Badger Bits: Nick Toon hopes to rewrite his own story in 2011

Discussions about Nick Toon often focus on what he hasn't accomplished as opposed to what he has. He hopes to change that this season.

According to Aristotle, the defining characteristic of comedy (and this is paraphrasing because it has been a while and this way I can smooth over the non narrative-fitting bumpy bits) was a protagonist who at the beginning of the story started out in a bad place (i.e., poor and lonely) and by the end wound up in a good place (i.e., rich and betrothed). We sympathize with these types of characters in part because most of us are common folk who like to root for other common folk, but also because these heroes usually wind up in the good place by showing perseverance, working hard, overcoming obstacles, etc., when nobody thought they could.

It's the easiest narrative to tell in all of sports, and it is a trope commonly applied to the Badgers. Hero tailback James White comes out of nowhere as a true freshman to help lead Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl. Ditto Montee Ball. The offensive line is made up of hardworking, down-home Wisconsin boys who followed their dreams and will soon lead lives filled with riches and Sundays spent mulching NFL defensive linemen. Even Russell Wilson, who by no means was an unknown when he transferred to UW, gets some folk-hero cred for returning to football for One Last Shot At The Title after being spurned by NC State.

And then there's Nick Toon, who is consistently the last offensive star mentioned in any discussion of the Badgers' offensive stars. Not that Toon is disliked or doesn't work hard, at this point it is very clear that he does. But something about already coming from a good place, with a touted recruiting profile and a legendary dad, makes him harder to root for in the Aristotelian sense, especially off a year in which he missed four games and, when healthy, did things like this. That is the burden of expectation, if you don't quite fulfill the hype you end up judged for what you haven't done instead of appreciated for what you have.

And Toon has done a lot for the Badgers, even if he didn't quite make the step up from Sophomore to Junior year that many had hoped. Barring any setbacks, he is set up to move into the Top 3 all-time for career receiving yards as a Badger and so far this season he has done practically everything right within his power against two overmatched opponents. He looks quicker, stronger and more focused than ever before, and given the right circumstances (namely a close game) he should in due time end his streak of games without 100-plus yards dating back to November 2009. He has to wow us again, that or go out a winner, and until then Toon will continue to occupy a vague space in the Badgers' narrative, simultaneously unsung and overhyped.

 

Another nice profile on Dave Doeren from the Wisconsin State Journal, talking about his desire to coach at Northern Illinois and some of the adversity he faced early on.

Travis Frederick is expected to return for the game. Also, true freshman tight end Sam Arneson made his debut last week and will burn his redshirt this season.

Unfortunately this came a day late for Sam's post yesterday, but Kirk Herbstreit says if there is anyone deserving of the Heisman, it is Russell Wilson.

Seriously, ESPN can't resist Russell Wilson.

This week's BadgerBeat with Tom Oates and Tom Mulhern breaks down the Northern Illinois game at Soldier Field.

Dave Heller charted where Wisconsin's running game went and how receivers were targeted during the Oregon State game. Of note: James White taking it into the mouth of the defense way more often than Montee Ball.

I don't know about best ever. However, it is a pretty cool t-shirt.

Wisconsin checks in at No. 5 in Spencer Hall's Week 2 power rankings. Also, Bret Bielema is implicitly compared to a pitiless, merciless robot, which I'm cool with.

Wrapping up: If you like keeping up with the storylines from our fallen foes, you'll love to know that the Oregon State Beavers have officially named Sean Mannion their starter. They have yet to choose a starter between Johnny Hekker and his goatee'd bizarro-world evil twin brother. Obligatory.

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