Sunday, June 30, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Curtis Tarr, director...

...of the Selective Service System in the later years of the Vietnam War, died at age 88 (my emphasis):

Mr. Tarr succeeded Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, who had been Selective Service director from 1941 until February 1970. 
___

From 1970 to 1972, he helped make the lottery more genuinely random in choosing potential draftees into the military, and he tried to enlarge the pool by granting fewer deferments to students, fathers, men in certain occupations and those claiming medical problems. A larger pool was fairer, he said.  
___

Historically, draft boards selected potential draftees on the basis of seniority by age. But in 1969, a national lottery was introduced to determine, using birth dates, the order in which they would be chosen. (The lower the draft number someone received, the more likely it was that he would be drafted.) The first lottery was criticized for yielding clumps of dates; November and December dates in particular drew disproportionately lower numbers. Mr. Tarr enlisted scientists at the National Bureau of Standards to devise a more sophisticated approach for 1970. 

I remember watching the lottery on TV. It was a big deal; families would gather around to see if any of their loved ones would be sent off to war.

(If you fast forward to about 7:00 you can follow along and see if you would have drawn a low, i. e., bad number or not. It's a little chilling; your luck that night could determine your fate.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The U. S. Senate passed...

...a bipartisan immigration reform bill this week by a vote of 68-32. (I'll pause for a moment while you reread that sentence.)

Now, forgetting for a minute that the bill has absolutely no chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, it's still worth noting that this is how the legislature is supposed to work.

As my high school civics textbook would have explained it, in order to solve a problem, the two parties come together and, through a process of give-and-take, formulate a solution. Not everyone's happy, but in the end a bipartisan bill gets fashioned and sent to the president's desk for his signature.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

And then I read an article on the front page of the Times this morning, "Contraceptives Stay Covered in Health Law":

Despite strong resistance from religious organizations, the Obama administration said Friday that it was moving ahead with a rule requiring most employers to provide free insurance coverage of contraceptives for women, a decision that has touched off a legal and political battle likely to rage for another year. 

And I thought, if the Republicans had taken part in crafting the health care bill in 2009 (like they just did with immigration), they might have been able to get the administration to compromise on this point.

To back up a little, before the financial crisis hit in the Fall of 2008, health care reform polled as the number one domestic issue in America. After his inauguration, in order to stem the panic, President Obama passed the largest stimulus bill in history and rescued the U. S. auto industry. Next, he and the Democrats in Congress turned their attention to health care reform. While Democrats had been pushing for a single-payer system for decades, they yielded to reality and put forth a reform package based largely on Republican ideas from the 1990s.

This is where the opening sentence of this post comes in. The Republicans in Congress could have said, "We all agree that the dysfunctional health care system is the number one domestic problem facing America. And we appreciate your willingness to pass a Republican bill. So let's all roll up our sleeves and get to work and write bipartisan legislation which will address this problem."

Instead, the GOP said, in effect, "We're going to do everything in our power to obstruct health care reform. First of all, our constituents -- the health care lobby -- don't want reform. (A dysfunctional system rewards some at the expense of others.) Second, we don't want to give this new president any more legislative victories (the public might get the wrong impression). If we can obstruct him at every turn, we might be able to portray him as ineffectual and win back the White House in four years. Even though it didn't work with Bill Clinton in the '90s, the economy is in the worst downturn since the Great Depression and likely to remain that way for some time. If we can just run the ol' four-corner stall, we can use a slow recovery to our advantage."

The result (in case you've been out of the country) was that the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 with exactly zero Republican votes. And, by choice, they had exactly zero input.

Now if the GOP really cared -- really cared -- about contraceptives (or anything else in the ACA), they probably could have gotten the Democrats to compromise in 2009 in return for their support. (That's what happened with the immigration bill.) But, instead, they boycotted the process and now have to live with the consequences.

Friday, June 28, 2013

As we glide into another...

...weekend, here's a look at one of my favorite scenes from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David, on his deathbed, is saying goodbye to his family and friends.

Kind of makes me wonder what I'll say to people on my deathbed.

"Any last words?"

"Yeah; I told you the McGriddle was just a fad!"

Frank Stranahan, amateur...

...golfer, weightlifter and practical joker, died at age 90. From his obit in the Times:

He won more than 50 amateur tournaments in the 1940s and ’50s and six PGA Tour events while devoting himself to muscle-building, something that athletes of his era shunned, fearing it would restrict their flexibility. 
___

Frank Stranahan later developed a specialized weight-lifting regimen that would be suitable for a golf swing by making sure he did not overdevelop his chest muscles or biceps, though his son recalled that when his weight lifting became known, “he was told if he wanted to pursue golf, this was a major mistake — in golf, it was unheard-of.”

Stranahan persisted, taking weight-lifting gear to tournaments because there were few fitness centers for workouts on the road.

He relished telling of his favorite gag: he would ask bellhops to carry his luggage to his hotel room, then watch them stumble under the weight of his unseen barbells.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The last time I saw...

...Downers Grove North was in Week Nine of last year. I was on my annual pilgrimage to Glenbard West and caught the second half of the last game of the regular season.

I walked away shaking my head.

(But first a digression. If you don't get out to lovely Duchon Field in Glen Ellyn at least once a year, you really should. The Hilltoppers play their home games on Saturdays -- no lights, long story -- on a field with natural grass -- no artificial turf, another long story. There's really no excuse not to experience the ambiance of Glenbard West; the trick is in finding a game that's competitive enough to justify the drive.

In 2012, the Hitters outscored their opponents at home by a margin of 195-14, including three shutouts! And those weren't cupcakes, either: Wheaton Warrenville South, Lyons, Oak Park River Forest and Downers Grove North. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing a "good" game there. Maybe this year will be different.

And, by the way, don't forget to check out that hot dog guy in Lake Ellyn Park at the half.)

Now, about that headshaking.

I had seen Glenbard West once before in 2012, at Hinsdale Central in Week Four. Down by two touchdowns at the half (if I remember correctly), the Hilltoppers came roaring back to defeat the Red Devils, 28-23. It was their closest game of the regular season.

But by Week Nine, I realized I hadn't been out to Duchon Field. So after an earlier game in the city, I drove out to Glen Ellyn on a beautiful October afternoon just in time for the second half against the Trojans. I stood next to an old guy -- older than me! -- on the visitors' side who had played at St. Rita back in the day. I asked him how the first half had gone and he shook his head (there was a lot of headshaking that day) and said, "I don't think they've even had a first down."

Oh, well, I thought. At least it's a sunny day, I'm watching football, and no one's bugging me to do anything. (Life is good.)

The game ended finally -- mercifully -- in a 26-0 shutout, and I walked away thinking, "Boy, is that Downers Grove North team horrible! They won't survive the first round of the playoffs."

But I was wrong. Real wrong. The Trojans, who limped into the postseason at 5-4, went on to defeat previously unbeaten Batavia and then Thornton before losing narrowly to red-hot Benet in the quarterfinals. "Wow!," I thought. "These guys must not be horrible. In fact -- light bulb! -- Glenbard West must be that good."

(Turns out, the Hitters finished undefeated after beating a really, really good Lincoln-Way East team in Champaign. And, for my part, I'll go to my grave wondering if they could have also taken 8A champ Mount Carmel.)

