Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ezra Klein talks about...

...what psychologists call "motivated skepticism" today:

When we're faced with information or ideas that accord with our preexisting beliefs about the world, we accept them easily. When the ideas and information cut against our beliefs, however, we interrogate them harshly, subjecting them to endless scrutiny and a long search for contrary evidence which, when found, we accept uncritically.

Sound familiar?

Billionaire Pete Peterson...

...collects $2,700 a month from Social Security.

The final football rankings are in!

Chicago Tribune (with their pre-season ranking in parentheses):

1. Wheaton Warrenville South 14-0 (1)
2. Maine South 12-2 (2)
3. Lake Zurich 12-2 (8)
4. Simeon 11-1 (18)

Simeon ranked higher than Mount Carmel? Why, because they beat the Caravan on the field in Week 1? Schaumburg also beat Maine South in Week 1. Should they be ranked No. 2?

5. Mount Carmel 11-3 (11)
6. Loyola 11-2 (On the verge)
7. St. Rita 11-2 (3)
8. Stevenson 11-1 (NR)
9. Homewood-Flossmoor 10-3 (NR)
10. Glenbard West 10-2 (4)
11. Montini 12-2 (19)
12. Carmel 10-2 (OTV).
13. Prairie Ridge 11-2 (NR)
14. Schaumburg 8-3 (NR)
15. Marmion 12-2 (NR)

Where's undefeated Rockford Boylan (14-0), the team that crushed Marmion, 48-19, in the 6A finals?

16. Joliet Catholic 10-2 (5)
17. Crystal Lake South 11-1 (17)
18. Prospect 8-3 (NR)
19. Naperville North 8-4 (10)
20. Kaneland 11-1 (NR)

Chicago Sun-Times:

1. Wheaton Warrenville South 14-0 (1)
2. Maine South 12-2 (2)
3. Lake Zurich 12-2 (7)
4. Mount Carmel 11-3 (8)
5. Loyola 11-2 (NR)
6. St. Rita 11-2 (3)
7. Simeon 11-1 (20)
8. Homewood-Flossmoor 10-3 (NR)
9. Stevenson 11-1 (NR)
10. Montini 12-2 (16)

Montini ranked higher than Glenbard West, above? I saw both teams play this year, and I don't think the 5A Broncos could beat the 7A Hilltoppers.

11. Prairie Ridge 11-2 (NR)
12. Glenbard West 10-2 (4)
13. Marmion 12-2 (NR)

Again, where is Rockford Boylan?

14. Joliet Catholic 10-2 (6)
15. Minooka 10-2 (NR)
16. Carmel 10-2 (14)
17. Schaumburg 8-3 (NR)
18. Prospect 8-3 (NR)
19. Kaneland 12-1 (NR)
20. Lyons 10-2 (NR)
21. Crystal Lake South 11-1 (17)
22. Naperville North 8-4 (9)
23. Cary-Grove 8-4 (23)
24. Lemont 11-1 (NR)
25. Lincoln-Way East 9-2 (10)

Maine South to face possible sanctions?

Say it ain't so, coach Dave Inserra!

The Illinois High School Association executive director blasted coaches of the three-time defending state champion Monday, charging the 8A heavyweight with something you might find in the playbook of NFL teams in New England and Denver.

"We are concerned that (Maine South) used fraudulent passes to gain a competitive advantage -- extra coaches, extra spotters and extra people not available to other folks," Marty Hickman told the Tribune of wins over Loyola and Mount Carmel in the final weeks of the state playoffs.

Ten fraudulent passes were found on Maine South's sideline Saturday during its state final game, according to University of Illinois Police Lt. Tony Brown.

The Park Ridge school was notified Monday of possible sanctions stemming from the IHSA's complaints.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The next time you hear...

...someone like Congressman Paul Ryan, Republican (surprised?) of Wisconsin talk about privatizing Social Security, keep in mind what Ezra Klein has to say about 401(k)s (my emphasis):

The late 20th century saw a great shift in risk, in which uncertainty that had been borne by employers and the government was shunted onto individuals. And in our efforts to solve our deficit and economic problems, we must be careful not to make our retirement problem worse.

