Friday, August 30, 2013

The rankings are finally in...

...from the three news services I follow and You Know Who is at the top of everyone's list. And who can blame them? With the winningest coach in Illinois history and Division I talent on both sides of the ball Mount Carmel would probably be my choice too. (What I find interesting is that the Caravan may end up in 7A this year.)

But, still, a fair question to ask is: How exactly were these rankings compiled?

Were they done the lazy way, based on how each team finished last year? Or were they done the impossible hard way, based on how they're expected to finish this year? Do they have a crystal ball? Because just because someone is good at the beginning of the season doesn't mean they'll be good at the end. Kids mature a lot at this age, (some) teams learn from their mistakes and everyone has to deal with injuries.

And then there's the whole strength of schedule issue. Some conferences are a lot harder than others. (Okay, cough, cough -- the DVC and the Catholic League Blue -- cough, cough.) What about that? And what about the various classes? Can a 5A team like Montini really compete with an 8A squad like Maine South? We'll find out tonight. (And, by the way, I just read that Glenbard North and Maine South might join Mount Carmel in 7A this year too. What? That ought to shake things up a bit.)

But it all begs the question: What makes a top team anyway? Is it individual talent, or superior coaching, or just an overall culture that provides the "infrastructure" for a good team, i. e., a plethora of good athletes year in and year out that allows a program to "reload"?

And, for that matter, what good are rankings? Do they exist just to give fodder to bloggers in bathrobes who write posts about them at 6:00 in the morning before work?

Before I take a stab at some of those questions, let's have a look at the preseason rankings, shall we? (For brevity's sake I included only the top ten.)

Chicago Tribune: 

1. Mount Carmel
2. Glenbard West
3. Glenbard North
4. Stevenson
5. Loyola
6. Maine South
7. Montini
8. Lincoln-Way East
9. Lake Zurich
10. Downers Grove North

Sun-Times:

1. Mount Carmel
2. Stevenson
3. Lake Zurich
4. Loyola
5. Glenbard North
6. Wheaton North
7. Glenbard West
8. Downers Grove North
9. Montini
10. Lincoln-Way East

MaxPreps:

1. Mount Carmel
2. Glenbard West
3. Lincoln-Way East
4. Crete-Monee
5. Montini
6. Glenbard North
7. East St. Louis
8. Neuqua Valley
9. Wheaton North
10. Lake Zurich

Now, I know what you're thinking: Color-coded -- wow! It's actually to make it easier to compare. For example, you'll notice that all three news services have Mount Carmel, Glenbard West, Glenbard North, Montini, Lincoln-Way East and Lake Zurich in their top ten.

But while Loyola is ranked No. 5 and No. 4 in the Trib and Sun-Times, respectively, the Ramblers come in at only No. 17 on MaxPreps. Maine South, at No. 6 in the Trib, is only No. 15 in the Sun-Times and -- are you ready for this? -- No. 37 in MaxPreps. Downers Grove North, which appears on both Chicago newspaper top tens, comes in at only No. 48 on MaxPreps! And where is Stevenson on MaxPreps? No. 18.

Oh, well, I could go on and on. For example, Crete-Monee at No. 4 on MaxPreps with a new head coach and without Laquon Treadwell? And Neuqua Valley at No. 8 without Joey Rhattigan and Dylan Andrew? Really?

And where's Benet on MaxPreps? No. 16. Marist is at 19, Cary-Grove 21, St. Rita 25, Lyons 27, Hinsdale Central 28, Richards 32, Bolingbrook 34, Waubonsie Valley 41, Naperville Central 49 and Batavia 68 -- just ahead of Williamsville (who?).

So where am I going with all this?

In 2012 I made the classic general's mistake of fighting the last war. Rather than trying to figure out who was really good I followed the teams that had big years in 2011. This year I've tried to approach it more intelligently (I hope); I've been focusing on only those programs with Division I prospects. Is that smarter? We'll find out. I certainly think it's better at the start of the season. But I'm sure by Week Six or Seven I'll be following the undefeated teams and attending the great rivalries.

But, either way, I've decided to post my own rankings this year, with only one caveat: BOWG's rankings will be derived only from teams I've actually seen play. Will this be limiting? Absolutely. But will it be more honest? I think so. How can I judge a team I've never even seen? 

In any case, I'm going to give it a shot. After Week One I should have my first ranking, which will consist of the eight teams I plan on seeing this weekend: Batavia, Glenbard North, Mount Carmel, St. Patrick, De La Salle, Phillips, Marist and St. Rita. (Not a bad start.) And, as always, I'll try to see as many of the best teams as I can. Will I miss some? Sure. After all, my mantra is still "The Best Game Between The Best Teams." And remember, I don't get paid to do this. I follow high school football because I love it.

Now let's get this season underway, darn it!

P. S. As for all those questions above that I said I'd get to, well, we've got all season to answer them. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ryan Wilkens told me this week...

...that Justin Jackson is "the best player I have ever coached; we ask a lot from him and he delivers." 

But when asked who else, besides Mount Carmel, would vie for the 8A crown this year, the laconic head coach of Glenbard North would only speak about teams GBN has played:

"The Napervilles, Fremd, Stevenson, Maine South and Loyola are all going to be very good."

I plan on seeing the Northwestern-bound Jackson tomorrow night as the Panthers travel to Batavia to avenge last year's 42-41 opening loss. According to Dave Andrews, the Athletic Director at Batavia, the game is expected to sell out shortly after the gates open at 4:30.

On Saturday I'm off to a triple-header at Soldier Field to see several of the area's other top Division I prospects. 

The 10:00 am opener will feature running back Matt Domer of Mount Carmel (Illinois) against St. Patrick, who is beginning its 100th season of football. Wow! 

At 1:00 quarterback Shelby Spence and running back Mikale Wilbon (Vanderbilt) will lead De La Salle against Phillips

And after a quick dinner at Manny's Deli where I'll meet my sons while the Division III game is going on, I'll come back and watch quarterback Tommy Mister of St. Rita (Iowa State) match up against Marist and its star tight end Nic Weishar (Notre Dame) in what should be the day's best contest.

Oh, and next Saturday I plan on seeing running back Chris James of Notre Dame play at Bartlett.

Not a bad start to the season, huh?

So what games will I miss? Lake Zurich at Fremd, Waubonsie Valley at Naperville Central, Cary-Grove at Wheaton North, Maine South at Montini, Bolingbrook at Hinsdale Central and Glenbard West at Wheaton Warrenville South. Can't be in two places at once! 

Remember, I'll be live tweeting the games @BoringOldWhtGuy.

Tomorrow: Let's talk about the rankings. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I had a nice conversation...