So, anyway, here we are in 2013. And I think the Trojans may be a team to watch this year (if only out of the corner of my eye). Why? Well, I remember they had a really tall quarterback last year. David Edwards, only a junior, is 6'6", 195, and already attracting interest from several Big Ten schools as well as Florida State, Stanford and Vanderbilt. (This kid must be the real deal.) What's more, the Trojans may have the best linebacking duo in the state, Vontae Diggs and Richard Olekanma, both on their way to Toledo next year.

Now, will Edwards (above, with head coach John Wander) have anyone blocking for him this year? Will he have anyone to hand off to? Or throw to? I don't know. But I understand the Trojans have fourteen returning starters. And I really like the way they finished in 2012.

Here's a look at Downers' 2013 schedule (with last year's records in parentheses). Look familiar? The Trojans play in the same conference as Lyons, the West Suburban Silver.

Aug. 30 @ Lockport (1-8)

Sept. 6 Hinsdale South (6-4)
Sept. 13 Glenbard West (14-0)
Sept. 20 @ Oak Park River Forest (7-4)
Sept. 27 Lyons Township (7-5)

Oct. 4 @ Downers Grove South (4-5)
Oct. 11 York (0-9)
Oct. 18 @ Proviso West (6-4)
Oct. 25 @ Hinsdale Central (7-3)

If North can find a way to beat a rebuilding Glenbard West at home, or at least give them a good game, you might start hearing about these guys. If so, you'll have contests the following two weeks against OPRF and Lyons to see if this squad has a shot at DeKalb.

You never know; you might even see me at one of those games.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Marc Rich, the most appropriately-named...

...billionaire ever, died at age 78. (That's his wife Denise, at far left, with an unidentified man and the Clintons.) From Rich's obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Nicknamed El Matador for his steel nerves and razor-sharp acumen, Mr. Rich pushed the limits of legality and, the government said, broke them. In 1983 he was indicted on 65 criminal counts that included tax fraud and trading with Iran when it was holding American hostages.
___ 

Then, on Jan. 20, 2001 — Mr. Clinton’s last day in office — Mr. Rich’s name appeared on the presidential pardon list. It immediately became the most debated White House pardon since President Gerald R. Ford gave one to Richard M. Nixon in 1974, and speculation about Mr. Clinton’s motivation was rampant.

It was soon learned that Mr. Rich’s former wife, Denise Rich, had made large donations to the Democratic Party and the Clinton library, and that Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Barak, had lobbied Mr. Clinton for the pardon. Rabbi Irving Greenberg, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, also pressed Mr. Rich’s case, on museum stationery. 

And it's stories like this that remind me of how much I distrust the Clintons. As a Democrat, I'm all for Hillary in 2016 so long as she is heavily favored to win. (Anything to keep the Republicans out of the White House.) But do I like her as much as, say, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, or Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland? I'm not so sure.

If Reggie Jackson was...

...known as "Mr. October," could Lyons Township coach Kurt Weinberg, above, be thought of as "Mr. November?"

Or, to put it another way, while some teams choke in the postseason, Lyons only seems to turn it up a notch.

In the three years he's been at the helm, Weinberg is 24-12 (by my count). But, interestingly (to me at least), the Lions have gone into the third round of the playoffs in each of those seasons.

Last year, for example, Weinberg brought a 5-4 team into the postseason and beat Marist and O'Fallon before falling to the eventual 8A champions Mount Carmel. In 2011, Lyons was also 5-4 after the regular season and lost in the third round to Loyola, the 8A runner-up. And the year before, Weinberg's team went 8-1 before losing to runner-up Mount Carmel.

So is this the year that Mr. November takes the Lions all the way to DeKalb? I don't know, but there seems to be a paucity of contenders to the 8A crown.

After Mount Carmel, which Edgy Tim rightfully says is the odds-on favorite, you have Glenbard North and ... who else?

Maine South, Loyola, Bolingbrook, Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley (more on them later) all seem to be in rebuilding years. So whom does that leave?

I'd say any one of the following teams: Naperville Central, Stevenson, Marist or Hinsdale Central could end up in the 8A final against the Caravan if Glenbard North stumbles (or if Justin Jackson gets injured).

Oh, and what the heck, why not Lyons?

The La Grange squad has a talented running back in junior Leonard Ross, who already has an offer from Illinois. And if the Lions can get past their bruising schedule, they should be more than prepared for the postseason. Even if they go 5-4, Weinberg has a way of getting the most out of his athletes in the month of November, when it really counts.

So let's get to that 2013 schedule, shall we? (Last year's records in parentheses.)

Aug. 30 Warren (5-5)
Don't let that record fool you; the Blue Devils are always tough. And this year they have a highly-touted junior at tight end named Caleb Reams.

Sept. 6 Willowbrook (6-4)
The Warriors were a big surprise last year following four consecutive losing seasons, including a winless 2011. Was last year just a fluke?

Sept. 13 @ Leyden (7-3)
Another fluke?

Sept. 20 Glenbard West (15-0)
Yikes! Mr. November runs into Chad Hetlet -- Mr. August, September, October and November.

Sept. 27 @ Downers Grove North (7-5)
More on them later.

Oct. 5 @ Hinsdale Central (7-3)
With center Brian Allen (who just committed to Michigan State) providing the pass blocking and Michigan-bound Ian Bunting at tight end and junior Jimmy Thompson at wide receiver, the Red Devils could have quite an air attack this year. (Watch for that opening game against Bolingbrook and cornerback Parrker Westphal.)

Oct. 12 Oak Park River Forest (7-4)
The Huskies graduated star running back Jakari Cammon, but the defense could be strong this year with Xavier Rowe at cornerback and Jamal Baggett at safety.

Oct. 18 @ York (0-9)
0-9? Would somebody please explain to me what in the world is going on in Elmhurst? The Dukes were 9-2 as recently as 2010!

Oct. 25 Proviso West (6-4)
The Panthers have been coming on in recent years. Watch out for Denzel Tolliver at tight end.

That's a tough schedule in a tough conference, the West Suburban Silver. But, remember, the Lions only have to be 5-4 to make the playoffs. And then in November, everybody starts over at 0-0.

Next: Downers Grove North.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Richard Matheson, who wrote...

...the scary made-for-TV movie Duel, died at age 87.

After the unsettling experience of being tailgated by a truck driver, he wrote the short story “Duel,” about a motorist who is relentlessly stalked in a highway chase by a tractor-trailer, its driver unseen. The story became the basis for Steven Spielberg’s first feature film, starring Dennis Weaver.

Why will I be watching...

...St. Francis this year, albeit out of the corner of my eye? After all, the Spartans were only 5-4 last year and didn't even qualify for the playoffs. What on earth am I thinking?

Well, for starters, three of those four losses last year were at the hands of Montini (Class 5A champs), Aurora Christian (Class 3A champs) and Marian Central, last season's surprise team led by Minnesota-bound quarterback Chris Streveler. Those three programs went a combined 37-4 in 2012!

Plus, James Butler (above), St. Francis's star running back, was out for the entire season. This year, the 5'9", 205-pound senior, who has interest from Illinois, Iowa, Purdue and Wisconsin, will be rushing behind the blocking of two juniors: T. J. Jackson, a 6'1", 215-pound fullback and James Kalfas, a 6'3", 275-pound tackle. (Don't be too surprised if you start hearing a buzz about the Spartans' ground game in the first few weeks of the 2013 season.)

