Friday, February 28, 2014

A conversation with Gene Nudo, Part II.

Coach Nudo took over the Fenwick football program in the fall of 2012. In the prior year, the Friars had compiled a 4-6 record, finishing with a 37-0 loss at the hands of Brother Rice. What on earth, I wondered, was going through his mind back then?

"Like Driscoll, we were very lucky with the kids who were already here when I arrived. All of them bought into what we were doing. We lift weights at 6:30 in the morning starting January 15. And it’s a hard thing to do. Everybody does it. But it galvanizes the team.

"We don’t cut people here. If you’re willing to sweat and get tired and bleed with your friends you have a right to wear that uniform and be out there and be part of it. Some people ask, 'Why are you on the football team? You don’t even play that much.' And the answer is: because you’re part of something. You have to put in the effort to be part of it. Even if it’s for only one minute during the season."

I asked Nudo how he went about building a team like Fenwick's.

"We don't recruit. In fact, we can't even use the word 'recruit.' 

"Actually, we try to watch them on Sundays. We’ll play on Saturday night, we have the kids come in on Sunday morning at 6 am, lift from 6 to 7, watch the game films from 7 to 8, send them home and work on our game plan from 8 to noon. The coaches go out and watch schools play. The rules are very strict. We don’t approach anybody. If parents approach us we recommend they go through the proper channels: contact our admissions office, and if they’re interested set up a shadow. I talk to a lot of wonderful youth football players but they have to pass an entrance exam and pay tuition. There are scholarships at Fenwick but they're based on need, not on athletics. Tuition is almost $13,000 a year and you’d better test pretty high because the kids that come here are off the charts. We’re not going out and getting 45-50 football players, which is okay. Like at Driscoll, I encourage these kids to play multiple sports. It’s important for them to be well-rounded when they come out of high school. But they’re going to get a great education here. Our average ACT score is over 27. That's double what I got!"

"Me too!" I said. We both laughed.

"We always want to try to have 300 students in each class at Fenwick, and about 550 take the test. So we only accept a little over half the kids who apply. It’s the same way with the other top schools in the area. We’re here to offer academics. If we can do something great and give them a great experience athletically, that's fine." 

Coach Nudo pointed to the wall behind me.

"That’s my favorite picture right there. That’s the end of the St. Ignatius game, which we won. They're a natural rival for us; they believe they’re the better academic school." 

(He didn’t look like he agreed with that assessment.) 

"It looks like a mob scene. Our students were dressed in togas. They charged the field after the game, but they didn’t go near any of the Ignatius guys. They just kneeled and prayed with our guys in the middle of the field. It embodied everything we're trying to accomplish with our program."

I asked Coach Nudo if he had any plans to play his old Driscoll buddies, Mike Burzawa at Evanston or Tim Racki at Nazareth, in the near future.

"We play Evanston every year in 7-on-7. It’s a lot of fun. I call out plays that Burzawa is going to run before he runs them and he’ll do the same to me and we just laugh. He’s got some of the Driscoll guys that coached during their seven state championship run helping him. 

“As for Nazareth, there’s a lot of community talk. We have a lot of kids from Western Springs and LaGrange and those areas that come here. Our kids know their kids. But I really don’t like playing friends. It’s not like Tim and I are social, but we like each other. To me there’s no easy way to go and do that. Somebody’s going to win and somebody’s going to lose. I guess I’m just not a big enough guy to accept if I lost."

What about Oak Park River Forest?  

“They used to play and it’s, uh, been … interesting. We played them in basketball this year." 

(The Friars won, 51-40.) 

"It’s pretty potentially explosive, I think. Emotions run very high. We have good people with this place, they have good people with that place. From a fan’s standpoint, it would be great. The community would be electric, particularly with Oak Park having been as good as they’ve been the last few years."

I wondered if Fenwick would ever have the same football culture as a Loyola or a Mount Carmel.

"Hey, look, we got to the second round the last two years and we lost two one-point games. For us, I know we could have won both of those games. Maybe we should have. Some of it was me, some of it was the football gods. It certainly wasn’t the kids -- they played with heart. We’re not at the point where we can’t go any further."

Next: How has the game changed in recent years?

The chart of the day...

...is from an article in the New York Times, "Federal Budget Deficit Falls to Smallest Level Since 2008." (I couldn't get the original to appear with numbers so I posted the one above instead.) From the story (my emphasis):

Closing the books on a fiscal year in which the federal budget deficit fell more sharply than in any year since the end of World War II, the Treasury Department reported on Thursday that the deficit for 2013 dropped to $680 billion, from about $1.1 trillion the previous year.

In nominal terms, that is the smallest deficit since 2008, and signals the end of a five-year stretch beginning with the onset of the recession when the country’s fiscal gap came in at more than $1 trillion each year. As a share of the nation’s economy, the budget deficit fell to about 4.1 percent, from a high of more than 10 percent during the depths of the Great Recession.

In other words, if you made $100,000 a year and had a credit card bill of $4,100, that wouldn't be a "crushing debt burden," wouldn't it? Remember that next time you hear some Republican go on about "runaway federal deficits."

Jim Lange, host...

...of The Dating Game, died at age 81.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Franny Beecher, lead guitarist...

...with Bill Haley and His Comets died at age 92. From his obit in the Times:

The Philadelphia session guitarist Danny Cedrone, who died in 1954, played on the original recording of “Rock Around the Clock.” Mr. Beecher, his replacement, played when the band performed the song for the first time on national television, in 1955, and also for films, notably “Blackboard Jungle” in 1955.