...on Sunday with Dan O'Keefe, the head football coach at De La Salle. (That's him between two of his stars this year, Mikale Wilbon on the left and Jamarco Jones on the right.) Like any savvy coach, O'Keefe tried to lower my expectations for the season, but I could tell he has a very talented and committed squad this year.

O'Keefe, a 1990 graduate of Leo High School, played center and linebacker on the 11-2 team his senior year. After college at North Park, where he was captain of the Vikings, O'Keefe earned a master's degree in educational administration at Dominican University in River Forest (where my mom went for a year). The South Side native then coached for a short time in Florida, went back to Leo as head coach, and then on to Loyola Academy where he was an assistant before taking the helm of the Meteors in 2007.

De La Salle Institute, founded in 1889, is now a coed school of about 1,000 students, half of which I assume are boys. As a result, O'Keefe has a smaller pool of athletes with which to work and was quick to point out that depth and injuries are his biggest concern. Take last year for example. Before losing the Vanderbilt-bound running back Wilbon to an injury, the Meteors were 3-1. Afterward, De La Salle went 1-4 to finish the 2012 season 4-5.

(A similar situation took place a few years ago. After racking up a 9-3 record the previous season, De La Salle had high hopes for 2010. But after star quarterback Juwan Martin went down with an injury, the Meteors finished only 3-6.)

But if De La Salle can stay healthy, they just might be a dark horse in Class 6A. Besides Wilbon and Jones, who has committed to Ohio State, the Meteors will start seniors Will Zopp at running back and Shelby Spence at quarterback. Spence, in turn, can throw to either sophomore Tom Duddleston (who played quarterback on the freshman team and is also a stand-out in basketball and baseball) or junior Bryce Sutherland. (And while I couldn't get the cagey O'Keefe to admit it, don't be too surprised if the speedy Spence, who lost 15 pounds in the off-season, is also a threat to run with the ball.)

But, really, when you have a running back like Wilbon rushing behind linemen like Jones and Aaron Roberts (whom, I'm told, is being heavily recruited by Syracuse), why not just pound away at defenses all day? Wilbon averaged about 25 carries per game as a sophomore and could very well be the best player O'Keefe has coached since Cordero Gaston way back in 2007.

On defense, De La Salle returns eight starters from last year, including senior defensive end/linebacker Kyle Malan, who plays on offense as well. O'Keefe expects to have about two or three guys play both ways, although he concedes that number could climb as the season progresses with injuries.

I could tell that this year's senior class is a special one for O'Keefe. (Malan, along with Jones, Wilbon and Spence have been starters for three years.) He said they really have the qualities it takes to go deep in the playoffs. They sound like a really hard-working bunch, spending lots of time in the weight room and generally "taking care of business."

I'm looking forward to Saturday's game against Phillips in Soldier Field, although O'Keefe told me Jones will be sitting out due to an injury. (Darn!) That's okay, though, as I also have my eye on De La Salle's last two home games of the year, Loyola on October 11, and Fenwick the following week. Could be a great season for the Meteors!

P. S. O'Keefe reminded me of an interesting fact: The largest crowd to ever watch a high school football game at Soldier Field was an estimated 115,000 in the 1937 City Championship between Austin and his alma mater, Leo. Wow! While he doesn't expect this Saturday's game to be nearly as well attended, O'Keefe also mentioned that the Chicago Bears played in Wrigley Field the very next day in front of ... only 30,000 patrons!

Correction: In an earlier draft I wrote that Zopp, not Jones, was the other three-year starter. Also, I said that the Bears played in Soldier Field instead of Wrigley. (That last one was unforgivable; my first Bears game ever was in the Friendly Confines in 1967 when I saw Gale Sayers play.) My bad!

The best sentence...

...I read over the weekend was:

“You got to look at their money, and the guy with the most money is Richard Cash,” Mr. Woodard said.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

More from "My Road Home."

Monday July 16

I broke down tonight. God I hated to, but I couldn't help it. While I was on the phone speaking with my Mom, it just happened. Of course she did her best to console me. I quickly checked myself, for as I mentioned, I especially need to remain strong for my folks. The last thing they should have to hear is their son crying over the phone.

With all this free time, my mind drifts amongst a slew of various thoughts. Earlier today I found myself wishing that instead of reporting to the courts for sentencing a month ago, I had said "fuck it" and become a fugitive. Yes I'd be on the run right now, but hell, it would have to be better than this miserable existence, at least I'd be on the outside. That's crazy thinking though, I snapped back to reality. The thought that perhaps I would never see my boys again, not freely anyway. No, can't do it. To always be looking over my shoulder, not knowing when I'd be caught, well that's not living either. That has to be the worst option!

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Peter Orszag, writing in...

...Bloomberg, weighs in on Nature vs. Nurture (my emphasis):

The research does not suggest that genes are dominant and training is irrelevant; instead, it says that the benefit from training is partially driven by genetics, so that a combination is required for top performance.

Consider professional baseball players. A batter needs years of practice to recognize subtle clues about pitches and thereby have a better chance of hitting them. This is why even the best baseball players tend not to hit well when they face softball pitchers; their accumulated clues are of little use.

Yet professional batters also tend to have extremely good vision -- they can see the small nuances in a pitcher’s delivery to begin with. One study of minor and major league baseball players found that their average vision measures 20/13, which means they can read a letter at 20 feet that a normal person could make out only at 13 feet. To see how rare this is, consider that, in a large sample of eye tests from China, vision better than 20/17 occurred in only 1 in 200 people.

What Orszag doesn't talk about is whether or not an individual's propensity to work hard at something is also gene-based. I would argue that it is.

Remember the movie "Rudy"...

...about a kid named Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, who grew up to play football for Notre Dame? Apparently his brother Francis is the strength coach for Joliet Catholic.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Here's another interesting tidbit...

...I came across while reading Those Angry Days (my emphasis):

A suave and charming host, [William] Stephenson was known for his potent martinis; another colleague, writer Ian Fleming, called them "the most powerful martinis in America." After a couple of them, the six-foot-seven-inch Sherwood was heard to say: "If I have another cocktail, I'll just call timber and fall on my face." Fleming, who would model his famous fictional character James Bond in part on Stephenson, noted that the BSC chief was the source of Bond's martini recipe: "Booth's gin, high and dry, easy on the vermouth, shaken not stirred."

The Dallas Morning News, in...

...an article today, brought up the issue of Sen. Ted Cruz's citizenship (my emphasis).

“He’s a Canadian,” said Toronto lawyer Stephen Green, past chairman of the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section.

