Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I think it was Emily Post...

...who famously said, "Never discuss religion or politics in polite company."

Or was it some guy named Haliburton? No matter; when I was a kid I heard that a lot. But I never payed any attention to it, obviously -- until now.

I don't remember if I ever actually heard my parents say that, but I distinctly remember them never discussing religion with anyone, particularly anyone who wasn't Catholic. And why would they? Didn't the religious wars of the Middle Ages settle once and for all that no one was going to change anyone else's mind on the subject? For example, when I was very young I was best friends with the kid next door whose family was -- gulp -- Presbyterian. Now, can you imagine my parents knocking on their door and trying to convince them of papal infallibility? It would have been unheard of! (Another common saying when I was young was, "You go to your church and I'll go to mine.")

So by the time I came along in the latter half of the Baby Boom Americans of different religions had pretty much decided to live among each other without discussing the subject. As I said, it would have been considered bad manners (and futile) to try and change anyone's mind on something we just plain believed in because we just plain believed it. So while we went to Mass on Sundays our neighbors went to their churches, and that really exotic group, Jews, went to something called Synagogue. But we all managed to live together relatively peacefully. And why wouldn't we? For the other six days of the week we went about our secular lives without any need to talk or even think about religion.

But politics was a different story. Until now.

You're probably wondering why I put a picture of fruit at the top of this post. And the reason is that I've been thinking and saying a lot lately that if someone were to put some fruit on a table in the middle of a room and two or more people were asked to paint a picture of it you would get as many different paintings as you have painters, depending on everyone's level of skill and, more importantly, their view of reality. Everyone, of course, would paint the different pieces of fruit in different order depending on where they saw them from where they sat in the room. Also, while some might choose to depict the fruit as realistically as possible others might express themselves more abstractly. But you get the idea: everyone would have a different view of the fruit and everyone would paint it differently.

And the truth is that politics is no different from that fruit -- or religion. We all bring our own assumptions, prejudices and beliefs to the subject. (Either you believe, for example, that the government has a role to play in the economy or you don't -- there's really no point in us arguing over that. It's axiomatic.) And nowadays, you can not only hold your own beliefs and opinions but you get to have your own facts and reality. In this age of the Internet, you can read only those things that you already agree with and that reinforce your views. (You know what I'm talking about.)

But when you go and try to talk to somebody about politics, well, you might as well be trying to talk to my old neighbors about that papal infallibility thing -- it's really a waste of time. If you're like me you've just given up (honest!) on even engaging others on the subject when you know if their politics are different from yours. For example, I have an unspoken understanding with my sister and a woman I work with that we just won't even discuss politics at all (although it does limit our conversations quite a bit). But it's just easier that way: I'm not going to change their minds and they're not going to change mine. Heck, sometimes we can't even agree on the facts! Take, for example, that mass shooting in Florida a while back. While liberals like me would say it was just some nutcase with a gun who went in and shot up a gay nightclub, conservatives would argue that it was a terrorist attack. How can we discuss something when we can't even agree on what happened?

So people today try to have family gatherings like Thanksgiving with people who agree with them politically. It's just easier, isn't it? Protestants, Catholics and Jews (and Muslims) can break bread together as long as they don't disagree on politics. It's funny (or not funny); I've heard that parents care more about the politics of their kids' spouses than anything else. And it's true in at least my case: as someone who was raised as a Catholic I couldn't care less that my son is marrying a Jew. The important thing is that she and her parents are not Republicans -- that would really make things uncomfortable!

There's only one problem with not discussing politics in the way we don't debate religion though. As the saying goes, we can each go to our own house of worship on Sunday (or not) and still get together just fine for the other six days of the week. But how on earth do we live together when politics determines almost everything that happens -- taxes, war, even birth control -- in the real world? That's the hard part.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Al Caiola, who recorded...

...the themes from the westerns The Magnificent Seven and Bonanza, died at age 96.

Florence Henderson, who starred... the 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch, died at age 82. From her obit in the Times:

Ms. Henderson was making a film in Norway in 1969 when she was asked to appear in the pilot episode of “The Brady Bunch,” an unapologetically upbeat comedy about a widow with three daughters who meets, marries and makes a sunny suburban California home with a widower who has three sons. The series ran from September 1969 to March 1974, attracting viewers during a period of extreme social change and the Vietnam War, neither of which touched the Bradys’ world.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of this show when I was young. I even made a pilgrimage in 2015 to the original house in Studio City.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I've been married...