Also,

The Comets, whose hits also included “See You Later, Alligator,” are credited by some music historians with recording the first rock ’n’ roll song, in 1953, with “Crazy Man, Crazy,” the group’s biography on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website says.

Or was it? This website lists five earlier songs:
  
1. “That’s All Right, Mama” – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (1946) 
2. “Good Rockin’ Tonight” – Wynonie Harris (1948) 
3. “Rock This Joint” – Jimmy Preston and his Prestonians (1949) 
4. “Saturday Night Fish Fry” – Louis Jordan & The Tympany Five (1949) 
5. “Rocket 88” - Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (1951)

The moral of the story? Even though we want definitive black and white answers to life's most important questions, origins are often murky.

Maureen Dowd writes about...

...the St. Patrick's Day parade in her column this morning so I guess it's time for my annual St. Patrick's Day rant.

As one who was raised as a Catholic and is Irish on both sides (and quit drinking over 30 years ago), how about forgoing the drunken ass routine this year and -- oh, I don't know -- volunteering in a soup kitchen instead? (And don't inflict corned beef and cabbage on those poor people -- they've had it hard enough.) No, make your boiled dinner the night before (like me) and serve something tasty and nutritious to them on St. Paddy's Day.

Why don't we all do something to honor our Irish ancestors instead of bringing shame on them?

Tom Friedman trots out...

...his old buddy, Michael Mandelbaum, in his column today. (Does he talk to anyone besides that guy and a bunch of Middle Eastern cabdrivers?) After the usual Friedman prescription for success (do all  the good things and none of the bad things), he has some advice for President Obama (my emphasis):

The world is learning that the bar for U.S. intervention abroad is being set much higher. This is due to a confluence of the end of the Soviet Union’s existential threat, the experience of investing too many lives and $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan to little lasting impact, America’s rising energy independence, our intelligence successes in preventing another 9/11 and the realization that to fix what ails the most troubled countries in the world of disorder is often beyond our skill set, resources or patience.

In the Cold War, policy-making was straightforward. We had “containment.” It told us what to do and at almost any price. Today, Obama’s critics say he must do “something” about Syria. I get it. Chaos there can come around to bite us. If there is a policy that would fix Syria, or even just stop the killing there, in a way that was self-sustaining, at a cost we could tolerate and not detract from all the things we need to do at home to secure our own future, I’m for it.

But we should have learned some lessons from our recent experience in the Middle East: First, how little we understand about the social and political complexities of the countries there; second, that we can — at considerable cost — stop bad things from happening in these countries but cannot, by ourselves, make good things happen; and third, that when we try to make good things happen we run the risk of assuming the responsibility for solving their problems, a responsibility that truly belongs to them.

What Friedman doesn't mention is that while he was calling for war with Iraq back in 2002, an obscure state senator from Illinois was cautioning against it.

Harold Ramis died...

...on Monday at age 69. What I didn't know about the Chicago native is that he was a 1962 graduate of Nicholas Senn High School on Ridge Avenue in the city. The picture above was taken in 1957, a year before Ramis enrolled.

I've seen nine basketball games...

...and 14 teams so far this year. I watched Stevenson three times and Loyola and Marian Catholic twice. Here's how I would rank them:

1. Stevenson (25-1)
2. Marian Catholic (23-2)
3. Simeon (18-6)
4. Zion-Benton (23-5)
5. Lake Forest (20-6)
6. Fremd (24-0)
7. St. Viator (19-5)
8. St. Rita (17-7)
9. Loyola (20-5)
10. Benet (18-8)
11. St. Patrick (13-12)
12. St. Ignatius (12-13)
13. Glenbrook South (12-13)
14. Barrington (10-17)

And if I had an all-star team it would consist of Tyler Ulis and Jalen Brunson at guard, Milik Yarbrough and Evan Boudreaux at forward, and Sean O'Mara (above) at center.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The rankings are in...

Is Fremd for real, or not?
...from the three news services I follow.

Michael O'Brien of the Sun-Times still has Loyola at No. 8 after losing three in a row. Fremd, while still undefeated, fell to No. 16, and Lake Forest and St. Viator are only Nos. 21 and 23, respectively.

In MaxPreps, Fremd can't crack the top ten and Curie is still at No. 4. The Condors beat Whitney Young on Friday night and yet are ranked behind the Dolphins. What do they have left to prove to these guys? (If Curie takes the 4A crown will MaxPreps relent?)

Meanwhile, I think Mike Helfgot of the Tribune has it just about right. 

Trib

1. Curie (24-1)
2. Stevenson (25-1)* 
3. Young (21-6) 
4. Marian Catholic (23-2)* 
5. Orr (20-4) 
6. Simeon (18-6)* 
7. Fremd (24-0)*
8. Bogan (24-4)
9. Morgan Park (16-6)
10. Zion-Benton (23-3)*

Sun-Times

1. Curie (24-1)
2. Young (21-6) 
3. Stevenson (25-1)*
4. Marian Catholic (23-2)*
5. Orr (20-4)
6. Simeon (18-6)*
7. Morgan Park (16-6) 
8. Loyola (18-5)*
9. Bogan (24-4)
10. Mount Carmel (20-7)

MaxPreps

1. Stevenson (24-1)*
2. Springfield Lanphier (25-0)^
3. Young (19-6)
4. Curie (23-1)
5. Lincoln (27-2)^ 
6. Marian Catholic (23-2)* 
7. Morgan Park (16-5) 
8. Simeon (15-5)*
9. Orr (18-3) 
10. Bogan (19-4)

And here's last week's.

* Seen 'em.

^ Outside the Chicago area.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Here's a really interesting...

...interactive website that deals with income growth since 1979.