But,

The U.S. Constitution allows only a “natural born” American citizen to serve as president. Most legal scholars who have studied the question agree that includes an American born overseas to an American parent, such as Cruz. 

Is the subject murky?

Officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada said that without a signed privacy waiver from Cruz, they cannot discuss his case.

“If a child was born in the territory, he is Canadian, period,” said France Houle, a law professor at the University of Montreal. “He can ask for a passport. He can vote.”

The fact that Cruz left Canada when he was 4 doesn’t affect his status there, either.

“If you leave when you’re 2 minutes old, you’re still an American. It’s the same in Canada,” said Allison Christians, a law professor at McGill University in Montreal. “He’s a Canadian citizen.”

Fortunately, Sen. Cruz put the whole matter to rest last week.

For the first time, Cruz released his birth certificate Friday in response to inquiries from The Dallas Morning News.

Dated a month after his birth on Dec. 22, 1970, it shows that Rafael Edward Cruz was born to Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, a “geophysical consultant” born in Matanzas, Cuba, and the former Eleanor Elizabeth Wilson, born in Wilmington, Del.

Her status made the baby a U.S. citizen at birth. For that, U.S. law required at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen who had lived for at least a decade in the United States.

Phew! That's a relief.

But, just to be on the safe side, don't you think we should have a look at Sen. Cruz's mother's birth certificate? I mean, do we really know she was born in the United States?

Chris Cillizza quotes...

...an ally of Chris Christie's today describing the New Jersey governor as “a conservative, but he’s not angry about it.”

Really?

That reminds me of Mike Huckabee, one of my mother's favorites on Fox. His famous slogan from the 2008 Republican primaries was, “I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad at anyone about it.”

Delivered with a smile, the line betrayed Huckabee's now-famous anger toward gays and anyone else for that matter who doesn't interpret the Bible literally as he does.

A good rule of thumb is that if someone has to make a point of telling you he's not angry, he's probably angry.

What is it about Batavia football...

...that engenders such loyalty? What am I talking about?

Dennis Piron (above, left), who is 21-2 after only two seasons at the helm of the Bulldogs, toiled for 18 years as defensive coordinator under long-time head coach Mike Gaspari (above, right) before being tapped for the top job. Gaspari, in turn, stepped up from assistant to pilot the Upstate Eight program for 26 years before making room for his protege. (And even then, Gaspari stayed on as offensive coordinator!)

So, what I'd like to know is, how in the world did Gaspari keep a talented guy like Piron from taking another head coaching job somewhere else? (And don't tell me Piron didn't have any offers.)

When Piron took the job back in 2010, he was quoted as saying that Gaspari was "the most influential man in my entire life." Whoa. Not only that, but Piron "would have been just as honored to continue in my current role with Mike forever and ever."

Now, by my reckoning, Piron, at age 48, has spent about half his life at Batavia High School. And it hasn't always been a day at the beach. In fact, the 1983 Batavia graduate, who played tight end and defensive end, suffered through an 0-9 season in his senior year. Wouldn't that be enough to make most people flee in the opposite direction?

But not Piron, apparently. After attending nearby North Central College, he returned to his alma mater to teach math and coach track. Before long, though, Piron was back on the sidelines, this time as an assistant to Gaspari.

The Bulldogs open their 2013 season a week from Friday against Glenbard North and its star running back, Justin Jackson. Batavia bested the Panthers last year on the road, 42-41. Can Piron make it two in a row? How on earth does he plan on containing Jackson, arguably the best running back in the state of Illinois? And even if they do win, the Bulldogs have to host a tough Richards team the following week. (Who's responsible for this schedule?)

Only after these two bruising non-conference games does Batavia begin its conference schedule, on the road against archrival Geneva. I wonder how well Piron is sleeping these days.

I plan on attending that first game against Glenbard North. Last year, the Panthers recovered from the loss to win the next twelve straight before falling to Mount Carmel in the 8A final. The Bulldogs, of course, went on to an undefeated regular season only to come up short in the first round of the playoffs against Downers Grove North (one of my teams to watch this year).

Either way, it will be a great chance to see two of the area's very best football programs. I can't wait!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

That's not me...

...finishing the 26th Annual Windrunner 10K Race in Wheaton yesterday. But I was there. And I did finish. You can look it up.

That's me, Michael Racy (a more appropriate name for a runner, don't you think?), finishing at 183 overall out of 272 listed. Okay, okay, so I finished in the bottom third. (But I had bib number 310 so there had to be more than 272 runners. Did that many simply drop out of the race? Wimps.)

A better page to consult is the one grouped by age. In the Male 55-59 category that greyhound Racy finished 9th out of 16 -- in the bottom half, sure -- but in the Top Ten of his age group! My time, you'll notice, was 1:02:05.2 which is less than twice the course record of 32:10 set way back in 2004. My goal for the day was to average less than ten minutes per mile. If you look at the column on the far right you'll see that my average was ... 10:01. Ugh!

Did I do my best? (Does anyone ever, really?) Could I have given just a little bit more out there? I suppose; after all, you can always squeeze a little more toothpaste out of the tube.

But I enjoyed the experience. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful setting. In fact, it was probably the nicest race I'd ever been.

And the food was to die for! (Which I almost did.) If I had known what a great spread there would be I might have skipped the race altogether. Besides the usual water, bananas and bagels, the race organizers had lox, two kinds of cream cheese, smoked duck and turkey (!), pizza, cookies, trail mix and watermelon. (And I'm sure I'm leaving something out.) It was great!

(You know you're in DuPage County, by the way, when they call the lox "salmon" and the cream cheese with chives, "Uh, cream cheese with, uh, some kind of herbs and spices.")

So why did I do this yesterday? What possessed me to set my alarm early on a Sunday morning and drive clear out to Wheaton to run with a bunch of people who were obviously in better shape than me? (It's a red flag when you find yourself the only one wearing a cotton T-shirt.) What on earth was I thinking?

Believe it or not, it wasn't for the food. (Although that's a heck of an incentive for next year.) No, I turned 55 a couple of weeks ago and thought I should mark the occasion somehow. Unlike George H. W. Bush, I couldn't go skydiving. (I did that on my 50th birthday with my older boy, so that was already taken.) Since I had been running this summer (sort of), I thought I might be able to complete a half-marathon. (Not necessarily run one, mind you, but complete one.) But first I thought I should try my hand at a 10K. After all, it's been about ten years since I ran my last one. (This is beginning to sound like a confession.) And a half-marathon is only two 10Ks. How hard could that be? The answer: I may never know, at least not this year.

