Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The tweet of the day:

Imagine if Romney had written one less op-ed in his life.

Happy Halloween!

Hope yours isn't this scary.

With less than a week to go...

...before the election (won't you be glad when this is over?), President Obama is comfortably ahead of Governor Romney on both Intrade and FiveThirtyEight, the two sites I check daily (hourly?). In fact, Romney, to my knowledge, has never led the president on either one. Never.

This morning, just to give you an update, the president is leading in five of the nine swing states on Intrade: Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and -- most importantly -- Ohio. Romney is leading in Florida and North Carolina. (Colorado and Virginia are essentially a push.) But even if you throw those last two in the Republican's column the president still wins.

Now get this darn thing over with, will you?

Lincoln-Way East will host...

...Providence on Saturday night and I'm pretty sure I know the outcome of this one. (Uh-oh.) I've seen both teams play this year (the Griffins against Bolingbrook and the Celtics against Loyola) and I feel confident that Lincoln-Way East will advance to the third round. (For my money, they're the best team in the state.)

Even though Providence defeated Joliet Catholic in Week One, they got beat pretty convincingly by Loyola and Mount Carmel. Lincoln-Way East, on the other hand, is undefeated, having downed Carmel, Montini, Homewood-Flossmoor and Sandburg, as well as Bolingbrook, during the regular season. That's a tough schedule! And, the Griffins have the most exciting quarterback I've seen all year, Tom Fuessel, above.

The two programs haven't played each other since 2009, when the Griffins beat the Celtics, 28-7. They also beat Providence in 2008, '07, '06 and '05. As far as I can tell, the Celtics have never beaten Lincoln-Way East. Will Saturday night's game be any different? No, but it should be a good matchup. (The two schools are only fifteen minutes apart. If nothing else, I'll bet a lot of these kids know each other.)

BOWG prediction: Lincoln-Way East 31, Providence 14.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The tweets of the day:

That Romney convention zinger about Obama wanting to stop the seas from rising seeming less zingy about now.


Romney refuses to talk about FEMA after

In the world where the ER = health care & everybody has photo ID, of course they believe dumping old soup cans in a box is a big help.

The Mitt Romney...

...cartoon of the day.

Nate Silver writes... the print edition of the New York Times this morning, "Seems Awfully Smooth for a Wild Ride":

...after a period of polling turmoil following President Obama’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., and Mitt Romney’s sharp rebound after the first presidential debate in Denver, the polling in most swing states now looks very similar to the way it did for much of the late spring and summer.

And this confirms something I've been thinking lately: maybe the cake has been baked since before the conventions and the debates took place. Maybe the post-convention bounce experienced by President Obama and the post-first debate bounce experienced by Governor Romney have both come down to earth and we're right back where we were in early August. And where was that? About a 51-49 percent victory for the president in the popular vote and an Electoral College total somewhere in the neighborhood of 280-90 votes.

Or, as Mr. Silver puts it:

There is a pretty good possibility that our forecast in every state on Nov. 6 will be the same as it was on June 7.

I've been following Bolingbrook...

Sophomore Quincy Woods has filled in well for the injured Aaron Bailey.
...ever since I saw them lose to Lincoln-Way East last year, 20-14, in Week Six. Even though the Griffins won, I came away from the contest asking myself: Who is this Aaron Bailey kid?

I went on to watch the Raiders beat Mount Carmel, Downers Grove South, Naperville Central and Loyola in the 8A finals (on TV).

So I couldn't wait to drive down to Frankfort in Week Six of this year to see Bailey take on Lincoln-Way East again. The Illinois-bound senior took two snaps that night and went down with an injury to his MCL. (The good news is I got to discover Griffins' quarterback Tom Fuessel.)

This Friday I plan on seeing Bolingbrook (and Bailey, I hope) for only the second time this year. The Raiders will be hosting the undefeated Wildcats of Neuqua Valley, a team I have never seen play.

Who's going to win this one? Beats me.

The Wildcats, a No. 1 seed, are led by quarterback Dylan Andrew (1202 yards passing this season with 14 touchdowns) and running back Joey Rhattigan, above, (1396 yards rushing with 26 touchdowns and 10.9 yards per carry).

The Raiders bested Neuqua, 33-14, in the first round of the playoffs last year (where was I?) and 21-14 way back in 2005. Other than that, I have nothing to go on -- no common opponents, nothin'.

The most intelligent thing I can say is that this will be a test of the Upstate Eight Conference. And after last week's drubbing of Batavia at the hands of (still weak, I maintain) Downers Grove North, 38-26, I'll give the edge to the home team.

BOWG prediction: Bolingbrook 35, Nequa Valley 28.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I have my games...

Will Aaron Bailey play against Neuqua Valley?
...for Round Two this weekend. (Well, sort of.)

On Friday night I'll be at Bolingbrook to watch the 8-2 Raiders host the undefeated Wildcats of Neuqua Valley. And on Saturday night I'll be at Lincoln-Way East to see the undefeated Griffins take on the 8-2 Celtics of Providence.

(It's killing me that I won't be able to see the 5A matchup on Saturday night between 7-3 Woodstock North and undefeated Marian Central. That could be a heck of a game!)

All I have to do now is decide on my Saturday afternoon game. Here are the finalists, in no particular order:

Conant (7-3) at Maine South (10-0);
Stevenson (8-2) at Glenbard North (9-1);
Waubonsie Valley (9-1) at Oak Park River Forest (7-3); or (are you ready for this?)
3A Aurora Christian (9-1) at Immaculate Conception (7-3).

Remember: The best game between the best teams.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The rankings are in...