For example, it says that on average, incomes in the state of Michigan grew 8.9% between 1979 and 2007. And yet, while incomes of the top 1% shot up, incomes of the bottom 99% actually fell. This is what I was getting at with my post last week on "trickle-down" economics.

Check out the website for yourself; look up your state or region of the country.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The best-kept secret...

...in Chicago has to be the live music over at Northwestern University. At six or eight bucks a throw it's far superior to any movie. And if there's no basketball game like last night it's a no-brainer.

I redeemed myself somewhat...

...on Saturday night by attending the City-Suburban Showdown at Niles West. It featured four of the best teams and three of the best players in the state. I got to see Stevenson for the third time this year, Marian Catholic for the second, and Lake Forest and Simeon for the first.

In the opener I watched Evan Boudreaux (above) and Lake Forest win the first half and Tyler Ulis (Mr. Second Half?) and Marian Catholic win the game. Takeaways? Boudreaux must be one of the best juniors in the state. He reminds me a little of a shorter Sean O'Mara of Benet. Is there any chance those two could face each other in the playoffs? And as for Ulis, all I can say is: Wow! This kid scored 35 points in the second half, including three threes in a row, to pretty much single-handedly defeat the Scouts. My only question about the 5'9" guard is, can he really play at Kentucky?

(By the way, the guy in front of me, a Lake Forest fan, pointed out Boudreaux's mother to me at the half. OMG! If genes have anything to do with it, the 6'7" power forward could get even taller.)

In the nightcap, Stevenson got to avenge its loss to Simeon in the 4A finals last year by a convincing nine points. Takeaways? Well, first of all, the Wolverines are a really young team. I counted very few seniors on the court and even a freshman guard at one point. If Simeon doesn't go deep in the postseason this year they should in 2014-15. Coach Robert Smith is obviously laying the groundwork for a future powerhouse. And Stevenson? Well, I'd be really surprised if this squad doesn't go all the way to Peoria again. Between Jalen Brunson and Connor Cashaw, the Patriots have two of the best juniors in the state. Throw in another junior, Matt Johnson, and these guys could be headed to the finals in 2015 too.

P. S. That's a great picture of Evan Boudreaux at the top, isn't it? But if you look really hard, you can see me in a dark shirt just under the railing, behind and to the left of a guy in a dark vest. (He told me -- and I believed him -- that he'd been to about a thousand high school basketball games. I guess I have my work cut out for me!) When I showed this picture to my wife I said, "At least you know where I was on Saturday night."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Okay, okay, so I picked...

...the wrong game last night. Sue me.

Not only did I miss Curie's historic 69-66 victory over Whitney Young in four overtimes, but I also didn't see Stevenson's 95-93 (not a misprint) win over Lake Forest in two overtimes. (In that second game, two juniors, Jalen Brunson of Stevenson and Evan Boudreaux of Lake Forest, scored 56 and 43 points, respectively. Both were career highs. Wow!)

Instead, I went out to Barrington, above, to see the undefeated Vikings of Fremd warm up for their conference championship game next Wednesday. The Palatine squad defeated the Broncos, 52-30, in a ho-hum game in which several of the Vikings' starters sat out much of the second half.

Why did I go? Good question. Well, you can read all about why I didn't go to the Curie - Whitney Young game here. As for the Stevenson - Lake Forest game, I actually considered it on my way out to Barrington. But I'd already seen the Patriots twice this year (against Zion-Benton and Marian Catholic) and didn't feel like seeing them beat the Scouts for a second time this season. (Although if I'd known how close it would be I certainly would have gone.)

Oh, well. There's always tonight's double-header at Niles West: Marian Catholic and Lake Forest at 6:30 followed by Stevenson and Simeon at 8:30. But it's kind of hard to believe that either one could be as good as last night's games.

So what takeaways, if any, did I get from the contest in Barrington?

Well, first of all, the Broncos are a young team. I counted only four seniors on the roster, including their high-scorer, Austin Madrzyk. Rapolas Ivanauskas, at 6'8", is the leading rebounder in the Mid-Suburban Conference and is only a sophomore. That's a name you'll want to remember for next year (even if you can't pronounce it).

As for the Vikings, well, I'm still not sure how good they really are. They're undefeated at 24-0, but who have they beaten? Well, let's see, there was Conant (21-5) twice by scores of 38-36 and 64-43; Naperville Central (18-6), 44-37, and St. Viator (19-5) by ten points, 77-67, both back in December; and Evanston (18-9) two weeks ago, 54-51. Those are all high-quality opponents and the last three games were on the road.

So who makes up this team? The high scorer, with 392 points, is Riley Glassmann, a 6'5" senior headed to Cornell next year. (He's also the second highest scorer in the conference.) The two other leaders in scoring and rebounds are a pair of 6'6" seniors, Ben Carlson and Matt Ochoa. At guard is the very aggressive Garrett Groot, a 5'9" senior (I wouldn't want him guarding me). And rounding out the starting lineup is another senior, 6'0" Jalon Roundy. As you can see, they have some decent height and they can score.

But how will Fremd do in the postseason? Assuming they get past Prospect (15-10) next week, the Vikings will enter the playoffs at 25-0. As I read the other day, undefeated teams don't always fare so well in the second season. Can Fremd compete with the other suburban powerhouses such as Stevenson, Lake Forest and Marian Catholic? We'll see. The Regionals begin a week from Monday.

Friday, February 21, 2014

I must be getting old, because...

...even Joe Henricksen's excellent piece in the Sun-Times about the Whitney Young - Curie matchup tonight won't get me to go all the way down to Chicago State, above, to watch it. Henricksen writes (my emphasis): 

No. 1 Curie vs. No. 2 Whitney Young is big. But Cliff Alexander vs. Jahlil Okafor is bigger. It’s epic. 