...for thirty years -- today -- to a woman who grew up in Milwaukee. So, for over thirty years -- 32 to be exact, I guess -- I've been going up to the Cream City for holidays, weddings, funerals, etc. Also, for over 35 years I've been driving through Wisconsin to Minnesota where I finished high school and college and still have a couple of brothers. So, for someone who's never lived in the state I sure have spent a lot of time in Wisconsin. And Emma Roller's piece in the New York Times this morning, "Not Your Grandmother’s Wisconsin," really hit home. Except I would have titled it more like, "Not Even My Wife’s Wisconsin."

I've talked about this before, but I suppose ever since the Braves left Milwaukee back in 1965 (and probably earlier), the entire state of Wisconsin has been in a prolonged economic slump. I don't know why -- maybe it's tough being situated between ginormous Chicago and forward-thinking Minneapolis -- but Milwaukee and the rest of the state seem to be in a long, slow decline. Trust me, it's palpable.

So I wasn't so terribly surprised that Wisconsin -- along with Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and, of course, Indiana -- all went for Trump in the election. Oh, sure, I believed in the "Blue Wall," but I've often wondered how long it would be before the Rust Belt began to realize its best days have come and gone -- and turn red. Deeper and deeper red. I mean, all you have to do is drive through any of those states (and upstate New York, which I used to pass through on my way to taking my son to college in New Hampshire) and you'll see downtowns that have been absolutely decimated and depressed people with the hollow looks of those who have been left behind by technology and globalization.

Wisconsin, in particular, is the victim of a double-whammy: not only is the countryside suffering through another Great Depression, but the city of Milwaukee and its suburbs have developed a terrible, terrible racism problem. What was once a progressive hotbed (remember Bob La Follette and William Proxmire?) now more resembles Mississippi. People I met up there 30 years ago now talk a lot differently -- a lot differently -- about African Americans. It's really discouraging.

So when Scott Walker, Ron Johnson and Reince Priebus all emerged around 2010-11 I wasn't so surprised. After all, Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan had already been representing Wisconsin since 1999. As I wrote four years ago -- in June, 2012:

The economy in Wisconsin, if it ever was anything special, has long been lost to history. The emergence in the Badger State of such tea partiers as Scott Walker, Ron Johnson and Paul Ryan only confirm to me that Wisconsin may have already evolved into a red state. What does that mean? Like other red states, such as Indiana, Tennessee and Mississippi, Wisconsin is gradually becoming a ward of the federal government. In other words, like most red states, it will receive more from the federal government than it sends to Washington in taxes. Stuck between prosperous Minneapolis and Chicago, Wisconsin is resembling -- more and more -- Indiana.

If you'll notice, by the way, in the Midwest only Minnesota and Illinois -- home to economic powerhouses Minneapolis and Chicago -- stayed blue in this election. They, along with California, New York, Virginia, Colorado and really every other prosperous state will now have the privilege of supporting their red state brethren.

So, no, the Dairy State is no longer your grandmother’s Wisconsin. That's for sure. But it's not even the Wisconsin of the 1990s, '80s, '70s or beyond. It's now part of a region in permanent decline. And all that's left for its residents to do is root for the Badgers and the Packers. It's a shame.

Monday, November 21, 2016

How does a nice-looking...

...young man like the one above, who grew up in an affluent section of Dallas, went to a fancy prep school there and has degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago, grow up to be a leader of the alt-right?

(The alt-right, in case you don't know, has been defined as a "movement with white identity as its core idea." You'd be forgiven if you equated it with "white nationalism," or "white supremacy," or even -- what the heck -- "neo-Nazism.")

That kid, Richard Spencer, is now 38 years old and coined the term "alt-right" back in 2008. (You can read more about him in Mother Jones and today's New York Times.)

While I usually think of neo-Nazis or members of the Ku Klux Klan as "losers," this guy was the son of an ophthalmologist who played varsity football and baseball in high school and hung out with the popular crowd. What would have made him become so angry? Spencer then went on to get his bachelor's degree from UVA and a master's from the U of C. So he's obviously no dummy, either.