After finishing yesterday and finally catching my breath, I thought to myself, "Could I run another one of those -- right now? No #$&! way!" I was really beat after the race and one of my Achilles tendons was sore. It would take a lot more than lox and bagels to get me to run a half-marathon. (Although smoked duck would be a start.)

Am I too old for this nonsense? I don't think so. One of the many nice people I met out there yesterday (and there were a lot of them) was a guy named George Suter from DeKalb. (Not a professor at Northern Illinois.) He was running with his daughter and son-in-law and finished behind me, at 1:18:51.3, for an average of 12:43 per mile. That was 261 overall, but first in his age group. You see, Mr. Suter is 79 years old! Now, I know what you're thinking: That's amazing! Well, consider this: there were three other finishers in the race who were over the age of 80! Now that's amazing.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

It's a Saturday in August, the news...

...is slow and both of my boys will be home for the next two weeks. Another installment from My Road Home will have to suffice until I sit down again in front of my computer.

Sunday July 15

I am confined to my cell 23 hours a day! Other than being marched, under ground through a maze of tunnels, over to the mess hall 3x per day, I sit in this tiny cell and stare at the walls & out the tiny window. No books (only my Bible is allowed) no paper, nothing. The only paper I have is the pages inside my Bible. At night, during the one of Rec time, I am given a tiny pencil, with just a trace of a lead point. This is when I do my writing ... quickly. Through the window I look out at tree tops in the distance, along side a mountain here in Duchess County. A slew of Canadian Geese constantly are strolling by, I look down at them, jealous of their freedom. What I wouldn't give for my feet to be touching that grass right now. I sit and daydream about happier days, the world was my oyster, and I fucking blew it. I try to convince myself that life is not over for me; yes this is a major hurdle, when I will eventually climb over.

I think of my ex wife and son Brooks who are up in Vermont right now, doing a college tour, and here I am, sitting in this depressing cell. Some father, aren't I. This special moment in his young life is one I will never get back, gone to me forever. How many more moments will I miss out on before I return, whenever the hell that might be.

It's a beautiful sunny day, one of those summer days you never want to end, if you have your freedom that is. Since I don't, I can't wait until the darkness comes and I can shut it down. I'm quickly learning a prison mantra the other veteran inmates have stressed ... just look at the end of each day "as another day down." That's all it is. "You do the time, don't let the time do you," I hear so many of them say. Most seem to live by that creed.

I'm looking forward to next Sunday when my parents will be coming to visit, as well as my brother Jack. Looking at Mom & Dad you would never guess their ages to be 85 & 81; they appear and act so much younger. I can't stand the thought of them seeing their son in a place like this, but they insist on coming. Jack has been my rock throughout this ordeal, I've leaned on him hard. Currently he lives in Honduras, back in the States now for summer break.

Earlier today, those of us who wanted to, were able to attend Catholic Services, which began at 8:30. I must say I found it to be not only peaceful and spiritual, but reinforced a sense of hope, a temporary sense of normalcy. For the 1st time since coming to prison, I felt calm. Well, all those wonderful feelings came to a crashing halt as the other inmates and I were led back to our cells. Thanks to one brutal corrections officer who went on profanity laced tirade towards me and the other guys. "You mother fuckers don't deserve forgiveness, you're all a bunch of hypocrites. I bet you like to touch 11 year old girls, don't you." Oh man did I want to lash back at this angry and miserable person. It was just so ugly and hurtful, made especially so given where we had just come from. And the fact that I had, for the 1st time since being sentenced, achieved a feeling of hope and calm. But you know what, there was absolutely nothing any of us could do about it, we had to stand there and take it. Sure, you want to be a hero and say something to this piece of shit, go ahead, next thing you know you'll be in the box! And lose what ever small privileges you do have. I got back to my cell and felt horrible all over again.

In 1939, on the eve...

...of World War II, the U. S. Army was only the 17th-largest in the world, sandwiched between such powers as Portugal and Bulgaria. According to Those Angry Days, only about a third of its 175,000 men (larger than the city of Naperville, Illinois but smaller than Aurora), had ever trained with a weapon. And the few weapons the Army had were almost all of World War I vintage.

Friday, August 16, 2013

More from "My Road Home."

Saturday July 14

Downstate is a reception facility, its main purpose is to get me and all the other inmates "state ready" and be classified as to which facility we'll end up at. From what I'm told there are 3 different classifications, Minimum, Medium, and gulp ... Maximum. Of course my family and I are praying for minimum. As a 1st time offender, with a non-violent crime, I have a decent chance, I think. Another term for the Minimum facilities are "camps."

Yesterday I also received my lovely state greens. These hideous, polyester infested clothes will be the clothes on my back for the length of my term. I have been given heavy duty black work boots, 3 pairs of green pants, 3 short-sleeved shirts, all with my name and Identification number (07A3830) on them, and a winter jacket for the freezing cold weather I'll be looking at in a few months time.

The chart of the day...

...is from, yes, Ezra Klein's blog. It shows what's really holding the economy back -- household debt. The good news? It's going down. The bad news? Not very fast.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Here's the latest in the GOP...

...effort to attract minority voters, "Rep. Stockman invites Obama rodeo clown to perform in Texas":

A conservative Texas lawmaker is inviting a rodeo clown banned from the Missouri state fair to perform in the Lone Star State instead.
 
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.), above, says that the unidentified rodeo clown and his colleagues have been unfairly targeted by liberals “to create a climate of fear.” He invited them to come perform at a fair in his southeastern Texas district instead.

I'd say the Republican outreach effort is going well so far, wouldn't you?

I ran a chart the other day...

...from Ezra Klein's blog which compared income inequality and political polarization. I wondered if another Great Depression, or rising populism, might reverse that trend.

I still have no idea, but at the same time, I noticed that the most liberal (I think) candidate in the race for mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio (above, with his wife and kids), has just taken the lead in the polls with 30 percent. (City Council Speaker Christine Quinn seems to have a ceiling of 24 percent.) I Googled de Blasio and found out that he's only 52 years old (a kid!).

Now, humor me for a second.

If de Blasio wins and does a good job as mayor (and some of his policies are pretty liberal), it could propel him to the governor's mansion in Albany before too long. And, as I said, de Blasio is only 52 so he has plenty of time to run for president some day. I know that's a stretch, but still.

(By the way, is that a modern-looking family, or what?)

P. S. Another progressive to watch is Elizabeth Warren, the senior senator from Massachusetts. If Hillary the Democratic candidate for president in 2016 should happen to lose, don't be too surprised if Ms. Warren makes a run of her own in 2020.

The Friars of Fenwick High School...

...will travel down to Dallas, Texas, in Week Two this year to play the -- wait, what? -- Friars of Bishop Lynch High School, above.