This Friday night, anyone who can get into Chicago State University’s 7,000-seat Jones Convocation Center will witness a game, specifically a jaw-dropping matchup between two players, that has never materialized before and may never again. 

Now it’s Jahlil and Big Cliff, a unique one-on-one confrontation of individual stars we’ve never seen in Illinois before. 

This is Duke-bound Okafor, the 6-11, 260-pound gifted coverboy who’s currently the consensus No. 1 player in the country, and Kansas signee Alexander, an athletic and physical freak at 6-9, 235 pounds who’s ranked by some as the nation’s No. 2 player. 

That bears repeating: The No. 1 and No. 2 players in the COUNTRY. Right here! In Chicago! Friday night! 

Now there's no doubt: Henricksen's right and this should be a great contest. But do I really want to drive all the way down to 95th Street from the northern suburbs on a Friday night? Granted, as recently as a year ago I would have said, "Heck yes!" (Or something to that effect.) But now? I don't think so. It's just too big of a hassle. 

And then there's that phrase I emphasized above, "anyone who can get into." The last game I tried to attend was Zion-Benton at Stevenson a couple of weeks ago. Stupidly, I got there a half an hour before the tip-off only to drive around for five minutes or so until I realized I wasn't going to get a parking space and see the game. I went home and found out later that it wasn't such a great contest after all. 

One of the reasons I started following high school sports was its ease. In other words, unlike college or pro sports, you can usually just drive over to your local gym or stadium, get a good parking spot, pay a few bucks to get in and spend an hour and a half or so watching a good contest. Afterward, you're home in ten minutes. As Sonny Corleone might have said, "Ba-da-bing, Ba-da-boom."

Now, as readers of this blog know, I have long since branched out from riding my bike over to Loyola on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to driving all over creation to see some game that I just have to see. But after cursing the traffic for a few years now and getting shut out at Stevenson, I may finally get a little more selective in the games I attend.

Finally, I feel compelled to say a word about my Two Bomb Theory. Back in the 1970s, way before 9/11, there was a rash of plane hijackings to Cuba. A comedian came up with the idea of bringing a bomb with him whenever he flew to ensure his safety. His reasoning? What are the odds there would be two bombs on an airplane? I hope this isn't in bad taste, but the last time I saw a game at Chicago State a kid got shot and killed in the parking lot afterward. Whenever I mention going back there for a game I tell people, "What are the odds of that happening again?" So, no, my not going has nothing to do with the neighborhood.

Bottom line: Henricksen is right and this will be a game for the ages. But it will have to take place without me. Although I'm not worried about another shooting, I am reluctant to drive all the way down to Chicago State on a Friday night in the snow and wait for at least an hour for an hour and a half game to begin. (Besides, I can watch Okafor and Alexander face off in the NBA a few years from now when they're even better -- on TV.)

No, I'll be at Barrington High School instead to see if the 10-16 Broncos can somehow knock off the undefeated Vikings of Fremd. It's only a half an hour from my house and a nice venue with unobstructed sightlines -- no having to look through those pesky railings like at some places (cough, cough! -- Hoffman Estates -- cough, cough!). Maybe Barrington's Austin Madrzyk and Rapolis Ivanauskas will get hot tonight and put on a show. (And maybe I'll learn how to pronounce their names.) 

But even if it isn't a good game I'll get an early look at Riley Glassmann, Ben Carlson, Matt Ochoa, Xavier Williams & Co. before the playoffs begin. And who knows? Maybe the Palatine squad will be this year's suburban Cinderella team -- a la Stevenson last year -- who make it all the way to Peoria. If so, I can say I saw them while everyone else was at Chicago State. See you there!

P. S. I'll be live tweeting the game @BoringOldWhtGuy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Did trickle-down economics work?

I don't know. But according to Niraj Chokshi, writing in the Washington Post, between the years 1979 and 2007 the top 1 percent captured between half and 84 percent of all income growth in 15 states. In four others -- Nevada, Wyoming, Michigan and Alaska -- the only residents who saw their incomes grow belonged to the top 1 percent.

Jim Goodness...

...is the spokesman for the archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gracie Gold has to be...

...the most appropriate name ever for an Olympic athlete.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

You know you're in West Hollywood...

...when you see a sign like this one on the sidewalk. (And there are sidewalks in LA; lots of 'em.) You also know you're in California when you're served a chocolate chip cookie on a platter, below.

Some of the pictures I didn't take were of the couple sitting next to us at an outdoor cafe on Melrose Avenue. Around sixty years old or so (maybe older), the woman was impossibly thin and tanned and her husband (date? boyfriend?) looked impossibly rich. When they got up to leave (and thank God, because she kept looking at us like we were the Beverly Hillbillies), we could get a clearer view of the two guys at the table just beyond them. While one guy had an Afro hairstyle or dreadlocks (or something), the other bore a striking resemblance to Charles Manson (he's still in jail, right?).

I'm sure the natives could tell right away that I was a tourist, constantly jaywalking in my shorts, polo shirt, Jimmy Kimmel Live! baseball cap and running shoes. Angelinos, I've noticed, have an understanding: cars careen like mad through the Las Vegas-wide streets while pedestrians patiently wait their turns at the crosswalks (even if it's early in the morning and no one is coming).