And what does the St. Francis schedule look like? Glad you asked! Here it is, with last year's records in parentheses:

Aug. 30 Riverside-Brookfield (2-7)

Sept. 6 @ Plainfield South (4-5)
Whoa! This will be the Spartans' first big test. Can they run against middle linebacker Clifton Garrett, one of the best defensive players in the state? If so, you might start hearing some of that buzz I was just talking about.

Sept. 13 @ Chicago Christian (2-7)

Sept. 20 @ Montini (12-2)
As usual, the Broncos are stacked with talent. Forget the offense for a minute, which boasts juniors Grant Branch at tackle and wide receiver Leon Thornton. What concerns me more is the Lombard squad's defense. If Butler and Jackson can get past defensive linemen Keith Doyle and Dylan Thompson, they still have to contend with Nile Sykes at outside linebacker, safety Derrick Curry and junior -- another junior! -- Isaac Lane at cornerback. If St. Francis should somehow upend Montini, that buzz could turn into a roar!

Sept. 27 Aurora Christian (14-1)
The Eagles graduated a number of stars last year.

Oct. 4 @ Marian Central (11-1)
So did the Hurricanes.

Oct. 11 @ Marmion (4-5)
Brock Krueger, a 6'2", 200-pound quarterback, could give the Spartans fits.

Oct. 18 Guerin Prep (1-8)

Oct. 25 St. Edward (2-7)
Watch out for running back DeVonte Elam.

So where does this leave St. Francis? I'll guess 7-2, with a loss to Montini and one more to either Plainfield South, Marmion or St. Edward.

But it could be a big year for the Spartans!

Next: Lyons Township.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Four more teams...

...I'll be watching this year -- if only out of the corner of my eye -- will be Andrew, St. Francis, Lyons and Downers Grove North.

Let's take them one at a time, shall we?

Andrew will be led by senior Jarvion Franklin (above), a 6'1", 220-pound running back with interest from such schools as Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State and Northwestern. The Thunderbolts, who went 6-4 last year, play one of the most confusing schedules of any team in the state. After opening against Bremen and Sandburg, Andrew plays three Lincoln-Way teams in a row and then three schools whose names all begin with "Thorn." Consult the schedule carefully; you won't want to show up at the wrong place!

Without further ado, here's Andrew's 2013 schedule (with last year's records in parentheses):

Aug. 30 Bremen (5-5)

Sept. 6 @ Sandburg (7-3)
Will Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald visit his alma mater for a peek at Franklin?

Sept. 13 @ Lincoln-Way North (6-4)
Watch out for Illinois-bound Julian Hylton.

Sept. 20 Lincoln-Way Central (4-5)

Sept. 27 @ Lincoln-Way West (8-4)
The Warriors knocked off previously undefeated Kaneland, 31-15, in the second round of the playoffs in 2012 before losing a heartbreaker to Joliet Catholic, 21-20. Andrew shut out West, 17-0, in Week Four last year. But if the Warriors didn't graduate too many starters this could be a heck of a game!

Oct. 4 Thornton (8-3)
Andrew also shut out the best of the "Thorns" last year, 27-0. But the Wildcats are returning Jowahn Brown at quarterback, running back D'Anthony Cross, Jauan Wesley at wide receiver and cornerback Tifonte Hunt. Maybe I should be writing about Thornton!

Oct. 11 @ Thornwood (3-6)

Oct. 18 Thornridge (0-9)

Oct. 25 Bradley-Bourbonnais (6-4)
The Boilermakers will bring Colin Holderman, a 6'5", 205-pound junior at quarterback; Andrew Poremba, a 6'5", 265-pound offensive tackle and wide receiver L. J. Harris.

Which games will I attend? Maybe none; corner of my eye, remember? But if Franklin starts lighting up the scoreboard I may have to check out either Lincoln-Way West, Thornton or Bradley-Bourbonnais. And, if not, well, there's always the playoffs.

Next: St. Francis.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hey Republicans, here's your...

...canary in the coal mine: If the House can't pass an immigration bill this year, then the GOP won't be able to nominate someone who can actually win a centrist (such as Chris Christie or Jeb Bush) for president in 2016. Instead, look for the Republicans to put forth someone from the far, far right (such as Ted Cruz) and get absolutely annihilated.

(I actually think the Republicans are going to nominate the most conservative candidate either way. They just need a thorough butt-kicking to focus their minds before they can move back toward the center.)

I also think that John Boehner will risk his role as Speaker to bring an immigration bill to the House floor. (It's that important to the Republican Party.) But if he can't -- or won't -- then the tea party will be seen as fully in control and there will be no chance of a moderate candidate for 2016.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The Economist moves past...

...Steve Jobs and J. K. Rowling in the inequality discussion (again, my emphasis):

So why does Mr Mankiw pick three figures from the entertainment and computer industries, where everyone knows the "superstar" phenomenon is strongest? Because if he used examples from other industries, it would be even more difficult to convince the reader that the immense rewards being reaped by those at the top had anything to do with their unique contributions to the economy. Last year the highest-paid chief executive in the country, at $131m, was a guy named John Hammergren (above), who runs a medical and pharmaceuticals business called McKesson. If he hadn't been running McKesson, some other guy would have been. If Michael Vascitelli ($64m) hadn't been running Vornado Realty Trust, somebody else would have. Perhaps those other guys wouldn't have been as good at their jobs; in that case, these firms would have lost market share to competitors. So what?

The social purpose of high executive pay is to create incentives for hard work to maximize profit. But these guys are being paid double what their predecessors were making in the 1980s, which was not exactly a period known for its stodgy egalitarianism. Are we seeing startlingly better corporate performance today than we were back then? Is there greater productive innovation in, say, medical technology or commercial real estate? Is our economy growing faster? Are general standards of living rising faster? No, no, no and no. What public interest is served by the fact that these CEOs, as a class, are earning a multiple of what their predecessors did a generation ago?

Did Steve Jobs and...

...J. K. Rowling get fabulously rich with help, in part, from the government? Dean Baker makes a good argument for this in a recent blog post (my emphasis):

The choice of Jobs and Rowling is especially ironic in this context since the wealth of both individuals is so obviously dependent on the intervention of the government in the form of patent and copyright monopolies. These monopolies are a prize awarded by the government as a way to provide incentives for creative work. These are quintessential forms of government intervention, they are 180 degrees at odds with the free market.

Of course the government could have easily structured these monopolies in ways that did not allow Jobs and Rowling to get quite as rich. Suppose the length of these monopolies was cut in half or by 75 percent. (In the good old days copyrights lasted for 14 years, subject to an option for renewal. The duration is now 95 years.) Suppose the scope was drawn much more narrowly so that these monopolies did not apply to derivative works or were not enforced with the same vigor.

Even if we decide that these prizes of government monopolies are the best way to support innovative and creative work the fact that they are structured to allow for such enormous wealth is a decision by governments. It was not the market.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The first day of summer...

...was either yesterday or today, depending on where you live. Whatever. Happy summer solstice!

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Kevin Kookogey...

...is the president of a tea party group called Linchpins of Liberty. Kookogey recently said that the government was returning to a time when Americans would be “enslaved” by “being forced to sit on the back of the bus.”

Could you possibly imagine a more appropriate name for a tea party leader than Kookogey?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Rev. James Halstead...

...is the chair of the religious studies department at DePaul University. Halstead is an unusual name, don't you think? I've never seen it before. It kind of reminds me of "Halsted," the street on which DePaul is located. I'd never seen that before or since either.