After Loyola played Dallas Jesuit last year in Dublin, Ireland, I thought, What's with all these Catholic League schools playing teams in Texas all of a sudden?

Well, apparently, there's more to it than that. Yesterday I noticed a piece in the Oak Leaves, "Texas' Bishop Lynch has historical ties with Fenwick" (my emphasis):

Legend has it that in 1963, teachers from Fenwick brought more than just Dominican education down South.

“The (Fenwick) priests 50 years ago put all of that stuff in their suitcase and brought it with them,” Bishop Lynch president Ed Leyden said.

In 1963, nine Dominican friars from Fenwick and eight Dominican sisters from Sinsinawa, Wis., left the Midwest to teach at Bishop Lynch in Texas. Launched with an original enrollment of 300 freshmen and sophomores, it’s now now the largest four-year private high school in the state.

“We brought a lot, but maybe too much,” said the Rev. Richard LaPata, one of the founding priests. “I’m glad that despite the similarities, Bishop Lynch has established its own identity and has done quite well down there.”

As part of its anniversary celebration, Bishop Lynch invited Fenwick’s football team to return this fall for a showdown under the famed Friday Night Lights of Texas. Bishop Lynch will head north next year for a rematch.

Sounds like it will be a great game!

P. S. Oh, yeah; Fenwick was 8-4 last year, Bishop Lynch was 8-5.

The Illinois high school football...

...quote of the day is from Montini head coach Chris Andriano, beginning his 35th year at the helm of the Broncos:

"It's the same thing every year. You get up on this day, you go outside and smell the air, and it smells like football. I love it. It's the best day."

The Illinois high school football...

...name of the day belongs to St. Rita wide receiver Malik Space.

I can just hear the announcer, "Quarterback Tommy Mister throws it all the way out to Space..."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I seem to recall William Simon, the...

...Secretary of the Treasury under Richard Nixon, getting asked once about a possible bid for the U. S. Senate from New Jersey. Simon, wearing his trademark Coke-bottle glasses, reportedly said, "I'd never want to be one of a hundred of anything." (I guess that's what you say when you have absolutely no chance of winning.)

But the former bond trader at Salomon Brothers (where he was one of a hundred managing directors) did have a point. And I think it's one that Cory Booker should have listened to.

In January I gave Booker some free advice in this blog, which he did not take (go figure):

If I were advising the mayor, I'd tell him to run for governor and run the cleanest, classiest, most issue-laden campaign ever. No negative ads, no personal stuff, nothin'. If Christie's popularity holds up, Booker would lose. But so what? He'd be only 43 years old and have a sterling image in New Jersey voters' minds (and with the national media). After four years in which Christie would presumably be running for president, Booker would be only 47 and well-positioned for another run. In 2020, he'd be 51. That's a perfect age for running for president.

(And now, with Christie's favorables so high, the New Jersey governor has a good chance to win in a landslide and be even better positioned for a White House run in 2016. At least Booker could have taken one for the team and bloodied him a little bit first.)

Instead, the mayor of Newark won the Democratic primary yesterday and is poised to win the special election next month. Booker will no doubt be just the latest Democrat from the Garden State to take his seat in the U. S. Senate.

And then ... Booker will be one of a hundred ego maniacs who stand very little chance of ever getting elected president. With hard work and a little luck he might chair some committees and go on the Sunday talk show circuit with those other famous show horses, John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Is that what you want Mayor Booker? Really?

So Cory Booker will face...

...some guy named Lonegan in the special election for the U. S. Senate from New Jersey.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Doyle Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota (where?), is a 25-point underdog. And while Booker has raised over $4 million, the tea party-backed Republican has only $151,000 on hand.

If he should somehow win, Lonegan would be the first Republican elected to the senate from New Jersey since 1972.
Lonegan is less glamorous. The former head of the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-aligned activist group, he has twice been rejected by GOP primary voters and became the favorite in this race when more moderate, establishment Republicans chose to sit out. He poses a different type of challenge than the Democrats who ran against Booker. While Booker’s party colleagues were slow to attack, Lonegan is always eager for confrontation and has a talent for political showmanship. His barbs could dent Booker’s shining image. Lonegan has a devoted conservative following, but will have to reach far beyond his own base. New Jersey, with 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972. A Quinnipiac University poll released Aug. 7 gave Booker a 54-29 lead over Lonegan, and the Newark mayor had $4.1 million on hand as of late July, compared with $151,000 for Lonegan.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/219499831.html#kS7gDA4OtyS8JUyv.99
Lonegan is less glamorous. The former head of the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-aligned activist group, he has twice been rejected by GOP primary voters and became the favorite in this race when more moderate, establishment Republicans chose to sit out.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/219499831.html#p1gvycvMxzP97Thc.99

Mike Helfgot has a piece...

...in the Tribune in which he says that "not a single senior from Mount Carmel made an official visit to a Big Ten school last year." He then mentions that defensive linemen Steve Richardson and Enoch Smith will be attending Minnesota and Michigan State, respectively, while running back Matt Domer has committed to Illinois. (According to Scout.com, center Nathan Oquendo is also likely to visit at least one Big Ten campus this year.)

Helfgot then lets Caravan coach Frank Lenti, above, go into his usual schtick of lowering expectations. Win the 8A crown again? Who, us? But at least Helfgot calls him on it:

Of course, downplaying his team publicly — particularly during the preseason — is among his old habits.

And Lenti is a master at it. He fooled me good last year.

Meanwhile, I saw that MaxPreps has You Know Who at the top of their preseason rankings:

1. Mount Carmel
2. Glenbard West
3. Lincoln-Way East
4. Crete-Monee
5. Montini
6. Glenbard North
7. Neuqua Valley
8. Wheaton North
9. Lake Zurich
10. Providence

And my first thought was, Is this for 2013, or 2012? (MaxPreps states that "A team must have played three games before they will appear in the rankings." Huh?)

I also noticed that there are only two other 8A teams in the MaxPreps Top Ten: Glenbard North and Neuqua Valley. 

And I wondered, Who else can plausibly challenge the Caravan in 8A this year? And I answered myself, Oh, yeah, I wrote about that already:

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


Mount Carmel opens up the season at 10:00 a.m. on August 31 against St. Patrick at Soldier Field. And I'll be there.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I sense another...

...quiet day coming. Here's the next entry from My Road Home.