Consider the 401(k): When Congress created the provision in 1978, lawmakers didn't realize they were going to transform the American pension system within a generation. But that's what happened. Previously, employers had defined-benefit systems in which they had to worry about saving enough to pay for the retirement of their workers; the 401(k) - and similar defined-contribution systems - let them push that responsibility onto the workers.

By 1995, there were more 401(k)s plans than traditional pension plans. Now there are about twice as many. And they're not working out that well, Robert Hiltonsmith, a policy analyst at the think tank Demos, shows in his paper "The Failure of the 401(k)."

The failure, experts say, basically, is this: The typical worker approaching retirement needs about $250,000 in a 401(k). Most don't come close. The average is closer to $98,000 - only a bit more than a third of the recommended amount.

More on the TSA...

...from David Carr, one of my favorite writers.

Doesn't it seem like jobs on Wall Street...

...are never eliminated, just shifted around? A piece in Bloomberg this morning reports that Standard Chartered, Plc (my emphasis):

...plans to hire about 1,800 people for its global trading and underwriting operations over the next three years as the bank aims to more than double revenue from those businesses.

The expansion from the current 1,700 employees at the Financial Markets unit is part of a goal to boost net revenue from those operations to about $10 billion by 2014 from $4.4 billion last year, Leonard Feder, head of the division, said in a Nov. 25 interview in Singapore.

“This is just the beginning,” said Feder, who joined Standard Chartered in July 2007 after spending 11 years at Bear Stearns Cos., where he was last the co-head of its prime brokerage unit. “We’re just scratching the surface on what the opportunities are.”

Ross Douthat may have the best column...

...of the day today. "The Partisan Mind" concerns the recent flap over the TSA's new screening procedures at airports and is worth a read (my emphasis):

Up to a point, American politics reflects abiding philosophical divisions. But people who follow politics closely — whether voters, activists or pundits — are often partisans first and ideologues second. Instead of assessing every policy on the merits, we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side happens to be doing. Our ideological convictions may be real enough, but our deepest conviction is often that the other guys can’t be trusted.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I didn't plan on attending...

...the 7A and 8A football finals in Champaign yesterday -- really. Although I do admit the thought kept popping into my head all week, only to be met by the same response:

Drive three hours down to Champaign, watch TWO football games in the freezing cold (and dark) for about six hours or so, and then drive three hours back the same night? Are you crazy?

And then my wife asked me Saturday morning, "So when are you leaving for the games?"

"I'm not."

"What? You call yourself a football fan?"

She shamed me into it. At least that's what I'm telling people.

"Oh, sure," a guy said to me this morning. "Wives are always shaming their husbands into attending sporting events." (I detected a slight note of sarcasm in his voice.)

So I went. And I'm glad I did.
I left the house around noon and arrived at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois at around 2:30. See? It only took two and a half hours, not three. Things were looking up already.

Memorial Stadium was built in 1923 in memory of the University of Illinois students who died in World War I. (Legend has it that heavy rain during construction resulted in a bulldozer sinking into the field. It was decided that the expense of removing the bulldozer would have been greater than leaving it buried. Apparently, it's still there.)

The stadium was officially dedicated on Homecoming, October 18, 1924, when the Illini defeated Michigan, 39-14. Red Grange, a Wheaton High School alum, accounted for six touchdowns in what remains the single greatest performance in Memorial Stadium history:

In the first 12 minutes of that game, Grange ran for a total of 265 yards and scored four times. He had his hands on the ball only six times and left the field before the end of the first quarter. In the third quarter, Grange returned and ran 13 yards for his fifth touchdown, and in the final period he passed to Marion Leonard for his sixth score of the day. In 42 minutes of playing time, Grange gained a total of 402 yards, carried the ball 21 times and also completed six passes for 64 yards. Legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg called it "the most spectacular single-handed performance ever delivered in a major game."

There's even a statue of Grange outside the stadium and lots of reliefs and inscriptions written with V's instead of U's, as if they were carved by ancient Romans instead of twentieth century Midwesterners.

(It's a little depressing, though, to think that the best performance by an Illinois athlete was on the day they opened the place. Has it been downhill ever since?)

The 7A and 8A games turned out to be remarkably similar. They each featured a team which relied almost solely on the run (Lake Zurich and Mount Carmel) against teams which were comfortable passing as well as running (Wheaton Warrenville South and Maine South). And the results were similar: WWS defeated Lake Zurich, 28-17, and Maine South nearly shut out Mount Carmel, 28-7.