So what are the odds that Father Halstead would end up working on Halsted Street?

I'm still dealing with the news...

...that Tony Soprano James Gandolfini finally got whacked had a heart attack in Italy yesterday.

I'm only about two-thirds of the way through the series (I just started watching it for the first time about a month or so ago), but I'd have to say that its strength is in portraying characters with both good and bad qualities. Because, just as the most upstanding citizen you've ever met has his darker impulses, I would assume that mobsters like Soprano have a soft side as well.

The universe isn't black and white; it's shades of gray. And people are all a mix of good and bad.

Bryan Bonato had a nice article...

...on the Antioch football team the other day in the Sun-Times. And I thought, even though I've seen several  North Suburban - Lake Conference games, I've never been to one from the North Suburban - Prairie Conference. Shame on me!

Last year, Lakes finished the season at 9-2, Grant at 8-3 and North Chicago at 7-3. Surely I could fit one of these schools into my busy 2013 schedule.

In 2012, Lakes had the dubious distinction of losing twice to Lake Forest, 20-13, during the regular season, and 23-21, in the second round of the playoffs. Safety T. J. Edwards, who has committed to Western Michigan, and wide receiver Nick Battaglia, will be returning for the Eagles.

Grant, for its part, got shut out by Stevenson, 42-0; lost to Lakes, 42-14; and fell to Crystal Lake Central, 30-13, also in round two of the postseason. The Fox Lake squad will get another shot at the Tigers of Central in Week One, though. Could be a good game!

As for North Chicago, the Warhawks lost to Grant, 34-14; Lakes, 62-0 (ouch!); and Evergreen Park, 23-7, in the first round of the playoffs.

So with that in mind, here's a (partial) list of some NSP games worth seeing -- if you don't mind driving all the way up there.

Aug. 30 Grayslake North @ Lakes
Aug. 30 Crystal Lake Central @ Grant

Sept. 6 Woodstock North @ Lakes
Sept. 6 Grant @ Lake Forest

Sept. 12 North Chicago @ Antioch
Sept. 12 Grant @ Libertyville

Sept. 20 Antioch @ Lakes

Sept. 28 North Chicago @ Grant

Oct. 4 Antioch @ Lake Zurich
Oct. 4 Grant @ Lakes*

Oct. 18 Antioch @ Grant
Oct. 18 Lakes @ North Chicago

* This looks like the best bet to me. Although Lakes won the last two contests, they are only 3-5 vs. the Bulldogs since they started playing football in 2005. See you at the game! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

If the front-runners for 2016...

...are indeed Hillary Clinton and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, then this can't be good news for the GOP (my emphasis):

But when it comes to the prospects for the presidential race in 2016, Rubio’s hispanic heritage still does not give him the edge with Florida Hispanics over Clinton. Hispanics support the Democrat over Rubio in Florida 58 to 35 percent and 52 to 36 percent over Florida’s other favorite Republican son, Jeb Bush.

The poll shows that Clinton would defeat Bush 50-43 to the trial match-up and best Rubio 53-41 -- with Clinton leading both Republicans among crucial independent voters. Clinton, 65, ran an unsuccessful bid for president in 2008 and hasn't ruled out running again in 2016. Rubio, elected to the Senate in 2010, is widely viewed to be a more likely candidate for a presidential run than Bush.


I know it's early, but that's all the more reason for the Republicans to nominate some modern-day Barry Goldwater like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. If you're not going to win, you might as well run some nutty ideologue.

And that would then clear the way for Jeb Bush or Chris Christie in 2020.

The Awkward Name of the Day...

...is unprintable in this family blog. From an article in today's Times, "Reception for Obama Is More Sober Than in 2008":

Almost five years later, Germans have undergone “a brutal sobering up” with regard to Mr. Obama, said Ralf Fücks, who heads the board of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a nonprofit political organization in Berlin.

Johnny Smith, jazz guitarist...

...who wrote "Walk, Don't Run" in 1954, died at age 90.

The Ventures recorded two versions, in 1959 and 1964, after being inspired by Smith's friend Chet Atkins, who recorded his own version in 1957. I prefer the Ventures first effort, above.

P. S. Why does it seem like everyone in the crowd is chewing gum?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I still think Sen. Ted Cruz...

...of Texas has a really, really good shot at winning the 2016 Republican nomination (only to get crushed in the general, of course). After seeing the clip above I'm even more confident. (Have you ever seen Sarah Palin gush over anyone so much?)

I didn't make it out to see...

...Stevenson's football team last year (can't kiss all the girls), but I've been told that Coach Bill McNamara (above) is returning a bunch of starters from last year's 8-3 squad.

In addition to the heavily-recruited seniors Matt Morrissey (wide receiver and defensive back) and Zach Novoselsky, an offensive tackle with interest from Michigan, Northwestern and Notre Dame (among others), the Patriots are looking to juniors Willie Bourbon at quarterback, wide receiver Cameron Green and defensive linemen Patrick O'Connell and Nick Dillon. Get a running back in that mix and McNamara could have the nucleus of a pretty dangerous team!

While last year's season ended somewhat abruptly with a second-round postseason defeat at the hands of eventual 8A runners-up Glenbard North, the Patriots notched some pretty impressive regular-season victories, including a 35-28 opener against 7-5 Lyons, a 14-9 win over 8-3 Libertyville, a 42-0 shutout of 8-3 Grant and a 22-16 victory over 9-4 Lake Forest. If Stevenson's returning starters can play at that level again this year, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them enter the playoffs at 8-1 or even, possibly, 9-0. How do I get there? Here's a look at Stevenson's 2013 football schedule with last year's records in parentheses:

Aug. 30 @ Indian Trail, Kenosha, WI (2-7)

Sept. 6 Homewood-Flossmoor (7-3)
Sept. 13 Zion-Benton (2-7)
Sept. 20 Libertyville (8-3)
Sept. 27 Vernon Hills (2-7)

Oct. 4 @ Warren (5-5)
Oct. 11 @ Mundelein (0-9)
Oct. 18 @ Lake Forest (9-4)
Oct. 25 Lake Zurich (10-3)

After a warm-up game in Wisconsin, the Patriots host Homewood-Flossmoor in a rematch of last year's 35-27 loss to the Vikings. H-F has Devin Pitts, a highly-regarded offensive lineman, but I'll say the Pats even the series at 1-1.

Next comes Zion-Benton, which Stevenson shut out last year, 28-0; I expect this year's result to be more of the same. (Have the Zee-Bees ever beaten Stevenson?) Then comes Libertyville and its two impressive wide receivers, Conor Simpson and Bryan Scanlan. If the Wildcats have anyone who can throw to them it could be a long night for the Pats. But I'll still give the edge to the home team, especially since Libertyville hasn't come out on top since 2008.

Vernon Hills, Warren and Mundelein should be three more victories for Stevenson. The Blue Devils of Warren have a junior tight end named Caleb Reams who is expected to garner a lot of attention this year, but the Pats defeated Warren twice -- pretty decisively -- in 2012. (Also, like Libertyville, the Blue Devils haven't bested the Patriots since '08.)

Week Eight will bring Stevenson to Lake Forest, a team they usually beat. The Scouts have a heavily-scouted middle linebacker in Trent Williams, but I doubt he'll make the difference this year.

Stevenson's record at this point? Could be 8-0.

