Monday, September 30, 2013

If the Republicans shut down...

...the federal government and default on the nation's debt they may end up suffering consequences similar to the Democratic Party following the Civil War. It took almost a hundred years, until 1964, for a candidate from the Old Confederacy, Lyndon Johnson, to get elected president. (And he was the progressive in the race.)

So after all the dust settles in a few weeks, will the GOP forever remember this as the "Second Lost Cause"?

I was wrong about Mount Carmel...

...this weekend just as I was wrong about them all last year.

Is it because I have so much trouble rooting for teams that are dominant year in and year out? (I always breath a sigh of relief, for example, when the New York Yankees are eliminated.)

Or am I just not very good at evaluating teams? (I was also wrong about Wheaton Warrenville South; I thought they'd be undefeated going into this week's contest against Naperville Central. Oh, well.)

(For the record, one of my readers, Ed Crotty, picked the Caravan by two touchdowns. Not bad.)

This week will be the first time in 2013 that I won't see a new team play. In fact, I'll see four teams for the second time: Naperville Central at Wheaton Warrenville South on Friday and Mount Carmel at Loyola on Saturday.

(Everyone will be talking up Glenbard West (4-1) at Oak Park River Forest (5-0). Don't listen to them; my Friday game will be better.)

Here's how I would rank the 22 teams I've seen so far this year. (Each team's individual rank after its name is in the following order: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and MaxPreps. You can click on each of those links to see their entire rankings.)

1. Naperville Central (5-0); Trib No. 9, Sun-Times No. 5, MaxPreps No. 5.

The Redhawks notched their third shutout in a row, this time over Aurora West (1-4). It has now been 14 quarters since an opponent has scored a touchdown on them. But this week begins a four-game stretch that will determine whether or not Central is for real: at Wheaton Warrenville South (4-1), Glenbard North (4-1), at Wheaton North (4-1) and Naperville North (2-3).

2. Mount Carmel (5-0); Trib No. 1, Sun-Times No. 1, MaxPreps No. 1.

Last week I said, "If they can beat St. Rita on Friday I'll be a believer." I'm getting closer.

If Naperville Central should happen to lose on Friday night and the Caravan beats Loyola on Saturday, I'll have to make Carmel my No. 1 team just like everyone else.

3. Wheaton Warrenville South (4-1); Tribune No. 12, Sun-Times No. 21, MaxPreps No. 8.

The Tigers were upset by Naperville North on Friday. Was it a fluke? Was South looking ahead to this week's game against Naperville Central? Are the Huskies better than their record would indicate? Or is it just really, really hard to go undefeated in the DVC? Friday night's game against the Redhawks should tell us a lot.

4. Loyola (5-0); Trib No. 2, Sun-Times No. 2, MaxPreps No. 7.

Can the Ramblers knock off Mount Carmel at home this Saturday? You won't want to miss this classic Catholic League Blue showdown of these two undefeated teams.

5. Benet (5-0); Trib No. 6, Sun-Times No. 8, MaxPreps No. 6.

The Redwings rolled over Marian Catholic (2-3) on Friday and should improve to 6-0 this week against St. Viator (3-2). Then come matchups at Nazareth (3-2), at Marist (3-2) and home against Joliet Catholic (5-0). Brutal.

6. Lake Zurich (5-0); Trib No. 4, Sun-Times No. 3, MaxPreps No. 2.

The Bears defeated previously unbeaten Lake Forest (4-1) on Friday and host Antioch (2-3) this week. Will Lake Zurich be undefeated when they travel to Stevenson (3-2) in Week Nine?

7. Notre Dame (5-0); The Trib has the Dons "on the verge" of being ranked, MaxPreps No. 20.

The Niles squad beat St. Viator this week and now begin a challenging run at Nazareth, home against Marist and on the road at Joliet Catholic. Sound familiar?

8. Wheaton North (4-1); Trib No. 16, Sun-Times No. 14, MaxPreps No. 12.

The Falcons beat Lake Park (1-4) on Friday and face Glenbard East (2-3) this week. After traveling to Aurora West the following week North hosts Naperville Central and Glenbard North in the last two weeks of the regular season.

9. St. Rita (4-1); Trib No. 11, Sun-Times No. 16, MaxPreps No. 15.

Mount Carmel kept one of my favorite quarterbacks, Tommy Mister, out of the end zone on Friday night. Can the Mustangs get back on track this week at Providence (3-2)?

10. Marist (3-2); Trib "On the verge," MaxPreps No. 27.

The RedHawks fell to Joliet Catholic just like everyone else has this year. Marist should improve to 4-2 this week, however, as they host Carmel (1-4).

P. S. Whatever happened to the Corsairs anyway?

11. Providence (3-2); Sun-Times No. 22, MaxPreps No. 30.

The Celtics shut out Gordon Tech (2-3) on Friday but now have to host a St. Rita team that has a chip on its shoulder. If you're a fan of the Catholic League you have two excellent games to see this weekend.

12. Neuqua Valley (4-1) Trib "On the verge," Sun-Times No. 18, MaxPreps No. 23.

The Wildcats defeated East Aurora (0-5) and host Metea Valley (3-2) this week. Neuqua has to avoid looking ahead to its Week Seven showdown against archrival Waubonsie Valley (4-1).

13. Warren (4-1); MaxPreps No. 22.

The Blue Devils beat Libertyville (2-3) on Friday but host Stevenson (3-2) this week in what could be one of the best matchups of Week Six.

14. De La Salle (4-1); MaxPreps No. 110.

The Meteors beat St. Joseph (1-3) and travel to St. Laurence (3-2) this week. Will De La Salle be 5-1 when they host Loyola in Week Seven?

15. Niles West (5-0); MaxPreps No. 98.

Are the Wolves the most underrated team in the state of Illinois? West should continue its winning ways this weekend when they travel to Waukegan (2-3).

By the way, when was the last time a Niles West team began a season 6-0?

16. Phillips (3-2); MaxPreps No. 205.

My dark horse for 4A defeated Harlan (2-2) and has a good test this weekend when it hosts King (3-2).

17. St. Patrick (2-3); MaxPreps No. 64.

The Shamrocks edged Bloomington (3-2) but travel to Joliet Catholic this week. Yikes!

18. Crete-Monee (4-1); Trib No. 18, Sun-Times No. 23, MaxPreps No. 32.

The Warriors beat up on winless Rich East (0-5) and will be at Kankakee (3-2) this weekend.

19. Niles North (2-3); MaxPreps No. 320.

The Vikings kept their playoff hopes alive by defeating Maine West (1-4) and should get back to .500 against Maine East (2-3) this week.

20. Bartlett (1-4); MaxPreps No. 273.

The Hawks fell to Waubonsie Valley but face West Chicago (0-5) this weekend.

Smaller schools:

1. IC Catholic Prep (3-2); MaxPreps No. 128.

The Knights lost to Marian Central (3-1) and now have to play powerhouse Montini (5-0) on the road. Things won't get any easier the following week against Aurora Christian (5-0). Cover your eyes!

2. Aurora Central Catholic (3-2); MaxPreps No. 224.

The Chargers were upset by St. Edward (3-2) but should get back on track against Walther Lutheran (1-4) this week.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Where are they now?

Former Loyola Academy star wide receiver Charlie Dowdle is now playing for the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Tommies were runners up last year in Division III.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I'll be in New Jersey...

...this weekend for my niece's wedding. Blogging should resume on Monday.

Enjoy the games everyone!

Michael Cohen, writing about...

...Sen. Ted Cruz in the Guardian this morning, sums up "Obamacare Derangement Syndrome" (my emphasis):

According to Republicans, Obamacare represents a government takeover of the healthcare system (it's not); it was passed in violation of the will of the American people (it wasn't); it covers illegal immigrants (it doesn't, but it should); it will put government bureaucrats in charge of your healthcare decision (it won't); it is already causing widespread job losses (it's not) and will destroy the economy (it won't).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It never fails.

