Saturday, November 30, 2013

When the time came for my son... join Boy Scouts, he had his choice of three troops in our town. The first one we visited was small, but close-knit; the second was medium-sized but friendly; and the third was large but offered the most programs. So which one did he select? Just as I had told him ahead of time, the last one he visited. Why? I guess it's just human nature.

And that's how I feel about tonight's 8A matchup. In Week Two I wrote:

...Naperville Central seemed to have it all on Friday night: a potent offense that could both run and pass and a defense that, once settled in, pretty much shut down Neuqua in the second half. The Redhawks are as good as any team I've seen this year, including Mount Carmel. I'd be very surprised if they didn't go deep into the playoffs.

And then after Week Five I wrote:

I still maintain that [Naperville] Central could play with anyone I've seen so far this year. (Will they meet up with Loyola in the 8A final?)

But last week I wrote:

It was my 26th game of the year and the third time I'd seen Loyola (fourth if you count watching them on TV against St. Rita). And even though I saw the Ramblers beat Providence and Mount Carmel, I gained a newfound respect for them this weekend. Not only did they gamble and win the game in the final minute, but the Wilmette squad also held Stevenson on a goal-line stand in the third quarter and converted on a fake punt from the end zone on the ensuing possession. These guys have a lot of guts!

And so, just like my son, I'm going to go with the last team I saw. I'm picking No. 1 Loyola (12-1) over No. 7 Naperville Central (10-3) in the 8A finale tonight.

Now, the truth is, the game is probably a toss-up. Turns out the semifinals last week were as well. But I have to pick somebody, and I'm going to stick with my theme for the week: teams I saw last that came from behind to win. That's what Montini, Richards, Mount Carmel and Loyola all have in common. To me that demonstrates a lot of character.

Now, I know what you're thinking Redhawk fans: But Central came from behind against Marist last week, too!

I know. But I didn't see them do it. Is that fair? Of course not. But in a contest that's essentially a push, I have to call it one way or the other. Ramblers by a point.

Now let's get the show on the road, shall we?

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Unfortunate Name...

...of the Day belongs to Pitt placekicker Chris Blewitt.

Hat tip: Bill Andrew.

This is how the 2012 election... would have looked if only white men had voted.

Ever wonder what Thanksgiving... like in prison? From My Road Home:

Thursday No 22nd

Happy Thanksgiving! I've already (probably too often) touched on the somber mood that prevails on a day like this, it sucks, there is no other way around it. I was one of the lucky ones who had a visit this morning. As I mentioned, Eileen drove up to see me. What a treat it was and how thoughtful of her to do so. She was here for about three hours. I headed back to the dorm to help the guys prepare our meal. Country, who organized it, had each of us (the six white guys) get about $5.00 worth of food from the commissary. We pooled it together, and at  4:00 p.m. (right after the count) sat down for our Thanksgiving dinner. The setting was one I never, ever imagined myself in, but I must admit, it was touching in its own unique way. Six men from all walks of life, running the spectrum of time served, from Dino's 13th year to my 5th month. Here we all were, brought together by various circumstances, connected for at least this moment, as a family.

Your Class 4A...

...Name of the Day belongs to Geneseo running back Rayce Singbush.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Before we get to 8A, let's...

...have a look at today's games in Classes 1A through 4A.*

Beginning with 1A, I'm going to pick No. 6 Lena-Winslow (10-3) over No. 1 Tri-Valley (13-0). Why? Because the Panthers beat Leo last week, 45-22.

In 2A, I'll say No. 8 Staunton (9-4) tops No. 5 Newman Central Catholic (12-1). Why? Because the Bulldogs, after finishing 2012 at 4-5, entered the postseason this year at only 5-4. How can you not root for such a Cinderella team? 

In 3A it will be No. 5 Stillman Valley (11-2) over No. 3 St. Joseph-Ogden (11-2). Why? Two reasons. First of all, the Cardinals knocked off Aurora Christian, last year's 3A champ, in the semifinals. And, second, there's this (home team in CAPS):

2009: STILLMAN VALLEY 42, St. Joseph-Ogden 27
2008: Stillman Valley 44, ST. JOSEPH-OGDEN 25

And, yes, both Mike Lalor of Stillman Valley and Dick Duval of the Spartans were at the helm back then.
Finally, there's 4A. And I'm going to go with No. 4 Geneseo (12-1) over No. 2 Rochester (12-1). Why? Because the Maple Leafs crushed Phillips who had beaten previously undefeated Evergreen Park the week before. And that's good enough for me. (Although you do have to worry about those pass-happy Rockets.)

Now, what do all my picks have in common? They are all the lower seeds. And hence my fiendish plot to salvage my bracket score. Will it work? Probably not. Enjoy the games!

Bonus: St. Rita (11-2) over Simeon (9-4) in the Prep Bowl. If Marist had beaten Naperville Central last week, the Mustangs would have been the only team in the state to have defeated both 8A finalists.

* What's with the "A" anyway? Is that really necessary? Couldn't we just label the classes 1, 2, 3, etc.?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving everyone...

...and thanks for reading this blog. After writing it for over five years now, I'm on track to have a record 10,000 pageviews this month. I'm also on track to receive my third $100 check from Google any day now. (Translation: It's a hobby.)