So how, I wonder -- I really do -- did this guy go down the strange road to white supremacy instead of growing up to become a doctor, like his father, or a lawyer or an investment banker like all his peers? How does a nice kid like the one in the picture above turn into a total nut job like the one below? (That's called a "fashy" haircut, by the way -- long on top, buzzed on the sides. "Fashy" is short for "fascism" -- seriously.)

It's really something I'd like to pursue. Oh, and prepare to hear a lot more about this guy in the coming days and weeks. (Steve Bannon, Trump's "brain," is also a member of the alt-right.)

P. S. These are really weird times we're living in, aren't they?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

“Turns out you can normalize anything these days.”

A note to readers.

If you feel like I haven't been writing as much lately, I think you're right. And I think it's due to a number of factors.

First off, if I don't have anything original to say on a given topic I don't say anything at all. If I've written about something in the past that reminded you of something you read somewhere else it just means that you got to it before I did. Or, it could mean that we've all digested the same views or opinions and incorporated them into our own. But if I write about something that I've consciously read somewhere else I try to provide a link to the original. If I don't -- and I'm sure I haven't at some point -- then it's an honest mistake on my part.

And, really, what could I have possibly written about Donald Trump or the Cubs that hadn't already been said -- many times -- elsewhere? Although I was prompted to write about both (click here and here) after one of my readers texted me, "I feel like any thoughts from a personal perspective are original by definition."

And that provides me with a convenient segue into another reason I haven't been writing as much lately: I just don't wake up with that burning desire to Tell the World What I Think about whatever issue is in the news that day. Does that mean I'm not as opinionated as I used to be? Ha! Hardly. I think it's more a function of being sleep-deprived due to a new work schedule which leaves me getting six or fewer hours of sleep most nights. Even though I try to take a nap in the afternoon it just doesn't seem to be enough. I'm not complaining, mind you -- I have an easy job and an easy life. It's just that I've always functioned best on at least seven or eight hours of sleep. So instead of waking up Loaded for Bear like I used to it's all I can do to just scroll bleary-eyed through Twitter for much of the morning.

Which brings me to another reason. Like many bloggers over the years, I find myself migrating more and more to Twitter. And what would have been a blog post in the past is now often a Tweet storm. Is this good or bad? And is it permanent? I don't know. I do know, however, that Twitter is one of the most valuable things on the Internet. (Although the market doesn't agree with me.) You can follow so many interesting people and read so many links to interesting pieces -- I really love it! And Twitter, I'm convinced, is its own new, unique literary form. (Stop laughing!) Really. Not only has Donald Trump adopted it much in the way FDR used radio or JFK television, but many of the people I follow have practically elevated it to an art form just by using 140 characters or less in an innovative and clever way. (If you want to know what I'm talking about just start by following @jbarro or @davidfrum.)

Finally, there's high school football. If you're wondering why I'm not writing so much about it it's because in part I've tried to distance myself a little. After years of going to so many games (I recall once telling someone I had been to 22 -- and that was before the playoffs were even over!) I've been consciously cutting down since moving back to the city two and a half years ago. A corollary to this is that I think I'm genuinely losing interest. Has the quality of Illinois high school football gone down? Coaches have told me the numbers are off considerably; this would have to affect the quality at some point, wouldn't it? Or maybe I've just gotten my fill and am moving on with my life. I don't know.

But I do know that I'm still here dammit. And I hope to keep writing and I hope you continue to read my rants about Whatever. To those of you who read this blog, thanks for indulging me. And to those of you who have responded in some way, thanks for the feedback.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Leon Russell, who in addition... writing “Superstar” for the Carpenters was also an accomplished pianist, guitarist and bandleader, died at age 74.

This was a very big song when I was in eighth grade.

A friend reminded me...

...this morning that Robert Vaughn, who died last Friday, was the "last of The Magnificent Seven."

I don't think I've ever seen that movie all the way through (shame on me!), nor have I seen Seven Samurai (double shame on me!), the 1954 Japanese film upon which it was based.