I received an e-mail from a friend yesterday:

Want to go to the Glenbrook South - Maine South game Friday night? It's at 7 pm in Park Ridge. The Titans are undefeated at 4-0! Maine South is 2-2, although their two losses were at the hands of ranked teams, Montini and Wheaton Warrenville South.

And here comes the kicker:

This could be the year!

And all I can say is, Phew! That was a close one. For a minute there I didn't think anyone would tell me that This could be the year!

You see, for as long as I can remember, every year could be the year Glenbrook South beats Maine South. But it never is. I think the last time was in 1999 but I'm not sure. All I know is that Maine South coach Dave Inserra, above, has never lost to GBS. He's been at the helm in Park Ridge since 2004 and the closest game was in 2008 when the home team Titans fell to the Hawks, 30-27.

So is this really the year? I doubt it. And I'll have more to say on the subject Monday.

Carolyn Cassady, the wife...

...of Neal Cassady, the inspiration for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's On the Road, died at age 90.

Ms. Cassady was the author of two books on the Beat Generation, Heart Beat: My Life With Jack and Neal (1976), which was made into a 1980 film, and Off the Road: My Years With Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg (1990), from which she is reading in the above picture.

When I mentioned on Monday...

...that if I were in town this weekend I'd be at the Hinsdale Central (3-1) - Glenbard West (3-1) game I had no idea the Red Devils were down to their third-string quarterback.

Apparently, Chase Hamilton, who started the season at QB, broke his right ankle in Week Three against York and his backup, Jacob White, injured his left ankle last week against Proviso West. (What's with these Hinsdale kids and their ankles?) So now Central is down to Ben Stefani, who didn't even attempt a pass after White left the game.

What's more, I can't find any mention of Michigan-bound tight end Ian Bunting, who was all over the news before the season. Is he injured too?

So you have Glenbard West, the defending 7A champ, ranked No. 8, 6 and 12 in the Trib, Sun-Times and MaxPreps, respectively, who hasn't lost a West Suburban Silver game since 2010, hosting a bruised and battered Hinsdale Central team that is only ranked No. 56 by MaxPreps.

I know what you're thinking right about now: So why in the world are you writing about it?

Well, to be honest, I've already done the research, I can't for the life of me find a better game on Saturday and, last, the weather forecast for Glen Ellyn is beautiful and you could do a lot worse than spend the afternoon out at charming Duchon Field, above. So don't sit inside on one of the last nice days of the year and watch some college game you don't even care about; come on out to the stadium. (And don't forget to buy a hot dog from that guy in the park just outside.)

Now for some color.

Here are the results of the Red Devils' first four games (home team in CAPS):

Bolingbrook 17, HINSDALE CENTRAL 6
HINSDALE CENTRAL 36, Addison Trail 14
Hinsdale Central 30, YORK 7
HINSDALE CENTRAL 31, Proviso West 0

And for the Hilltoppers, who entered the 2013 season with a 14-game winning streak:

WHEATON WARRENVILLE SOUTH 17, Glenbard West 14
GLENBARD WEST 68, Morton 7
Glenbard West 21, DOWNERS GROVE NORTH 0
Glenbard West 44, LYONS 7

And the results for the last nine years:

2012: Glenbard West 28, HINSDALE CENTRAL 23
2011: GLENBARD WEST 45, Hinsdale Central 14
2010: Glenbard West 28, HINSDALE CENTRAL 7
2009: GLENBARD WEST 28, Hinsdale Central 25
2008: Glenbard West 9, HINSDALE CENTRAL 0
2007: GLENBARD WEST 15, Hinsdale Central 13
2006: HINSDALE CENTRAL 26, Glenbard West 13
2005: Hinsdale Central 35, GLENBARD WEST 7
2004: HINSDALE CENTRAL 20, Glenbard West 13

As you can see, the "Hitters," as they also like to be called, haven't lost to Central since coach Chad Hetlet took over in 2007. (And where did he come from? Yep, Hinsdale Central.)

Do yourself a favor and go to the game.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

In my post on John Cheever...

...and high school football the other day I completely forgot to mention the United States Supreme Court.  

In 2010, when President Obama appointed Elena Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens it made history. The court, now consisting of six Catholics and three Jews, didn't have a Protestant justice for the first time in American history. What's more, five of the six Catholics were appointed by Republican presidents in order to -- let's face it -- either uphold the status quo or, preferably, roll back progressive gains. (What could be more WASPish than that?)

To give you some perspective on this, an article at the time from Reuters noted (all emphasis mine):

Through at least the middle of the 20th century, there was one so-called Jewish seat and one Catholic seat on the court. These appointments were considered extremely important to reflect religious diversity on the court.

But now, according to SCOTUS-watcher Nina Totenberg:

Six of the nine justices on the current court are Roman Catholic. That's half of the 12 Catholics who have ever served on the court. Only seven Jews have ever served, and two of them are there now. Depending on the Stevens replacement, there may be no Protestants left on the court at all in a majority Protestant nation where, for decades and generations, ALL of the justices were Protestant.

Finally, Stephen Prothero, a CNN Belief Blog contributor wrote:

Shortly after President Obama nominated Elena Kagan (who is Jewish) to replace Justice John Paul Stevens (who is Protestant) on the Supreme Court, I was quoted as saying that her nomination represented one giant step away from the not-so-good-old-days of Protestant parochialism. "I don't think this means Protestant America is over,” I told the AP, “but I do think it means the old way of thinking about Protestant America is over."

So where are all the mainline Protestants that ran this country for over two hundred years? Are they all extinct? Or have they morphed into Evangelicals, Catholics and the unchurched? And if they're gone, does that mean Catholicism is the new religion of the establishment?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Associated Press ranks...

Naperville Central running back Ben Andreas.
...Illinois football teams according to class. Here's how I would rank the teams I've seen:

8A

1. Naperville Central
2. Loyola
3. Marist
4. Notre Dame
5. Neuqua Valley
6. Warren
7. Niles West
8. Bartlett

7A

1. Wheaton Warrenville South
2. St. Rita
3. Benet
4. Mount Carmel
5. Lake Zurich
6. Wheaton North
7. Niles North

6A

1. Providence
2. De La Salle
3. St. Patrick
4. Crete-Monee

4A

1. Phillips

3A

1. IC Prep
2. Aurora Central

Republican Congressman Peter King...

...of New York doesn't like the Affordable Care Act. In fact, he really, really, really doesn't like it. From an article in the Times today:

Mr. King himself said he had voted against the Obama health care overhaul at every opportunity, then voted to repeal it, and thinks it’s a law that ought to be undone.
 
“But I also believe in democracy, and I don’t mean that in a Fourth of July way,” he said. “We’ve lost on the House floor, we lost on the Senate floor, the president signed the bill, the Supreme Court held it to be constitutional, and the 2012 election was run on Obamacare as much as any issue. President Obama won.
 
“I still think we should try to repeal the bill. But you repeal it the same way you passed it. You get bills through both houses of Congress, and you get the president to sign it. The only way we are going to do that is by electing more Republicans and winning the presidential election.”

The Game of the Week...

...will feature Mount Carmel (4-0) at St. Rita (4-0) on Friday night. (And I'll be in New Jersey for my niece's wedding.)

The home team Mustangs are undefeated, of course, and ranked No. 7 by the Tribune, No. 10 by the Sun-Times, No. 9 by MaxPreps, No. 6 in 7A by the AP and No. 3 by BOWG (who?).

By my count, St. Rita quarterback Tommy Mister has rushed for 11 touchdowns on the season and passed for an additional three, to Xavier Allen, Julian Crum and John Ladd. In addition, D. J. Miles and Tyre Lee have rushed for two each.

One caveat: Last week, against an overmatched Hales team, Mister was sacked four times. Is there a problem there, or were the Mustangs just looking ahead to this week's showdown?