I began writing in the fall of 2008 in part to keep my out-of-town brothers informed on Illinois high school football. Things really accelerated, however, after my son was hospitalized for five weeks in the summer of 2011 at Rush University Medical Center. I think in an effort to escape the pain, I manically began driving all over the Chicago area, watching high school football games and coming home to write about them. I hope you've enjoyed reading about your kids and their teams. (And I hope you also know that I've always tried to be objective and write with kindness.)

I expect a big drop-off in readers after the football season ends this weekend. I have no illusions about this blog; most people could give a rip about obscure New York Times obituaries, quirky license plates or what I think about health care reform.

But before you stop reading, I'm going to ask you to consider making a gift to the Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation. It's a 501c3 that my wife and I set up to improve the quality of life for young adults with autism, like my son. One of our main initiatives is Project 1212, named after the first residence we plan on opening next spring. If you've enjoyed reading about your school's football team, how about saying thanks with a gift in one of the following amounts:


Or, what the heck, it doesn't hurt to ask:


Seriously, though, if I am going to continue driving all over the Chicago area every Friday and Saturday between the last weekend of August and the last weekend of November and coming home to write about it, I'll have to justify it to my wife of 27 years. (Just because she married me doesn't mean she has infinite patience.) So you can make this all possible by visiting our website right now and donating twelve bucks. (That's the price of two tickets to the semifinals.) We'd really appreciate it.

Now get back to your family and enjoy Thanksgiving!

Mount Carmel is ranked No. 1... both Chicago newspapers and MaxPreps. And I think that's a little odd; didn't Loyola beat them? (Yeah they did; I was there.) Shouldn't the Ramblers be No. 1? Lake Zurich, meanwhile, is ranked No. 4 in the Chicago papers and No. 7 by MaxPreps. And yet the Bears are a No. 1 seed and the Caravan No. 2.

Whatever. I'm picking Mt. Carmel (12-1) to beat Lake Zurich (12-1) on Saturday.

While I can't find any previous meeting between the two programs, I did watch the Bears beat Warren in Week Three, and I also saw the Caravan three times this year, against St. Patrick, Loyola and St. Rita. (I missed the first game in Week Five but caught the rematch in the second round of the playoffs.) And, as I said after that contest with the Mustangs, nobody's going to beat Mount Carmel in 7A this year -- nobody.

(Although it's fortuitous that Mount Carmel played in 8A when 7A was arguably stronger and in 7A this year when 8A may be better. How would the Caravan do against Naperville Central or in a rematch with Loyola? Probably about as well as they would have done against Glenbard West last year.)

But as I also said in an earlier post, Carmel's Carmel, the team to beat, the New York Yankees of Illinois high school football. And it's been that way for about a hundred years. (That's the 1934 team in the picture above.)

I expect the Bears will give them a really good game (who woulda thunk Downers Grove North would only lose to the Caravan, 7-0?), but I think Carmel wins this one by a field goal.

Next: 8A.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Are the owners of Hobby Lobby...

...being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs? Or is there a little more to the story than meets the eye? From a piece in the Guardian (my emphasis):

Notably, the Hobby Lobby used to have an employee insurance plan that covered the very same birth control methods it now claims violate its religious freedom. It wasn't until the GOP raised a stink about the contraception rules in Obama's healthcare legislation that the Hobby Lobby "re-examined" its insurance policies. Is the religious belief sincerely held? Probably. But it's as much political and cynical as it is faith-based.

Apparently, James Bond...

...shops at my Dominick's.

I went to my first...

...high school basketball game of the year last night, Glenbrook South (in blue) vs. St. Ignatius at New Trier. The Wolfpack defeated the Titans, 65-54, after trailing by one at the half. Ignatius junior Riley Doody was the high-scorer with 28 points. Conor McCarthy, the big man for GBS, did not suit up for the game. (He sat on the bench, instead, in a pair of madras-plaid pants. Very preppy.)

P. S. You know what's great about basketball? It's always 72 and sunny.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The Bulldogs will take the 6A...

...championship this weekend; of that much we can be sure. But which Bulldogs? No. 1 Richards (12-1) or No. 2 Batavia (12-1)?

As far as I can tell, the two schools never played each other until they met in Week Two of this year. Richards bested Batavia on the road, 31-26, and the two teams will square off again on Saturday.

Even though I wrote about both programs before the season (here and here), I was only able to see Richards play, in the quarterfinals against Lincoln-Way North.

I drove out to see Batavia in Week One against Glenbard North but the game was postponed due to lightning. The following day I went down to Soldier Field for a triple-header, so I didn't get to watch the Bulldogs play all season. (I considered going out there again in Week Two but went to Neuqua Valley at Naperville Central instead.) If I had seen that first meeting between the two I'd probably have a better feel for who's going to win Saturday. (Or not.) But, really, who cares? Two teams with one loss each, a No. 1 seed against a No. 2 seed -- it's a push.

But I have to go with Richards, and not just because they've already beaten Batavia this year. It's for the same reason I picked Montini yesterday: I saw these guys come from behind late in the fourth quarter against Lincoln-Way North, tie the game, and win it in overtime. That really impressed me.