Friday July 13th

I heard noises, my head immediately sprang up from the pillow. Quickly checking my watch I saw that it was 3:30 a.m., Friday the 13th. Right then and there I should have known the day was not going to bode well. I saw a flashlight coming towards me, the night officer standing over my cot. "Time to go Byrne, get dressed." This is it; I was leaving Rikers, for good! I jumped into the shower, thinking I will not miss this mildew-infested excuse for a shower room. From there, given I am not allowed to bring anything Upstate except the clothes on my back, I put on my khakis and blue button down shirt, which have served me so well, the ones I was wearing when sentenced. Everything else I had accumulated (thanks to Eileen) would have to be left behind, not for the vultures, but for Mike, who I have become very close with. We hugged goodbye, this guy I had eaten all my meals with, read books side by side with, and slept next to for 3 solid weeks. I knew deep down I would never see him again.

 It's about 4:00 when I walk into the holding cell, awaiting the trip up North. There is only one other inmate in there at the time and I remember thinking to myself, "Hmmm, this isn't so bad, just the two of us, I can handle this." Little did I know that number would eventually grow to 16, in a cell that fits maybe 8. Here I would sit (stand is more like it) for the next 6 1/2 hours! During this time I come to learn I am in this cell with guys whose sentences range from 2 years to life. There was 'Ray Ray,' already 14 years under his belt with 15 remaining. I looked at him in amazement, thinking, how could anyone do that much time? And then there was 'Speedy,' serving 15 to life. There was only one other white guy besides me, I did my best to remain in his space. What a sight; the two of us, looking like two lost sheep. His name was Sean, serving 1 1/2 to 3 for stealing a car high on drugs.

Right out of the movie "The Fugitive" with Harrison Ford, when a prisoner is moved from one facility to another, you must be shackled at the wrists and ankles. Your ankle is then cuffed to another inmate. Joined at the hip you could call it. I was chained up with Sean, the only other white guy. Can't be a coincidence I thought, the guard did that for a reason. So we hip-hopped our way down the hall, and eventually, quite gingerly, climbed onto the bus. Sean got the window seat.

I was on my way to Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, NY. Exit 11 off of Route 84 West. I couldn't help but think of the last time I traveled on this road; my sons were in the backseat, my ex-wife upfront, and we were on our way to Maine for a summer vacation. I was a successful Wall Street broker, proud father, loving husband, and the future was boundless. Look at me now.

There is no talking aloud on the bus, two guards in the front seats, one in the back. I stare straight ahead, my wrists are killing me. Don't even think about going to the bathroom or asking for something, it's not going to happen. Eventually lunch is 'served.' Brown bags are passed out, each one containing a cheese sandwich, plastic container of grape juice, and 2 stale cookies. Have you ever tried to eat while handcuffed? No? Well let me tell you, it's not easy, I slobbered all over myself. The ride takes 3 hours.

Our bus sits for 30 minutes outside the barbed wire gates of Downstate. Just another delay in a day already filled with them. Eventually we head in and are ordered off the bus. Sean and I gingerly manage to get out, my muscles ache from sitting so long, my ankles & wrists are killing me. All of us (there are about 35 prisoners on the bus) make our way into another holding cell where we are verbally abused by a collection of CO's. One of the C.O.'s tries to pick a fight with the entire lot of us, "I'll bring full-force down on all of you, c'mon! Full-force!" He screams. We sit and wait some more. Eventually it's time to be strip searched, then thrown in cold showers to clean up. Guards watching and grinning the entire time. From there it's into the barber's chair, where your hair will be 99% shaved off. Any ounce of dignity I had been able to cling to is now gone. I was feeling so very low, and scared. My spirit was being broken, I could feel it. Don't let up I kept saying to myself, you must stay strong for the boys and your family. There is no other option. I have to go through this, to get through this, was all I could think of.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The chart of the day...

...is from Ezra Klein's blog (of course) and shows the historical correlation between the share of national income earned by the top one percent in the U. S. and the degree of polarization in Congress.

According to Lydia DePillis, who wrote the post:

Polarization leads to gridlock, under which policies needing adjustment–like the minimum wage–tend not to get fixed. Also, without legislative oversight, agencies have more authority and are more subject to industry lobbying, which led to the quiet deregulation of the financial industry.

(Or is it the other way around: Does inequality lead to polarization? In other words, do the rich use their money to make one party's policies more favorable to the top one percent?)

I'm not sure exactly what to make of this chart, but as a trader I'd have to conclude that we may be very near the highs in both income inequality and political polarization. (And, really, how much more polarized could we possibly become?) So if I were to bet, I'd say those curves should start heading downward before too long. What would cause them to do so? I'm not sure. A Great Depression and the rise of populism correlated with the previous highs. Are we in for that again? That's hard for me to imagine. But at the same time, I can't see those curves rising forever.

I noticed an ad for Glenn Beck...

...on my blog just now and I can't help recalling one of my favorite lines from the Woody Allen movie, Hannah and Her Sisters. Max von Sydow, playing the reclusive artist Frederick, says to Barbara Hershey's character, Lee:

"Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling?"

And I wonder the same thing about Glenn Beck's show sometimes. What's worse, do you suppose, Mr. Beck or the people who listen to him? I have to think it's the latter -- if nothing else, Glenn Beck is laughing all the way to the bank.

Whoops! Maybe Ted Cruz...

...isn't running for president in 2016 after all. On Saturday Sarah Palin all but endorsed Rand Paul:

“I’m on team Rand. Rand Paul understands. He gets the whole notion of don’t tread on me government. Whereas Chris Christie is for big government and trying to go-along-to-get along in so many respects.

“But Chris Christie’s for more government and his record proves that, whereas Rand Paul with that healthy libertarian streak that we need more of, in our politicians -- team Rand Paul.”

I had thought for sure that Ms. Palin would back Sen. Cruz, but I take this as a signal that the freshman senator from Texas isn't running. All those trips to places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina must have been just to raise Cruz's profile and improve his fundraising nationally.

I'm also beginning to rethink my prediction that the GOP nominee in 2016 will be the most conservative candidate in the race. I still think the Republicans are itching to commit a Barry Goldwater-type suicide, but only now if the economy is really good (in which case they have no chance of winning anyway) or if the economy is really bad (in which case they could persuade voters to change direction entirely).

But I don't think the economy in 2016 will be either rocking, or in the dumps. Instead, I expect things to remain much as they are today: a slow, steady recovery -- nothing to get terribly excited about either way. The stock market will be higher, the housing picture improving and the unemployment rate falling slowly, albeit due more to retiring Baby Boomers than any great surge in job creation.

It's likely that most people won't be feeling a whole lot better in 2016 than they do today. (At the end of FDR's second term, the U. S. economy was on the mend only as a result of arms sales to Great Britain. Absent the Second World War, Roosevelt may very well have been turned out of office in 1940.)