Here's a rundown of St. Rita's first four games (home team in CAPS):

St. Rita 28, Marist 26
ST. RITA 42, Danville 7
ST. RITA 55, St. Laurence 14
St. Rita 42, HALES 14

Mount Carmel, the defending 8A champ, is ranked No. 1 in all the polls (except one). As I mentioned in an earlier post:

Carmel's Carmel, the team to beat, the New York Yankees of Illinois high school football.

So imagine my surprise when I saw Caravan coach Frank Lenti in the Loyola bleachers Saturday afternoon wearing a Yankees cap similar to the one above. Coincidence?

The longtime Mount Carmel coach is the winningest in Illinois history, with a career record of 330-59 and 10 championships in 15 state-final appearances. Wow!

As for the offense, by my count, quarterback Marko Boricich has rushed for four touchdowns and thrown for three, one each to Christian Searles, Rich O'Brien and Brendan Griffin. Searles has three more, including an interception return against St. Patrick in Week One. Matt Domer, the Illinois-bound senior, has six on the season and Jimmy Mickens has three.

Here's how the Caravan has fared so far:

Mount Carmel 40, St. Patrick 0
MOUNT CARMEL 49, Morgan Park 8
MOUNT CARMEL 42, Bishop McNamara 0
MOUNT CARMEL 28, Brother Rice 20

Who's going to win this one? I've been looking forward to it for three months now. My question is, can Mount Carmel's defense stop Tommy Mister, the best dual-threat quarterback I've seen this year?

Here's a history of the rivalry dating back to 2004:

2012: MOUNT CARMEL 27, St. Rita 0
2011: ST. RITA 17, Mount Carmel 7
2010: ST. RITA 35, Mount Carmel 14
2009: St. Rita 54, MOUNT CARMEL 18
2008: ST. RITA 35, Mount Carmel 21
2007: MOUNT CARMEL 35, St. Rita 19
2006: ST. RITA 7, Mount Carmel 6
2005: MOUNT CARMEL 21, St. Rita 20
2004: Mount Carmel 42, ST. RITA 35

Should be a heck of a game! I'll be recording it and following it live on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I thought of John Cheever, that...

...famous chronicler of mid-century American WASP culture, as I sat on the Benet side of the field Friday night and the Loyola side on Saturday afternoon. Why? I'll get to that in a minute.

But first, the games.

On Friday afternoon I drove down I-94 as far as it would go, turning into the Bishop Ford Freeway and then Illinois 394 South toward Danville. In the middle of a sea of corn fields I turned right onto East Exchange Street en route to Crete-Monee High School and the game against Benet Academy. I texted my friend Kevin: Where on earth is this place?

I had been looking forward to this game for several months. The two teams were both ranked and undefeated going into the contest. Crete-Monee, the defending 6A champs, had a 17-game winning streak on the line. And Benet, for its part, made it to the semifinals of 7A last year.

I was early, of course, in order to beat the traffic and stopped to pregame at a bar called Chuck's on the main drag in downtown Crete. ("Pregame," in case you don't know, is now often used as a verb.) I had a killer steak burrito and a non-alcoholic beer and found out from one of the patrons that a "new" Crete-Monee High School was constructed in 2007, just west of the old building, and that it was "silly nice."

(According to Wikipedia, the new structure cost $60 million. And it's not hard to believe; it's a beautiful building. What is hard to believe, though, is that the school district was able to raise that kind of money in the first place. But, after all, it was before the Great Recession.)

After my dinner I drove the short distance to the football field which was actually closer to the "old" building, now a middle school I think. There was a party going on in the parking lot; apparently it was Homecoming at Crete-Monee and a number of graduates had returned for the event. As I said, it was quite the wing-ding and it was announced later over the P. A. that fireworks would follow the game. Fireworks? Really? At a football game? Just go with it, I thought.

I got to the stadium in time to see the end of the sophomore game, which could have been taken as foreshadowing. Despite another Treadwell, in this case Juwuan, the Warriors of Crete-Monee got blanked, 26-0, by the visiting Redwings.

The varsity game was similar. With five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Benet placekicker John Duvic recorded the first of his five field goals for the night. From then on it was all Benet. You can read the accounts in the papers, but suffice it to say that the Redwings outplayed Crete in every aspect of the game. If not for a blocked punt midway through the third quarter which resulted in a Crete touchdown (which was answered, in turn, by a touchdown on the ensuing kick-off by Brad Sznajder of Benet), the game would have also ended in a shutout.

As I walked out I thought about the two teams I had just watched.

(They turned out the lights, by the way, just as soon as the clock ran down to 0:00. "Boy," I said to the woman next to me, "They must want us to leave!" "No," she laughed. "It's time for the fireworks." "Oh.")

While I don't expect to hear a whole lot more about Crete-Monee this season, Benet is a bit of a puzzle to me. Here's a team that came out of nowhere last year to reach the 7A semifinals against Lincoln-Way East. This year, after losing its star running back, Porter Ontko, in Week Two, the Redwings' offense might have been expected to struggle. But in the past two games, after Ontko was injured, Benet actually scored more points (67 vs. 62).

Are these guys for real? Hard to tell. On the one hand, Sznajder, as I mentioned yesterday, is the quickest running back I've seen this year and Duvic may be the best placekicker I have ever seen. But the offense only scored one touchdown against the Warriors. (Sznajder's kickoff return, a safety and Duvic's five field goals accounted for the rest of the scoring.) So can a team like Benet go deep in the playoffs relying on their kicker for 15 points or so a game? Or, if you have a kicker like Duvic who can score three points every time you get within, say, the 30-yard line, isn't that a huge advantage? I tend to think the latter. These guys could be truly dangerous in 7A this year.
___

On Saturday, The Loyola game pitted two of the best teams in the state, Providence and the home team Ramblers.

As I mentioned yesterday, my cousin's husband told me that the Celtics had some huge offensive linemen this year. And, boy, was he right! Also, the New Lenox squad has a solid defense (allowing only 28 points, the fewest Loyola has scored this year), a workhorse running back in Dominic Lagone and a bevy of talented receivers (if only they could get the ball to them).

The Ramblers, on the other hand, are a typical Loyola team: no stars, no Division I prospects at the skill positions, just a ton of kids who are well-coached by John Holecek. Loyola, the largest school in the Catholic League, is able through sheer numbers to reload each year. (I counted, in fact, at least 60 kids on the sophomore team and a guy in the stands told me they had three freshman teams.)

To illustrate Loyola's depth, star running back Julius Holley left the game in the middle of the third quarter with what appeared to be leg cramps. Tough break for the Ramblers, I thought. But then his replacement, another senior named Donnel Haley, came in and immediately rushed for two big gains. (Holley, Haley; who's next, Healey?)

That's not to say that the Ramblers aren't talented; they are. But, to give you an idea, I read that Loyola's quarterback, Jack Penn, is more interested in playing lacrosse in college than football. Can you think of another ranked team in the state of Illinois whose quarterback isn't dying to play at least Division III football?

The actual contest was one of the best I've seen this year with the score tied at 14 at the half. Loyola pulled away after intermission, however, and won, 28-16. It's hard to tell how truly good they are, but the showdown at home against Mount Carmel on October 5 should be a doozy (especially if both teams are undefeated going into the game).
___

Now, I know what you're thinking: So what about John Cheever? What does he have to do with all of this? Fair question.

Believe it or not, I don't go to high school football games just to watch the action on the field. (If I did, I would be more likely to follow college or pro football.) No, I approach it in a more holistic fashion, i. e., as the amateur sociologist, or anthropologist, or whatever, that I imagine myself to be. I take note of the kids, their parents, the rest of the fans, the school itself and the town in an effort to see what, if any, larger conclusions I can draw. And that's where Cheever comes in, at least this weekend.

When I go to a game I usually sit on the home side of the stadium; I like to be high up to see better. But on Friday night, due to Homecoming, the Crete side was a little too crowded for my (crabby old man) taste and so I staked out a spot on the top of the Benet bleachers at about the 50-yard line. Beautiful! The crowd filled in by game time, though, and there was very little room by the kickoff. Minutes before the National Anthem was played a couple about my age (actually, probably a little younger; everyone seems to be younger than me all of a sudden) came up and asked if there was room near me to sit. "Sure," I said. "Come on up."