Could Batavia do that? Of course. For all I know, they may have been trailing Glenbard North at some point in that victory in Week One. But I didn't see it.

So I'm calling for Richards over Batavia in a defensive battle.

P. S. How can you not root for a team with a kid named Andrew Venerable.*

Tomorrow: 7A.

* Accorded a great deal of respect, esp. because of age, wisdom, or character.
Andrew Venerable
Andrew Venerable
Andrew Venerable
Andrew Venerable
Andrew Venerable

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More from "My Road Home."

Sunday July 22nd

My writing is sporadic, I know that. It all hinges on the ability to score a few pieces of paper, not to mention a pen or pencil. These items are precious here.

The past few days have been mostly quiet, the only highlight being a visit from my parents and brother Jack. I had not seen Mom & Dad since the night before I was sentenced and went into their room to say goodbye, not knowing if I would ever see them again when I wasn't behind bars. As much as a strain as I have endured, they have been with me on this journey in equal fashion, suffering on the inside at the thought of their son locked away. But I am happy to report they both looked amazing. Their strength is my strength. It's how I will survive this nightmare.

What a sight it was, the three of them entering the visitors room. My father wearing his ever present blue blazer (he opted to forgo the tie), Mom sporting a needlepoint belt and shoes, and Jack, who is just always dressed as if he was stepping onto 5th Ave. I think it's safe to say the Downstate CF visitors room doesn't see this sort of attire all too often. In fact one of the guards who spotted them going through the processing line even had to ask, "Uhm, excuse me folks, are you sure you're in the right place?"

Uh oh. What if Obamacare...

...actually works? Then what will Republicans do?

From Ezra Klein's blog this morning (my emphasis):

A spin through HealthCare.Gov this morning went smoothly. The site loaded quickly. The process progressed easily. There were no error messages or endless hangs. I didn't complete the final step of purchasing insurance but, until then, the site worked -- or at least appeared to work -- exactly as intended.

My experience isn't rare. There are increasing reports that HealthCare.Gov is working better -- perhaps much better -- for consumers than it was a few short weeks ago. "Consumer advocates say it is becoming easier for people to sign up for coverage," report Sandhya Somashekhar and Amy Goldstein in the Washington Post. "The truth is, the system is getting stronger as it recovers from its disastrous launch," writes Sam Baker in the National Journal. Applying "was no problem at all, with no delays," says Paul Krugman.

Reports from inside the health care bureaucracy are also turning towards optimism. People who knew the Web site was going to be a mess on Oct. 1st are, for the first time, beginning to think HealthCare.Gov might work. Data backs them up: By mid-November, the pace of enrollment in the federal exchanges had doubled from what it was in October.

So, if the Affordable Care Act ends up working (like it already is in California, Kentucky and Connecticut), what will the GOP be saying before next fall's midterms? According to Martin Longman

This makes me think that the Republicans are truly on another one of their Moby Dick adventures, like Whitewater, like the White House Travel Office, like Vince Foster, like l’affaire Lewinsky, like Saddam’s WMD, like Fast and Furious, like Solyndra, like the New Black Panther Party, like Benghazi, and like the most recent government shutdown.

How much do you want to bet they won't be talking about the Affordable Care Act?

To those who would say...

...that the United States should never, ever negotiate with -- or even talk to -- Iran I would just ask, How well has that strategy worked with Cuba? Fidel Castro, above, has outlasted ten American presidents.

Since both teams in the 5A...

...finals are undefeated and No. 1 seeds, I'll assume neither one is favored. If this were Las Vegas the game would be a Pick 'Em. So I'll pick Montini (13-0) over Sacred Heart-Griffin (13-0).

Although the two schools haven't played each other in a few years, their recent history is pretty even. If anything, you could make an argument that the Cyclones are the favorite. Here's the record of the teams' head-to-head matchups since 2004 (home team in CAPS):

2009: Sacred Heart-Griffin 28, MONTINI 14
2008: Montini 34, SACRED HEART-GRIFFIN 31
2007: MONTINI 34, Sacred Heart-Griffin 24
2006: SACRED HEART-GRIFFIN 32, Montini 25
2005: Sacred Heart-Griffin 40, MONTINI 15
2004: SACRED HEART-GRIFFIN 47, Montini 3

Both coaches, Ken Leonard of Sacred Heart-Griffin and Chris Andriano of Montini, have been at the helm since at least 2004.

So why am I picking Montini, especially since I know so little about the Cyclones? Because in the one game I saw the Broncos play this year, against Joliet Catholic, Montini came from behind to score, went for two points and won the game. And I just came away incredibly impressed. Here's one of my tweets from that day:

JCA takes over on downs at own 27 with 7:14 left in game. Still leading Montini, 21-14.

What I didn't say was, This baby's over. But that's what I thought. The Hilltoppers had just stopped a long Montini drive late in the fourth quarter and now it was only a matter of giving the ball to Mike Ivlow and running down the clock. JCA, I thought, was headed to DeKalb.

But Coach Andriano and the Lombard squad had other thoughts. And here was my next tweet:

Montini scores on a tipped pass! Broncos up 22-21. 4:11 remaining in game.

And that's where it ended. So Montini, not JCA, is going to the finals.