(My takeaway from the evening was that teams need multi-dimensional offenses to win in high school football today. If they rely too much on the run and are stopped, like Lake Zurich and Mount Carmel, they can find themselves in trouble. It's hard for a running team to come from behind, especially without eating up too much of the clock. And if forced to pass, like Lake Zurich and Mount Carmel were, they can be ineffective. But by having an offense that passes routinely, like WWS, teams can strike quickly and come from behind, which the Tigers did twice.

Also, teams like WWS and Maine South have so many weapons to deploy. Both have good running backs, quarterbacks that can run as well as pass, and several receivers that are hard to cover. They have to be a defensive coordinator's nightmare.)
In the 7A contest, Lake Zurich running back Jacob Brinlee, above, lived up to his hype, setting a 7A title game record of 226 yards on 33 carries. As WWS coach Ron Muhitch said after the game, "Credit to Brinlee. He kept them in the game single-handedly."

But that was the problem. Lake Zurich turned out to be a one-trick pony. Bears quarterback Zach Till only completed 6 of 9 passes for 21 yards and one interception. The Tigers, meanwhile, scored twice on runs by running back Matt Rogers and twice on passes from quarterback Reilly O'Toole to Titus Davis. O'Toole, above, finished the night 14 of 23 for 182 yards passing with 48 yards rushing on 13 carries.

So the Tigers won the 7A title for the second year in a row. They were undefeated (14-0), played a tough schedule and featured the Sun-Times Player of the Year at quarterback. (It will be interesting to watch O'Toole at Illinois.) Although I think Maine South would give them a much tougher game at this point in the season, WWS beat them on the field and deserve to be ranked No. 1 in the state.

In the evening's finale, Maine South won its third consecutive championship, matching East St. Louis's run from 1983 to '85. While the Caravan definitely had an off-night, the Hawks were peaking at just the right time. Quarterback Matt Alviti, above, passed for 224 yards and a touchdown, ran for another, and running back Paul Preston rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Mount Carmel's offense, in contrast, was flat. Running backs Michael Banks and Draco Smith were held to 43 and 33 yards, respectively. Quarterback Chris Sujka led the Caravan in rushing with 69 yards and was forced to pass in the second half with mixed results. Sujka completed 9 of 18 passes for 119 yards, including a beautiful 71-yard touchdown to Mayan Cook for the Caravan's lone score at 1:08 in the fourth quarter. But Sujka also threw two interceptions, one of which killed a drive late in the game.

I'd rank Maine South No. 2 in the state, with Lake Zurich and Mount Carmel tied for third.

In hindsight, Maine South coach Dave Inserra, above, probably did the right thing by alternating quarterbacks in the beginning of the season. While he may have cost the Hawks two games (Schaumburg and WWS), Inserra found his best offense; and it only got better as the season wore on. Also, Maine South now has the nucleus of a great offense for next year. (Alviti is only a sophomore and Preston a junior.)

It's a shame that Maine South and WWS play each other so early in the season. It's made for lopsided victories the last two years. If they were to play each other now, on a neutral field, the result might be different.

Come on, IHSA, combine 7A and 8A!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Who wants to drive down to Champaign...

...with me today and watch the 7A and 8A finals?

Wheaton Warrenville South...

...has been ranked No. 1 by both the Trib and the Sun-Times all year. Defending 7A state champs, the Tigers are 13-0 this season and have won 25 games in a row since losing to Maine South in 2009. WWS will take on Lake Zurich today in a rematch of the 2007 title game, which the Bears won, 7-3.

The Tigers are coached by Ron Muhitch, above, who is 95-17 in nine years at the helm. Muhitch will be looking for his second state title in a row and third overall. Last year, WWS beat Glenbard West, 31-24, in double overtime. In the 2006 final, the Tigers defeated Mount Carmel, 44-21.

The offense is led by Sun-Times Player of the Year, quarterback Reilly O'Toole, above. The Illinois-bound senior has racked up some incredible numbers this season, including 3,005 yards passing with 40 touchdowns and only two interceptions in 229 attempts. In addition, the 6' 3", 210-pound O'Toole has rushed for 393 yards on 70 carries and six touchdowns.