Is Glenbard West the best team in Illinois?
...after the first round of the IHSA playoffs. While the Trib and Sun-Times both dropped Batavia, and added Crete-Monee and Wheaton North, respectively, MaxPreps made some big changes to its top ten. For starters, Glenbard West vaulted six spots into the No. 1 ranking and Lincoln-Way East dropped to No. 5. Waubonsie and Wheaton North each jumped four spots and Lake Zurich nine.

Was there really that much churning this weekend? Or did the top teams just beat a lot of schools that didn't belong in the playoffs in the first place? Oh, well; I'll leave that to the experts to decide. (I'd still have Lincoln-Way East and Loyola ranked Nos. 1 and 2; they're the best teams I've seen all year.)

On to the rankings:


1. Glenbard West (10-0) *
2. Loyola (9-1) *
3. Mount Carmel (9-1) ^
4. Neuqua Valley (10-0)
5. Lincoln-Way East (10-0) *
6. Marian Central Catholic (10-0)
7. Cary-Grove (10-0) *
8. Waubonsie Valley (9-1)
9. Lake Zurich (8-2)
10. Palatine (9-1)

Chicago Sun-Times:

1. Glenbard West (10-0) *
2. Mount Carmel (9-1) ^
3. Maine South (10-0)
4. Lincoln-Way East (10-0) *
5. Loyola (9-1) *
6. Bolingbrook (8-2) *
7. Neuqua Valley (10-0)
8. Palatine (9-1)
9. Glenbard North (9-1) *
10. Crete-Monee (10-0) *

Chicago Tribune:

1. Maine South (10-0)
2. Loyola (9-1) *
3. Lincoln-Way East (10-0) *
4. Glenbard West (10-0) *
5. Mount Carmel (9-1) ^
6. Crete-Monee (10-0) *
7. Glenbard North (9-1)* 
8. Bolingbrook (8-2) *
9. Palatine (9-1)
10. Wheaton North (9-1) *

* Indicates teams I've seen play. ^ Indicates teams I've seen on television.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My takeaways from Round One...

Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly.
...of the IHSA football playoffs. (Or: An Old Bald Guy Comments on a Bunch of Games He Didn't See.)

First of all, the wildest game of the weekend had to be #3 Palatine's 69-42 victory over #14 Niles West. The Pirates play #6 Schaumburg next week, a team they beat two weeks ago, 51-18. But in Round Three they will probably face #2 Loyola, and they had better bring their defense to that game.

The biggest upsets of the week were -- besides #8 Downers Grove North over #1 Batavia, 38-26, for which I have already atoned -- #15 Lyons over #2 Marist, 34-28; and #14 Notre Dame over #3 Grayslake North, 46-27. Who would have thought Batavia and Marist would get knocked out in the first round?

Two mismatches I would have attended were #9 Bolingbrook over #8 Sandburg 39-7; and #6 Lake Zurich over #11 Crystal Lake South, 49-0.

And another one I was thinking of seeing was #7 Woodstock North over #10 Sterling, 68-20. (But this sets up an awesome showdown next week with the Thunder's cross-town rival, Marian Central Catholic.)

Had I not gone to that game I might have taken in one of the best contests in Round One, #7 Fenwick over #10 Huntley, 10-9. (Don't be too surprised if the Friars upset #2 Rockford Boylan next week.)

Which leads me into four other best games of the week: #4 Glenbard North over #13 Fremd 31-24; #12 Oak Park River Forest over #5 Hinsdale Central 28-24; and two games between two teams that were 7-2 in the regular season, #10 O'Fallon over #7 Homewood-Flossmoor, 37-35; and #5 Thornton over #4 T.F. South, 23-21. (Moral of the story: Always, always, always go to games in the first round between two 7-2 teams.)

Finally, there are three conferences (by my count) that have four teams left in the playoffs:

East Suburban Catholic: Benet, St. Patrick, Joliet Catholic and Notre Dame;
North Suburban - Lake: Stevenson, Libertyville, Lake Zurich and Lake Forest; and
West Suburban - Silver: OPRF, Lyons, Glenbard West and Downers Grove North.

And four with three:

Mid-Suburban - West: Conant, Palatine and Schaumburg;
Catholic League Blue: Loyola, Mount Carmel and Providence;
Upstate Eight: Bartlett, Neuqua and Waubonsie; and
South Suburban - Blue: Oak Forest, Lemont and Tinley Park.

Next: The games to watch in Round Two.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

First of all, I need to admit...

...that I was really, really wrong about Downers Grove North. Really wrong. The Trojans handed No. 1-seed Batavia their first loss of the season last night, 38-26, on the road. To all you DGN fans out there: Mea culpa!

Now, as for the rest of Friday night, Bolingbrook defeated Sandburg, 39-7, without star quarterback Aaron Bailey. Huh? Will the Illinois-bound senior play next week against Neuqua Valley? I don't know, but barring any scheduling conflicts I plan to be there.

My other "high priority" game for next week is Providence at Lincoln-Way East. (I don't know what I'll do if it's at the same time as Neuqua at Bolingbrook.)

Other games I would see -- so far -- include Waubonsie Valley at Oak Park River Forest, Wheaton North at Prospect and Oswego at Benet.

But there's a lot more football left to play today -- a lot.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Allow me to be just a little...

...crabby for a minute. Which of the following first round games do you think will be the biggest mismatch?

#16 Lane (5-3) at #1 Maine South (9-0)?