And then comes the season finale against Lake Zurich, Stevenson's bete noire. (Or should I say bete bleu?) Although the Lincolnshire squad probably owns the series, the Bears seem to always be waiting, waiting, waiting to spoil the Pats' season. Last year Lake Zurich won, 21-14. This year, the Bears will show up with Colton Moskal, one of Illinois' most coveted linebackers. Can he give Bourbon and the Stevenson offense a migraine? We'll see. But if not, the Patriots could conceivably finish the regular season at a perfect 9-0. Will they? You'll just have to drive up there and find out for yourself (if you can get a parking space).

The Politically Incorrect...

...Nickname of the Day belongs to the Dickinson (North Dakota) High School Midgets.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What do Stevenson and...

...Kaneland High Schools have in common?

Not their locations: while the former is in leafy Lincolnshire, on Chicago's North Shore, the latter is literally surrounded by cornfields in the tiny town of Maple Park, about a half-hour drive west of Naperville. (I've been to both places.)  

Stevenson, at almost 4,000 students, is one of the largest high schools in the state of Illinois and competes in class 8A in football. (You should see their marching band!) Kaneland, on the other hand, enrolls only a little over a thousand students and is in class 5A.

So, on the face of it, the two institutions would seem to have very little in common.

But their football teams are both returning a ton of starters and may be two programs to watch this year.

Let's take up the case of Kaneland first. The Knights were 10-1 last year, and I was able to see them play in their final game of the regular season against Morris. (Great contest by the way; you can read all about it here.) But, as I was watching the game, I kept looking down at my program to see who had just made a good play. And, it seemed like every time I did, it turned out to be a junior. When I remarked on this to the fans around me, they all nodded as if to say, Wait until these guys are seniors!

Well, that day isn't far off.

Leading the Knights this year will be the diminutive Drew David (pardon the alliteration) at quarterback. When David isn't handing off to running backs Jesse Balluff and Nate Dyer, he can throw to wide receiver Dylan Nauert. And, when needed,  kicker Matt Rodriguez has a pretty good foot (if I remember correctly).

And while I don't know much about their defense, it's worth noting that four of Kaneland's ten victories last year were shutouts.

Head coach Tom Fedderly (above), now in his fifth year, has led the Knights to three straight undefeated regular seasons. The Maple Park squad will take a 28-game regular-season winning streak into the opener this year. (I may have to drive out that way again.)

Here's a look at Kaneland's 2013 schedule (with last year's records in parentheses):

Aug. 30 Gwendolyn Brooks (8-3)

Sept. 6 Immaculate Conception (6-5)
Sept. 13 @ Sterling (6-4)
Sept. 20 Streator (1-8)
Sept. 27 Rochelle (6-4)

Oct. 4 @ DeKalb (2-7)
Oct. 11 Yorkville (3-6)
Oct. 18 @ Sycamore (7-4)
Oct. 25 @ Morris (12-2)

The Knights open the season against Brooks College Prep, a team they narrowly defeated last year, 25-24. The Eagles will show up in Maple Park this year with two returning running backs, Dyllan Harris and Dakota Starks. This should be a good early test for Kaneland.

Week Two brings tiny IC Catholic Prep (as Immaculate Conception is now known). Although the Knights (this could get confusing!) enroll only 320 students (of which I assume about half are boys), they are not to be taken lightly. The Elmhurst squad only lost to eventual Class 3A champs Aurora Christian in the playoffs last year by a touchdown, 28-21.

After IC, Kaneland plays six teams whom they totally dominated last year. (The Knights outscored this bunch by a combined tally of 268-36!)

(But a word of caution: while DeKalb might seem like just another "gimme," the Knights will have to be on the lookout for up-and-coming junior running back Dre Brown. Don't say you weren't warned!)

So Kaneland's season comes down to Week Nine and that school down the road, Morris. The contest was a see-saw battle last year, resulting in a last-minute 33-30 win for the Knights. Morris, however, licked its wounds and ended up advancing to the 5A championship against Montini, while Kaneland was upset two weeks later by Lincoln-Way West, 31-15.

How will the 2013 season go for Kaneland? Well, by my reckoning, the Knights could be undefeated going into the Morris game (or at least 7-1 if they stumble against Brooks). And while Morris will have home-field advantage this year, the Redskins seem to have graduated most of last season's starters. So Kaneland could conceivably go 9-0 this year and make a real run for the 5A final in DeKalb. Should be fun!

Next: The Patriots of Stevenson.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

I just found out that...

...the major earthquake that struck Iran in 2003 was centered in the city of Bam. What are the odds? I mean, the only thing more appropriate would have been if the city had been named BAM!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Walt Arfons, designer, builder...

...and racer of jet-powered dragsters, died at age 96. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

His more advanced jet-propelled car, Wingfoot Express — named for the symbol of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, which was sponsoring him, and driven by Tom Green of Wheaton, Ill. — set a world land-speed record of 413.2 miles an hour at Bonneville on Oct. 2, 1964. Mr. Arfons had sustained a heart attack while watching another driver crash his car during testing. Mr. Green was an engineer with limited race-driving experience, but he had helped Mr. Arfons rebuild the car.

Three days later, Art Arfons, who was sponsored by Firestone, a major competitor to Goodyear also based in Akron, broke that record in a car powered by a General Electric J79 turbojet aircraft engine, clocking 434.03 m.p.h. About a week after that, Craig Breedlove, a California hot-rodder, surpassed that mark in his jet-powered Spirit of America car. Then Art Arfons and Mr. Breedlove took turns breaking each other’s records. 

I only bring this up as an excuse to post an old favorite song of mine by the Beach Boys, "Spirit of America."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I've been telling my son...

...for some time now that if the Washington Post ever erected a "paywall," I'd gladly subscribe if for no other reason than to keep reading the blogs of Chris Cillizza and Ezra Klein, above. Cillizza writes The Fix, about politics, and Klein writes Wonkblog, about "economic and domestic policy, and lots of it."

These two, along with Andrew Sullivan's The Dish, a general interest blog, and Paul Krugman's "The Conscience of a Liberal," about economics, are four of my go-tos every day. (I miss David Frum's blog at the Daily Beast, which he discontinued recently.)

I can't say this strongly enough: Cillizza and Klein write two of the very best blogs I've ever read. If you're a political junkie, like me, The Fix is absolute catnip. This guy covers it all. And, as for Wonkblog, I've learned a great deal about policy (especially health care reform) in the last four years or so that I've been reading it. (If there's anything better out there -- please! -- tell me.)

So the Post finally erected that paywall I had been anticipating for some time now. And yet ... I'm reluctant to sign on. Why? Well, I already have a subscription to The New York Times and The Dish. How many of these things am I supposed to pay for? (This is why we had a limited number of magazine and newspaper subscriptions in the pre-digital age.) Also, there's RealClearPolitics and Twitter, which direct me to pieces I wouldn't otherwise have read.

Will I keep this up? Can I live without The Fix or Wonkblog? I doubt it. (They're that good.) But I'm going to see how it goes for a while. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Does Coach Tony Sheehan...

...of Richards have the most talent-laden football team in the state of Illinois? (Am I nuts?)

No, wait; hear me out.

According to Scout.com, Richards has eight -- count 'em, eight -- recruiting prospects, more than any other school (by my count). Besides seniors Tacari Carpenter, WR; Savon Robinson, DE; DiAndre Smith, OLB; Romel Hill, MLB and Dylan Jiles, S; the Oak Lawn squad is also expected to field juniors Hasan Muhammad-Rogers, QB; Spencer Tears, WR and Romantay Hill, S (Romel's younger brother?).