But I do like the theme for The Magnificent Seven.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo... the 1960s series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died at age 83. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

But no character he played was as popular as Napoleon Solo. From 1964 to 1968, in the thick of the Cold War, millions of Americas tuned in weekly to “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” to watch Mr. Vaughn, as a superagent from the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, battling T.H.R.U.S.H. (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity), a secret organization intent on achieving world domination through nefarious if far-fetched devices like mind-controlling gas.

At the height of the show’s popularity, Mr. Vaughn said he was receiving 70,000 fan letters a month.

The show was a self-aware parody of Ian Fleming’s creation James Bond, who had been played by Sean Connery in two hit movies by the time “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” made its debut. (Fleming served as an adviser to the show, and is widely credited with coining the name Napoleon Solo.)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a can't-miss for me in grammar school.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

“To be honest, I’m less troubled by the alien invaders than I am by the leader we’re taking them to.”

Monday, November 14, 2016

Friday, November 11, 2016

My Game of the Week... Loyola at No. 24-seed Huntley (8-3). Sorry, no time for a write-up this week. (Or even a picture.)

It's going to be 50 degrees and sunny out there. What else is there to do on a Saturday afternoon? Stress out about politics? Better to get a hot dog (or two) and enjoy some football.

My first thought upon...

...emerging from the fetal position yesterday was, Trump's victory could be a blessing in disguise.

Now I know what you're thinking: that's a hell of a disguise!

First, consider what might have been. With a Democratic Senate, a President Hillary Clinton would have been able to appoint a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. If any of the other three justices over the age of 77 had retired in the next two years she could have replaced them too. Hillary could have conceivably appointed four left-leaning judges and tipped the court to a clear 6-3 liberal balance for a generation. That would have been the best-case scenario for Democrats, but it's obviously not going to happen now. That's the bad news.

The good news is that we won't have four more years of gridlock. And that would have been the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario would have been Republicans endlessly dogging a President Clinton with investigations into imagined "scandals" and impeachment threats. Any governing at all in Washington would have been impossible. In 2018 the Republicans were expected to take back the Senate anyway, and the gerrymandered House would have remained in GOP hands until at least the 2020 census (if not beyond). Then, on top of all that, the expansion would have been getting a little long in the tooth and -- like President George H. W. Bush -- Mrs. Clinton may have had the misfortune of running for reelection in 2020 in the midst of a recession.

So that's what we missed: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court, but that's about it.

(Let's pause here to acknowledge the obvious: Hillary Clinton, like Mitt Romney, John Kerry and Al Gore, was a terrible candidate for president. What was her rationale for running? Because she wanted to be president? That's not as compelling as "Make America Great Again." Granted, Mrs. Clinton is a highly intelligent, hard-working woman with an incredible grasp of policy. Although she had terrible political instincts I think she would have had the right governing instincts and would have made a good president. And I'm sure that's why Obama helped clear the field for her.

But, even though I was a Hillary supporter all the way for the reasons I just gave, I couldn't even watch her on TV. Whenever she would come on I would fast-forward to the next segment of the show. I contributed a little money to her campaign, but not nearly what I gave to Obama in 2008 and 2012. And I never considered for a minute driving to Iowa and knocking on doors for her like I did for Obama in 2012.

It turns out that while Trump got fewer votes than either McCain or Romney, Hillary got a lot fewer than Obama. And that's why she lost. Hey, if I didn't care that much about her candidacy, how could anyone else?)

Now, three days after the election, what exactly do we have? A President-elect Trump with the Republican Party in charge of all three branches of the federal government. (And that's not to mention all those GOP governors and state legislatures. Oy!)

What's my mood on the Friday after the election? Hopeful, optimistic. Really.

First, the good news: gridlock is over. With one party in control the government should function somewhat like a European-style parliamentary democracy where the winning party gets to put its agenda in place and -- here's the good part -- we get to see if it works or not.

Now, imagine -- just imagine -- that Trump turns out to be a better president than anyone thinks. And let's just say for argument's sake that the Republican agenda actually works and we enjoy 4-5 percent GDP growth, peace throughout the land, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (What if arming everyone really does result in less gun violence? I know that sounds crazy but at least we'll know once and for all.) In that case I'll be more than happy to admit I was wrong -- about everything. It's more important for the country to prosper than for me to be right. (In my old age I'm nothing if not pragmatic.)