Now, has Sacred Heart-Griffin ever done that? Probably. But I've never seen them do it. And the team I did see on that rainy November afternoon just seems to find ways to win. Year in and year out.

And that's why I'm calling for a 5-peat.

Monday, November 25, 2013

This guy must have...

...been happy after Saturday's game.

Is Kshama Sawant...

...the first officeholder to emerge from the Occupy Wall Street movement? According to a piece in Al Jazeera America (yes, Al Jazeera):

Kshama Sawant, Seattle's new socialist City Council member, bears little resemblance to the conventional image of a modern U.S. politician whose appearance and policies are often burnished by legions of advisers and focus groups.

A small, whip-smart Indian-American woman in faded jeans with a makeup-free face, she holds a Ph.D. in economics and was an early participant in the Occupy protest movement.
Sawant is not shy about her left-wing party affiliation — despite America's modern habit of reacting with extreme hostility to the word "socialism," which is freely demonized on the right and treated with extreme caution even in progressive circles.

Is Ms. Sawant just an outlier, like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, or a harbinger?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Here's something you don't...

...need: a hand massager from Sharper Image.

Relieve tense nerves, relax overworked muscles and boost circulation in your hands with gentle warming heat, air pressure and gentle compression. Our extraordinary Hand Massager provides a unique sensation unlike anything you’ve tried before. Simply insert your hand, select your heat, massage and timer settings… and relax. Accommodates small to medium hands. Plugs into an AC outlet.

Price: $129.99. 

Really? A hand massager? Who is that for?

Looks like I saved the best game...

...for last. (Although I can't remember being so uncomfortable.)

I knew it would be cold this weekend but didn't count on the wind. And even though the temperature got up into the mid-20s on Saturday afternoon, I'm sure with the wind chill factor it was in the teens or even lower. At least it felt that way to me. (At one point I even considered leaving; can you imagine?) But ... it was worth it. The Loyola - Stevenson game was probably the best one I saw all year. (And that includes two overtime games.)

In case you don't have the Internet (and I don't know how you would be reading this otherwise), the Ramblers came back and scored with about a minute remaining in the game. Rather than tie it at 14, Loyola coach John Holecek elected to go for two. Quarterback Jack Penn then found Joe Joyce in the end zone to win the game, 15-14.

It was my 26th game of the year and the third time I'd seen Loyola (fourth if you count watching them on TV against St. Rita). And even though I saw the Ramblers beat Providence and Mount Carmel, I gained a newfound respect for them this weekend. Not only did they gamble and win the game in the final minute, but the Wilmette squad also held Stevenson on a goal-line stand in the third quarter and converted on a fake punt from the end zone on the ensuing possession. These guys have a lot of guts!

And that's not to take anything away from Stevenson, either. Here's a team that lost its first two games of the season before winning ten in a row. And in the two times I saw the Patriots this year, they came from behind against two of the best teams in the state, Glenbard North and now Loyola.

Both teams showed a lot of heart.

Which is more than I can say for myself. After sitting out in the bleachers in Lincolnshire for three hours (I arrived at noon), I just couldn't bring myself to drive out to Naperville Central for the nightcap with Marist. The forecast for game time was something like 19 degrees and with the wind chill, well, let's just say it must have been brutal. I ended up following @ejcrotty on Twitter instead. (It was a good move.)

So how did my predictions for the weekend work out? -1, which brings me to -7 for the entire postseason. Is that good or bad? I don't know, but I have a secret plan for vaulting into positive territory this week.

Here are my results for the semifinals:


Stevenson over Loyola -1
Naperville Central over Marist 0


Glenbard West over Lake Zurich -1
Mount Carmel over Edwardsville +1


Batavia over Rockford Boylan +1
Richards over East St. Louis 0


Montini over Sycamore 0
Washington over Sacred Heart-Griffin -1

Tomorrow: A look at the 5A championship.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I guess this guy...

...would rather be skiing.

Wisconsin beat Minnesota...

...yesterday, 20-7, to retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the 10th consecutive year. It had to be a disappointment for Golden Gopher fans as the team had won four straight in Big Ten play, its longest conference winning streak since 1973. (I'm sure my brother is moping around his house right now.)

But take heart, Minnesotans, you may be beating Wisconsin in the things that really matter. According to a piece in the Times by Lawrence Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota (my emphasis):

Three years into Gov. Scott Walker’s term, Wisconsin lags behind Minnesota in job creation and economic growth. As a candidate, Mr. Walker promised to produce 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term, but a year before the next election that number is less than 90,000. Wisconsin ranks 34th for job growth. Mr. Walker’s defenders blame the higher spending and taxes of his Democratic predecessor for these disappointments, but according to Forbes’s annual list of best states for business, Wisconsin continues to rank in the bottom half.

Along with California, Minnesota is the fifth fastest growing state economy, with private-sector job growth exceeding pre-recession levels. Forbes rates Minnesota as the eighth best state for business. Republicans deserve some of the credit, particularly for their commitment to education reform. They also argue that Minnesota’s new growth stems from the low taxes and reduced spending under Gov. Mark Dayton’s Republican predecessor, Tim Pawlenty. But Minnesota’s job growth was subpar during Mr. Pawlenty’s eight-year tenure and recovered only under Mr. Dayton.