And as for their attire, Southern Californians must take the beautiful weather for granted quickly, because most people seem to wear long pants (or just pants, as my sons kept correcting me). And, in what I found to be the oddest local sartorial custom, people of all ages wear Converse All-Stars (above), or "Chucks," as they are known there. High-top, low, black, white, red or any other color imaginable -- it doesn't matter. In Cali the $9.99 gym shoes of my youth are de rigueur. "I'd get a pair if I lived here," I announced at one point to no one in particular. "You could get them right now, Dad," one of my sons responded exasperatedly.

If you ever find yourself in WeHo (as I now call it) at any time in the near future, feel free to stay at Le Parc, a very civilized hotel on North West Knoll Drive with a pool (of course!) and a tennis court on the roof. (Even though I don't play, it's nice to know they'll supply you with racquets and balls if you forget yours.) As for meals, you can't go wrong eating breakfast (or brunch) at the Urth Caffe (order the Spanish latte) and/or Le Pain Quotidien on Melrose. For lunch or dinner, check out the fried chicken sandwich at Joan's on Third, which is on -- you guessed it! -- Third Avenue, and the Belmont on North la Cienega for burgers and other "bar food," as my son called it.

While you're out there, stroll around the perimeter of West Hollywood: west on Santa Monica, left on Doheny Drive (which reminded me of Lake Shore Drive or Sheridan Road in Chicago), left on Third and left again on Fairfax and back up to either Melrose or Santa Monica. You'll pass this place on Third (above) which had the best almond croissant I've ever stuck in my mouth. And if you're still hungry (which I always am), check out the Magnolia Bakery a little farther down for some insanely-good banana pudding.

By the way, when you turn on Fairfax you'll come upon Fairfax High School, which is the unlikely alma mater of such varied celebrities as Herb Alpert, Mike "Super Jew" Epstein, Jack Kemp, Mila Kunis, Demi Moore, Ricardo Montalban, Mickey Rooney, Phil Spector and Warren Zevon. The school's parking lot also has what can only be described charitably as a flea market on Sundays. You can go there after you eat breakfast (or brunch) at the farmer's market on Melrose Place.

And if you turn off onto one of the side streets in WeHo, you'll see some charming homes like the one above. (Do you think West Hollywood has ever been described as "charming"?)

Finally, brave the crowd and go up to the Griffith Observatory just east of the Hollywood Hills. You'll get a panoramic view of the city, of course, including one of the largest houses in the Hills, owned by the daughter of Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and the third wealthiest American according to Forbes Magazine. "Wow! What does she do for a living?" my wife asked naively. "She's Larry Ellison's daughter," my son answered. "She does that for a living."

Now, I know what you're thinking: Isn't LA crowded? Isn't it expensive? Aren't the taxes high? And isn't there a lot of traffic? And the answers to those questions are: yes, yes, yes and -- okay -- yes. But those things are all true about Chicago, too. In fact, anywhere I live is going to have all of those attributes. Want to live somewhere without that stuff? Move to Mississippi.

So what does LA have that Chicago doesn't? Beautiful weather. And not just six months out of the year, like in the Midwest. All year long. Every day.

I can't wait to go back.

A conversation with Gene Nudo.

The Super Bowl is over. And all we're left with now is curling, figure skating and something called "skeleton" (yikes!). But high school football starts in six short months.

With that in mind, I paid a visit recently to Gene Nudo, the head coach of Fenwick. I arrived at my dad's alma mater (Class of '37) on a cold Monday afternoon. After signing in at the desk in the lobby, I was escorted by the president of the school, Father Richard Peddicord, to Coach Nudo's office up on the third floor.

Nudo, 55, just finished his second year at the helm of the Friars and has an 18-7 record with two trips to the second round of the postseason. I remember reading about his background in the Arena Football League when he was hired in 2012. I told my brother at the time, "Watch out for Fenwick; these guys are getting serious about football."

So who is this Gene Nudo guy anyway? I had to find out for myself.

The coach was sitting behind his desk staring at a computer screen when I walked in. He stood up and shook my hand. A stocky man with dark hair and a mustache to match his black Fenwick coaching outfit, Nudo exudes the quiet confidence of someone who's been doing this his entire adult life. 

Gene Nudo grew up in Norridge on the Northwest Side and played defensive end at Ridgewood High School under Coach Mike Mariani. Before Mariani, Nudo played in grade school for Paul Frerking and later worked under two of Mariano's assistants, Al Marks and Tony Pappone. Nudo is quick to point out that all four of these coaches are in the Illinois High School Hall of Fame and he credits them for his strong background in the game.

After Ridgewood, Nudo played for two years at Triton College, under Coaches Tom Crum and Ed Yonkus. He then went on to Illinois State where he roomed with a guy named Joe Borsellino. Now, if that name rings a bell, it might be because between Joe and his older brother Lewis and their sons, Joey, Johnny and Mike (don't ask me who belongs to whom), the Borsellinos hold a ton of individual records at Montini High School. Lewis even worked as the offensive coordinator of the Lombard powerhouse in recent years.

How, I asked, did Nudo first get into coaching?

“While I was at Illinois State I started helping out at Ridgewood. The rules were very strict about summer practices and Coach Marks asked me if I would oversee the conditioning in the morning. When the season started I came back on weekends. I’d come back after class on Friday for the games on Saturday. 

"I guess I just got bitten by it.”

While coaching at Ridgewood, Nudo found his way into the professional ranks.

“Mike Mariani, who had retired, and I ventured into coaching a minor league team, the Chicago Lions. They were supposed to pay the players but didn’t, so after one game we all walked.

“But then the River Grove Cowboys contacted Coach Mariani. He told me ‘Go check ‘em out; see what they have going on.’ The Cowboys were practicing at the Priory, where Fenwick practices today. So I went out there to see what they had going on and they had about 90 guys out there, with no equipment, and they were going full scrimmage for, like, three hours. I went back to Mariani and said, ‘Coach, I think these guys are crazy.’  "

Nudo laughed.