The Indians beat five losing teams this year to "earn" a postseason bid, none of whom made it into the top 300 in MaxPreps: Bogan (3-5, ranked 405 in MaxPreps), Chicago Vocational (2-6, 390), Dunbar (3-5, 322), Whitney Young (3-5, 406) and Curie (3-5, 317). Lane also gave up over 40 points in each of its three losses, to De La Salle, Glenbrook North and Simeon.

Don't be surprised if this "contest" has a running clock by the end of the first half.

 #15 Evanston (5-4) at #2 Loyola (8-1)?

The Wildkits opened their season with a 42-0 victory over Lincoln Park (2-6, 515). But that doesn't tell the whole story: the Lions were forced to forfeit the game at intermission because they didn’t have enough healthy players to play the second half.

The Wildkits went on to beat three more losing teams, Zion-Benton (2-7, 230), Maine East (3-6, 392) and Waukegan (2-7, 270) before defeating Niles West (5-4, 210) by a touchdown.

Last year, Loyola shutout Evanston twice, 40-0 in the regular season and 35-0 in the playoffs. Is this game really necessary?

#14 Niles West (5-4) at #3 Palatine (8-1)?

Before losing to Evanston in the last game of the regular season, the Wolves beat one winning team, Westinghouse (6-3, 332) and four losing teams, Niles North (4-5, 269), Maine West (1-8, 445), Highland Park (3-6, 256) and Waukegan (2-7, 270). In addition, Niles West hasn't won a game in over a month and lost their last four games.

Palatine, on the other hand, won their last eight games in a row -- including a 51-18 drubbing of playoff-bound Schaumburg last week -- after dropping their opener to Montini in overtime.

How about #14 Brother Rice (5-4) vs. #3 Mount Carmel (8-1)?

The Crusaders beat two winning teams this year, Shepard (6-3, 159) and Bishop McNamara (5-4, 164), and crosstown rival St. Rita (4-5, 42) in the first four weeks. Brother Rice then went 2-3, including victories over De La Salle (4-5, 226) and Leo (4-4, 262).

But the Crusaders already lost to Mount Carmel, 56-7, in Week Five. Do we really need to replay this game?

Finally, in 7A, #8 Downers Grove North (5-4) at #1 Batavia (9-0)?

The Trojans beat four losing teams, Lockport (1-8, 289), Morton (2-7, 345), Downers Grove South (4-5, 202) and York (0-9, 277), and a resurgent Oak Park River Forest (6-3, 110) in Week Four. North then lost their last three games, including the season finale to Glenbard West, 26-0.

I saw the second half of that last game and I have no trouble seeing another shutout tomorrow night against the Bulldogs.

All right, enough of that. How about some upsets this weekend by a 5-4 team?

To paraphrase Rod Serling, I'll submit two for your consideration: #16 Elk Grove (5-4) over #1 Glenbard West (9-0) and #15 Jacobs (5-4) over #2 Rockford Boylan (9-0).

Am I crazy? Perhaps; but you just know there will be at least one upset in the first round.

Elk Grove defeated four losing teams this year, Highland Park (3-6, 256), Hoffman Estates (0-9, 363), Wheeling (3-6, 241) and Buffalo Grove (2-8, 303). But the Grenadiers did knock off Rolling Meadows (7-2, 38), and three of their four losses were to playoff teams: Palatine (8-1, 9), Conant (6-3, 39) and Prospect (6-3, 62).

Last year the Hilltoppers got upset in the second round by Lake Zurich. Might they go down in the first this year?

The other school I'll be watching out of the corner of my eye is Jacobs. They beat five losing teams this year, including Marmion (4-5, 103), Johnsburg (0-9, 411), McHenry (3-6, 153), Prairie Ridge (3-6, 131) and Dundee-Crown (3-6, 155). But the Golden Eagles' four losses all came at the hands of top-notch programs: Grayslake North (8-1, 34), Cary-Grove (9-0, 4), Huntley (6-3, 35) and Crystal Lake South (6-3, 43). What's more, head coach William Mitz is no neophyte:

Mitz coached for 28 seasons at Stevenson, where he amassed a career record of 197-98. He led the Patriots to the state playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons, a span during which his teams averaged 8 victories a year. And Stevenson was the Class 8A state runner up in 2002.

Jacobs already beat defending Class 6A champ Prairie Ridge. Can they defeat defending Class 7A champ Boylan, too?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

I agree with Gail Collins, in her...

...weekly conversation with David Brooks yesterday:

My prediction is that if [Romney] wins, he’ll get rid of Obamacare but fail to replace it with anything else. He’ll do the tax cuts but fail to get any loophole closing on the other end.

It'll be Back to the Future! No health care reform and deficits as far as the eye can see...

I can't make it to any...

Are the Lake Zurich Bears a dark horse in 7A?
...of the first round games this weekend, but if I could I'd probably see Bolingbrook (7-2) at Sandburg (7-2) tomorrow night. It's a rematch, of course, but this time Aaron Bailey might play (and I've only seen him take two snaps all year).

A good backup game would be 8A Proviso West (6-3) at Waubonsie (8-1). The Panthers could give Waubonsie a good game, although I think the Warriors are headed for a rematch with Neuqua (9-0) or a showdown with Bolingbrook in Round Three.

Two 7A games I won't be attending tomorrow night are Prospect (6-3) at Glenbrook North (8-1) and Andrew (6-3) at Benet (8-1). Are Grant Rushing and the Spartans of GBN for real? And how about Jack Beneventi and the Redwings? Something tells me I'll get my chance to see them again, possibly in Round Two.