While it would be really nice to win back that axe some day, it may be even nicer knowing that you live in the more prosperous state.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Columbia University concludes...

...its 2013 football season today against Brown. According to a piece in the Times today:

In the past 50 years, the Lions have had only three winning seasons.

Now that high school football... almost over, let's turn our attention to the 2016 race for the White House (seriously). The best article I've read on the subject lately was by a Republican named Myra Adams. And the most important thing to remember from her piece is this (my emphasis):

Democrats start with 246 electoral votes.

That's really all you need to know, but if you want to read more, there's this:

As Republicans gear up to “take back the White House” conservatives need to be aware of one startling fact: in 2012 if Romney had won the three swing states of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, HE STILL WOULD HAVE LOST THE ELECTION.

After totaling the electoral votes in all the terminally blue states, an inconvenient math emerges, providing even a below average Democrat presidential candidate a potential starting advantage of 246. Here are the states and their votes:

California, 55 
New York, 29 
Pennsylvania, 20 
Illinois, 20 
Michigan, 16 
New Jersey, 14 
Washington, 12 
Massachusetts, 11 
Minnesota, 10 
Wisconsin, 10 
Maryland, 10
Connecticut, 7 
Oregon, 7 
Hawaii, 4 
Maine 4 
New Hampshire, 4 
Rhode Island, 4 
Vermont, 3 
Delaware, 3 
District of Columbia, 3

Let me repeat, if only for the shock value: 246 votes out of 270 is 91 percent. That means the Democrat candidate needs to win only 24 more votes out of the remaining 292. (There are a total of 538 electoral votes.)  

No wonder President Obama was so confident of victory in 2012, for he knew the game was practically over before it began. In case you need reminding, the final Electoral College score was a lopsided 332–206.

So the next time you hear someone talk about the 2016 presidential election, just remember: the Democratic candidate (whomever that is) begins with over 90 percent of the Electoral College. All the rest of it is a distraction.

The high school football...

...Name of the Day belongs to Aurora Christian running back Legend Smith.

In 5A, I was all set to...

...just pick the favorites and be done with it. But, after what happened to the town of Washington last week, how can you not root for the Panthers? (Especially if, like me, you know nothing about them or their opponent, the Sacred Heart-Griffin Cyclones. The who?)

But first, there's No. 2 Sycamore (12-0) at No. 1 Montini (12-0) in a battle of undefeateds. The Spartans beat Antioch, Nazareth and Lincoln-Way West in the playoffs by a combined score of 102-66. The Broncos, meanwhile, outscored their opponents, Morgan Park, Marian Central and Joliet Catholic, 105-34. But, really, who cares? Check this out:

2012: Montini 24, Sycamore 22
2010: Montini 28, Sycamore 7
2009: Montini 31, SYCAMORE 17
2007: MONTINI 14, Sycamore 3

Until proven otherwise, the Spartans just can't beat Montini. And they won't beat them on the road this weekend. The Broncos are headed for a five-peat.

Then there's No. 2 Washington (12-0) at No. 1 Sacred Heart-Griffin (12-0). That's Panthers' quarterback Colton Marshall's dad standing in the wreckage of the family home in Washington. Again, I ask you, how can you not be pulling for these kids? (Sorry, SH-G.)

Washington beat its three postseason opponents, Peoria, Mount Vernon and University, 125-40. The Cyclones topped theirs, Richwoods, Glenwood and Highland, 142-22. Surprisingly, I can't find any previous meeting between the two schools. The game is really a push (both teams are undefeated, remember?), but I have to go with Washington.

To recap (upsets in bold):


Stevenson over Loyola
Naperville Central over Marist


Glenbard West over Lake Zurich
Mount Carmel over Edwardsville


Batavia over Rockford Boylan
Richards over East St. Louis


Montini over Sycamore
Washington over Sacred Heart-Griffin

Enjoy the games!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The license plate...

...of the day: AH PAREE!

Don't look now, Republicans, but...

...the Affordable Care Act is working just fine in California:

Nearly 80,000 people have enrolled in health plans through California’s online marketplace, at a rate of several thousand a day in November — a sizable increase over a month ago, state officials said on Thursday.  

Especially encouraging, officials said, was the enrollment of young people, who are considered essential to the success of the Obama administration’s health care law. 

So, in other words, in the states that have working websites, like Connecticut and Kentucky, as well as California, the law is proceeding more or less according to plan. And, eventually, the ACA will work for the entire country, just as it has in Massachusetts for years and the rest of the developed world for decades. There's no turning back.

And Republicans will have to answer for their opposition.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio...

...was at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association yesterday. The potential candidate for president in 2016 (my emphasis):

...[became] animated as he was questioned at a meeting with reporters here about his decision to expand Medicaid.

“I always try to put myself in the shoes of somebody else to say: ‘How would I feel if I didn’t have health insurance? Are you kidding me?’ ” said Mr. Kasich, who has been mentioned as a 2016 hopeful, his voice rising. In defending Medicaid, he spoke at length about the scourge of drug addiction and challenges faced by those with mental illnesses.

“It’s going to save lives,” he said. “It’s going to help people, and you tell me what’s more important than that.”

