Larry Sanders and the Milwaukee Bucks played to a sellout crowd in their season opening win over Philadelphia.
Larry Sanders and the Milwaukee Bucks played to a sellout crowd in their season opening win over Philadelphia. (Photo: David Bernacchi)
Rookie Jabari Parker recorded a double-double in his first home game.
Rookie Jabari Parker recorded a double-double in his first home game. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

Bucks home opener feels like a true event

In perhaps one of the most anticipated regular season basketball games in recent memory, the Milwaukee Bucks pulled away from the Philadelphia 76ers, 91-83, in the first sellout of a home opener since the Chicago Bulls visited in 2007 Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

It was the first home game for new owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan, and the game was an event from the moment the doors opened to 18,717 fans – the first sellout of any kind since March 15, 2013.

Live music greeted fans in the atrium, as did stacks of balloons on all four levels. New, team-colored draping covered some of the steel rails around the lower bowl. The team shop was remodeled. A tailgate area was opened up on the 400 level (more on that soon).

Then, after Bango swung down from the rafters to start the on court festivities, the lights were cut, save for a spotlight on the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as it performed "O Fortuna" at halfcourt …

Introductory videos called for a new era of Bucks basketball, which was reiterated by the ownership trio, who welcomed the fans with hopes for a new arena and another NBA championship.

Comedian Frank Caliendo, a Waukesha native, performed throughout halftime (and filmed skits played during breaks in the action). Bands played in the atrium.

Of course, this was by design.

"We wanted to start the season off by creating a big event and creating that big event feel," Bucks senior vice president and chief revenue officer Ted Loehrke said. "That’s why a big opening with the symphony and all the great pageantry around that. A great half time act with a big name and a local name like Frank Caliendo.

"So we really did want to bring that big even feel back to a Bucks game and create momentum for the rest of the season, because we are strong believers that the more people see to this team and the more people experience the events here the more they’re going to want to see and the more they’re going to want to be here."

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Eddie Vedder, left, and Stone Gossard play to the crowd, literally, in Packers gear.
Eddie Vedder, left, and Stone Gossard play to the crowd, literally, in Packers gear.
Once Vedder came out in his No. 10 jersey, fans picked up current Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, who also wears that number.
Once Vedder came out in his No. 10 jersey, fans picked up current Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, who also wears that number.
Pearl Jam honored former Bucks player Bobby Dandridge during its set at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Pearl Jam honored former Bucks player Bobby Dandridge during its set at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Pearl Jam connects with Packers, Bucks

So, "date night" isn't typical for my wife and I.

Friday, we headed to Chicago to see the Foo Fighters play the Cubby Bear. Monday night we stayed closer to home to see Pearl Jam's long awaited return to Milwaukee, as the band played three hours at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

This is due largely because my better half, Michelle Rutkowski, is the program director at WLUM 102.1-FM (or FM 102/1), and thanks to her I get a chance to see some great acts.

But, I'm always looking for something a little different, outside of the music, especially when I'm not a diehard.

Pearl Jam provided that something different, but it was something I'm very familiar with: a love of sports.

Eddie Vedder, a noted Chicago Cubs and Bears fan, welcomed Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and dedicated "Given to Fly" to the QB, even calling him royalty.

He then told the crowd about a trade proposal he threw Rodgers' way, which is when I discovered there were more than few sportswriters in the house.

No, I don't think three mini-Ditkas would do.

They moved on to the Bucks, as Vedder noted how the 1971 championship banner, and those of the retired jerseys, helped the sound of the arena. But, he said, bassist Jeff Ament noticed that there was a "hole" in the retired jersey lineup.

So, he brought his own to hang from the lighting, the No. 10 of none other than Bobby Dandridge. ("Ten", of course, was also the name of the band's debut record in 1991).

They then dedicated "Black" to the former Bucks player.

They weren't done just yet.

Vedder went into the crowd and gladly took a Packers jersey a fan brought him ...

... and then at the very end, donned his own No. 10.

What was truly great about that moment was that the fans in the crowd then picked up current Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn -- who happens to wear No. 10 -- no doubt giving him a feeling that would rival …

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The cheeseburger at Sobleman's Marquette was as good as the atmosphere prior to "Marquette Madness" down the street.
The cheeseburger at Sobleman's Marquette was as good as the atmosphere prior to "Marquette Madness" down the street.
A longtime favorite - the cheese and sausage pizza at Transfer Pizzeria.
A longtime favorite - the cheese and sausage pizza at Transfer Pizzeria.

Something old, something new in latest dining trip

For the eighth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Locavore, the newest restaurant at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2014."

This month I wanted to get to at least a couple places I haven’t yet visited in the city, the first of which was Elsa’s on the Park and its wings.

Another was getting onto the Marquette University campus when something was happening, basketball-wise. I’ve seen the crowds as the BMO Harris Bradley Center covering games, but that’s not the same. Last Friday’s Marquette Madness provided an excellent opportunity – the alumni and student base was excited to see new head coach Steve Wojciechowski and his team for the first time, and there was a buzz hours before the doors opened at the Al McGuire Center.

I didn’t want to go to one of the national chains, so I stopped into the Sobelman's at Marquette, located at 1601 W. Wells St. The place was packed with students and alumni wearing blue and gold (and even a Golden Eagles player).

I just had a standard cheeseburger and fries, and it was excellent – Sobelman's has one of the best burgers in the city – and I was pleased that the quality held up to the standard the original Sobelman's on St. Paul Avenue has set.

To me, what made the lunch a greater experience on the whole was being surrounded by a fan base that was very excited to head down the street to cheer its basketball programs.

For dinner that night, I decided to re-visit an old favorite I hadn’t been to in quite some time (too long, actually) – Transfer Pizzeria and Café on 101 W. Mitchell St.

We had bruschetta to start, and I ordered a personal cheese and sausage pizza, along with a "Hot Toddy" – a whiskey cocktail made with ginger that was easy on a sore throat and a good combination for the food on the table. The …

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Elsa's wings were on my "bucket list" for dining, one I finally checked out this weekend.
Elsa's wings were on my "bucket list" for dining, one I finally checked out this weekend.

Checking Elsa's wings off the bucket list

For the eighth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Locavore, the newest restaurant at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2014."

Milwaukee is home to so many fantastic dining options, from breakfast to dinner and everything in between, I’ve found it hard to get to all the "name" places available. Our Best of Dining list has always been a good starter for me, and I’ve sort of made it a mission this October to check off as many as possible.

While our "Best Wings" winner won’t be revealed for a little bit, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the wings at Elsa’s on the Park, located at 833 N. Jefferson St.

I went in on Saturday night and both the restaurant and the bar were absolutely packed. The crowd was a little older than I expected, but the atmosphere was lively and the service quick and friendly. I ordered a plate of the buffalo wings with a side of ranch, and they were as good as advertised.

I’m not a "wings guy," but it’s mainly because I’ve had plenty of bad experiences with skinny wings with little meat or too much fat. Elsa’s were meaty and the sauce had a perfect heat to it for my taste – the ranch was needed on every wing, that’s for sure.

As you can see from the picture, they didn’t cheat you on the serving size, either. The number of wings, along with the fries, made the dish a full dinner, essentially.

You’d have to eat out every day for quite some time, and then back trips back to try something else on the menu, to experience everything this city has to offer – I’m glad I was able to get check Elsa’s wings off the list. On to the next one!

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