On Saturday my early game would probably be 7A Crystal Lake South (6-3) at Lake Zurich (7-2). I saw the Gators lose to undefeated Cary-Grove, 17-3, in Week Three, but South finished strong, winning their last five games by a combined score of 166-70. The Bears, for their part, are always tough in the postseason and allowed only 33 points all year.

After that contest, I might drive up the road to see 5A Sterling (6-3) at Woodstock North (6-3) or down to the western suburbs to see either 8A Fremd (5-4) at Glenbard North (8-1) or -- more likely -- 7A Huntley (6-3) at Fenwick (7-2). The Friars are back in the playoffs with first year coach Gene Nudo, who hasn't coached a high school playoff game in twenty years. Watch out for these guys; they played Loyola tough just a month ago. A second round matchup against defending champ Boylan could be very interesting.

Monday, October 22, 2012

If you were to take one week off...

Will Aaron Bailey be ready for the playoffs?
...during the Illinois high school football season, this weekend would be the best one.

Round One of the playoffs is loaded with mismatches in all classes, and teams that -- let's face it -- really don't belong in the postseason at all.

(I did concede to my son a couple of years ago, though, that 5-4 teams could advance after all. "Dad," he said, "It's all about kids playing football and their parents getting to watch them. Lighten up." As usual, he was right.)

So if you have something better to do this weekend (like me), don't worry, because the second season doesn't really begin until the following week anyway. Now, having said all that, let's get to it, shall we?

In 8A I picked Bolingbrook to defeat Loyola in the championship (again). That's all conditional on quarterback Aaron Bailey; if he isn't healthy enough to play against Sandburg this Friday I'll have to revise my call. But if Bailey plays here's how I see it all shaking out: Loyola beats Maine South and Bolingbrook defeats Mount Carmel in the semifinals.

But first, Maine South has to get past Glenbard North or Stevenson; Loyola only has to beat Palatine. Bolingbrook has the toughest road ahead with Neuqua and Waubonsie in their way. Mount Carmel only has to get past Marist.

(Again, if Bailey doesn't play this Friday all bets are off.)

In 7A, I look for Lincoln-Way East to beat Glenbard West. Lincoln-Way East should get to the final game after beating Batavia in the semis and making light work of Providence in Round Two. Glenbard West has to get past Wheaton North and possibly dark horse Glenbrook North (I want to see that kid Grant Rushing play) before facing either Boylan or Lake Zurich in the semis. 7A is really stacked!

6A is the trickiest class of all for me. I have Cary-Grove defeating Lemont in the finals, but there are so many potential land mines in the way: Grant, Lakes and Grayslake North for Cary-Grove, and Oak Forest, Crete-Monee and Ottawa for Lemont.

5A should be a great bracket with Montini repeating, this time over Morris. But first, the Broncos have to get past Kaneland or Joliet Catholic, and Marian Central. Wow!

Morris has a much easier go of it; I don't see anyone out there who could upend the Redskins.

So there you have it. Blogging, by the way, should be light to non-existent for the next two days.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"I don't like to complain, but he should've created some jobs, too."

Let's cut to the chase.

Here are my picks for the finals on Thanksgiving weekend. (I'll work my way backward later.)

8A: Bolingbrook (assuming a healthy Aaron Bailey) over Loyola. (I know; same as last year. Sorry.)

7A: Lincoln-Way East over Glenbard West. (Big year for the Southwest Suburban Blue.)

6A: Cary-Grove over Lemont. (6A was the toughest one for me.)

5A: Montini over Morris. (I know; another Montini title -- how boring.)

After 5A I really don't know much about any of the teams. But I would like to see 3A Aurora Christian play (there's a lot of buzz about these guys), perhaps against Immaculate Conception in Round Two. I think the Eagles could compete in 5A; they only lost to Montini by four points on the road recently.

The final rankings for the...

Kaneland's Drew David.
...2012 regular season are in. (The news services were prompt this week.)

While I still agree with MaxPreps that Lincoln-Way East (9-0) and Loyola (8-1) should get top billing, after that it's a bit of a muddle.

The Trib's top ten didn't budge this week, but the Sun-Times had some (head-scratching) changes. After ranking Maine South (9-0) No. 1 for most of the season (I think), the Hawks suddenly dropped two spots after its 35-14 victory over Glenbrook South (5-4). (Maine South is ranked No. 20 by MaxPreps.) Meanwhile, Mount Carmel vaulted up five spots to No. 2 after its 17-0 shutout of Providence. Okay, but why are they ranked ahead of Loyola, who played a tougher schedule than the Caravan and beat them on their home field?

Oh, well. As for my own rankings, I still have the Griffins and the Ramblers ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. (After that, as I said, it's just a muddle.) I did add Kaneland to the list of top teams I've seen play, but I still haven't seen Batavia (9-0), Neuqua Valley (9-0), Waubonsie Valley (8-1), Palatine (8-1), Montini (7-2), Marian Central (9-0), Maine South (9-0) and a host of others. (I'll try to rectify that in the next few weeks.)

So here's my final Top Ten. After that are the rest of the teams I've seen this year, in no particular order.

After Week Nine:

1. Lincoln-Way East (9-0) *
2. Loyola (8-1) *
3. Mount Carmel (8-1) ^
4. Bolingbrook (7-2) *
5. Glenbard West (9-0) *
6. Cary-Grove (9-0) *
7. Glenbard North (8-1) *
8. Wheaton North (8-1) *
9. Marist  (8-1) *
10. Kaneland (9-0) *

I've also seen Crystal Lake South (6-3), Nazareth (5-4), Hinsdale Central (7-2), Providence (7-2), Crete-Monee (9-0), Bloom (6-3), Brother Rice (5-4), Morris (8-1), St. Viator (5-4), St. Patrick (6-3) and Downers Grove North (5-4).