The woman stuck out her hand and introduced herself. I reciprocated and then her husband and I looked at each other awkwardly as if to say, "Who introduces themselves to someone at a football game?" I broke the ice, though, and shook his hand in the hope that we could just move on.

But then the Third Degree began.

"So," the woman asked. "Do you have a son on the team?"

"No."

"The sophomore team?"

"No."

"Do you just have a kid at the school?"

"No."

Her husband, groping for the next suitable question, started in. "Do you live in Lisle?"

It was time for me to put an end to this. "No, I actually live in Glenview. I just like to watch high school football games."

He and the guy in front of me (who must have heard the whole uncomfortable exchange and turned around at that point) both got a look on their face as if I had said, "I'm actually an out-of-work high school chemistry teacher who is now cooking meth for a living."

We then turned, in silence, to the game.

But as I looked around at the rest of the Benet fans I noticed how well-mannered, well-dressed, well-groomed and ... well-turned out they all were. They looked like the prosperous executives of large respectable corporations in Oak Brook and the Loop who didn't smoke or drink too much or use bad language and expected all of their perfect children to go on to prestigious colleges after Benet and repeat the whole process.

And it reminded me of something I've been thinking about for a while now: are today's Catholics the new WASPs?

Take Loyola, for example. I've been going to games there since my brother was a freshman back in 1962. And for some time now, I've been thinking of it as the "Catholic New Trier." (Except that, unlike New Trier, Loyola costs almost $15,000 a year. And most people, according to my other cousin's husband who sat next to me, pay full fare. That's sixty grand before you even get to college -- for each kid!) And everyone in the stands looks rich: doctors (specialists, I'm sure), partners at downtown law firms or just To The Manner Born. The fans are well-dressed in a casual sort of way, like they just walked off the golf course or are headed to the grill at the club for dinner afterward. And the decals on the rear windshields of the cars in the parking lot all have the names of exotic-sounding East Coast schools that my Midwestern tongue has difficulty pronouncing: Amherst, Bowdoin, Dartmouth. (I once heard of a parent who said she didn't want her kid to go to a college with a direction in the name, like Northern Illinois or Western Michigan.)

Since the denizens of the North Shore of Long Island, Westchester County and Connecticut whom Cheever wrote so well about, who prepped at St. Grottlesex and then graduated from Yale or Harvard, went on to successful careers on Wall Street where they made their livings, as James Grant once said, "the old-fashioned way: by trading stocks on good, reliable inside information" are now largely extinct, have Catholics taken their place?

Think about it: when was the last time you met an Episcopalian? Or a Presbyterian? How about a Congregationalist? (Have you ever met a Congregationalist?) It seems to me that modern-day America is made up essentially of three main groups: Evangelicals, Catholics and Everybody Else, which includes blacks, Asians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, the secular, and -- oh, yeah -- the occasional member of one of those dying mainline Protestant denominations.

And of these three, aren't Catholics the new WASPs? Aren't they more likely to be clean-cut, clean-living, respectable Republicans who eat steak, drink cocktails and play golf (and watch football) on weekends? Don't their sons grow up wearing ties and their daughters plaid skirts? (I knew a guy once, not a Catholic, who learned how to tie a tie while walking onto the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade for his first day on the job.) And they send their kids to Catholic grade schools like the one in my town where the students all look like English boarding school kids. (Ironic, isn't it, since many of their Irish Catholic ancestors, like mine, were getting persecuted by those same English just a few generations ago?) Really, though, aren't places like Benet Academy and Loyola Academy (and St. Ignatius) Chicago's answer to St. Grottlesex?

Have Catholics been aping WASPs for so long now that they have actually become them? Wouldn't a modern-day John Cheever be writing about them?

I'm not one of those...

...who holds people like Bill O'Reilly responsible for the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller, the physician who performed late-term abortions. But I do wonder, sometimes, why he never (to my knowledge) went to the trouble to at least talk to Tiller and get his side of the story.

I just read an interview with Dr. Susan Robinson, one of the last four doctors in the United States who still provides third-trimester abortions. While I can't say that I agree with everything she says, she does impress me as a sincere and compassionate person. I think it's worth hearing her out:

Question: I read an interview with you recently where you talked about Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who cut off his hand in order to escape being trapped underneath a boulder. You said that women having third-trimester abortions need them the way that Aron needed to cut off his hand. Can you tell me more about that? What's the difference between how people perceive late abortions and what you see at your clinic?

Answer: I think that the public perceives first of all that late abortion could be completely eliminated if people would only get their act together and have their abortions earlier, which is completely untrue.

I also think that people assume that women do this casually—that they've known they were pregnant for thirty weeks and then were on their way down to the hair salon and they saw the abortion clinic and they decided to just walk in to avoid the inconveniences of motherhood. That also is completely untrue. No matter how available birth control and first-trimester and second-trimester abortion is, you are always going to have the need for later abortions. A woman would NEVER do this casually. The procedure lasts three or four days, and is fairly disagreeable.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Monday, September 23, 2013

In a letter to their Democratic...

...colleagues, Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Budget Committee, and Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, state (my emphasis):

President Obama has been clear that he is not going to negotiate over the debt limit, and Congressional Democrats stand behind him strongly.

Since 1960, the debt limit has been raised a total of 78 times, including 49 increases under Republican Presidents and 29 increases under Democratic Presidents. President Ronald Reagan said in 1983 that, "the full consequences of a default -- or even the serious prospect of default -- by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate."

Last week I had Wheaton Warrenville...

...South at the top of my rankings because I thought that any team that could beat Glenbard West, Maine South and Wheaton North in its first three outings deserved to be No. 1. This week I'm back to ranking Naperville Central No. 1 because they are the best team I've seen so far.

(Again, rather than post the rankings from each news service like I used to, I just put each team's individual rank after their name in the following order: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and MaxPreps. You can click on each of those links to see their entire rankings.)

I'll be out of town this week but if I were here I'd see Mount Carmel (4-0) at St.Rita (4-0) on Friday night and Hinsdale Central (3-1) at Glenbard West (3-1) on Saturday.

I've been to eleven games and seen 22 different teams so far. Here's how I would rank them:

1. Naperville Central (4-0); Trib No. 12, Sun-Times No. 14, MaxPreps No. 8.

The Redhawks, who shut out their last two opponents, have only allowed one touchdown in the last ten quarters. Couple that stingy defense with the potent offense led by quarterback Jake Kolbe (above) and I still say they could play with anyone in the state. Their next big test is against Wheaton South in Week Six. Both teams should be undefeated for that meeting; and I'll be there.

2. Wheaton Warrenville South (4-0); Tribune No. 6, Sun-Times No. 5, MaxPreps No. 4.

Assuming the Tigers get past Naperville North (1-3) this week, the winner of the game against Naperville Central should be my No. 1 team.

3. St. Rita (4-0); Trib No. 7, Sun-Times No. 10, MaxPreps No. 9.

I'm going to go out on a limb and rank the Mustangs No. 3. If they beat Mount Carmel this weekend as I expect then I'll look smart; otherwise I won't. But can Carmel stop dual-threat quarterback Tommy Mister? (He and Kolbe are the two best QBs I've seen this year.)

4. Loyola (4-0); Trib No. 2, Sun-Times No. 3, MaxPreps No. 7.

The Ramblers have beaten two high-quality opponents in O'Fallon (3-1) and Providence (2-2). If they defeat Brother Rice (1-3) this weekend, as they should, they will be undefeated when they host Mount Carmel on October 5.

5. Benet (4-0); Trib No. 9, Sun-Times No. 16, MaxPreps No. 5.

The Redwings impressed me on Friday night; they dominated Crete-Monee in every area. Why aren't these guys getting more press? Is it bias against the East Suburban Catholic Conference? Because running back Brad Sznajder is the quickest I've seen this year and John Duvic may very well be the best placekicker I've ever seen.