Couldn't he have said the same thing about the entire Affordable Care Act?

In China, 2013 is the...

...Year of the Snake. In 6A, at least, it will be the Year of the Bulldog.

No. 2 Batavia (11-1) will be at No. 1 Rockford Boylan (12-0) tomorrow, while No. 1 Richards (11-1) travels to No. 6 East St. Louis (9-3). The only one of these teams that I've seen this year is Richards, against Lincoln-Way North last week. What's more, as far as I can tell, none of these schools have played each other in the last ten years.

Batavia beat DeKalb, Rolling Meadows and Lake Forest in the playoffs by a combined score of 115-33. Boylan, meanwhile, bested Belvidere North, Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge, 73-44. The Bulldogs may have beaten the finest team in the bunch in Lake Forest. In addition, the Titans struggled against 7-4 Cary-Grove and 7-5 Prairie Ridge. So I'll go with Batavia.

Richards defeated Yorkville, Argo and Lincoln-Way North in the postseason, 87-6. East St. Louis, for its part, topped Normal Community West, Normal Community and Providence, 98-48. (They must have run out of teams that began with "Normal Community.") The Bulldogs (again with the Bulldogs) shut out two of their opponents, resulting in eleven scoreless quarters in the last three games. The Flyers, who will be at home, should feel fortunate just to be in the semis after edging out Providence last week, 27-26. Richards is destined for DeKalb.

Tomorrow: 5A.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Do you think we'll see...

... a play like this in the semifinals?

It's good to know...

...there's a costume store near my house that delivers.

Paul Ryan once famously said...

..."We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives."

In a related story, a new Walmart store in Washington, D. C. had 38 applicants for every open position.

If someone at your Thanksgiving...

...table shrieks "Obamacare is increasing health care costs!" show them this chart.

The annual growth rate of health care spending is the lowest since 1965.

The news is slow, so...

...let's have a look at the next installment in My Road Home, by my childhood friend Jerry Byrne.

Saturday July 21st

At Rikers breakfast was served at the early hour of 4:00 (so the inmates going to court could eat and be ready for the bus ride into Manhattan) but here at Downstate it is much more civilized. (Again, a bit of a stretch, civilized?) Here we gather at 7:00. Oh, and it's never referred to as either breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it's all called just one thing ... chow! I know I will come to detest that word. Before we line up to go to meals you get ready to hear the guards scream out, "On the chow." That means it's time to  get the state greens all buttoned and tucked in, then line up for food.

I have to say I'm grateful there are no mirrors to be found, anywhere. I dread to see what my shaved head must look like. Laundry is done once per week. You put all your clothes, underwear, and t-shirts, into a net-bag, tie it up, and then your bag is thrown into the wash along with everyone else's. Disgusting! I get three showers a week, Mon-Wed-Fri. Considering it's the dead of summer, 90 degree temps every day, you can imagine the horrid smell of some of these dudes. On shower day I stand by the cell door, soap and towel in hand, ready to go when the guard pushes a button from the control room to unlock it. You're sent in one at a time, you have three minutes.

I think both games in 7A...

...this week will result in upsets.

First there's No. 1 Lake Zurich (11-1) at No. 3 Glenbard West (11-1). While this game is essentially a push (as are most of the semifinals), I'm going to go with the home team.

The Bears beat Elk Grove Village, Hononegah and Wheaton North by a combined score of 71-12. The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, outgunned their playoff opponents, Machesney Park Harlem, Conant and Schaumburg, 125-42.  I know what you're thinking: So, what?

All right, how about a look at their recent history?

2012: Glenbard West 19, Lake Zurich 13
2011: Lake Zurich 10, Glenbard West 3
2009: Glenbard West 21, LAKE ZURICH 17

Doesn't tell you much, does it? Except that the two teams have been pretty evenly matched over the last few years. (I don't know who the home team was in those first two games.)

I saw Lake Zurich beat Warren in Week Three but never got around to watching Glenbard West. After they lost the opener to Wheaton Warrenville South, 17-14, the Hitters just never played anyone very interesting.

Both schools lost their one game of the season on the road. So I'll go with the home team.

In the second contest, No. 2 Mount Carmel (11-1) at No. 1 Edwardsville (12-0), I'm going to pick the Caravan. Even though they struggled last week against a Downers Grove North team that finished only 7-5, I'll take that as a momentary letdown. They've had a heck of a year and outscored their foes in the postseason, Benet, St. Rita and DGN, 76-28. Edwardsville, for its part, beat Andrew, Bradley-Bourbonnais and Lincoln-Way East by a combined score of 122-42. What's more, everyone is saying that the Tigers are for real this year. But Carmel's Carmel, and as I said after the second Rita game, nobody in 7A is going to beat them this year -- nobody. The score will be closer than the last time they met, but the result will be the same:

2005: MOUNT CARMEL 27, Edwardsville 7

Tomorrow: 6A.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:


Many conservatives think young people...

...should boycott the new health care law. Jon Gabriel, above, writing on the FreedomWorks website says:

The President and his hired guns have figured out that smart, independent, free-thinking millennials know Obamacare is a sham. Sophisticated young consumers realize they shouldn’t pay overpriced monthly insurance rates when they can just pay $95 if they get sick.