Now imagine, on the other hand, that the Trump administration turns out to be as bad as you had feared. Then the Republican agenda will be shown to be ineffective at solving the nation's problems and the Democrats will take back the Senate in 2018 and the White House in 2020. The country may look back on the Trump years much as we look back on W.'s administration. The Republican Party will be discredited -- again. And the center/left agenda of the Democrats will be put back in place. (And that's without assuming a recession in the next four years.)

It's important to remember this: we really don't know what a Trump administration will look like. No one knows what this guy thinks about anything. Maybe he'll turn out to be a huge pragmatist like FDR.

In the long run, Trump could actually be the best thing that ever happened to Democrats. What if he doesn't get along with Paul Ryan? What if he turns his back on the GOP leadership? What if, to get infrastructure spending, Trump triangulates with Chuck Schumer and the Democrats. Remember, I'm a pragmatist; if only Republicans can do infrastructure and put people back to work then so be it. (Why, by the way, do Republicans seem to be Austrians when in opposition but Keynesians when in control?) What if Trump returns to his roots and insists on some form of universal health care coverage? What if he decides, again, that abortion really is an issue for a woman and her doctor? What if he turns out to be a lot more centrist than we thought? It's not inconceivable.

Okay, but what if Trump turns out to be as bad as we feared? Well, first of all, he's not going to build that wall and he's not going to deport 11 million people. And there won't be a ban on Muslims. It's just not going to happen. And he probably won't repeal the ACA either; people need health insurance. He may or may not tear up the Iran deal and all the trade deals. He may or may not do all or some of the crazy things he talked about in the last year. If so, the American people will decide if he's an extremist or not.

One thing I feel pretty confident of is that Trump will not bring back all those good, high-paying manufacturing jobs from the 1950s and '60s. Those are lost to technology or Mexico and China and they aren't ever coming back. You just can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. And, sadly, many of the people who put their faith in Trump that he would "Make America Great Again" are going to be profoundly disappointed. If anything, they may suffer the most under a Trump administration.

If Trump can manage, however, to get infrastructure spending past a Republican Congress then maybe he will bring prosperity back to middle America. But is the austerity-minded GOP Congress going to go for that? Well, maybe. Deficit spending is only bad when a black Democrat is in the White House.

So, really, it's a win-win: if Trump succeeds, great; if not, that's ultimately good too.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of playing defense. I'm worn out from always defending President Obama to the knuckle-draggers and mouth-breathers in our midst (and my own family). It'll be refreshing to be on the outside looking in and either watching a great success -- or a great failure. My advice is to stock up on popcorn. This will be fun to watch.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"No Cubs BOWG entry?"... of my readers wrote to me yesterday.

And the answer is, I guess it hasn't fully sunk in just yet. I mean, I've been waiting for this moment since at least 1969, when I watched the Cubs collapse and the (hated) Mets rise up and win not only the division, but also the pennant and the World Series. And all this happened just as we were moving from Chicago to New Jersey and I was entering still another new school and a sixth-grade classroom full of brand spanking new Mets fans. (I still bear the emotional scars.)

I've always thought the Mets overtook the Cubs that year on the exact day we moved to New Jersey, but I guess it was a little later. From Wikipedia (my emphasis):

Burdened by a four-game losing streak, the Cubs traveled to Shea Stadium on September 8 for a short two-game set. The Mets won both games, and the Cubs left New York with a record of 84–58 just  1⁄2 game in front. Disaster followed in Philadelphia, as a 99-loss Phillies team nonetheless defeated the Cubs twice, to extend Chicago's losing streak to eight games. In a key play in the second game, on September 11, Cubs starter Dick Selma threw a surprise pickoff attempt to third baseman Ron Santo, who was nowhere near the bag or the ball. Selma's throwing error opened the gates to a Phillies rally.

After that second Philly loss, the Cubs were 84–60 and the Mets had pulled ahead at 85–57. The Mets would not look back. The Cubs' eight-game losing streak finally ended the next day in St. Louis, but the Mets were in the midst of a ten-game winning streak, and the Cubs, wilting from team fatigue, generally deteriorated in all phases of the game. The Mets (who had lost a record 120 games 7 years earlier), would go on to win the World Series. The Cubs, despite a respectable 92–70 record, would be remembered for having lost a remarkable 17  1⁄2 games in the standings to the Mets in the last quarter of the season.