Now for the rankings from the top news services:


1. Lincoln-Way East (9-0) *
2. Loyola (8-1) *
3. Mount Carmel (8-1) ^
4. Cary-Grove (9-0) *
5. Marian Central Catholic (9-0)
6. Neuqua Valley (9-0)
7. Glenbard West (9-0) *
8. Kaneland * (9-0)
9. Palatine (8-1)
10. Marist (8-1) *

Chicago Sun-Times:

1. Glenbard West (9-0) *
2. Mount Carmel (8-1) ^
3. Maine South (9-0)
4. Lincoln-Way East (9-0) *
5. Loyola (8-1) *
6. Bolingbrook * (7-2)
7. Neuqua Valley (9-0)
8. Palatine (8-1)
9. Batavia (9-0)
10. Glenbard North (8-1) *

Chicago Tribune:

1. Maine South (9-0)
2. Loyola (8-1) *
3. Lincoln-Way East (9-0) *
4. Glenbard West (9-0) *
5. Mount Carmel (8-1) ^
6. Crete-Monee (9-0) *
7. Batavia (9-0)
8. Glenbard North (8-1)* 
9. Bolingbrook (7-2) *
10. Palatine (8-1)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Remember back in 2000...

...when Al Gore was running for president against George W. Bush? Remember how he called Bush's tax plan a "risky tax scheme?" And remember how everyone made fun of him? (Everyone made fun of Al Gore back then; he was a wooden candidate who couldn't connect with voters. Sound familiar?)

Well, it turns out that Gore was right after all. The Bush tax cuts were a risky tax scheme and resulted in a squandering of the federal budget surplus that had been achieved under President Clinton. (We're still feeling the effects of that disastrous policy.)

So when you consider Governor Romney's tax "plan" that no one can explain (least of all the candidate himself), think back on previous Republican tax schemes that resulted in huge budget deficits (yes, even St. Reagan's tax cuts). And, maybe -- just maybe -- if a candidate can't tell you how his tax cuts will miraculously balance the budget, you should be wary. Because, if the Romney - Ryan plan doesn't work (and no reputable economist thinks it would), you'll be hearing more and more how America has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

While waiting for the IHSA...

...playoff brackets to be "revealed" to us (sounds almost Biblical, doesn't it?), I can't help going over my latest madcap high school football weekend.

It all began on Friday night at Kaneland High School, in a clearing of cornfields between the two small towns of Elburn and Maple Park, about 40 miles west of Chicago (or 50 from the Loop). It continued on Saturday morning at historic Hanson Stadium on the Northwest Side of the city and concluded at Duchon Field on the campus of Glenbard West High School in the upscale bedroom community of Glen Ellyn.

So let's see: In twenty-four hours I covered the country, the city and the suburbs. Whew! (My car is tired.)

It only took me about two hours to reach Schmidt's Towne Tap in the charming downtown of Elburn, above, on Friday afternoon. I was a little nervous parking my convertible on the street, especially with my NOT A REPUBLICAN bumper sticker on the back. I don't know why; the immediate neighborhood just didn't seem like an Obama hotbed somehow.

But I knew I was in the right place the minute I walked into Schmidt's and noticed a number of the patrons wearing Kaneland Knights gear. Everyone was very friendly, including my waitress (even if she didn't have a clue about the Game of the Week that was about to take place nearby).

After a delicious half-pound cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onions, fries and an O'Doul's, I went back outside and was relieved to find that my tires hadn't been slashed or my windshield broken. It's gonna be okay, I thought, as I drove the last few miles to the stadium. (If you're ever out that way, be sure to stop at Schmidt's; it's a good spot.)

Kaneland High School, as I mentioned, is situated in the middle of miles and miles (and miles) of cornfields. Founded about a month before I was born in 1958, it's within spitting distance of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and looks like it's been added on to several times to accommodate its current enrollment of about 1,000 students.

The stadium itself is surrounded by pine trees (to cut down on the wind, I imagine) and has a really nice concession stand that serves brats and hot dogs from Ream's Elburn Market, above, in town.  

Rats, I thought, I already ate!

But I grabbed a cup of coffee to keep me warm on the cool October night and climbed to the top of the bleachers for the best seat to watch the showdown between the Knights and the visiting Redskins from Morris. Before I could get to the stands, though, I had to pass a huge, cool sign with the images and jersey numbers of bygone Kaneland gridiron heroes. (It was a little like entering Yankee Stadium; I almost felt like genuflecting.)

I settled into my seat next to two of the locals who were dead ringers for Mr. Haney and Eb, above, from the 1960s sitcom Green Acres. They were both very nice (and knowledgeable about football) and patiently recounted the history of the two teams for me. (Apparently, Morris has always been a power; Kaneland, in comparison, is a bit of an arriviste.)

The game itself (oh yeah, that) was great, as was the atmosphere. Kaneland has great fans, a great band and a ton of school spirit. It would be the perfect place to take Mitt Romney an alien from outer space to show what a high school football game is supposed to look like. (Although I will say that all the pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, combined with the black school colors of Kaneland, made me feel a little like I was in a stadium full of Elvis impersonators.)

I'll let you read about the actual game (if you haven't already). Just suffice it to say that the lead changed hands several times before the Knights won, 33-30, with a touchdown in the final seconds of play.