O'Toole's primary receiver is Titus Davis, above, who's caught 52 passes for 1,135 yards and 16 touchdowns. But the Tigers will be without two of their best receivers, Travis Kern (44 receptions and 8 touchdowns) and Dan Vitale, who are both out with broken collarbones. Ryan Crowe (20 receptions and 5 touchdowns) will have to step up his game as a result.

O'Toole can also hand off to running back Matt Rogers, above, who has gained 1,182 yards rushing and scored 20 touchdowns this season.

While the Tigers' offense has gotten a lot of ink, averaging 43 points a game and scoring 563 points all year, its defense is every bit as formidable, allowing a mere 100 points this season. It's anchored by nose tackle Sparty Chino, above, who has 47 solo tackles and 12 sacks. He's joined by linebackers Mike Monterrubio (52 solo tackles and 7 sacks) and R. J. Hoshell (42 and 6, respectively).

At free safety is Caleb Bednarz, above, another Sun-Times All-Area first teamer, who has seven interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Bednarz also has two punt return touchdowns.

Wheaton Warrenville South's closest game all year was the opener against Hinsdale Central, which they won, 28-7. In Week 2, the Tigers demolished defending 8A state champions -- and 2010 finalists --Maine South, 44-7. After that, WWS scored at least 38 points in each of their next 11 games.

The Tigers' 2010 season in a nutshell:

Wheaton Warrenville South 28, Hinsdale Central 7
Wheaton Warrenville South 44, Maine South 7*
Wheaton Warrenville South 49, Glenbard East 0
Wheaton Warrenville South 38, Naperville Central 13
Wheaton Warreville South 41, Naperville North 13*
Wheaton Warrenville South 42, Wheaton North 14*
Wheaton Warrenville South 56, West Chicago 0
Wheaton Warrenville South 49, Glenbard North 6*
Wheaton Warrenville South 42, West Aurora 6
Wheaton Warrenville South 49, Benet 7
Wheaton Warrenville South 44, Wheaton North 0
Wheaton Warrenville South 40, Glenbard West 20
Wheaton Warrenville South 41, Belleville East 7

* indicates playoff team.

Fenwick beat Curie...

...yesterday, 6-0, in the 77th Prep Bowl at Soldier Field. The lone score came from an 85-yard interception return by Ricky Sorrentino on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.

“We play in the best conference in the state, the best conference in America and it only prepares you for games like this,” said Sorrentino.

The cartoon of the day.

Rob Cleveland...

...is Ohio State's assistant director for trademarks and licensing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving was bittersweet...

...at our house yesterday. I'd say more sweet than bitter, but bittersweet nonetheless. Somebody recorded "The Royal Tenenbaums," and I watched bits and pieces of it throughout the day. (By the way, if you haven't seen it, you really should. I didn't "get" it the first time I saw it, but each time I watch it I appreciate it more and more. It's quirky, but the characters and dialogue are really clever. Oh, and the soundtrack is outstanding.)

Just before I went to bed, I watched the last scene of the movie which includes the family patriarch's death and funeral. The movie closes with Van Morrison's "Everyone," and it was fitting. As the song starts up, the camera focuses on the priest's confused look as he considers the epitaph on Royal Tenenbaum's gravestone:


That's not at all how the father (Gene Hackman) died, of course, at least not literally. But figuratively, yeah, it couldn't be more accurate. In the movie, the father leaves the family, the kids all suffer and then he comes back to try to salvage -- successfully, for the most part -- the mess he'd made. And I thought, aren't all parents forever trying to save whatever it is in the family that needs saving? And I went to bed thinking about all that our family has been through in the last year -- and last 24, for that matter -- and how we're all still standing. And for that I give thanks.

The day began with my wife and me picking up our younger son from his new residential therapeutic school in Hyde Park. It was his first time home in about two months and we were all a little nervous. It was a little strange to see him descend the staircase with a suitcase and a backpack.

What's he got all that for; doesn't he realize he isn't spending the night?

But we did okay, I guess, and ended up having one of his friends over for the day. Nate's a nice kid but at one point at dinner he said that he was glad John was no longer at his old high school, because "no one knew him there," and, what's more, "no one even knew he was gone." Now you have to understand Nate; he's mildly autistic himself and didn't mean that the way it sounded. I took it to mean that John's old school was really large and impersonal and he's better off in a different environment. Still, it stung a little.