So if the economy is only middling in 2016 I expect the Republicans to nominate someone who can actually win the general election, like a Chris Christie or a Jeb Bush. But my gut tells me that Bush doesn't have the fire in the belly (nor does Paul Ryan), so the governor of New Jersey may get the nod.

If nothing else, Palin's remarks this weekend signal that there could still be one heck of a fight in 2016 between the tea party base and the establishment wing of the Republican Party.

I'll still bring the popcorn!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Another quiet Sunday...

...brings another opportunity to post an excerpt from My Road Home.

Thursday July 12

It's nothing concrete, just a bunch of little things, but I feel really down today. From the minute I woke up (at 4:30 for breakfast) I've had this cloud of sadness overhanging. I am so fucking depressed. I knew a day like this was looming. For days now I have been trying to convince myself that this ordeal is doable, I'm strong enough to get through it. Today the dark forces took over. I can't stop thinking about my sons.

In attempt to cheer myself up, I called my younger son Philip. He brought me up to date on his summer, typical teenage boy activities; hanging out with his friends, sleeping late, playing sports, etc. No matter how shitty I feel, no matter how helpless and removed I am, I will never let them know the depths of my sadness. It is critical that I always stay strong when speaking or writing to them. I will always try and maintain the same composure when dealing with my Mother & Father. I know they are suffering right along side of me, and my Mom, if given the chance, would want to do this time for me. I have put them through a lot, no doubt. Dad is 85, my Mom 81. And no matter how sharp and strong they are, these ages don't lie; it takes a toll, witnessing your child sent off to prison. They have such faith however, never have I seen such love and devotion, their hearts ache for me. As mine does for them. I will never forget walking into their bedroom the night before sentencing, knowing there was a strong possibility this would be the last time I saw them, God forbid something happens to them while I'm gone.

Four inmates left this morning, sure enough only hours later their beds were already being occupied with new prisoners. The beat goes on.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Regina Resnik, an opera singer...

...who was "loved by directors, conductors and the audience" according to F. Paul Driscoll (whoever he is), died at age 90.

On at least one occasion, however, she boldly took an unruly section of an audience to task.

“Stop! Stop!” Ms. Resnik shouted from the stage in French as hecklers interrupted a performance of “Carmen” in Marseilles in 1962.

They had hooted and howled and hurled vegetables toward her and her co-star, Richard Martell, who, in the role of Don Jose, had just finishing professing his love for her. Ms. Resnik’s defiance prompted cheers from the rest of the audience, and a clarification from the hecklers that Mr. Martell was their target.

Yet when they proceeded to heckle more, Ms. Resnik glared long and hard toward their place in the balcony and then erupted with a single powerful “Silence!”

Silence is what largely ensued, at least until the performance was over, when bunches of radishes struck the drawn red curtain.

Now, I've never been to an opera so I don't know: Is it common practice to bring vegetables with you to a performance?

Why do I think...

...it's just plain odd to bring a gun with you to your local Starbucks? Is there something wrong with me?*

That's Matt Bottali, above, a gun owner participating in yesterday's Starbucks Appreciation Day in Connecticut. (He looks fairly normal, doesn't he?) According to an article in the print edition of the Times today:

Bottali planned to show up with half a dozen armed friends at his local Starbucks in a national effort by gun owners to show their appreciation for Starbucks' policy, which allows customers to carry weapons into their stores in states where it is legal. Companies have the option of banning weapons if they choose.

"Come down, meet me and my friends," Mr. Bottali wrote on his Facebook page. "I guarantee there will not be a safer public place in all of CT."

There was only one problem with Mr. Bottali's plan. The Starbucks in question was located in Newtown, Connecticut, the home of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Apparently, the owners thought Mr. Bottali's plan was in terrible taste and decided to close five hours earlier than usual.

Score one for good taste -- and sanity!

But back to Mr. Bottali. How on earth could he think that a Starbucks with a bunch of people carrying guns could possibly be the safest public place in all of Connecticut? If you walked into a store and noticed that many of its patrons were armed wouldn't you get the heck out of there in a hurry? Or would you think to yourself, "Hey, this is the safest place I could be right now!"

The article also says that Mr. Bottali "regularly carried his Smith & Wesson pistol to coffee shops." Really? Is that necessary?

I have to ask, once again, what is wrong with me? I've been to countless Starbucks in I don't know how many states and haven't once thought, "Gee, I sure wish I had a gun right now. The crowd in here is really threatening! Why, just look at that young girl behind the counter with all those tattoos and pierced flesh."

Is it me, or is Mr. Bottali just a little kooky?
___

* Don't answer that!

Friday, August 9, 2013

The chart of the day:

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Karen Black, the actress...

...who appeared in Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson, died at age 74. (I just like having an excuse to watch this scene.)

Ms. Black, born Karen Blanche Ziegler in Park Ridge, dropped out of Maine East High School in Des Plaines. (She later passed the equivalency tests and attended Northwestern University.)


Maine Township High School was built in 1929 to replace the original school, which was founded in 1902. The architecture of the main entrance, above, was inspired by Powell Library at UCLA, below.

For a short time, in 1958–1959, before Maine West was built, Maine Township enrolled approximately 7,000 students. The school day was split in two parts so that half attended in the morning and half in the afternoon. Wow! (I wonder if they were a power in sports.)

Other famous individuals who attended Maine East were Hillary Clinton, Harrison Ford and folk singer Steve Goodman.

My old friend Jamie, who...

...is originally from Scotland, used to make fun of all the obscure events in which Americans won Olympic gold medals. "There's another sport," he'd chuckle, "that the Yanks invented just so they could be Number One in the World."

And sometimes I would nod my head in agreement. (I mean -- come on! -- women's beach volleyball? In bikinis, no less? Gee, I wonder who came up with that?)

So I thought of Jamie when I read about the Russian city of Saransk in the Times this morning. Apparently, the town is just crazy about race walking of all things, particularly women's. To give you an idea, here's a paragraph that I can guarantee you will never read in the United States:

Galina K. Vaskina, a waitress at the Big Ben sports bar, said that one night last winter, “A group of men were sitting here and drinking beer and they said, ‘Hey, can you put on female race walking?’ and so I did.”

But it was this last quote that really reminded me of Jamie:

“People criticize us by saying, ‘Well, yes, you win all the time, but that’s because nobody else in the world cares about this sport,’ ” said Mikhail M. Nikishin, a spokesman for the regional government. “And we say ‘Fine, but just try to catch these girls if you can.’ ” 

P. S. Check out that Russian woman in the video above. How can it be an Olympic sport if the gold medal winner isn't even out of breath?

A local high school football coach...