Quarterback Zach Cinnamon was the star of the game for Morris (an appropriate name, I thought, given the Redskins' colors are maroon and gold). And for Kaneland, well, so many players played so well it's hard to single one out. Quarterback Drew David (who still didn't seem 100 percent healthy to me), Zack Martinelli (lots of Zacks in this game) and running back Jesse Balluf (who had 19 carries but I would have sworn it was closer to a hundred and nineteen) all contributed for the Knights.

Saturday began a little differently (a lot differently) as I drove down to Hanson Stadium, above, at Central and Fullerton in the city. I don't know when the structure was built, but I would certainly guess before World War II. (Well before World War II.) But it was a cool place to see a game, and, unlike the night before (when I wore a down jacket and gloves) I sat in the bleachers without any jacket at all and soaked up the sun's rays while I ate my hot dog and drank my Coke. Life is surely good sometimes.

But instead of a couple of hayseeds, I found myself sitting between a group of people speaking Spanish (who all seemed related somehow) and a guy with a union jacket of some sort holding forth to another group of parents. "My grandmother was from County Mayo, I think, and my grandfather was from Sligo," he mused. They were all nice, though, just like Eb and Mr. Haney from the night before. (Although one of the moms had the annoying habit of yelling "HIT SOMEBODY!" every third play or so.)

(By the way, I desperately wanted to ask the people speaking Spanish next to me where, exactly, they were from because they didn't strike me as Mexican for some reason. Perhaps further down in Latin America, like Guatemala or Honduras. I felt just like Larry David in the above clip, except that I never actually asked them the question bedeviling me.)

The game, between the visiting Lions of St. Viator and the host Shamrocks of St. Patrick, was a good one, at least until the middle of the fourth quarter when the "Rocks" put it out of reach, 42-30. (I'll be interested to follow St. Pat's progress in the playoffs. They finished the regular season 6-3 and accounted for Benet's only loss this year.)

As the contest was winding down at about one-thirty or so, I figured I had one more game left in me. Or at least one more half. So I high-tailed it out of there and drove west on North Avenue to Glen Ellyn and Duchon Field, the Best Place to Watch a High School Football Game in the State of Illinois. I got there just as the second half was starting, with the home team Hilltoppers, or Hitters, leading the Trojans of Downers Grove North, 19-0. It wasn't much of a game, as I had suspected, and ended up 26-0 (yawn). But I did get to sit next to a guy on the Downers' side who had played for St. Rita back in the 1950s. He mentioned -- almost immediately -- that the Catholic League was of course the toughest conference in the state and almost choked on his nachos when I said that I'd heard somewhere that the DuPage Valley was a good one too.

The Glenbard West game was a bust (as I knew it would be) but I just couldn't imagine going a whole season without venturing out there at least once. (Last year the Hilltoppers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, so you can't take any chances.) I even took the long way back to my car, circling around Lake Ellyn, above, admiring the fall foliage.

But it was a great weekend -- Hey, would you look at the time? The brackets are out! -- and the postseason begins next Friday. I won't be able to see the first or third rounds this year, but I'll be at as many games as I can in the second and fourth (and following the rest on Twitter). And, like last year, I plan on recording all the playoff games on Thanksgiving weekend and watching them the following week. So, if you see me, don't tell me what happened.

Now about those pairings...

The Salt Lake Tribune, in...

...endorsing President Obama for a second term, asks the question about his opponent Mitt Romney that I, too, would like to have answered:

"Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?"

Kaneland comes from behind... defeat Morris in the final seconds, 33-30. Great game! (More later.)

In other Friday night contests:

Maine South 35, Glenbrook South 14

Loyola 28, St. Rita 7

Tonight: The playoff brackets are announced.

But first, I'm off to see at least the first half of the St. Viator (5-3) - St. Patrick (5-3) game and possibly the second half of the Downers Grove North (5-3) - Glenbard West (8-0) game.

So many games, so little time!

Friday, October 19, 2012

If you look at the nine...

...battleground states on Intrade, you'll notice that Governor Romney is leading narrowly in Colorado (9 electoral votes) and Virginia (13), and comfortably in Florida (29) and North Carolina (15). President Obama, on the other hand, is leading comfortably in the other five: Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18) and Wisconsin (10). What's more, this has been the case for a couple of weeks now.

The election is only eighteen days away. Barring any unforeseen events overseas or domestically, and if the third debate is essentially a draw, the president should win the election with 281 electoral votes to 257 for Romney.

Let's take a break...

...from all the ranting and raving and have a laugh or two.

MaxPreps has a good piece...

...called "Ten More High School Football Stadiums to See Before You Die," which follows an earlier article on the same topic.

I can't make it this year, but I'm putting the Little Rose Bowl, above, of West Branch High School in Iowa on my Bucket List:

"It was dredged out (in the shape of a bowl) by local residents in the early 1900s by teams of horses and mules," veteran football coach Butch Pedersen related. "We have guardrails and people sit on them. They set out chairs on Wednesday for a Friday night game. They sit on lawn chairs, blankets and the top of their cars. We are surrounded by people. It's a really cool atmosphere. It's the center of our community."

West Branch is less than four hours from my house and the Bears have a great football tradition, once winning 62 regular season games in a row. Heading into their final contest tonight, the squad is 6-2 and has outscored its opponents in the last four games, 215-50.

The license plate of the day:


The forecast for tonight's game...

...between Morris and Kaneland in Maple Park is cool and rainy. Perfect football weather (if you have a rain suit like mine).

Seriously, though, this could hamper Kaneland's vaunted passing attack and level the playing field a little. Are we in for a donnybrook?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jonathan Cohn has an interesting...