After dinner, we Skyped John's older brother, Joe, at six o'clock as scheduled. Joe is studying in Paris for the semester and went out to dinner with some friends from school and a friend's mother. Fortunately, they found a restaurant in Paris that served a traditional American-style Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey and all the trimmings. Joe even said it was the best Thanksgiving meal he'd ever had. (Again with the stinging.) But I'm actually glad it turned out well for him; I was a little worried about his being so far from home at this time of year.

But it was John's turn on the Skype that was most touching. The two brothers hadn't spoken in at least two months and I guess I didn't realize how close they were. John really misses Joe and Joe has always been a great older brother to him. Although my wife and I tried not to eavesdrop (at least I did, although I couldn't if I wanted to, due to my bad hearing), we heard some tender words that reminded me of another scene near the end of "The Royal Tenenbaums" (At around :50 of this clip.):

Chas (Ben Stiller), to his dad: "I've had a rough year."

Royal: "I know you have."

After saying goodbye to Joe (he's off to Barcelona today -- la-di-da, la-di-da) we got ready to take John back to school. My wife couldn't bear to make the drive -- it was just too painful -- so John and I loaded up his things for the trip. We were both quiet on the ride back; all I could think of was how stoical John is. (He's really a trooper. But we're all troopers, aren't we, given all the pain we're subjected to?) As he sat in the passenger seat in his new down jacket -- looking like the Michelin Man -- staring straight ahead, I asked him, "Is this difficult for you, to go back tonight?"

"No," he replied. "Is it difficult for you?"

I didn't know what to say.

Or as Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) put it (in a different context), "I couldn't even begin to think about knowing how to answer that question."

We finally arrived at his school and brought all of his stuff up to the trademark yellow door. It was cold and dark and, for the first time, really felt like winter. We waited for what seemed like a long time before someone let us in. One of the young staffers finally appeared -- they're all young -- and I hugged my son and got back in the car for the drive home.

My wife and I talked briefly about the day when I got back. I told her to go to bed while I unwound with a "Seinfeld" episode before I turned in myself. (Coincidentally, it was the Festivus one.) But I watched the end of "The Royal Tenenbaums," too, and went to bed thinking about how appropriate the movie was for us this Thanksgiving.

Another great Van Morrison...

...song, the last one on the "Moondance" album, following "Everyone."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

That's President Eisenhower, above, about to carve the holiday bird.

What's the matter, depressed because you're not going to have a Norman Rockwell-like Thanksgiving? Don't feel too bad; I have to think that picture was staged. I kind of doubt that Ike had much to do with that meal. After all, the old codger didn't even dress himself.

It's almost Game Time...

...and the Trib's Edgy Tim O'Halloran picks the winners in this weekend's IHSA finals:

Class 7A

Lake Zurich (12-1) vs. Wheaton Warrenville South (13-0): To me, the most anticipated matchup all weekend. Can the Bears slow down a Wheaton South offense that has been rolling all season? Which undersized, well-schooled, speedy defense will have the upper hand? I picked the Tigers as the state's top-ranked football team. Why change now?

Edgy's pick: Wheaton Warrenville South, 27-14.

Class 8A

Maine South (11-2) vs. Mount Carmel (11-2): Old school (Mount Carmel) against new school (Maine South). While the Caravan will look to bully the Hawks' defense with Chris Sujka and the belly option, can the MC secondary handle the Hawks' spread passing offense? I can't pick against a Maine South program that has been money in recent state title games. Back-to-back-to-back.

Edgy's pick: Maine South, 35-28.

I like sweet potatoes...

...and was pleased to read this morning that the lesser-known tuber is finally getting the respect it deserves. In an article in the Times today, "Sweet Potatoes Step Out From Under Marshmallows" (my emphasis):

After generations of being smothered by a blanket of marshmallows on Thanksgiving and then forgotten for another 11 months, the irrepressible sweet potato is having its moment.

American farmers expect to harvest a record two billion pounds this year, almost half of that here in the nation’s most prolific sweet potato state. Sweet potatoes have achieved a status that just a few years ago would have seemed laughable.