"Mariani said to me, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ 

"Me? I was only 22 at the time and the youngest guy out there. My right guard, for example, was a very successful real estate guy named George Cibula. Here I am 22, coaching this 36-year-old guy who ended up hiring me!”

(Cibula is a 1966 graduate of Fenwick.)

"The Cowboys were a great experience for me; I did that while helping out at Ridgewood, so I was getting double the education as a coach.

"Then in ’87, during the NFL strike, the Minnesota Vikings brought me out there for a month. [Seattle Seahawks coach] Pete Carroll was the secondary coach at the time and I got to know him -- great guy! The Vikings were the last team to put a strike team together and I was helping their personnel guy. We weren’t very good; Minnesota was 3-0 and after I left they were 3-3. 

"It was at that time that a guy named Jim Foster came up with the idea of arena football. The Cowboys were national champions in 1987 and runners up in '85 and ’86. We were playing all over the world. He told me, 'If you've got some players, I got this idea to play arena football.' 

"So we went over to Triton College and put a piece of trainer’s tape right down the middle of the field. They started to look at playing 7 on 7, 8 on 8, 8 on 9, three linemen, four linemen, all kinds of different things; it was really in its infancy. I got lucky. As the thing developed, Jim brought me along and I spent 22 years in the Arena Football League. 

"A lot of my coaching career was doubling up. That was in ’87; I started at Driscoll in ’88. I was the coach of the Chicago Bruisers in ’87, the first year of the arena league. Sean Payton, the coach of the New Orleans Saints, was on that team as well as Jimbo Fisher, the coach of Florida State. 

"In ’88 I volunteered to help out Rich Marks, the head coach of Driscoll. At the end of the year, Rich decided to go into private business. The arena league didn’t look like it was going to come back after that second year and Driscoll hired me. It was a good run. We were lucky, though; we had great kids. I was in the right place at the right time. The first year we made the playoffs, the second the semifinals, and the third we were undefeated and state champs. We had some spectacular kids, including the former head coach’s son, Richie Marks, a very good tight end. My tailback on that team was Mike Burzawa, the current head coach of Evanston; Tim Racki, the coach of Nazareth, was student teaching at the time. Driscoll turned out to be a little cradle of coaches, like Miami of Ohio.

"It’s hard in different communities to get kids to buy in 100%. When we were at Driscoll we felt we had the kids but we didn’t think they knew how to sacrifice, how to get a bloody nose and react to it. They wanted to win but we felt they didn’t know how to win. I took all my Cowboy coaches with me to Driscoll. We had won 25 in a row at one point and we thought, if we ever had a team we could coach every day, we could really be good. It turned out that, yes, we could." 

If Coach Nudo's career is hard to follow it's because he's done a lot of double-duty.

"I was the head coach of a semi-pro team while I was coaching at Ridgewood, I was coaching at Driscoll when I was the league director of football operations for the Arena Football League and the head coach of the Arizona Rattlers and my son's Pop Warner team. Luckily I have a wife who is very understanding; she knew it was my passion."

And all that experience hasn't come without some serendipity.

"We saw Jacobs play against Marmion last year. Coach Bill Mitts had a great little player that caught my eye. He was playing recklessly! 

"Turns out his father used to play for me."

Next: Coach Nudo arrives at Fenwick.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is it time to reconsider LBJ?

Maybe. Adam Nagourney writes in the Sunday Times, "Rescuing a Vietnam Casualty: Johnson’s Legacy":
On Monday, the L.B.J. Presidential Library and Museum will announce details of a Civil Rights Summit to be held here in April to commemorate Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act, attended by three of the four living former presidents — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — and perhaps President Obama.

A ceremony is being planned inside the massive slab of the L.B.J. Library, to be followed by celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Johnson initiatives: Medicare, the Clean Air Act, public broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Head Start, the requirements for seatbelts, and warnings on cigarette packs. The events are intended to offer a counterweight to the way Johnson has been portrayed over the past decades.

Shouldn't passing Medicare or the Civil Rights Act alone get LBJ into the top tier of presidents?

I guess the big news...

Riley Glassmann is the high scorer for Fremd.
...while I wasn't watching is that Loyola lost two games and fell from the Tribune's top ten. Fremd, meanwhile, is still undefeated but ranked only No. 12 in the Sun-Times. And Curie, ranked No. 1 in both the Chicago papers, is still only No. 4 in MaxPreps. (What's up with that?)

So my Game of the Week? Maybe Fremd at Barrington (10-15) on Friday night. Gotta see if these Vikings are for real.

Trib

1. Curie (22-1)
2. Stevenson (23-1)* 
3. Young (20-5) 
4. Marian Catholic (21-2)* 
5. Orr (20-3) 
6. Simeon (18-5) 
7. Fremd (23-0)
8. St. Joseph (20-4)
9. Bogan (24-4)
10. Zion-Benton (21-3)*

Sun-Times

1. Curie (22-1)
2. Young (20-5) 
3. Stevenson (23-1)*
4. Marian Catholic (21-2)*
5. Orr (20-3)
6. Simeon (18-5)
7. St. Joseph (20-4) 
8. Loyola (19-4)*
9. Morgan Park (16-6)
10. Bogan (24-4)

MaxPreps

1. Young (17-5)
2. Stevenson (22-1)*
3. Springfield Lanphier (23-0)^
4. Curie (20-1)
5. Morgan Park (14-4) 
6. Simeon (15-3) 
7. Lincoln (25-2)^ 
8. Marian Catholic (21-2)*
9. Orr (17-2) 
10. Bogan (19-4)

And here's last week's.