6. Mount Carmel (4-0); Trib No. 1, Sun-Times No. 1, MaxPreps No. 1.

I got myself into a lot of trouble underestimating the Caravan last year. But they struggled this week against a 1-3 Brother Rice team. If they can beat St. Rita on Friday I'll be a believer.

7. Lake Zurich (4-0); Trib No. 4, Sun-Times No. 2, MaxPreps No. 2.

The Bears notched another shutout this weekend, against Mundelein (1-3). This week will be a good test against undefeated Lake Forest (4-0).

8. Marist (3-1); Trib No. 16, Sun-Times No. 15, MaxPreps No. 16.

The RedHawks only beat St. Patrick (1-3) by eight points. This week they face Mike Ivlow and the Joliet Catholic (4-0) juggernaut. (That's scary just to write.)

9. Notre Dame (4-0); The Trib has the Dons "on the verge" of being ranked, MaxPreps No. 33.

The Niles squad has to get past St. Viator (3-1) this week before they begin their brutal run of Nazareth, Marist and Joliet Catholic.

10. Wheaton North (3-1); Trib No. 17, Sun-Times No. 11, MaxPreps No. 13.

The Falcons got back on track against Naperville North (1-3) and should improve to 4-1 against Lake Park (1-3) this week. Next big test will be against Naperville Central in Week Eight.

11. Providence (2-2); Trib No. , Sun-Times No. 22, MaxPreps No. 30.

My cousin's husband told me before the season that the Celtics had some huge linemen and he wasn't kidding. Also, running back Dominic Lagone is a beast -- 235 yards on 37 carries against Loyola! The New Lenox squad should improve to 3-2 this week against Gordon Tech (2-2).

12. Neuqua Valley (3-1) Sun-Times No. 24, MaxPreps No. 15.

The Wildcats handed St. Charles East (3-1) their first loss of the season. Next comes East Aurora (0-4).

13. Warren (3-1); MaxPreps No. 35.

The Blue Devils shut out winless Zion-Benton (0-4) on Friday. They'd better not look ahead to Stevenson when they host Libertyville (2-2) this week.

14. De La Salle (3-1); MaxPreps No. 101.

The Meteors beat St. Ignatius (1-3) and should do the same against St. Joseph (1-3).

15. Niles West (4-0); MaxPreps No. 127.

The Wolves remain undefeated, beating Glenbrook North (1-3). I'll say they improve to 5-0 this week against Evanston (2-2).

16. Phillips (2-2); MaxPreps No. 224.

The Wildcats beat Julian (2-2) and should defeat Harlan (2-2).

17. St. Patrick (1-3); MaxPreps No. 65.

The Shamrocks played well against Marist. Bloomington (3-1) should be another good test this week.

18. Crete-Monee (3-1); Trib No. 20, Sun-Times No. 25, MaxPreps No. 28.

I'm sorry, but the Warriors just couldn't do anything right against Benet. I hate to be snarky, but how on earth did they even get ranked in the first place? (Pssst: Laquon Treadwell and Jerry Verde are gone and they're not coming back.) Crete should get back on track this week against Rich East (0-4).

19. Niles North (1-3); MaxPreps No. 327.

The Vikings got beat by undefeated Glenbrook South (4-0) this weekend and now travel to Maine West (2-2) in a pick 'em game. (I'll pick the home team Warriors.)

20. Bartlett (1-3); MaxPreps No. 280.

The Hawks lost to Metea Valley (2-2) and now face Waubonsie Valley (3-1). If they lose this week they'll have to run the table to make the playoffs. (Not likely.)

Smaller schools:

1. IC Catholic Prep (3-1); MaxPreps No. 112.

The Knights beat St. Edward (2-2) and now face a good test in Marian Central (3-1) this week.

2. Aurora Central Catholic (3-1); MaxPreps No. 209.

The Chargers beat Chicago Christian (2-2) and should improve to 4-1 against St. Edward (2-2).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Your counterintuitive statistic...

...of the day is from a front-page article in the Times (my emphasis):

Americans now make up more than three-quarters of Mexico’s roughly one million documented foreigners, up from around two-thirds in 2000, leading to a historic milestone: more Americans have been added to the population of Mexico over the past few years than Mexicans have been added to the population of the United States, according to government data in both nations.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Confused about Obamacare?


Scared of the new health law? It seems like a lot of people are these days. In fact, I just read an article in the Weekly Standard that all but predicted the end of civilization as we know it on January 1:

It’s going to pick the pockets of the young, ration care for the elderly, tax employers, slash wages and benefits of employees, assault religious liberty, subsidize elective abortions with taxpayer money, and bust the budget.

Wow! Where on earth do people get this stuff? Don't they look at the rest of the developed world? How about Massachusetts? (Pssst! It works.)

On the other hand, Aaron Carroll of CNN has a piece that clarifies the law quite well. In a nutshell (my emphasis):

Most Americans already get health insurance from their jobs, Medicaid, Medicare or the Department of Veterans Affairs. The vast majority of those people will continue to do so.

But starting in 2014, people without health insurance will get insured in one of two ways. If they are very poor -- making less than 133% of the poverty line -- then they will get Medicaid through the expansion of the program. That is, if their state has opted to participate in the program. If their state has not, then they may continue to be uninsured.

The rest of the people without health insurance will go to the exchanges to get it. There, they can choose from plans with different levels of co-payments and deductibles, according to how much they want to spend. If they make less than 400% of the poverty line, they will get a tax credit or subsidy to help with the cost.

No one can be denied health insurance anymore, and no one can be charged more for being sick. All the plans are from private insurance, and they're going to compete for your business.

Everybody take a deep breath, will ya?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The chart of the day...

...is from Ezra Klein's blog in the Washington Post. I know it's hard to read, but that's the United States on the far left, which spends more on health care than any other developed nation. Way more.

To give you an example, the U. S. spends almost twice as much as France (eleventh from the left), a system which most experts would say delivers better outcomes than ours.

And that illustrates one of the most basic reasons for health care reform in America: we're spending way too much for the quality of care we receive.

Thomas Frank published a book...

...almost ten years ago, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, that described the rise of political conservatism in Kansas, which he said espoused economic policies that didn't benefit the majority of people in his state.

Yesterday the House of Representatives voted, largely along party lines, to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. The bill has little chance of success, however, as it advances to the Democratic-controlled Senate. From an article in the Times (all emphasis mine):

According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly four million people would be removed from the food stamp program under the House bill starting next year. The budget office said after that, about three million a year would be cut off from the program.
 
The budget office said that, left unchanged, the number of food stamp recipients would decline by about 14 million people — or 30 percent — over the next 10 years as the economy improves. A Census Bureau report released on Tuesday found that the program had kept about four million people above the poverty level and had prevented millions more from sinking further into poverty. The census data also showed nearly 47 million people living in poverty — close to the highest level in two decades.
 
Elsewhere in the Times, Timothy Egan writes:
 
Certainly there are frauds among the one in seven Americans getting help from the program formerly known as food stamps. But who are the others, the easy-to-ignore millions who will feel real pain with these cuts? As it turns out, most of them live in Red State, Real People America. Among the 254 counties where food stamp use doubled during the economic collapse, Mitt Romney won 213 of them, Bloomberg News reported. Half of Owsley County, Ky., is receiving federal food aid. Half.

You can’t get any more Team Red than Owsley County; it is 98 percent white, 81 percent Republican, per the 2012 presidential election. And that hardscrabble region has the distinction of being the poorest in the nation, with the lowest household income of any county in the United States, the Census Bureau found in 2010.

Since nearly half of Owsley’s residents also live below the poverty line, it would seem logical that the congressman who represents the area, Hal Rogers, a Republican, would be interested in, say, boosting income for poor working folks. But Rogers joined every single Republican in the House earlier this year in voting down a plan to raise the minimum wage over the next two years to $10.10 an hour.