...was quoted in the Tribune this morning as saying that one of his receivers -- at 5'8", 150 pounds -- looked more like an accountant or a marathon runner in his "street clothes."

"Street clothes?"

And I wondered, is that term, like "street shoes," native to the Chicago area?

When I was growing up in the suburbs here, we used both terms to distinguish what you'd wear in a gym from what you'd where "out on the street." (Even though we lived in a leafy cul-de-sac.)

The "street"? Doesn't that conjure up images of Depression-era Chicago, you know, pool halls and that sort of thing? Can't you just picture some young tough with a name like Studs Lonigan smoking a cigarette in his "street clothes" outside a tavern in the city?

But a kid living in the suburbs today? Wearing "street clothes"? Has he ever been on a street? Or has he spent his entire life being chauffeured around in a car by his mom? (Has he ever even rode his Schwinn to Walgreen's to buy baseball cards?)

Before I moved to New Jersey in 1969 I not only said "gym shoes," but also "Cokes" for any carbonated beverage that was loaded with sugar and not good for you, and "blue jeans" for what you'd change into from the uniform you'd wear to Catholic grammar school.

But I soon found out that my new classmates (who were Mets fans!) said "sneakers," "soda," and "dungarees." (We won that last one.)

"Hey, get a load o' the new kid from Shee-KAH-go. He's wearin' gym shoes! Haw haw..."

Fortunately, I never used the terms "street shoes" or "street clothes" around those guys. And I never heard either one used outside of Chicago. In fact, I hadn't even thought of them since I read that article this morning. So, again, I wonder, are those terms only used around here?

P. S. I know what you're thinking: Doesn't this guy have a job to do?

Ezra Klein, writing in...

...Bloomberg today, provides a nice, short history of immigration from Mexico. And some of it may surprise you. For starters, according to Douglas Massey (above), a professor at Princeton, everything you think you know about immigration is probably wrong. For example (my emphasis):

According to Massey, the rise of America’s large undocumented population is a direct result of the militarization of the border. While undocumented workers once traveled back and forth from Mexico with relative ease, after the border was garrisoned, immigrants from Mexico crossed the border and stayed.

“Migrants quite rationally responded to the increased costs and risks by minimizing the number of times they crossed the border,” Massey wrote in his 2007 paper “Understanding America’s Immigration ‘Crisis.’” “But they achieved this goal not by remaining in Mexico and abandoning their intention to migrate to the U.S., but by hunkering down and staying once they had run the gauntlet at the border and made it to their final destination.”

The data support Massey’s thesis: In 1980, 46 percent of undocumented Mexican migrants returned to Mexico within 12 months. By 2007, that was down to 7 percent. As a result, the permanent undocumented population exploded.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Congressman Rodney Alexander, citing...

...gridlock, is retiring from the U. S. House of Representatives. (Who? Doesn't matter.) The Louisiana Republican, above right, said Tuesday:

“Rather than producing tangible solutions to better this nation, partisan posturing has created a legislative standstill. Unfortunately, I do not foresee this environment to change anytime soon. I have decided not to seek reelection, so that another may put forth ideas on how to break through the gridlock and bring about positive change for our country.”

Chris Cillizza, writing in his (excellent) blog on politics, notes that Alexander isn't the first member of Congress to cite frustration in announcing his decision to retire:

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss called it quits earlier this year, explaining: “I don’t see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon.”  When she stunned the political world by retiring in 2012, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe explained that “I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term.”

What Cillizza didn't say is that Rep. Alexander and Senators Chambliss and Snowe (and others) could have done is stay in Congress and choose not to be a part of the gridlock. They could have chosen to work with the other side on finding solutions to the nation's problems instead of following their leaders in blind obstruction. Rather than complaining or leaving, why don't these folks just stay and try fixing the dysfunctional system from the inside?

My good friend Tom...

...reminded me this morning that I haven't posted any excerpts from my childhood buddy's prison memoir, My Road Home, in a long time. (I went back and checked, and the last post was from almost exactly a year ago. I think I stopped because I thought -- erroneously, apparently -- that my friend was back in trouble.)

But with the news so slow lately, and with my current fascination with The Sopranos (I'm back to watching Season One now) and the new show Orange is the New Black (which is on my TV to-do list), it might be a good time to revisit My Road Home. Here's where I left off last August:

Wednesday July 11

This is the fourth straight day of 90 degree plus temperatures! Needless to say it's hot in here, which might explain the uptick of tension swirling around lately.

Around 8:30 this morning I witnessed my first fight in prison. What triggered it was so minor, but within these confines apparently that's all it takes. It was a simple matter of one inmate cutting in front of another when it was time for soap bars to be passed out. As soon as this guy cut in front, a cry rang out, "Hey man, what the fuck do you think you're doing." I knew trouble was not far behind. And wouldn't you know it, my lucky day, I found myself right smack in the middle of these two gigantic black inmates, with no escape. Call it a super-sized Oreo with just a tab of creme filling on the inside. Somehow I did manage to quickly sidestep the mayhem, because it didn't matter if you're involved or not, if the guards see you around this, you're guilty until proven innocent. Two quick punches were thrown, both of these dudes connecting, my guess is they've done this before. But before you knew what was happening, 3 Corrections Officers (CO's) were on the scene, breaking it up before anything further could spread. I bet this is just how riots start. Both guys were led away in cuffs, a trip to "the box" (a prison within a prison) was in their future.

One guy I've spoken to a few times since being here got the tap on the shoulder early this morning. Dean (serving 2-4 on a drug charge) is now on his way to one of the two processing centers run by NY State. He's off to Downstate CF, in Fishkill, NY. From what I understand this part of the journey lasts about 3 weeks. After that, you're bussed to your permanent "home." I keep waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder so I can get the hell out of here. Before Dean left he gave me his comb and nail-clipper. So for the first time in 19 days, since I was sentenced, I was able to run a comb through my hair. The mirrors in the bathrooms here are not real mirrors, but rather plastic ones, plastic reflecting glass. It's kind of like looking at yourself in one of those mirrors you find at the circus. Combing my hair and cutting my fingernails and toenails is the highlight of my day.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Is this the future...

...of the Washington Post? (Substitute the words "Jeff Bezos" for "Charlie Kane" and "The Washington Post" for "The New York Inquirer.")

Art Donovan, a Hall of Fame...

...defensive lineman (of whom I had never heard), died at age 89. His obit in the Times is so good and so filled with interesting tidbits that you'll just have to read it for yourself.

But I want to draw your attention to the picture that accompanied the piece, above. In case you have any doubts at all that professional football has changed dramatically over the course of its history, just check out those cheerleaders! (And I assume those are cheerleaders.)