...piece in the New Republic, "Blue States are from Scandinavia, Red States are from Guatemala." A taste (my emphasis): 

By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states. It’s impossible to prove that this is the direct result of government spending. But the correlation is hard to dismiss. The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. (The fifth is New Mexico, which has turned blue.) And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii. The numbers on infant mortality, life expectancy, teen pregnancy, and obesity break down in similar ways. A recent study by researchers at the American Institute for Physics evaluated how well-prepared high schoolers were for careers in math and science. Massachusetts was best, followed closely by Minnesota and New Jersey. Mississippi was worst, along with Louisiana and West Virginia. In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states.

The tweet of the day:

Romney: I differ from Bush in that I'm not caught up in that compassion nonsense.

Tagg Romney, Mitt's eldest...

...son, wanted to "take a swing" at President Obama the other night for calling his dad a liar.

I have a simple solution for young Mr. Romney: Tell your dad to stop lying.

St. Rita faces almost certain...

...elimination tomorrow night when it plays host to Loyola (7-1), one of the very best teams in Illinois. The Mustangs are 4-4, but are tied with Montini, at 52, for most playoff points in the state. (SeasonPass explains playoff points as simply "opponents' wins." Why don't they just say that?)

And this is unfortunate, because as I mentioned at the beginning of the season (and later here) St. Rita had one of the toughest schedules around. Now, granted, they seem to be having an off-year anyway, losing to Marist, 35-25, Brother Rice, 23-21, Providence, 14-0, and Mount Carmel, 27-0. But I can't help feeling like Rita is being punished for playing good teams. And I'm wondering if Coach Todd Kuska, above, is going to say to himself in the off-season, "Why don't I just schedule a bunch of cupcakes, like Mount Carmel and Maine South do? You'd never see them go 4-5 with the most playoff points. Why don't I get St. Joseph (0-8) or St. Laurence (1-7) on the schedule? Or Niles North (3-5) or Waukegan (2-6)? Why not just take the easy way out?"

But as we saw last year, both Mount Carmel and Maine South went down in the second round of the playoffs. So maybe it pays to play good teams during the regular season. We'll see.

After Tuesday night's debate... seems like we're back to where we were before the first one two weeks ago: President Obama is leading Governor Romney on Intrade, 65-35%.

In hindsight, the first debate was probably a fluke: Romney was at his very best while the president was at his very worst. On Tuesday night, however, the two candidates returned to form: Romney looked like either a smarmy used car salesman or every boss you've ever hated. And the president looked, well, presidential: intelligent, reasonable and dignified.

The election is less than three weeks away. It'll be close because the country is more polarized than at any time since the Civil War. The president should garner a little over 50 percent of the popular vote and somewhere between 270 and 300 electoral votes. (But I won't rest easy until it's over.)

There are only eleven...

Is Lincoln-Way East the best team in Illinois?
...undefeated teams left among the top thirty in MaxPreps. After this weekend, there will be no more than ten. I'll see one of them, Kaneland or Morris, go down Friday night. (And possibly another on Saturday if Downers Grove North upsets Glenbard West.) Here's the Elite Eleven:

1. Lincoln-Way East * plays Joliet West;

3. Marian Central plays Wheaton Academy;

4. Cary-Grove * plays Prairie Ridge;

5. Glenbard West * plays Downers Grove North;

7. Neuqua Valley plays Bartlett;

10. Kaneland plays Morris;

14. Crete-Monee * plays Rich East;

15. Boylan plays Auburn;

22. Maine South is at Glenbrook South;

24. Batavia is at Elgin; and

28. Morris is at Kaneland.

* Teams I've seen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The cartoon of the day:

David Frum cuts through...

...some of the clutter in Mitt Romney's tax "plan." From his blog today (my emphasis):

It is very unlikely to be true that middle-income people will get a tax break in a Romney administration. 80% of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes. The payroll tax holiday is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, adding 2 points of tax to the liabilities of every worker who earns less than $110,000. That's unlikely to be offset by any plausible income tax cut.

Morris will travel up the road... Kaneland this Friday, and so will I. (Turns out quarterback Drew David will be starting for the home team Knights after all. Cool!)

This will only be the third meeting between the two programs in recent history, with Kaneland winning both contests (home team in CAPS):

2011: Kaneland (12-1) 31, MORRIS (9-2) 28
2010: KANELAND (12-1) 47, Morris (6-4) 7

(Trivia question: Who handed Kaneland their only loss in each of the last two seasons and eliminated them from the playoffs? Answer: Montini.)

So what will happen Friday night? It's tempting to predict another Kaneland victory, but the Redskins of Morris bring a perfect 8-0 record with a victory over 7-1 Richards in Week Two.

Morris is led by quarterback Zach Cinnamon, above, who transferred from Streator only last January. Cinnamon seems to prefer to run rather than pass, but when he isn't carrying the ball himself he hands it off to either Reese Sobol or Jeff Perry. And, just to keep defenses honest, Cinnamon's been known to throw to receivers Anthonee Monson or Danny Friend.

Morris (ranked No. 2 in 5A by Associated Press and No. 28 over all by MaxPreps) will need all of these weapons against Kaneland (No. 2 in 6A and No. 10 over all).

Here's a look at the Redskins' schedule so far:

Morris 14, MINOOKA (3-5) 6
MORRIS 15, Richards (7-1) 13
MORRIS 43, Geneseo (4-4) 0
Morris 56, DIXON (0-8) 6
MORRIS 41, Yorkville (3-5) 17
Morris 13, SYCAMORE (5-3) 0
MORRIS 56, DeKalb (2-6) 27
Morris 28, ROCHELLE (5-3) 21

As for Kaneland, also 8-0, their best opponent so far has been 6-2 Sterling. (Neither of these teams has played a sterling schedule. Sorry.)