Incidentally, Frank's book was published in Britain and Australia under a slightly different title, What's the Matter with America?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Good news! The Republican Party...

...Study Committee has finally -- after only three short years -- come up with a "replacement" health care plan. The bad news? It's probably not as good as the Affordable Care Act. From a post in The Incidental Economist (my emphasis):

The Affordable Care Act is intended to help people who don’t have insurance, especially those who are less than healthy, get it. The House proposal is intended to make insurance cheaper and easier to get if you are healthy.

We understand that putting together a health plan is challenging. Nothing good comes without limitations and costs. That’s true of the House plan as well as the ACA. But if you’re committed to coming up with a way to expanding coverage while preserving the private insurance market, at least the ACA follows an established model. It happens to be how Massachusetts did it. It’s how Switzerland did it. And it’s how the conservative Heritage Foundation suggested doing it in 1989.

The House is claiming it has a new way. But to us it only looks like a way back to the same problems that plague the system today.

By the way, here's a link to another good post from the IE: "Meme-busting: Selling insurance across state lines will lower costs."

The quote of the day...

...is from Norm Ornstein, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute (my emphasis):

“The bizarreness of this monomaniacal focus on Obamacare, given that it is fundamentally a Republican program from the 1990s mixed in with Romneycare,” says it all. “Obamacare relies on the private sector; there is no public option. That you are willing to bring the country to its knees to sabotage it … just shows that the GOP has gone off the rails.”

The weather forecast for Wilmette...

...this Saturday is 65 degrees and sunny. How can I not walk the two miles over to Loyola and see the Ramblers host Providence, arguably the best 2-1 team in the state? (By the way, Jerry G., I'll save you your usual seat!)

Providence was 8-3 last year and made it to the second round of the 7A playoffs where they ran into eventual runner-up Lincoln-Way East. While the Trib doesn't rank the Celtics, the Sun-Times has them at No. 21 and MaxPreps at No. 25. The AP has Providence at No. 5 in 6A. Here's how the New Lenox squad has fared this year:

JOLIET CATHOLIC 42, Providence 35
Providence 38, MINOOKA 17
PROVIDENCE 55, De La Salle 20

Loyola, one of the darlings of the news services (ranked No. 2 in the Trib, No. 3 in the Sun-Times and No. 1 in 8A by the AP), was 11-2 last year and fell in the semis to Justin Jackson and Glenbard North. The Ramblers are undefeated in 2013, of course, but ranked only No. 13 by MaxPreps. Who's right? (We'll find out.) Here are their results so far:

LOYOLA 31, Marquette (WI) 8
Loyola 44, O'FALLON 20
LOYOLA 42, St. Ignatius 0

If it wasn't for that victory over O'Fallon (who seem to go deep in the playoffs each year), I'd say "Meh." But Loyola is Loyola, and although they don't boast a ton of Division I prospects, they are still the biggest school in the Catholic League and able to reload each year.

Here's how the two teams have performed against each other over the last nine years:

2012: LOYOLA 41, Providence 21
2011: Loyola 32, PROVIDENCE 6
2010: Loyola 21, PROVIDENCE 7
2009: PROVIDENCE 10, Loyola 3
2008: LOYOLA 13, Providence 0
2007: PROVIDENCE 20, Loyola 17
2006: LOYOLA 14, Providence 7
2005: PROVIDENCE 31, Loyola 29
2004: PROVIDENCE 29, Loyola 0

What do I make of it? I don't know, but Providence is bringing junior Miles Boykin, a 6'4", 207-pound wide receiver who is being heavily recruited by several Big Ten schools. The Celtics impressed me with that big win over De La Salle last week. Can they upset the Ramblers on the road?

P. S. I'll be live tweeting both games this weekend, Benet at Crete-Monee and Providence at Loyola, @BoringOldWhtGuy.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I tend, like most people...

...I suppose, to see the universe in terms of black and white rather than in shades of gray. And, lately, I've been telling anyone who will listen that in the debate over Nature vs. Nurture, nature has the upper hand. In fact, I've recently come to the conclusion that an individual's destiny is governed almost solely by nature. See? Black and white. Simple. Problem solved. Next question.

But yesterday my son sent me a link to an article, "The Social Life of Genes," which has given me pause. It reports on some new findings by an entomologist at the University of Illinois named -- get this -- Gene Robinson. (I mean, come on, what are the odds?) According to Robinson's research:

Your DNA is not a blueprint. Day by day, week by week, your genes are in a conversation with your surroundings. Your neighbors, your family, your feelings of loneliness: They don’t just get under your skin, they get into the control rooms of your cells.

So perhaps the universe does come in shades of gray after all, and people are a combination of their genes and their environment. More from the piece (my emphasis):

Changes in gene expression can make you thin, fat, or strikingly different from your supposedly identical twin. When it comes down to it, really, genes don’t make you who you are. Gene expression does. And gene expression varies depending on the life you live.
___

Robinson, however, suspected that environment could spin the dials on “big sectors of genes, right across the genome”—and that an individual’s social environment might exert a particularly powerful effect. Who you hung out with and how they behaved, in short, could dramatically affect which of your genes spoke up and which stayed quiet—and thus change who you were.
___

This big something, this startlingly quick gene-expression response to the social world, is a phenomenon we are just beginning to understand. The recent explosion of interest in “epigenetics”—a term literally meaning “around the gene,” and referring to anything that changes a gene’s effect without changing the actual DNA sequence—has tended to focus on the long game of gene-environment interactions: how famine among expectant mothers in the Netherlands during World War II, for instance, affected gene expression and behavior in their children; or how mother rats, by licking and grooming their pups more or less assiduously, can alter the wrappings around their offspring’s DNA in ways that influence how anxious the pups will be for the rest of their lives. The idea that experience can echo in our genes across generations is certainly a powerful one. But to focus only on these narrow, long-reaching effects is to miss much of the action where epigenetic influence and gene activity is concerned. This fresh work by Robinson, Fernald, Clayton, and others—encompassing studies of multiple organisms, from bees and birds to monkeys and humans—suggests something more exciting: that our social lives can change our gene expression with a rapidity, breadth, and depth previously overlooked.

Another researcher, Steve Cole of UCLA, says this may weaken the argument for determinism.

“You can’t change your genes. But if we’re even half right about all this, you can change the way your genes behave—which is almost the same thing. By adjusting your environment you can adjust your gene activity. That’s what we’re doing as we move through life. We’re constantly trying to hunt down that sweet spot between too much challenge and too little.

“That’s a really important part of this: To an extent that immunologists and psychologists rarely appreciate, we are architects of our own experience.

“Two people may share the same environment but not the same experience. The experience is what you make of the environment. We might have much different experiences. And you can shape all this by how you frame things. You can shape both your environment and yourself by how you act. It’s really an opportunity.”

Whaddaya know? Maybe free will isn't an illusion after all.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

My two Games of the Week...

...will be Benet (3-0) at Crete-Monee (3-0), above, on Friday night and Providence (2-1) at Loyola (3-0) on Saturday afternoon.

Now, I know what you're thinking: But Benet's star running back Porter Ontko is out for the season due to an injury. And Crete-Monee not only graduated Player of the Year Laquon Treadwell but also saw head coach Jerry Verde depart for Marian Catholic.

But I still say this should be the best game of the night. The contest will feature a slew of Division I prospects, including junior Jack Beneventi at quarterback for Benet and heavily-recruited linebacker Nyles Morgan and defensive end Chris Slayton for Crete-Monee. Not only that, but the Warriors also have Kevon Love at wide receiver, Deon Benton at defensive back and three juniors who are attracting attention from college recruiters: safety Omari Stringer, wide receiver Carlos Baker and running back Rashard Harris.