* Seen 'em.

^ Outside the Chicago area.

Friday, February 14, 2014

I'll be in LA...

...this weekend visiting my son in West Hollywood. Blogging should resume on Tuesday.

The Times has a front-page...

...story today, "Brownback Leads Kansas in Sharp Right Turn":

Sam Brownback took office as Kansas’ chief executive more than three years ago, promising a conservative revolution. By all accounts he has kept his promise.

Mr. Brownback, 57, has overseen the largest income tax cuts in state history, an expansion of gun rights, restrictions on abortion, sharply reduced welfare rolls, increased voter-registration scrutiny and a paring of state government bureaucracy. To accomplish his goals, he helped push the Republican-majority Legislature further to the right by working to oust moderate Republicans, deepening a longstanding rift within the state’s G.O.P.

“We believe this is a strategy that builds a strong state in the future on the red state model,” Mr. Brownback said in an interview in his Capitol office here. 

The red state model?

As Ezra Klein pointed out a few years ago (and as many others have since), with the exception of oil-rich Texas, red states generally receive more in federal spending than its residents pay to the federal government in taxes. In other words, according to the map below taxpayers in blue states are subsidizing those in red states.

So shouldn't Gov. Brownback be trying to adopt the blue state model?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The cape is back!

According to an article in the Fashion section of the Times this morning, Jon Caramanica writes:

Look, sometimes a cape is just a cape. When the first model hit the runway at the Public School show, he wore a wide-brimmed hat and a wool cape, beautifully cut, that suggested papal vestments and Amish rigor. Paired with a washed-out plaid shirt, it was structure and swagger in one.

But sometimes a cape is a provocation, as it was on the back of the rapper Cam’ron, who closed the Mark McNairy New Amsterdam show strutting hand-in-hand with his girlfriend JuJu, wearing, effectively, a tweed blanket fastened at the neck and cascading down to midcalf.

Now all we have to do is bring back the beret!

The Times ran this picture...

...of Germany's Federal Constitutional Court alongside its article, "Court Challenge on Bond Buying Poses Test for Central Bank, and for E.U." And I thought, is it really necessary for them to wear that costume to do their jobs?

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Peter Keepnews, who writes for the New York Times.

Sid Caesar died...

...at age 91. I knew the comedian had inspired the Alan Brady character from The Dick Van Dyke Show, above, and King Kaiser from the 1982 movie My Favorite Year, below...

...but I didn't know this:

He was given to explosive rages. With one punch, he knocked out a horse that had thrown his wife off its back, a scene that Mr. Brooks replayed in his movie “Blazing Saddles.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shirley Temple Black...

...died on Monday at age 85. That's the actress above with, yep, Ronald Reagan in the 1947 film, That Hagen Girl. “He was one of the best kissers,” she told the television show Entertainment Tonight in 1988. She also added that the film was “probably one of the worst movies either one of us ever made.”

From her obit in the Times: 

From 1935 to 1939 she was the most popular movie star in America, with Clark Gable a distant second. She received more mail than Greta Garbo and was photographed more often than President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

And then there's this amazing tidbit. At age 12 or 13 (it's not clear):

On her first visit to MGM, Mrs. Black wrote in her autobiography, the producer Arthur Freed unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her. Being innocent of male anatomy, she responded by giggling, and he threw her out of his office.

It must have been a different age, because as far as I can tell, nothing ever happened to Mr. Freed. In fact, the incident isn't even mentioned on his Wikipedia page. Can you imagine if something like that happened today?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chris Christie is falling...

...far behind Hillary Clinton in a potential matchup for the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.

Four weeks ago, he trailed her by 13 points in the poll, 50 percent to 37 percent. Today, he trails by 21 points, 58 percent to 37 percent, faring worse than any other Republican tested except Sarah Palin.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/02/11/217724/mcclatchy-marist-poll-christie.html#storylink=cpy

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The quote of the day...

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong.
...is from Ezra Klein's piece in Bloomberg, "AOL's Armstrong Needs Obamacare":

The great mystery of U.S. health care is why the country’s CEOs didn’t demand a single-payer system a long time ago. It’s an unending distraction -- and cost drag -- for companies to employ expensive human-resources divisions to negotiate with insurers and hospitals, manage health-care costs, and field questions and concerns from employees. Companies that are great at making cars or buildings or accounting software can’t survive if they’re not also successful at managing health insurance.

I didn't make it...

...to a basketball game last week and probably won't make it to one this week. 

On Friday night I got shut out at Stevenson. (The parking lot in Lincolnshire resembled the one above, only more crowded.) Do I really have to arrive an hour early for an hour and a half game? Oh well, sounds like it wasn't that great of a contest anyway. The Patriots defeated Zion-Benton, 81-63.

On Saturday and Sunday night I went over to Northwestern to listen to music. (Am I losing my taste for this stuff?) And this week I'll be getting ready for my trip to Los Angeles. In the meantime, here are the Top Ten from the three news services I follow:

Trib

1. Curie (21-1)
2. Stevenson (21-1)* 
3. Young (19-5) 
4. Marian Catholic (19-2)* 
5. Zion-Benton (20-2)* 
6. Simeon (18-4) 
7. Loyola (19-2)*
8. Fremd (20-0) 
9. Orr (19-3)
10. Bogan (24-4)

Sun-Times

1. Curie (21-1)
2. Young (19-5) 
3. Stevenson (21-1)*
4. Marian Catholic (19-2)*
5. Loyola (19-2)*
6. Zion-Benton (20-2)*
7. Orr (19-3) 
8. Fremd (20-0)
9. Simeon (18-4)
10. St. Rita (13-6)*

MaxPreps

1. Young (17-5)
2. Stevenson (20-1)*
3. Springfield Lanphier (21-0)^
4. Curie (19-1)
5. Marian Catholic (18-2)* 
6. Morgan Park (14-4) 
7. Simeon (15-3) 
8. Lincoln (22-2)^
9. Bogan (19-4) 
10. Orr (17-2)

And here's last week's.