But an article in the Times yesterday said (my emphasis):

But many consumers, particularly younger ones, may ultimately decide to consider their odds: A person 25 to 34 years old (insured or not) had a 5 percent chance of incurring medical bills of at least $27,000 in 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The chance of ending up with a bill that exceeded $13,000 was 10 percent.

“Most medical bills are racked up by a relatively small percentage of the population, whether you’re young or old,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president and co-executive director of the Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance at Kaiser. “The real point of insurance is to protect against these catastrophic medical events, which few people could pay for without coverage.” 

I don't like paying for health insurance either. Or home, car or life insurance for that matter. But, really, isn't it the prudent thing to do? 

My two Games of the Week...

...were an easy call: No. 1 Loyola (11-1) at No. 6 Stevenson (10-2) at 1:00 and No. 8 Marist (9-3) at No. 7 Naperville Central (9-3) at 7:00. These are the Best Games Between the Best Teams.

I've seen all four schools play this year: Loyola vs. Providence, St. Rita (on TV) and Mount Carmel; Stevenson at Glenbard North; Marist vs. St. Rita at Soldier Field on opening weekend; and Naperville Central vs. Neuqua and at Wheaton Warrenville South.

What more could possibly be said about these teams that hasn't already been said?

Loyola has outscored its three opponents in the playoffs, Lane, Notre Dame and Maine South, 107-7. Stevenson has outscored its opponents, St. Charles East, Glenbard North and Barrington, 69-23. Does that mean anything? I don't know. The Patriots, arguably, defeated the best team in the bunch, Glenbard North.

How about a history between these two storied programs schools? They had a two-year series a while back on the opening day of the season (home team in CAPS):

2008: LOYOLA 14, Stevenson 6
2007: Loyola 27, STEVENSON 0

As a friend of mine asked recently, does that mean anything?

Remember how I said you can't really say things like "our company has 410 combined years of experience," when there are 15 employees? I also don't think past football scores indicate anything. Mount Carmel has a secret strategy to beat St. Rita for the last 12 years? For most of the players this might be the first or second time ever playing one another. Is there a huge grudge from the 2006 game? Nah, I doubt it.

ESPN kept mentioning last night how many times the Bears and Packers have played each other. Did Julius Peppers realize that? Did it contribute to the outcome? I get it why people say it. I just don't think there's much there to indicate anything.

And my answer to him was:

As for past games, I think it matters because the coaches have been around for a while. If a team beats another every year I'd sure be reluctant to bet against them this year. In high school, especially, I think the coach matters more than anything. Just look: the same programs are in the playoffs every year. Do you think the kids that go to those schools are just better than everybody else?

Now, while John Holecek was coaching Loyola back in 2007 and '08, Bill Mitz was at the helm at Stevenson. The Patriots' current coach, Bill McNamara, didn't take over until 2009. (Was he an assistant under Mitz? I don't know.) And today's seniors were in seventh grade back in 2008. So maybe my friend has a point.

I'm going to go with Stevenson based on two things: home field advantage and that big win over Glenbard North. I thought for sure Justin Jackson would lead the Panthers back to the finals. If you can beat them, you deserve to go to DeKalb.

As for Marist at Naperville Central, I'm going to go with the home team there, too. While Marist has outscored its playoff opponents, Plainfield South, Bolingbrook and Oswego, 106-56, Central has outscored its foes, Downers Grove South, Homewood-Flossmoor and Neuqua Valley, 107-39. Inconclusive. And I'd say their opponents are of equal caliber. Also inconclusive. 

The two teams last met when Coach Pat Dunne was in his first year at Marist, Mike Stine was in his second at Central and today's seniors were in eighth grade:

2009: MARIST 24, Naperville Central 7

But I'm going to go with the home team in both games. You can follow me @BoringOldWhtGuy.

Tomorrow: A look at 7A.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Did you know...

...that Scott Tolzien of the Green Bay Packers graduated from Fremd in 2006? The Vikings were 10-1 his senior year, losing in the second round of the playoffs to Hinsdale Central, 27-21.

Hat tip: Joe T.

Saturday was a full day of football ...

...for me, beginning at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard. It was rainy and windy and only got more so as the day went on. But I saw two outstanding games!

The first was the de facto 5A championship between Joliet Catholic and host Montini. I arrived about two hours early for the 1:00 kickoff only to find a line of people waiting to get in. I asked a woman if it was sold out and she said, "No, we're not even going to sell tickets until 11:30." (My backup plan, Lincoln-Way West at Sycamore, would not be necessary.)

I parked the car and got in the queue.

"Is this the line for tickets?" I asked the couple in front of me, stupidly.

"I hope so."

We chatted for a few minutes and the conversation inevitably turned to Mike Ivlow, the star running back for Joliet Catholic who transferred in last year as a junior. The guy told me that Ivlow's old coach from Minooka told him he'd never play there. "He said he was 'too soft and too slow.' " Ouch.

After a quick stop at the concession stand, above, where I ordered the "Steak Sandwich to Die For," I took my seat at the top of the bleachers at midfield on the Montini side. So far, so good.

And then the P. A. began playing Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. I knew I had picked the right game.

