as Crew awaits own shot
MILWAUKEE -- For Super Bowl Sunday, Ryan Braun will turn his Malibu home into one of the nation's westernmost Green Bay Packers sports bars.
Braun is good buddies with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a fellow Californian who is the same age (27 -- Braun is only two weeks older) and a fellow first-round Draft pick. They met through mutual friends about a year and a half ago and found they share similar interests, among them chasing a championship.
Rodgers will get his first shot on Sunday, when he leads the Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. Braun will be home and glued to his television.
"I'm a big fan of his as an athlete and a competitor," Braun said. "I really enjoy watching him play. We've become good friends."
What does Braun like about Rodgers' game?
"Everything," Braun said. "I love the way he competes. I love the way that he has fun. I love the way that he always looks like he's in the moment, truly enjoying the moment and embracing it. That's a special quality to have as an athlete."
Each star has visited the other's office. Rodgers took batting practice at Miller Park last season and toured the clubhouse. Braun visited Lambeau Field on Dec. 5 and watched Rodgers throw for 298 yards and three touchdowns in a rout of the 49ers.
On Saturday night, they sat together courtside at a Milwaukee Bucks game and watched two other first-round picks contribute to a win over the Nets. Andrew Bogut approached a triple-double with 17 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocked shots, and Brandon Jennings returned from a foot injury to play his first game in nearly six weeks.
During a timeout, Rodgers and Braun appeared on the Bradley Center's video board and the fans responded with a huge ovation. Braun stood and joined in.
Braun considered going to Dallas to see the Super Bowl in person, but decided against it. He didn't want to miss any of his offseason workouts -- he's been trying to keep up with former Brewer and noted fitness freak Gabe Kapler -- and figures that Rodgers will have plenty of supporters on hand.
"He's got a million things going on for the Super Bowl between taking care of friends and family and playing the game," Braun said. "So I'll probably watch it from home. When you're there, you get the energy and enthusiasm from the crowd, and that's amazing, but you don't get to see the game the same way you do if you sit at home."
Braun will cheer from a few thousand miles away instead. Two weeks later, he'll be headed to Arizona for the start of Spring Training and his fifth season in the Majors.
Braun and the Brewers have high hopes for 2011 thanks to a starting rotation bolstered by Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. With incumbent Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers will feature three of 2010's 30 Opening Day starters.
Win or lose on Sunday, the Packers' deep playoff run has many in Brewers blue even more excited for their own season to begin.
The list includes John Axford, who snapped a photo with Rodgers at that Bucks game and posted it on his Twitter account. Axford was born and raised in Canada but started watching football in his college days at Notre Dame, and has become a cheesehead by proxy. After the Packers beat the Bears in the NFC Championship Game, he managed to make "#UnbelievableIncredibleSuperPackerDomination" a Twitter trending topic in Milwaukee.
"I sound like a huge jerk now that I'm jumping on the bandwagon, but I've enjoyed watching them," Axford said. "They're a good team and there's always buzz around them. I like that. I like that Wisconsin fans are passionate about their teams."
The only one left to convince is brutally honest Brewers newcomer Greinke. He took part in a question-and-answer session during "Brewers On Deck" last weekend and was asked for his Super Bowl pick.
"I like the Steelers," Greinke said.
Marcum, a Kansas City native and Chiefs season seatholder, came to the rescue.
"I'm going to disagree with Zack and go with the Packers," he said, drawing a huge applause.
On Sunday, they'll see who was right.