They may even be hip.

Once again, BOWG is out in front on a new trend.

But then I read this:

“Within the diabetic community, it’s become pretty common knowledge that sweet potatoes are good for you, so there’s a groundswell because so many people have diabetes now,” said the chef Michel Nischan, who owns the Dressing Room in Westport, Conn., and helps host “dLife TV” on CNBC, the first television show for people with diabetes.

"So many people have diabetes now?" Why is that? Aren't we supposed to be getting healthier as we get richer? Why do I feel like Americans are such an unhealthy people?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When Maine South and Mount Carmel...

...play on Saturday in the Class 8A championship, it will be only the third meeting in history for the two storied programs. Maine South, top, bested the Caravan, 31-28, in the 1995 final, while Mount Carmel, bottom, handed the Hawks their last playoff loss, 21-14, in the 2007 quarterfinals. Together, the two schools have won 14 titles in 21 trips to the final. Maine South, of course, will be trying to make it three in a row. Can the Hawks do it again, or is this the Caravan's year? Let's have a closer look at the two teams, shall we?

Mount Carmel has been coached by the legendary Frank Lenti (above) since 1984. Lenti's overall record of 303-53, playoff record of 83-14 and ten state titles in 24 straight post-season appearances has already landed him in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Lenti is only the fourth coach in Illinois high school football history to win over 300 games. A 1969 graduate of Mount Carmel, Lenti cut his teeth as a graduate assistant under Lou Holtz at the University of Arkansas.

Maine South may have its own legend-in-the-making in Dave Inserra. In ten years, Inserra is 115-14 with two state titles, and three second-place finishes in 2003, '04 and '05.

Advantage: Tie.


The Caravan's offense is led by quarterback Chris Sujka, top, (30 touchdowns on 1,344 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns on 728 yards passing) and running back Michael Banks, bottom, (16 touchdowns on 1,154 yards rushing). (Banks orally committed to Illinois State last week.) They run an option-style offense the likes of which Maine South hasn't seen this season.

The Hawks, for their part, are led by a sophomore at quarterback, Matt Alviti, top, (11 touchdowns on 531 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns on 2,842 yards passing), and the diminutive Paul Preston, bottom, at running back (19 touchdowns on 1,095 yards rushing). (The Maine South program lists Preston at 5'4" and 161 pounds.)

While Mount Carmel's backfield may have the better athletes, Maine South has the more dynamic offense. The Hawks have always been "pass happy," and this year is no different -- Alviti has several receivers that could give the Caravan defense fits, including Scott Derrick (12 touchdowns on 966 yards), Imran Khan (3 touchdowns on 482 yards) and Luke Mottley (6 touchdowns on 587 yards).

 Advantage: Tie.


Neither the Caravan nor the Hawks are known for their defenses, but both have gotten the job done this year, during the regular season and in the playoffs.

Tyler Fahey leads Maine South with 30 solo tackles and 15 sacks and is joined by Connor Klein and Sean Sullivan.

Mount Carmel's defense is anchored by Conor Flaherty (what's with all these Conors?) with 85 solo tackles and 12 sacks, and Brandon Greer and Derrick Bryant.

Advantage: Tie.

We're not making much progress, are we? Let's have a look at each team's schedule, beginning with the regular season. Asterisks indicate schools that advanced to the playoffs.

Maine South:

*Schaumburg 29, Maine South 17                            
*Wheaton Warrenville South 44, Maine South 7
Maine South 42, Highland Park 0*                           
Maine South 49, Maine West 0
Maine South 55, Niles West 21
Maine South 49, Evanston 8*         
Maine South 48, Waukegan 12
Maine South 55, Glenbrook South 16*                     
Maine South 42, New Trier 21*                               
Maine South 47, Notre Dame 0
Maine South 36, Bartlett 12     
Maine South 20, Stevenson 9  
Maine South 29, Loyola 22                               

So Maine South is 11-2 after losing its first two games to 7A opponents, Schaumburg and Wheaton Warrenville South. While the Hawks scored 496 points this year, they allowed only 194. Six of their regular season opponents made it to the playoffs, with a combined record of 6-5.