As I was watching the teams warm up before the game, I wondered about the wisdom of the various exercises and drills. What value, for example, do jumping jacks have? Couldn't you play just as well without having done them? But I noticed one drill which came in handy late in the game. A Montini coach would throw the ball and while one player would deliberately tip it up in the air, the one behind him would catch it. Foreshadowing.

The contest itself was one of the best of the day, as I'm sure you've read by now. Mike Ivlow scored all three touchdowns for the Hilltoppers, finishing the season with 2,580 yards and 32 TDs. Wow. Joliet Catholic was leading at the half, 7-6, but I noticed an ominous tweet from @JCHILLTOPPERS:

If only first halfs counted, JCA would be 4-0 vs Broncos all time.

More foreshadowing.

Montini indeed came back in the second half, scoring with 4:11 remaining in the game on a tipped pass, to make it 21-20. (See? That one drill was really worth it.) I would have sworn that Broncos' quarterback Alex Wills, who was scrambling for his life, tried to throw the ball out of bounds. A JCA defender tipped it, however, into the waiting hands of receiver Stephen Dennis, who ran it in for the score. Montini went for two and won the game, 22-21.

And I thought, you really have to give credit to Coach Chris Andriano. That was a gutsy move. In the Tribune he was quoted as saying:

"We gotta do that. We don't ever back away from that. We got the momentum there, we're home. We just have to put the icing on it."

I guess that's what you'd expect from one of the winningest coaches in Illinois who's trying to capture his fifth 5A championship in a row.

But not all of the excitement was on the field. There was a guy sitting in front of me who kept telling everyone else to sit down. Imagine; people standing up at a football game! When one of the guys in front of him got exasperated with his constant hectoring I thought I was going to have to break up a fight. Whoa!

Similarly, there was an older woman sitting to my right who kept heckling Coach Andriano. "Come on, Broncos, ten yards at a time!" she'd shout. Or, "Get it together, Montini!" I must have looked a little askance at this, because the person next to me said, "Don't worry; that's just the coach's mother. She always does that." And I thought, here's Coach Andriano, a guy in his sixties (at least) with 35 years at the helm and he's still getting yelled at by his 83-year-old mother. When will he ever be good enough?

After a quick dinner at the appropriately-named Oak Lawn Restaurant, I was off to the Lincoln-Way North - Richards game. It was windy and rainy and I didn't take many pictures or tweet much. In fact, it was all I could do just to stay dry.

The teams had trouble doing much of anything in the first half and the visiting Phoenix was leading, 6-0, at intermission. I even contemplated leaving but thought better of it. And it's a good thing too, because Bulldogs' quarterback Hasan Muhammad-Rogers scored with 1:42 remaining in the game and then again in overtime to win, 12-6. (This was the guy, remember, that Coach Tony Sheehan chose to play ahead of Iowa State-bound Tommy Mister, who transferred to St. Rita for his senior year.)

Didn't get to see Muhammad-Rogers play this year? No worries; he's only a junior so you can still see him next year. You can't, however, watch Phoenix running back Julian Hylton anymore, unless he sees some action down at Illinois. And, really, I would have liked to have seen both of these guys under more normal weather conditions. The rain and wind really hindered play on Saturday night.

But, as I said, I saw two excellent games over the weekend (finally) and can't wait for the semifinals this Saturday.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The quarterfinals are now... the rearview mirror. That makes 25 games and 37 different teams for me in 2013. I dropped four schools from my rankings this week but added two, Montini and Richards.

A lot happened over the weekend. In 6A, Providence was edged by East St. Louis, 27-26; in 4A, Phillips got beat by Geneseo, 41-8, the week after the Wildcats eliminated No. 1 seed and previously-undefeated Evergreen Park; and the Leo Lions advanced to the semifinals in 1A. Leo?

(I have half a mind to go out and see the South Siders as they travel to Lena-Winslow this week. Both teams were No.6 seeds that knocked off No. 1 seeds. Great story. Depending on how the games are scheduled, I could see Batavia at Rockford Boylan and then just drive a little farther up the road for the 1A contest. We'll see.)

Oh, and all three Lincoln-Way schools went down to defeat this weekend.

So of the 37 teams I've seen this year, only eight are still alive. Bartlett, Niles North, Taft, Willowbrook, St. Francis, Glenbrook South, Niles West, Benet, Whitney Young, Crete-Monee, Aurora Central, IC Prep, Glenbard North, Bolingbrook, Homewood-Flossmoor,  Wheaton Warrenville South, St. Patrick, De La Salle, Glenbard South, Notre Dame, Warren, Fenwick, St. Rita, Neuqua Valley, Wheaton North, Providence, Phillips, Joliet Catholic and Lincoln-Way North are all done for the year.* Wow!

And I saw plenty of guys wearing shorts on days that anyone watching Romper Room would know called for long pants.

Here's how I would rank the teams left standing after the quarterfinals:


1. Stevenson (10-2)
2. Naperville Central (9-3)
3. Loyola (11-1)
4. Marist (9-3)


1. Mount Carmel (11-1)
2. Lake Zurich (11-1)


1. Richards (11-1)


1. Montini (12-0)

* Still can't find much info on the Prep Bowl tournament.