Like so many Cubs fans I was crushed. Beyond crushed. But if you had told me back in 1969, at age eleven, that I would have had to wait until I was 58 years old and the year two thousand and sixteen for the Cubs to finally win the World Series I would have been really depressed. 2016? That would have been long after those science fiction years of 1984 or even 2001! Where on earth would I be in 2016? Back in Chicago, living in Little Italy, married with two grown sons? Hard to even picture!

Over the ensuing 47 years -- I have to admit -- my interest in the Cubs waxed and waned (usually with the team's fortunes). We moved to Minnesota in 1974 and I became a bit of a Twins fan. I always rationalized it by saying that the Twins were my favorite American League team -- the Cubs would always be my favorite team. And I wondered sometimes what I would do if the two ever met in the World Series. (I'd root for the Cubs.) But this season has reminded me how much I enjoyed those 1987 and 1991 Twins.

As I said, my interest in the Cubs (and baseball) came and went, and when I moved back to Chicago in 1981 and attended a game the following spring I said to the people around me, "That guy on the mound looks like Ferguson Jenkins." (It was.) By that time I had really lost touch with the game.

In 1986 I got married and had two sons, in 1990 and 1992.

In the meantime, I endured the Cubs' disappointments of 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2015. After the Steve Bartman incident in 2003 I actually felt a little guilty (I really did!) for raising two sons as Cubs fans. Why would anyone pass along the misery of being a Cubs fan? It's almost cruel.

So after feeling a little like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football held by Lucy, I held back on following the Cubs this year. My older boy had kept me informed in recent years about Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon, Kris Bryant, etc. but I refused to take another run at that damned pigskin. After all, the Cubs beat the Pirates and the Cardinals last year -- the two best teams in baseball -- only to lose (swept, even) by those hated Mets. And that was after beating the New Yorkers soundly during the regular season! Where, I cried out, is the order in the universe? I need more order in the universe! My son told me, however, that -- at the end of the day -- it was "just monkeys hitting a rock with a stick while on a rock hurtling through a vast expanse of nothing. It's just a distraction from the fact that we're going to die." Gotcha.

Well, we all know how this story ended. Seven games, three to one deficit, final two games in Cleveland, last game in extra innings, rain delay, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (And, as my son told me, the Cubs and Indians actually tied, 27-27, after seven games. Sheesh!) My younger son and I have made three pilgrimages to Wrigley Field on each of the last three Sundays, I bought another Cubs hat (this one with "World Champions" on it) and tried and failed to make it to the rally in Grant Park on Friday.

The good news is we can finally retire that video at the top of this post (although I still like it) and if the Cubs never win another World Series for the rest of my life at least we have this one. My older boy once told me he wished the Cubs would win the Series for my sake. And I always responded that I wished the Cubs would win for my 85-year-old uncle's sake. Well, they won for all our sakes and that darned monkey (or was it a goat?) is finally off our backs forever and ever and ever.

Now let's drag that other blue team -- Hillary and company -- across the finish line today.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

“Get him! He’s wearing a blazer with a turtleneck!”

Last year the top two teams... everyone's final rankings were Loyola and Glenbard West. Both undefeated, they took the 8A and 7A crowns, respectively. I wondered -- and still wonder -- how a Rambler - Hilltopper showdown would have turned out.

Although Glenbard West graduated Tribune Player of the Year Sam Brodner (above) and lost back-to-back games this year (to Lyons and Hinsdale Central) the Hitters could very well meet up with Loyola in the semifinals in two weeks. (And it would be a day game.)

Other than that the Ramblers could face Maine South, again, this time in the finals in Champaign. Loyola held off the Hawks, 44-43, at home in Week Two. (I was there.)

In 7A, as I already mentioned, Fenwick could meet up with Benet in the final. (More on that later.)

Finally, in 6A, I don't have to tell anyone about the possible (probable?) matchup in the semifinals between Fox Valley Conference rivals Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove. The Wolves, you may recall, handed the Trojans their only loss of the season in Week One, 26-14.

As for the other five classes, I don't have anything interesting to say (yet).

We're down to the quarterfinals...

Will Fenwick meet Benet in the Class 7A final?
...and six private schools are still competing in the top four brackets.