Benet, last year's 7A runner-up, is ranked No. 10 in the Trib, No. 17 in the Sun-Times and No. 12 by MaxPreps. (The Associated Press, which ranks according to classes, has Benet receiving 8 votes but not quite cracking the top ten in 7A.) Here are the results of the Redwings 2013 season so far (home team in CAPS):

Benet 21, DOWNERS GROVE SOUTH 0
BENET 41, South Elgin 12
BENET 37, St. Patrick 13

Crete-Monee, for its part, was last year's 6A champ and is currently ranked No. 9 in the Trib, No. 13 in the Sun-Times and No. 8 by MaxPreps. In 6A, the AP gives Crete the top ranking. Here are the Warriors' results so far:

Crete 43, THORNTON FRACTIONAL SOUTH 6
CRETE 42, Evanston 15
CRETE 14, Simeon 12

The two programs, to my knowledge, have never met.

I've had this game on my calendar for some time now but got a little skittish when I found out that Ontko would be out for the season. Do I really want to drive all that way to see a Benet team that isn't at full strength? (I hate mismatches.) But when I saw that the Redwings still scored 37 points against St. Patrick last week (mighty Mount Carmel only scored 40) and the Warriors barely survived a winless Simeon team I thought: Maybe this will be a good game after all.

Who do I think will prevail? Crete-Monee may just have too much talent for the Redwings. I have to give the advantage to the home team on this one.

Tomorrow: Providence at Loyola.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The concession stand at Lake Zurich...

...High School wasn't exactly like the one in this scene from Seinfeld; the women working there were actually very nice. But there were a few ... similarities.

I arrived at the stadium -- The Home of the Bears! -- last Thursday afternoon and asked the guy taking tickets if there were any concessions (stupid question). "Yeah, do you see that white building down at the other end of the field?" He then practically winked at me. "Get the steak sandwich."

Now, as a rule of thumb, it's always a good practice to order what the locals recommend. And the steak sandwich at Mel Eide Field is no exception. Served on a toasted bun, if you like, and slathered with grilled onions (and cheese, if you want), it makes for an almost perfect pregame meal. But actually getting it, at least for me, was a little confusing.

I approached the first window with some hesitancy, like George Costanza, above. There were several actual windows open and a sign commanding, "FORM FIVE LINES." Since I was pretty much the first one there I closed my eyes and just walked forward until one of the ladies asked, "Can I help you?"

"Yeah, uh, steak sandwich please?"

"Sure thing, honey. Oh -- and go Cats!" (I was wearing a Northwestern cap.)

"Huh? Oh, yes, of course. And go Bears!" (It's another good practice to at least pretend to root for the home team.)

"What'd he say?" asked another lady. "He wants a beer? We don't sell beer."

"No, no, no," I said. "Uh, never mind. Just a bag of chips and water. Thank you."

The first woman then handed me a slip of paper with check marks next to "steak sandwich," "chips" and "water."

"You go to the next window to get your food."

"Oh, gotcha." I side-stepped my way over to the next window like George. The lady there handed me a bag of chips, a bottle of water and my steak sandwich wrapped in tin foil. But the sandwich felt a little light. I opened it up, like George opened his bag, and found there was just ... an empty bun!"

I must have looked up with an expression of tremendous disappointment because the lady looked back at me like my dog had just died. "You go down to the grill and hand the guys your bun and they'll give you the meat."

"Oh, got it. Thanks!"

I then side-stepped, again, a little farther, down to the guys manning the grill.

"You want me to toast that bun?"

"Uh, yeah, sure. Thanks."

"How about grilled onions?"

"Oh, yes, please!"

He didn't ask me if I wanted cheese, though, and I think that was an option. (I'll have to remember that next time.)

While waiting for the steak part of my steak sandwich (and it was a fairly long wait; who did this guy think he was, Charlie Trotter?) I reflected on the fact that the first two stations of this process were entirely "manned" by women while the last one was strictly men. And I thought about what a friend once told me: women cook inside and men cook outside. "That's just the way it is, Mike." And it's true: these guys would never trust a woman to work the grill part of this operation.

I finally got my steak sandwich with grilled onions (sans cheese) and took it over to the condiments table where I added some A 1 Sauce. I went over to a nearby picnic table and dined in the fading sunlight of a beautiful late summer's afternoon. It was delightful.

But soon it was time for the game!

Two phrases I kept running into at Lake Zurich were "WE ARE RELENTLESS!" and "BREACH THE WALL!" While the first is self-explanatory, the second was a bit of a puzzle for me. I had assumed it meant "Hold the Wall" or "Don't Allow Anyone Through This Wall" or something, but in Merriam-Webster.com it defines "breach" as "a hole or opening in something (such as a wall) made by breaking through it."

So I assume the Lake Zurich football players aren't protecting their wall so much as trying to break through the other team's wall. Make sense?

At any rate, the Bears proved relentless in their game against the visiting Blue Devils of Warren, allowing only seven points, en route to a 27-7 victory. Warren, which entered the game undefeated, scored its lone touchdown in the third period to break Lake Zurich's string of ten scoreless quarters this season. The  Bears defense is as good as you've heard and their offense isn't bad either. If you want to see them in action I'd recommend the Lake Forest (3-0) game at home on September 27. Should be a good test for both programs.

Friday night brought me out to Wheaton Warrenville South for the cross-town, intra-conference rivalry between the undefeated Tigers and the previously undefeated Falcons of Wheaton North.

Wheaton South, coming off their first losing season in forever, had already beaten Glenbard West and Maine South in Weeks One and Two. Could they extend their streak to three, over a North team that had defeated Cary-Grove and Geneva and featured Clayton Thorson at quarterback, possibly the best in the state?

Before I was to find out, I had to stop in at the bar at Arrowhead Golf Club on Butterfield Road, above, for a quick dinner of Korean pork soft-shelled tacos (with cole slaw). It was the only place to eat for miles around and -- good thing for me -- was absolutely delicious. (I may have to make a repeat performance when Naperville Central travels to play the Tigers on October 4.)

After the previous night's contest in Lake Zurich, where it was windy and chilly and rainy (and I was tired and the game was one-sided), it was a pleasure to watch a game at charming Red Grange Field. The place was packed, of course, the two guys I sat between were very friendly and the press box wasn't loud or obnoxious like most. The stadium was surrounded by trees, fans lined the field and smoke was in the air from the grills at the concession stand. It was the perfect setting for a game between two perennial DVC powers!

But once the game started it was all South. Quarterback Ryan Graham and running back Isaiah Campos led the attack for the Tigers, putting them up 17-0 after three quarters. Finally, after North's receivers dropped a ton of balls in their hands, Thorson engineered a drive to make the score 17-7 with 7:21 remaining in the game.

Oh, great! I thought. Here comes an onside kick.

But no. Despite needing two scores, North kicked it away and watched South proceed to eat up five minutes of the clock. When Thorson finally scampered in to make the score 17-13 time had completely run out. The refs didn't even allow for a point-after attempt. Game over; Wheaton South won. Strange, I thought.

The following afternoon was just about the perfect September day for a football game: low 70s and sunny. I headed out to Elmhurst and tiny IC Catholic Prep for the game against Aurora Central Catholic. But when I pulled up to the curb at 217 Cottage Hill Avenue, above, all I saw was this lone building. I drove around the block and suddenly realized, There's no football field here!

In a panic, I asked several people where on earth the gridiron was. (Once again, in case you don't believe me guys, sooner or later, you become your father.) A nice lady finally took pity on me and said, "They just built a new stadium; it's east of here."

"East of here," I repeated. "You mean, that way?" I pointed east.

"No, it's this way," she answered, pointing west. "I guess it's west of here."

Uh oh.

"It's near some train tracks."

Okay, I thought, that's a start. I quickly whipped out my new iPhone and showed her a map of Elmhurst. "Is that it?," I said, "Plunkett Park?"

"Yes! Plunkett Park! At least I think so..."

Aw Jeez, I thought. But time was running out; I had to make an executive decision -- Plunkett Park it is!

I found the stadium, finally, and walked up to the ticket booth. "One, please." The lady looked at me.

"Adult," I said. "I'm not a senior."