Holy cow! (How come these guys never hit my radar before?)

Is it because the Bulldogs are new at this stuff and don't have any football tradition? Hardly.

Last year, Richards went undefeated in the South Suburban Red Conference and finished the season at 9-2. And before Sheehan, who is 36-17, took over the team in 2008, Richards was coached by the legendary Gary Korhonen, who held the record for most career victories (306) until it was broken by a certain Mount Carmel coach whose name escapes me right now.

In fact, according to Wikipedia my research staff, Richards holds the record for most consecutive playoff appearances at 23 years and didn't lose two games in a row from 1984 to 2003! What's more, the Bulldogs won two state titles, in 1988 and '89, and have sent over 300 players on to the college ranks. (One of whom was Sheehan, the quarterback on the 1995 team that went 12-1.)

So what does the 2013 Richards schedule look like? Well, let's have a look, shall we? (2012 records in parentheses.)

Aug. 30 Harlan (3-5)

Sept. 6 @ Batavia (9-1)
Sept. 13 @ Lemont (11-2)
Sept. 20 @ Shepard (7-4)
Sept. 27 Evergreen Park (9-4)

Oct. 4 Reavis (4-5)
Oct. 11 @ Argo (2-7)
Oct. 18 Oak Lawn (2-7)
Oct. 25 @ Eisenhower (4-5)

After the opener, Richards faces four formidable opponents in a row. (Builds character.) I'm not aware of any previous meetings between Richards and Batavia so this first matchup of the Bulldogs vs. the Bulldogs could be a doozy. (Needless to say, I'll have my money on the Bulldogs.) But Richards doesn't seem to shy away from good non-conference opponents. Last year their only regular-season loss was to Morris, 15-13, in Week Two.

Next comes Lemont, who eliminated the Bulldogs in the second round of the playoffs last year. The Indians have been a particularly tough nut to crack for Richards. They haven't beaten Lemont since they edged them, 23-22, in 2007.

Weeks Five and Six bring Shepard, which hasn't beaten Richards in the modern era (beginning in 2004), and Evergreen Park (the alma mater of the unabomber), which has only beaten the Bulldogs once in recent years, a 33-0 shellacking in 2011. (What was that all about?)

After that, it's all downhill for the Bulldogs.

So with a possible early loss to either Batavia or Lemont, I'd put Richards' record at 8-1 going into the postseason. Not bad for a team that lost its star running back, Tommy Mister, to St. Rita over the off-season. But don't get any ideas about those two teams meeting up in the playoffs; while Richards is in 6A, St. Rita is in 7A. Darn!

In yet another sign that the GOP...

...may not be ready for prime time, Roger Ailes of Fox "News" has reportedly rehired Sarah Palin.

Why on earth, when the Republican Party knows it needs to moderate its image in order to appeal to a wider swath of voters, would its de facto media arm bring back someone as polarizing as Gov. Palin?

According to Reince Priebus, the party's chairman,

“Focus groups described our party as ‘narrow-minded,’ ‘out of touch,’ and ‘stuffy old men.’ The perception that we’re the party of the rich continues to grow.”

What's more, a recent report from the College Republicans listed words that independent voters associated with the GOP:

“The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.”

So, ask yourself, how does hiring someone like Ms. Palin, who personifies all of those harmful traits, help the Republican Party moderate its message? Just picture the former governor of Alaska whipping up the base into a frenzy each night by, for example, accusing the president of "shuckin' and jivin'."

(Can't you just see all those old white people in their living rooms nodding their heads in agreement?)

But is that helpful? Would that kind of talk be more, or less, likely to attract independent voters to the Republican Party?

Makes me wonder sometimes: Whose side is Roger Ailes really on?

P. S. Who's next, Glenn Beck? Alex Jones?

African Americans, according to the...

...2010 census, make up almost 12 percent of the population of Texas. But in an opinion piece in the Times today, Sherrilyn Ifill writes:

At any rate, the true benefits of diversity cannot be achieved when, as the University of Texas discovered in 2003, nearly 80 percent of its classes contained only one black student, or none at all.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Here's Mount Carmel's...

...2013 football schedule, straight from the desk of Gawaine Perkins (above), the Assistant Athletic Director (with last year's records in parentheses):

Aug. 31* St. Patrick (7-4) @ Soldier Field

Sept. 6 Morgan Park (6-5)
Sept. 13 Bishop McNamara (5-4)
Sept. 20 Brother Rice (6-6)
Sept. 27 @ St. Rita (6-6)

Oct. 5 @ Loyola (11-2)
Oct. 11 @ St. Laurence (1-8)
Oct. 18 Providence (8-3)
Oct. 25 Leo (5-5)

* Is that really Saturday, Aug. 31, or should it be Sunday, Sept. 1? (A little help here...)

Miller Barber, professional...

...golfer, died at age 82. From his obit in the Times:

Barber loved his calling, but he was forever bemoaning hay fever problems. He walked the courses with sprays and pills to combat sneezing and watery eyes.

“One year he was tied for the lead at Orlando and he started sneezing on the 72nd tee,” the touring pro Bob Rosburg told Sports Illustrated in 1984. “He grabbed a pill — his last one — and when he went to take it, he sneezed again and it popped in the air and fell into a lake. Now he was really stuck. He topped his tee shot, bogeyed the hole and lost the tournament by a shot.”

More bad news for...

...the Republican Party. From an article in the Times today, "Census Benchmark for White Americans: More Deaths Than Births" (my emphasis):

Deaths exceeded births among non-Hispanic white Americans for the first time in at least a century, according to new census data, a benchmark that heralds profound demographic change. 

Over all, the number of non-Hispanic white Americans is expected to begin declining by the end of this decade.

“These new census estimates are an early signal alerting us to the impending decline in the white population that will characterize most of the 21st century,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.

The transition will mean that “today’s racial and ethnic minorities will no longer be dependent on older whites for their economic well-being,” Dr. Frey said. In fact, the situation may be reversed. “It makes more vivid than ever the fact that we will be reliant on younger minorities and immigrants for our future demographic and economic growth,” he said.

Think the GOP will get the message? 

So the "Wandering Five,"...

...as Edgy Tim calls them, are joining the Catholic League for football in 2014. Mr. O'Halloran likes the idea, and I can't say that I disagree. In fact, I wrote a post on the subject about a month ago.

So it's settled then, right? Right.

But, since we have five minutes or so to daydream before another hectic day begins, what if -- what if -- the Wandering Five had joined the East Suburban Catholic Conference instead? I could imagine a configuration  something like this:

North Division

Carmel
Notre Dame
St. Patrick
St. Viator
Marian Central
St. Francis
Montini

South Division

Benet
Nazareth
Marian Catholic
Marist
Joliet Catholic
Aurora Christian
Marmion

Now, I know what you're thinking: St. Francis and Montini in the North Division? Have you ever looked at a map of the Chicago area?

And the answer is, yes I have. But, as even Edgy Tim would concede, geography doesn't always cooperate:

I would not look forward to the Aurora Christian to De La Salle commute on a Friday night, and vice versa.

But St. Francis and Montini are already used to driving all the way up to Marian Central in Woodstock, for crying out loud. A trip to Carmel or St. Viator would be like walking across the street in comparison.

