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They are the biggest rival. Forget the Badgers, the Golden Eagles, the Flames, the Bulldogs. They’re all rivals, absolutely, but there is no team on the schedule that makes Panther blood boil more than the Green Bay Phoenix.

The Milwaukee Panthers play basketball on national television every year. There have been different opponents on the national TV slate. Wisconsin, Bradley, Marquette, Hawaii, and Manhattan have all been recent opponents in front of the entire country — but every year, there’s always one game that the entire country gets to see: Milwaukee vs. Green Bay.

We are the North Carolina to their Duke. Ohio State to their Michigan. Red Sox to their Yankees. Brewers to their Cubs. Every time the schedule is released, fans in Green Bay and Milwaukee circle the day when their teams duke it out.

Green Bay leads the men’s basketball series, 24-17, but the Panthers have a major upperhand this past decade despite getting swept by the Phoenix in two controversial games in 2008-09. The teams split in the 2009-10 season.

Diehard Milwaukee fans refuse to even use former Green Bay coach’s name. While his birth certificate most definitely reads Tod Kowalczyk, on the East Side of Milwaukee, he is known only as “the poor mans coach k.” No punctuation, no capitalization. If a Panther hears their fellow use his Christian name, they are to correct him or her and remind them the name is “the poor mans coach k.”

Why this disrespect? Well, it’s mutual. Perhaps the best example is the 2005-06 season, when the poor mans coach k had security confiscate a perfectly law-abiding sign made by a UWM student that poked fun at his penchant for using copious amounts of hair gel.

Pounce shows us what he thinks of uwgb

As of the 2010-11 season, however, the poor mans coach k left for Toledo. His press conference did not include it, but many believe he left Green Bay so he didn’t have to face playing Milwaukee anymore with the Klotsche Krazies riding him all game. He was replaced by Brian Wardle, a former Marquette star who came to Green Bay after a stint as an assistant to Tom Crean at MU. Could this guy be any more hated? Truth be told, all reports are that he is a very nice guy. So PantherU’s recommendation to the Klotsche Krazies is this: during the game, anything goes. When the final buzzer sounds, be friendly. Just don’t be that way with their ridiculous fans.

During the 2009 Horizon League Tournament, Cleveland State beat Green Bay in the semifinals, advancing to the title game in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Why is this game important to the uwgb-UWM rivalry? The night before, the Panthers lost in the quarterfinals to a very tough Wright State team. Did the Klotsche Krazies turn heel and leave Indianapolis like the Flames fans did? Absolutely not. The Krazies earned the respect of the Horizon League as arguably the most die-hard fans of them all.

What makes the Milwaukee-Green Bay rivalry so special? We asked people that very question, and here are some answers:

“I love the rivalry with uwgb because it’s a battle for bragging rights. Not only are a large portion of both teams’ rosters in every sport from Wisconsin, but frequently they were being recruited by both schools and chose one over the other. Whether the teams are evenly matched or it’s a one-sided affair, beating an in-state rival–and an in-conference rival at that–always means a little bit more than beating any other team.” – John Parker, leader in the Klotsche Krazies

“There’s no substitute. Every time we sit down with a new schedule, any game against uwgb is circled and planned for. Many ‘rivals’ don’t have any equality. In the uwgb-UWM rivalry, we hate them more than anyone else, and they hate us more than anyone else. There’s nothing I love more than beating the Ph—ing Phoenix on the field of battle.” – BlackPantherMKE

Panthertrax blogger VictorPanther couldn’t stick to one paragraph. This is what he had to say about uwgb:

Without trying to offend any people from the beautiful areas of Wisconsin that are, shall we say, “less diverse.” This rivalry is very real, heated, and the paradigm is interesting. It is large “Title” town vs. small metropolitan city. It is the great wide open of farms and fields vs. a (small in US “city” scale, but) sprawling concrete jungle. It is urban vs. rural life and everything that goes with that dichotomy.

Misconceptions lead uwgb fans to think Milwaukee is a deadly and scary place that must be treaded across warily and never alone or without a cell phone close by. To be fair many of my UWM brothers and sisters think Green Bay is Podunk USA, with nothing to do but watch the corn stalks grow. Not true – did I not just mention Title Town? (and Manduzzi’s is pretty cool bar/club).

Whether either or both of Milwaukee and Green Bay are cream of the crop or bottom feeders in the Horizon, this game holds the most significance of the entire season for Panther fans. The game in Milwaukee at the Cell is promoted on campus with a saturation that can’t even come close to being matched even when Butler comes to town with a ranked club.

The two programs’ histories are fairly similar; both have had NCAA Tournament success (albeit ours much more recent). Both have had coaches who went on to become bigtime household names (Dick Bennett and Bruce Pearl/Bo Ryan). Both see themselves as the red-headed stepchild of UW-Madison and feel miffed by the sense that the UW Board of Regents leaves UWM, UWGB, and other UW “dash” schools with the scraps of Madison’s leftovers.

But the similarity’s end there- this is a HEATED rivalry and always will be; yes, even after the gel-encrusted pmck is finally shown the door for his addiction to mediocrity.

– VictorPanther

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