She looked relieved that she didn't have to ask me.

"What is a senior, anyway?" I asked.

"However you define it, I guess." I frowned, having missed an opportunity to save a few bucks. She sensed my disappointment. "It's for a good cause, though."

"You're right."

I proceeded in and a guy who looked like a coach abruptly stopped in mid-conversation, looked me right in the eye, smiled and said, "Welcome."

I quickly turned around to see who the devil he was talking to and realized it was ... me. "Oh ... thanks!" I replied.

You see, IC Prep is kind of like a small town. It has only about 320 students; so when a stranger like me (and they don't get any stranger) showed up, they must have recognized me right away as the first-time visitor that I was.

After the obligatory cheeseburger, chips and water purchase, I took my seat at about the 40-yard line. I counted about 40 kids suited up for IC and asked around if the school was divided up evenly between boys and girls. No one seemed to know for sure, but they all thought that was a fair assumption. If so, I thought, then 25 percent of the boys are on the football team. That's a lot!

The game was fun to watch, although the teams were small -- literally. The Knights of IC had only five players who weighed over 200 and only one that weighed over 250. Aurora Central had more players (I counted about 50) and at least 15 over 200 pounds. But they seemed a little smaller, a little slower, maybe not as talented as the two Wheaton schools the night before. (But, in fairness, not many teams are as good as the Tigers or the Falcons.)

It was a good game, but for the second day in a row, no one took my keen advice to attempt an onside kick with time running out.

Although Aurora Central drew first blood, IC led 21-7 with about 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Chargers cut the lead to 21-14, however, with 4:15 left in the game. "Onside kick?" I asked the three guys sitting to my right.

One of them looked up at me as if he had just smelled something foul. "No," they all shook their heads. Dumb ass, I imagined they were thinking.

But AC kicked it away and IC proceeded to march down the field, eating up about three minutes in the process (sound familiar?). Only a fumble in AC's end zone -- somehow -- stopped the drive and the Chargers took over on their own 20-yard line with less than a minute to go. It just wasn't enough time, though, and the game ended in a 21-14 IC victory.

As I walked out I lingered a little in front of the IC players as they celebrated their glorious triumph with a song or a chant or both (I couldn't tell). They looked like they had just won the state championship and I felt really glad for them. On my way to the car, which was parked on a side street, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling for IC and Elmhurst. The whole thing made me feel like I was an extra in an old Frank Capra movie.

I topped off the experience with a chocolate malt from Hamburger Heaven on York Street for the drive home in my convertible. I felt so good about IC that I decided to skip the snarky post I had been planning to write about the school's motto, The School for Independent Thinkers. (Since when do high schools have mottos?) It would have been from the perspective of a cranky Bill Maher-type fallen-away Catholic who is now an agnostic. But, for once in my life, I decided to forgo being a jerk. For now.

Next: My two games for Week Four.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Here's how I would rank...

... the eighteen teams I've seen through Week Three.

(Rather than post the rankings from each news service like I have in the past, I just put each team's individual rank after their name in the following order: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and MaxPreps. You can click on each of those links to see their entire rankings.)

This week I plan on seeing Benet (3-0) at Crete-Monee (3-0) on Friday night and Providence (2-1) at Loyola (3-0) on Saturday afternoon.

On to the BOWG rankings!

1. Wheaton Warrenville South (3-0); Tribune No. 6, Sun-Times No. 5, MaxPreps No. 4.

Are the Tigers really the best team in the state? I'm not sure. Could they beat Naperville Central or Mount Carmel? I don't know; South plays the Red Hawks in Week Six and could very well meet up with the Caravan in the 7A playoffs. But any team that can beat Glenbard West, Maine South and Wheaton North in its first three outings deserves to be ranked No. 1.

2. Naperville Central (3-0); Trib No. 13, Sun-Times No. 16, MaxPreps No. 5.

The team that I saw play Neuqua Valley in Week Two could have competed with anyone, including Mount Carmel. The Redhawks could be undefeated by the time they travel to Wheaton Warrenville South in Week Six. Put it on your calendar!

3. Mount Carmel (3-0); Trib No. 1, Sun-Times No. 1, MaxPreps No. 1.

The Caravan has outscored its three opponents, 131-8. Wow! But Carmel won't really be tested until Week Five at St. Rita. (And I'll be out of town. Can you believe it?)

4. Lake Zurich (3-0); Trib No. 4, Sun-Times No. 2, MaxPreps No. 3.

The Bears have surrendered only 7 points in twelve quarters. Their next big test will be Lake Forest (3-0) in Week Five.

5. St. Rita (3-0); Trib No. 7, Sun-Times No. 10, MaxPreps No. 14.

The Mustangs' showdown with Mount Carmel on September 27 could be the Game of the Year.

6. Marist (2-1); Trib No. 17, Sun-Times No. 15, MaxPreps No. 20.

The RedHawks had another big victory this week, over previously unbeaten Nazareth (2-1). Marist plays St. Patrick this Saturday and should be 3-1 in time for the showdown at Joliet Catholic (3-0) in Week Five.

7. Notre Dame (3-0); MaxPreps No. 36.

The Dons could be undefeated by the time they face Nazareth (2-1), Marist (2-1) and Joliet Catholic (3-0) back-to-back beginning in Week Six. (When did the East Suburban Catholic Conference get so tough?)

8. Wheaton North (2-1); Trib No. 18, Sun-Times No. 11, MaxPreps No. 17.

The Falcons disappointed me Friday night. Quarterback Clayton Thorson had to be frustrated too; his receivers dropped a lot of balls thrown in their hands. Did the Wheaton South defenders intimidate them? North will definitely have to play better this weekend if they expect to get past Naperville North (1-2).

9. Neuqua Valley (2-1) Sun-Times No. 25, MaxPreps No. 27.

The Wildcats shouldn't have had to struggle so much to beat winless South Elgin (0-3). If wide receiver Mikey Dudek ever came down with mono and had to miss a game like last year's placekicker (God forbid!) Neuqua would be in big trouble. This week brings undefeated St. Charles East (3-0). The Cats will have to be at the top of their game.

10. Warren (2-1); MaxPreps No. 41.

The Blue Devils should get back on track this week when they host winless Zion-Benton (0-3).

11. De La Salle (2-1); MaxPreps No. 120.

I really like this team, but the Meteors lost their first game to Providence (2-1) decisively. Next week against St. Ignatius (1-2) should be better. But my real question is: Can Providence upset Loyola this week?

12. Niles West (3-0); MaxPreps No. 174.

The Wolves could be undefeated by Week Seven when they host Maine South (1-2).

13. Phillips (1-2); MaxPreps No. 234.

Here's another team I really like. The Wildcats shut out Orr (0-3) for their first victory of the season Friday night. Phillips should get up to .500 this week against Julian (1-2).

14. St. Patrick (1-2); MaxPreps No. 60.

The Shamrocks fell to undefeated Benet (3-0) this Friday and face Marist next week. There just aren't many easy games in the ESCC.

15. Niles North (1-2); MaxPreps No. 335.

The Vikings were shut out by New Trier (1-2) this week and face undefeated Glenbrook South (3-0) this Saturday. That could bring their record to 1-3.

16. Bartlett (1-2); MaxPreps No. 203.

The Hawks notched their first victory against East Aurora (0-3) and could improve to 2-2 against Metea Valley (1-2) this week. Look for these guys to improve and climb in the rankings as the season progresses.
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I also saw a couple of smaller schools play on Saturday and had originally planned on including them in my rankings. But while I was impressed with both teams, I now think it would be a little like ranking teams from Divisions I and II together: just not an apples-to-apples comparison. But they were fun to watch!

1. IC Catholic Prep (2-1); MaxPreps No. 141.

The Knights defeated Aurora Central on Saturday and face St. Edward (2-1) this week.

2. Aurora Central Catholic (2-1); MaxPreps No. 240.

The Chargers should get back on track this week against Chicago Christian (1-2).