What about rivalries? Edgy Tim makes a good point about an instant one being created between Montini and Fenwick. (And maybe St. Francis and Fenwick?) Fair enough. But what about Marian Central and Carmel? Or Benet and Marmion? Or Benet and Aurora Christian? And how great would it be to see Montini play crossover games against the likes of Benet, Marist and Joliet Catholic? (No more need for brutal non-conference opponents like Maine South.)

But, really, Edgy Tim is right: the Wandering Five can't go wrong in joining the big, bad Catholic League. But, still, what if?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One of the best baseball team names...

...came and went without me even noticing: the Casper Ghosts.

Damien Hirst has made...

...about 1,400 "spot" paintings, like the one above. Or has he? From a front-page story in the Times today:

Mr. Hirst has said he painted the first few dozen. The others he left mainly to a coterie of assistants, who, it seemed, could make them ad infinitum.

And he's not finished:

“Damien is working on some spot paintings with very small spots, including a painting with one million spots, which will take a number of years to complete,” according to James Kelly, the director of Science Ltd.

It's been a lucrative career for Mr. Hirst, who the article says is worth more than $300 million. Not bad for someone whose paintings aren't exactly rare:

“He has made no secret,” says Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s senior international contemporary-art specialist, “of the fact that the spot paintings were an infinite series.”

The Game of the Year...

...in 2013 could very well be Mount Carmel at St. Rita on September 27. And I'll be at my niece's wedding in New Jersey! (Annie, how could you?)

The contest -- a blood rivalry, really -- will feature two of the state's best running backs, St. Rita's Tommy Mister (who already has an offer from Notre Dame) and Mount Carmel's Matt Domer (who sounds like he should).

This won't be your first chance to see these two storied programs, of course. You could watch them both play as part of a triple-header at Soldier Field on Labor Day weekend. (De La Salle will be there too. Might be worth your while.)

But by the time these two square off in Week Five, St. Rita could be undefeated, or at least 3-1 (with a possible loss to Marist in the opener). The Caravan, despite a more challenging schedule, could be unbeaten as well. Here are the two teams' schedules leading up to The Big Game (with last year's records in parentheses):

St. Rita (6-6):

Sept. 1 Marist (8-2) @ Soldier Field
Sept. 6 Danville (4-5)
Sept. 13 St. Laurence (1-8)
Sept. 20 @ Hales Franciscan (7-4)

Mount Carmel (13-1):

Sept. 1 St. Patrick (7-4) @ Soldier Field
Sept. 6 Morgan Park (6-5)
Sept. 13 Bishop McNamara (5-4)
Sept. 20 Brother Rice (6-6)

Mr. Mister (I've been waiting to write that), a transfer from Richards (more about them in a future post), will be running behind the blocking of offensive guard Matt Byrne, who has interest from a number of schools. On defense, the Mustangs feature Eddie Randle at defensive end and the heavily -- heavily -- recruited Lamar Dawson at cornerback.

Mount Carmel, coming off (another) state title, is blessed with an abundance of talent as well. The offensive line will be anchored by the much-touted center Nathan Oquendo. And on the other side of the ball, well, the Caravan has to have the best pair of defensive tackles in the state, if not the country. (And I choose my words carefully.) Enoch Smith has committed to Michigan State, while Steven Richardson is headed to Minnesota (brrr!).

Who's going to win this one? Well, last year Carmel shut out the Mustangs, 27-0. But the year before it was St. Rita's turn, as they defeated their South Side rivals, 17-7, en route to a 10-3 finish. In fact, before last season Mount Carmel hadn't beaten St. Rita since 2007.

So, again, who's going to emerge the victor? I don't know; you have two great running backs facing two formidable defenses. That's a tough one. (But I noticed that Mister used to play quarterback at Richards. You don't suppose Mustang Coach Todd Kuska has any trick plays up his sleeve, do you?)

 I guess you'll just have to go there and find out. (The best I can do is follow it on Twitter.)

P. S. In an earlier draft I mentioned quarterback Reece Metcalf of Mount Carmel High School in the town of the same name. My bad!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And now for your daily...

...Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious: the Republican Party is in trouble, particularly with young people.

I knew you knew that, but check out these statistics, courtesy of Ramesh Ponnuru of Bloomberg:

Not only did President Obama carry voters between the ages of 30 and 39 by 13 points, but he also carried those under 30 by 23 points.

Wow!

Now here's another obvious piece of info: while most of those younger voters will still be around in four years, many older voters who cast Republican ballots in 2012 will be ... dead. So the electorate in 2016 should be even bluer next time around. And if the GOP nominates someone from the far right wing (as I keep maintaining) and the Democrats run a star like Hillary, how lopsided will the 2016 election be?

Monday, June 10, 2013

A real Chicago-style...

...happy birthday to my brother Tom!

P. S. When are you going to look older than me?

Notre Dame's Chris James...

...is only 5'9" or 5'10" and weighs either 195 or 207 or 212 and runs the 40 in anywhere from 4.37 to 4.4 (depending on which scouting report you consult). But the Dons' star running back -- who doesn't wear a tie beneath his jersey -- already has offers from six Big Ten schools (and several others).

I know what you're thinking: How soon can I see this kid play?

Well, here's the Dons' 2013 schedule, straight from the desk of Coach Mike Hennessey (with last year's records in parentheses):

Aug. 30 Prairie Ridge (3-6)

Sept. 7 @ Bartlett (7-4)
Sept. 13 @ Normal Community (6-4)
Sept. 20 Marian Catholic (1-8)
Sept. 27 @ St. Viator (5-5)

Oct. 5 @ Nazareth (5-4)
Oct. 11 Marist (8-2)
Oct. 18 @ Joliet Catholic (8-5)
Oct. 25 Carmel (3-6)

Prairie Ridge boasts the heavily-recruited offensive guard Shane Evans and I'm sure they'll show up in Niles with a vastly improved squad from last year. But can Coach Chris Schremp rebuild his team around an interior lineman? It's ironic: PR was Class 6A state champs as recently as 2011. Was this game scheduled when the Wolves were riding high and ND was looking to break .500? I'll say the Dons take this one at home.

(Opening day could be difficult, though; there are so many good games to watch that night.)

But Week Two, at Bartlett at 6:00 pm, could be the ticket. (Especially since the following week is in Normal, about three hours from my house, and Week Four is against Marian Catholic, a team that struggled last year.)

In 2012, the Dons were 7-5 with big wins over St. Viator, 49-20, and Joliet Catholic, 42-33, before getting eliminated in the third round of the playoffs by Lake Forest, 31-19. Bartlett, in comparison, was 7-4 last year but with only one victory over a team with a winning record, Leyden (7-4), 14-0, in the second round of the postseason. But the Hawks, whose coach I hear is a real meany (seriously, his name is Tom Meaney), have a running back of their own, James Butler, who has interest from four Big Ten schools and USC (ever heard of 'em?).

(By the way, I'm assuming this isn't the same James Butler who plays for St. Francis. Did somebody transfer on me during the off-season?)

Anyway, this contest could be a heck of a match-up and a good early test for James and the Dons.

Weeks Five and Six find Notre Dame on the road against St. Viator and Nazareth before returning home to face Marist. (Watch out for the Roadrunners this year; they'll be led by seniors Jake Bartels at quarterback and Will Colmery at defensive end, and rising junior Jack Shutack at offensive tackle.)