But the Knights have an explosive offense, averaging over 43 points a game. The key is junior quarterback Drew David, who has passed for over 1100 yards this season. David also runs with the ball, as does junior running backs Jesse Balluff, above, and Nate Dyer. David's prime receivers besides Balluf are Zack Martinelli and another junior, Dylan Nauert. (Are these guys stacked for next year, or what?)

Here's the Knights' 2012 schedule:

Kaneland 25, BROOKS COLLEGE PREP (5-2) 24
Kaneland 52, HUNTLEY (5-3) 35
KANELAND 42, Sterling (6-2) 0
Kaneland 41, STREATOR (0-8) 0
Kaneland 34, ROCHELLE (5-3) 6
KANELAND 66, DeKalb (2-6) 23
Kaneland 55, YORKVILLE (3-5) 0
KANELAND 30, Sycamore (5-3) 7

Again, it's hard not to expect another Kaneland victory Friday night, but I wouldn't be driving all that way if it was a lock. Don't rule out a Morris upset.

BOWG prediction: Kaneland 28, Morris 24.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

After reading three pieces today...

...that deal with the future of the country and the Republican Party (by Frank Rich, Jonathan Chait and Mark Leibovich), I feel compelled to share my own prediction of the future. Ready?

The economy is improving and will continue to improve, no matter which candidate -- President Obama or Governor Romney -- is elected next month. Whoever is in office for the next four years (or eight, if Romney wins) will get credit for the recovery. (I still think it will be the president, based on Intrade and FiveThirtyEight. They're the best; everything else is just noise.)

Assuming President Obama is reelected in November and the economy recovers in the next few years, his popularity should go up, right? (See: Reagan, Ronald.) And the Republicans -- the tea party in particular -- who oppose him will lose favor with the general public. As a result, moderate Democrats should stand a good chance at unseating some of those GOP House members in the 2014 midterms. So right there, the Congress should get more moderate, more sane. And in 2016, in an effort to win back some of those seats, the Republicans should run more moderate, establishment-type candidates.

So, if the president is reelected and if the economy recovers, then the fever in Washington should break in the next few years. The president should be able to strike deals with the GOP leadership much in the same way that Ronald Reagan was able to do with Tip O'Neill & Company in the 1980s.

Now, even if Romney is elected I suspect the economy will recover and the extremism of the tea party will simply fade away as the economic emergency passes. (Prosperous times are usually accompanied by ennui.)

Either way, the tea party is destined to be a relic. In five or ten years your kids will ask you, "What was that whole tea party business about anyway?"

There's a piece on Paul Ryan... this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Here's the money paragraph (my emphasis):

Jared Bernstein, who read Ryan’s fiscal proposals when he worked as chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Biden, was more pointed regarding Ryan’s credibility. “He definitely talks the talk,” Bernstein told me. “He has a great facility with a particular set of words, like ‘baseline,’ ‘nondefense discretionary’ and things like that.” Bernstein said he eventually came to the view that while Ryan might understand basic concepts, “he does not actually understand what it takes to craft a budget.” This became clear when Ryan was chairman of the House Budget Committee after 2010. “I would say at this point that his budgetary knowledge is a stalking horse for his ideology,” Bernstein told me, meaning that what was important wasn’t the actual balancing of the budget but the slashing of government spending and programs like Medicare and Social Security and the revenue-generating taxes that pay for them. By picking Ryan, Romney signaled that he too was all-in on Big Idea conservatism. And here was the guy, popular with the base and well liked in Congress, who was going to help him sell it to America.

Basil L. Plumley, a veteran...

...of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, died at age 92.

Anyone with four "L"s in his name automatically qualifies for Most Unfortunate Name of the Day. (I prefer his nickname, "Iron Jaw.")

This just in: Drew David, the... quarterback for Kaneland, may not play this Friday night against Morris due to an "upper body injury," according to his father. The 6'0", 175-pound junior has already passed for 1,483 yards and 19 touchdowns this year. Wow!

This could change everything for me. I'll be monitoring the situation carefully, but if David doesn't figure to play I'll check out Schaumburg (7-1) at Palatine (7-1) instead. (They're both larger schools, and it's much closer anyway.)

Stay tuned for developments.

The Game of the Week...

Drive Your Tractor to School Day at Kaneland High School.
...for Week Nine is debatable. There are so many good choices, such as Schaumburg (7-1) at Palatine (7-1), Mount Carmel (7-1) at Providence (7-1), Sandburg (7-1) at Homewood-Flossmoor (6-2), and Bartlett (6-2) at Neuqua Valley (8-0). All are good teams, and all should be good games.

So where will I be? In Maple Park, of all places. Huh? It's about 30 miles west of Naperville, and I'll be there to see 5A Morris (8-0) take on host 6A Kaneland (8-0). Why? Well, they're the only two undefeated teams playing each other this week (that I know of), and they're vying for the Northern Illinois Big 12 - East Conference title. And ... I've heard they're both good.

Want more choices? Okay, up north there's Grayslake North (7-1) at Woodstock North (6-2) and North Chicago (7-1) at Lakes (7-1). Way southwest, there's Plainfield Central (6-2) at Oswego (7-1). And way down south there will be Oak Forest (7-1) at Thornton Fractional South (7-1).

On Saturday, I'll check out St. Viator (5-3) at St. Patrick (5-3) in the city at 11 am. If that's no good I'll drive out to Glen Ellyn and watch Downers Grove North (5-3) at Glenbard West (8-0) at 1 pm.

Should be a good weekend.