8A: Loyola
7A: Fenwick and Benet
6A: St. Laurence and Sacred Heart-Griffin
5A: Marian

That's 18.75 percent of the remaining teams. Or less than one in five. Is that a lot? I don't know. Do private schools need their own tournament? I don't think so.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Oswego East is having...

...its best football season ever -- by far. On Saturday the 9-1 Wolves will travel almost fifty miles to take on undefeated and defending Class 8A champion Loyola in the second round of the playoffs. It's my Game of the Week.

This is only the third winning season in history for Oswego East. In fairness, though, the Southwest suburban (or is it exurban?) school has only been around since 2004. And head coach Tyson LeBlanc (second from the left in the picture above) is only in his fifth season at the helm of the Wolves.

Although Oswego East went 0-9 as recently as 2009 (ouch!), LeBlanc shepherded his squad to a 7-4 finish in 2013 and a 6-4 record in 2015. Last year the Wolves made it to the second round of the postseason, losing to Geneva, 36-19.

What else do I know about Oswego East? Not much. (But that didn't stop me from writing this post back in July.)

How about this? Oswego East has the No. 1-ranked running back in the state of Illinois according to Ivory Kelly-Martin (far right), an Iowa recruit, transferred to Oswego East from Nazareth last winter. Kelly-Martin was the leading rusher for the Roadrunners, 2015's Class 5A state champions. (I'd love to know the backstory to that transfer.)

The Wolves also have a talented quarterback in Jaylon Banks (far left), a Louisiana Tech recruit, and defensive end/tight end Elijah James (second from right), who is headed to Central Michigan next year.

Beyond that, all I know is that Oswego East's lone defeat came at the hands of cross-town rival Oswego, 21-3. (Ironically -- or is it coincidentally? -- the Ramblers could face the undefeated Panthers in the semifinals. Loyola fans may be wondering, "What does the town of Oswego have against us?")

Oswego East was ranked No. 23 in the Sun-Times at the end of the regular season and No. 39 in MaxPreps after last week.

As you can see from their 2016 schedule (home team in CAPS) the Wolves have beaten three winning teams so far, Joliet WestPlainfield North (still alive in 7A) and Curie (where, coincidentally, LeBlanc coached before Oswego East).

Oswego East 49, JOLIET WEST 14  
OSWEGO EAST 48, Romeoville 14  
OSWEGO EAST 71, Joliet Central 0  
Oswego East 40, PLAINFIELD SOUTH 19  
Oswego East 21, PLAINFIELD NORTH 14  
Oswego 21, OSWEGO EAST 3                 
OSWEGO EAST 42, Plainfield Central 0  
Oswego East 60, MINOOKA 28  
OSWEGO EAST 46, Plainfield East 9  
OSWEGO EAST 56, Curie 14        

Loyola, of course, needs no introduction to readers of this blog. But I've included their schedule, below, just to refresh your memory.

Loyola 36, MARQUETTE (WI) 7    
LOYOLA 44, Maine South 43  
Loyola 35, MOUNT CARMEL 28  
LOYOLA 55, St. Francis 0  
Loyola 52, FENWICK 21  
LOYOLA 35, St. Rita 3  
Loyola 51, LEO 8  
LOYOLA 42, Providence 7
Loyola 48, BROTHER RICE 37
LOYOLA 42, O'Fallon 14

So do the Wolves have a chance against the big, bad Ramblers? (Needless to say, the two schools have never faced each other.) I don't know, but I'm looking forward to seeing the (arguably) best running back in the state. Can Kelly-Martin make the difference? And can Banks keep Loyola's defense honest? Does Oswego East have an offensive line that can create holes for Kelly-Martin? Do they have anyone on defense besides James?

Or will Loyola just extend its -- yawn -- winning streak to 28 games? And are they headed for a semifinal rematch with Homewood-Flossmoor? And a rematch with Palatine, this time for all the marbles in Champaign? (I think so.)

The forecast for Wilmette on Saturday is 65 degrees and sunny. The Cubs will be World Champions by then so you won't have any excuse to stay home and watch baseball. If nothing else, when Kelly-Martin is lighting up the scoreboard in the Big Ten you can brag to everyone around you, "Hey, I saw that kid play in high school -- I knew he'd be a great one!"

Seriously, how can you not go to this game?