But the Marist game on October 11 could be a barn-burner. Notre Dame will be looking to avenge last year's 21-14 loss in Mount Greenwood. Can the Dons stop Notre Dame-bound tight end Nic Weishar and junior wide receiver Flynn Nagel? Do the Red Hawks have anyone who can throw to them? And can Marist contain Chris James? This could be a great game!

Then, as if that weren't enough, Notre Dame has to finish the regular season against Joliet Catholic and Carmel (my prediction for Most Improved Team for 2013). The Hilltoppers have another first-rate wide receiver in Jordan Jones as well as Zach Rezin at middle linebacker and junior DeAndre Ford at offensive tackle.

(Give me a minute to catch my breath!)

There; that's better. So the Dons, I figure, could finish the season anywhere from 1-8 to 8-1. But if Chris James is as good as they say, and Notre Dame gets a few breaks here and there, don't be too surprised if their record looks a lot more like the latter.

Either way, it should be an awesome year!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker...

...killer, died at age 53. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Four years after his arrest, a jury found Mr. Ramirez guilty of all 43 crimes of which he was accused. These included 13 counts of first-degree murder, one of second-degree murder and many more of rape, burglary and sodomy. He was sentenced to death.

His weapons included guns, knives and hammers, and his victims were both men and women, ranging from a 6-year-old to octogenarians.

He became known for mutilating corpses, gouging out one woman’s eyeballs.

Doesn't sound like a very nice guy, does he?

So how do you explain this?

While on death row, he married Doreen Lioy, a freelance magazine editor, in 1996. She had begun writing to him in 1985 after his arrest, and he proposed in 1988, choosing Ms. Lioy over other correspondents who were also hoping for a relationship with him.

I'll never understand women who fall in love with convicted murderers in prison. And, in this case, there were several! (That's the cute couple in the picture above.)

How depressing must that be for all those young single men out there who can't meet any women?

To some Republicans, Gov. Chris Christie...

 ...is a N.O.P.E.

What's a "N.O.P.E.?" According to a piece in today's Times (my emphasis):

Still, not everyone was in a forgiving mood. A major Romney fund-raiser brushed off the standing ovation as simple politeness. Mr. Christie “broke the bro’ code,” said the donor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to agitate Christie supporters. “I’m telling you straight up, there’s a large group of people in that room who are N.O.P.E. on Chris Christie — not one penny ever.” 

And I think that's right. Or at least "Not One Penny in 2016."

I still think the next Republican nominee will be someone from the party's far right wing, like Gov. Scott Walker, Paul Ryan (if Walker doesn't run), Rand Paul, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. (And, yes, I consider Rubio far right; he was one of the original tea partiers, remember?)

So while Christie is expected to run (as will Gov. Bobby Jindal -- another centrist?), 2016 won't be his year. But the New Jersey governor should do well enough to benefit from the Great Republican Reckoning that's sure to follow the Goldwater-style debacle that a Paul or a Cruz candidacy would be.

If a Democrat (Hillary?) wins big in 2016 on the coattails of the Obama Recovery, the GOP may look to a moderate like Christie (or Jeb Bush) to lead the ticket in 2020. The New Jersey governor will be only 59 by then. (Jeb will be 67; still young enough to run.)

That's my prediction for today: a nutcase in 2016 followed by a moderate in 2020. Who knows? Christie may be playing the long game here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

You know you're getting old...

...when you see an ad on page three of the New York Times:

Florsheim Men's No String wingtip. $100.

and you think to yourself, huh?

Why would I want to buy a pair of tie shoes without the shoelaces you use to tie them?

The Florsheim Web site has this description (my emphasis):

The No String Wing is just that ... This classic wing tip shoe with brogue detailing features either a smooth leather or suede upper with an elastic gored tongue. While laces are included, style has come full circle with this laceless casual shoe.

"While laces are included"

So, in other words, it's just Florsheim's standard wingtip with the laces taken out (but still in the box somewhere). Isn't that how they normally sell them?

"...style has come full circle"

Really? So people used to wear wingtips without the laces? And now they've rediscovered that timeless look? How come I don't remember ever seeing anyone wear wingtips without the laces before? Have I just led a sheltered life? (Or was it never in style in the first place?)

How long do you give this new "no string" style? A week? A day?

I have a suggestion for anyone who's considering buying these shoes: just wear the laces like you're supposed to and make your fashion statement in some other way.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

When you think of De La Salle...

...Institute, do you think of football? Because, if not, you may have to start.

Now, I know what you're thinking:  

That place across the Dan Ryan from Sox Park? Isn't that where the Daleys went? I knew they were good at basketball, but...

Yep, that's the place. De La Salle is also the alma mater of three other Chicago mayors, a Cook County Board President, Bryant and Greg Gumbel, "Moose" Krause and -- oh, yeah -- that guy for whom that expressway is named. But football?

Actually, yes. The Meteors just might be one of the teams to watch this year in Illinois.

That's Head Coach Dan O'Keefe, above, with his star offensive tackle, Jamarco Jones. Jones is one of the most heavily recruited athletes in the state, with offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. (What's with these Catholic school kids anyway? They all seem to wear ties beneath their jerseys!)

While the Meteors haven't had a winning season since 2009, Coach O'Keefe is 37-27 (by my count) in six seasons at the helm. Last year was a disappointing one (4-5) with lopsided losses to Mount Carmel, 48-0, Bishop McNamara, 34-16, Brother Rice, 28-6, and Fenwick, 28-3.

But this year, De La Salle doesn't have to face Mount Carmel or Brother Rice. Phew! In fact, their schedule looks pretty favorable through Week Six. Check it out (last year's records in parentheses):

Sept. 1 Phillips (5-3) @ Soldier Field
Sept. 7 @ Hales Franciscan (7-4)
Sept. 13 @ Providence (8-3)
Sept. 20 St. Ignatius (3-7)
Sept. 27 St. Joseph (1-8)

Oct. 4 @ St. Laurence (1-8)
Oct. 11 Loyola (11-2)
Oct. 18 Fenwick (8-4)
Oct. 25 @ Bishop McNamara (5-4)

Plus, O'Keefe may have his most talented squad ever. Besides Jones, De La Salle has Aaron Roberts at guard (with offers from Syracuse and Illinois, among others), the Vanderbilt-bound running back Mikale Wilbon, and Shelby Spence, a dual threat quarterback.

(While Wilbon gets a lot of press -- and deservedly so -- Spence, a 6'1", 195-pound senior who runs the 40 in 4.56, could be the most underrated quarterback in the state.)

So by my reckoning, the Meteors could be 5-1 after Week Six with a possible loss to Providence. But don't be too surprised if these guys are undefeated by the time they host Loyola on October 11. That game may prove to be a "Gotta."

If De La Salle should happen to knock off the Ramblers, they could go into the Fenwick game at 6-1. It would be a chance to avenge last year's loss against another one of the area's up-and-coming teams, led by Western Michigan-bound running back Robert Spillane. (He's a grandson of the legendary Johnny Lattner.)

After a trip down to Kankakee in Week Nine, I figure the Meteors could finish the regular season at 7-2, or even an eye-popping 8-1!
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It was once written that "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but the business leaders of Chicago were trained in the Counting Rooms of De La Salle."

Now, I don't know what a "counting room" is, but we may have to start paying attention to those "playing fields" on the South Side.