Mount Carmel:

*Simeon 47, Mount Carmel 41       
Mount Carmel 45, Lake Forest Academy 8
Mount Carmel 41, Fenwick 7
Mount Carmel 31, Loyola 24 (OT)*                          
Mount Carmel 35, De La Salle 13
*St. Rita 35, Mount Carmel 14                                  
Mount Carmel 42, Brother Rice 7*                            
Mount Carmel 56, St. Laurence 7
Mount Carmel 35, Providence 0
Mount Carmel 52, Bolingbrook 27
Mount Carmel 21, Neuqua Valley 14 (OT)
Mount Carmel 41, Lyons 10  
Mount Carmel 28, Homewood-Flossmoor 21

The Caravan is also 11-2 and also lost two games to 7A opponents, Simeon and St. Rita. Mount Carmel scored 482 points and allowed 220 against teams of which only four made the post-season with a combined record of 8-4.

The two programs had only one common opponent, Loyola, which they both beat by a comparable margin. Each team has performed well in the playoffs. Maine South handed Stevenson its only loss of the year and came from behind to beat Loyola, both on the road. Mount Carmel dominated Lyons and beat H-F, both teams with 10 victories from good conferences.

So what can we say about Saturday's contest after all this rigorous analysis? Beats me. Enjoy the game!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Elizabeth Wurtzel says...

...what I've been thinking for a while now:

Sarah Palin is hot.  She has sex appeal.  That's why people like her.  That's the whole story.  Everyone has to stop trying to deconstruct and decode it, because there is no accounting for chemistry, and Sarah Palin has lots of it going on with her public.  I don't think anyone knows or cares what in particular she stands for, other than some general conservative cache of principles, because they are in love with her.

Can Palin keep it going for another two years, or will America get tired of her schtick?

Confused about the Pope's position...

...on condoms? In an article in the Times today, "Pope's Comments on Condoms Sow Confusion":

In a papacy troubled by communications missteps, Pope Benedict XVI's unprecedented new book of interviews with a German journalist sought to clarify matters by going straight to the source.

But ever since the Vatican’s official newspaper published highlights on Saturday, the book has created the opposite effect: widespread confusion, most notably over the pope’s comments that in select cases, such as those involving male prostitutes, condom use might be a step toward acting responsibly to reduce “the risk of infection.”

AIDS activists are calling the pope’s comments a breakthrough, while members of the church hierarchy and some Catholic commentators say the comments have been misconstrued. The Vatican itself has furiously played down Benedict’s words, or rather contextualized them, noting that the pope was not changing church doctrine banning contraception, or justifying condom use — even though the Vatican newspaper clearly used the phrase “justified in some cases.”

I guess the point here is that if you're gay and a prostitute, you're so far gone anyway that you might as well use condoms.

Tim Cronin has a good piece...

...in the Sun-Times, "Should the playoff system change?," which has inspired me to go on my annual rant about the IHSA post-season format a little earlier than usual.

Cronin argues that there are too many classes: 1A and 2A should be combined, 3A and 4A, and so on until you have only four classes and four championship games. I couldn't agree more.

One of my biggest pet peeves with the IHSA is the split at the top -- 7A and 8A. Why are there two classes at the top when 7A Schaumburg and 7A finalist Wheaton Warrenville South both beat 8A finalist Maine South, and 7A teams Simeon and St. Rita beat the other 8A finalist, Mount Carmel? Put 'em all together and let 'em play! I want to see the best teams in the championship.

(And by the way, what's with all these A's anyway? If there are no B's or C's, how is that descriptive? Just call them Class 1, Class 2, etc.)

Where Cronin and I part company is on the number of teams in the playoffs. He maintains that 256 schools out of a possible 544 is fine. I think that's too many. Cut out most of the 5-4 teams. Sorry, but teams like Evanston and Glenbrook South should have been watching the post-season from the stands. I can see admitting a few 5-4 teams. For example, if someone's quarterback was out for the first few games and they began the year 0-4 and then came roaring back to win their last five games, fine -- let them in. But, generally, let's try to draw the line for post-season play at 6-3.

Cronin also says:

The change would add one week to the playoffs, turning each class into a six-week test, with the championship games played on the first Saturday of December rather than the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Again, too many. Keep the current format: five games ending this weekend.