* Seen 'em.

^ Outside the Chicago area.

Friday, February 7, 2014

I just stumbled upon...

...a new poll from a company called Gravis Marketing. After I got past the part about the 2016 Republican nomination, I began to realize just who had been sampled -- the GOP base. Check out the answers to a few of these questions:

68 percent of those surveyed believe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not order the George Washington Bridge closed to punish his political opponents; 77 percent support drug testing for welfare benefits, including food stamps; 84 percent would not support amnesty for illegal aliens (love the way that one was worded); 87 percent think the United States is on the wrong track; and -- surprise! -- 88 percent are white and 45 percent are over the age of 65.

Okay, you may be thinking, what are you getting at? And the answer is, a plurality also supports expanded background checks for gun purchases!

So, even with the numbers from this crowd, we still can't make any headway on gun safety?

At long last, Hollywood...

...made a movie about the role of fine art in World War II. Does this mean they're finally running out of things to say about the conflict?

I can't decide if this guy...

...is a really good card player or just a plumber.

Happy birthday Joe!

(Although I didn't get the bathrobe jokes.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What's the most religious state...

...in America? Mississippi.

The least? Vermont.

From Gallup:

Religiousness across the U.S. in 2013 remained similar to previous years. With 61% of its residents classified as very religious, Mississippi held on to its position as the most religious state, while Vermont, with 22% very religious residents, remained the least religious.

Every few years, the Times...

...runs a piece on hockey in northern Minnesota. (What's with me and the Times today?) As someone who went to high school and college in the small mining town of Edina, I can attest to the authenticity of these articles. Today's piece, "Minnesota’s Olympic Hockey Cradle (Pop. 1,781)," is a really good read (all emphasis mine):

Warroad, population 1,781, a civic snow globe six miles from the Canadian border, has as many indoor rinks (two) as red lights. The town has sent seven hockey players to the Olympics since 1956 — four of them from the same family, the Christians — and each one has returned with a medal. The hope is for a pair of golds at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

During Warroad’s frigid winter, the temperature has lurked below zero like a walleye beneath the ice on Lake of the Woods. On a recent dawn, snow blew like sand across the highway. A band of pink flared on the horizon, and then extinguished into grayness. The fire had gone out on another morning.

“When it’s 30 below, and there is this much snow, there’s not a whole lot to do for kids,” said Jay Hardwick, the boys’ hockey coach at Warroad High School. “You go to school and go to the rink. That’s about it.”

Well, there is ice fishing, though, as Dave Christian joked, “They frown on cutting holes in the ice on the rink.”

But I liked the one from a few years ago, "A Game? No, It’s a Life," even better:

At this time of year there isn’t a lot to do in Warroad, Minn., a little town at the southwestern end of the Lake of the Woods, just a few miles from the Canadian border. There is no movie theater, the one bowling alley closed a while ago and the nearest shopping mall is in Grand Forks, N.D., two and half hours away across a windswept plain. You can snowmobile, but the snowfall has been a little skimpy so far this winter. Or you can ice fish, though until just a couple of weeks ago, when the temperature finally plunged to double digits below, it might have been unwise to drive a pickup out onto the lake.

Or like many Warroad residents, you can flock to the Gardens, the town’s main ice rink, especially on a night when the Warroad High School Warriors are playing. What basketball is to Indiana and football is to Texas, hockey is to Minnesota, a passion so intense that it borders on civic religion. And even in this hockey-mad state, Warroad, which bills itself as Hockeytown U.S.A. and displays a pair of crossed hockey sticks on the town water tower, is legendary for its fervor. 

The neighboring town of Roseau, 20 miles down Highway 11, is just as besotted, maybe more so, and the rivalry between them, going back 60 years or so, is probably the most famous and most intense in the state. The teams play each other twice every season, and those two evenings are among the biggest events all winter. People look forward to them for weeks, and replay them in conversations for days afterward. 

Warroad has the edge in former Olympians, thanks mostly to a single family, the Christians: Ginny played on the 1956 team, his brothers Bill and Roger won gold medals with the 1960 team and also played in ’64, and Bill’s son Dave played on the gold-medal-winning 1980 team. Roseau boasts more National Hockey League players, including four from a single block: Bryan Erickson, who played for four clubs in the ’80s and early ’90s, and the three Brotens: Neal, Aaron and Paul.

And here's the money quote:

“Growing up, I never dreamed of playing pro hockey,” Mr. Erickson said recently. “I wasn’t even the best player on my street.”

Did I read this right?

From an article in today's Times, "Tennessee Governor Urges 2 Free Years of Community College and Technical School" (my emphasis):

Public colleges have sharply raised their prices since the 1990s in the face of declining state support, but a plan by Tennessee’s governor to make two years of community college and technical school free for all students represents a striking reversal of that trend.

Tennessee would be the only state in the country to charge no tuition or fees to incoming students under the proposal by Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, which policy analysts called a big step toward a better-educated work force.

“We just needed to change the culture of expectations in our state,” the governor said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “College is not for everybody, but it has to be for a lot more people than it’s been in the past if we’re going to have a competitive work force.”

A Republican urging the government to improve people's lives? How many tea party challengers have stepped forward since Gov. Haslam's proposal?