I do like Cronin's final suggestion:

Here's one more thing the IHSA could fix. Rather than play the title games at Memorial Stadium, where most of the 70,904 seats go unused for the high school finals, play the two smaller-class championship games at the original site of the playoffs: Illinois State in Normal. Hancock Stadium, while antiquated by modern fan standards, is at least a 15,000-seat antique. Get 12,000 people in there and it looks like a crowd.

Play the two larger-class games closer to Chicago. Huskie Stadium, on the campus of Northern Illinois in DeKalb, would be a perfect spot. It has 30,076 seats, FieldTurf, and is just far enough from Chicago to make the trip an occasion, though without the need to stay overnight.

Given that most of the participants would be from the Chicago area - of this year's eight finalists from 5A to 8A, only one, Chatham-Glenwood, is from downstate, and another is from nearby Rockford - playing an hour away rather than two hours away makes perfect sense. And the capacity of the stadium likely would handle any crowd. The largest attendances in state finals history, a shade over 20,000 fans each year, came in 1981 and 1982, the first two years the 5A and 6A title games were held at Northwestern.

By the way, I sat next to John Sheridan at the Loyola game on Saturday. He played for the Rambler teams that won the 1965 and '66 Prep Bowls. He told me it wasn't at all unusual in those days for the contests to draw 65,000 fans in Soldier Field!

Monday, November 22, 2010

George Costanza...

...did not attend Lake Zurich High School.

But Anthony Costanzo did.

After graduation, Costanzo (above) played offensive tackle at Boston College and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. Costanzo is the only notable alum of Lake Zurich that I could find.

There really wasn't much information at all on this northwest suburban high school that is appearing in its third 7A championship in five years. The last time Lake Zurich won the state title was in 2007, when the Bears defeated Wheaton Warrenville South, 7-3.

Just about the only thing I could find out about Lake Zurich is that the school was founded in 1926 as Ela-Vernon High School and split into two separate institutions in 1964 -- Lake Zurich High School and Stevenson High School. A rivalry was born and the football teams competed every year for what was known as "the Cannon," a miniature steel replica of the real thing which fired a blank shotgun shell when the teams entered the field or scored a touchdown. Kind of like the "Little Brown Jug" or the "Old Oaken Bucket," I suppose. The Cannon was retired in 1982 as the rivalry died down, although the two schools still compete in the North Suburban Conference.

Fast forward to 2010. Lake Zurich is coached by Bryan Stortz (above), who has compiled a 51-12 record since taking the helm in 2006. Last year, the Bears finished at 9-4 and were eliminated in the semifinals by Glenbard West, 21-17.

Lake Zurich is primarily a running team and its primary running back is Jacob Brinlee (above), who ran for 1,394 yards and 14 touchdowns this year. (The senior finished his career with 3,293 yards, a school record.)

Junior quarterback Zach Till (above) threw only 86 passes this season for 688 yards, 225 of which were on just six completions against Mundelein, a day when Brinlee was out with an injury. But Brinlee isn't the only threat in the Bears' backfield; Mike Shield and Jon Mularz combined for 857 yards and 11 touchdowns this year.

And Lake Zurich has a strong defense as well, anchored by middle linebacker J. J. Raffelson, a Division I prospect. Besides shutting out St. Rita last week, the Bears limited their quarterfinal foe, Simeon, to just one first down in the first half and no points until the fourth quarter. The Wolverines, who had averaged 51 points a game (including a Week 1 victory over Mount Carmel) were held to only 14.

Saturday's game against undefeated Wheaton Warrenville South will have special meaning for one player in particular, Mike Shield.

"My brother was on the 2007 team," said Shield. "I just want to go down there and prove to him we can do it, too."

The Bears' 2010 season in a nutshell:

Lake Zurich 20, Fremd 10
Lake Zurich 10, Cary-Grove 3
Lake Zurich 36, North Chicago 0
Lake Zurich 45, Zion-Benton 0
Lake Zurich 44, Libertyville 22
Stevenson 24, Lake Zurich 23
Lake Zurich 14, Warren 0
Lake Zurich 35, Mundelein 7
Lake Zurich 17, Lake Forest 14
Lake Zurich 41, Jacobs 7
Lake Zurich 14, Prospect 7
Lake Zurich 17, Simeon 14
Lake Zurich 21, St Rita 0