Tuesday, December 26, 2017

William Agee, CEO...

...of Bendix Corporation in the 1970s whose relationship with a female subordinate made him famous, died at age 79.

For those of us who were around back then and kinda, sorta paying attention to business news, it was a big story. From his New York Times obit:

As it turned out, it was a recruiting decision — the hiring in spring 1979 of a bright, promising female employee named Mary Cunningham — and Mr. Agee’s subsequent handling of their relationship that largely defined his business career, touching off a national discussion about workplace behavior that reverberates today.

Mr. Agee originally hired Ms. Cunningham, who also had a Harvard M.B.A., as his executive assistant. She quickly moved up the ranks at Bendix, becoming vice president for strategic planning within 15 months.

Soon after that, however, she was forced to leave the company under pressure amid allegations that she and Mr. Agee were having an affair — something they both denied. They later divorced their spouses, and they married in 1982.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Martin Ransohoff, the producer...

...of The Beverly Hillbillies and other television shows and movies, died at age 90.

There were so many good scenes in the Hillbillies, but one of my favorites begins at about 3:00 in the above clip.

Donald Trump has been in office...

...for almost a year now and so far there hasn't been an economic collapse or a nuclear war with North Korea or Iran (or anyone else) and really no major domestic or international crisis to speak of. And the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land. That's the good news.

The bad news is that pretty much everything else Trump has touched has turned to *mud*. (This is a "family" blog.) Neil Gorsuch replaced Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court, the administration has nominated a number of conservative (and in some cases clearly unqualified) judges to lower courts, gutted the EPA and other regulations, imposed a ban on some Muslims, demoralized the State Department, FBI and CIA, given moral aid and comfort to Nazis -- yes, Nazis! -- and . . . oh, heck, the list is too long. Besides, I'm sure you're as well aware of it all as I am. No need to get even more depressed.

And, now, as Christmas approaches, the Donald is about to score his first legislative "W": the incredibly regressive tax "reform." Ugh. So what is one to do?

Well, you could recite that famous quote, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," and be reassured that this, too, shall pass.

But you would also have to remember what John Maynard Keynes said, "In the long run we are all dead."

And that's the problem: that moral universe you've heard so much about can take a long, long time to bend.

Take slavery, for example. That quote has been attributed to a Unitarian minister by the name of Theodore Parker. A famous abolitionist, Parker made that observation before at least 1853 and died himself in 1860, five years before the Thirteenth Amendment was passed.

In other words, slavery, which existed in the English colonies since 1619, was finally abolished almost 250 years later. That's a heck of an arc! (And, in truth, blacks lived in almost de facto slavery under Jim Crow in the south until at least the 1960s and didn't have it a whole lot better in the north.) So while it's comforting to think that the arc of history bends toward justice, a lot of slaves -- and Parker -- never lived to see the "justice" part.

Or think of it another way. Germany has existed in one form or another for about a thousand years. The Nazi era only lasted for twelve of those years, from 1933-45. In the grand scheme of things, that's a very short time, a little over one percent of all German history. But if you were, say, 40 years old in 1933, the Nazi period -- assuming you lived through it -- would have taken up almost a quarter of your life by the time it was over. That's a big chunk of a person's life.

Now, I don't know how long Trump is going to be president (although I bet he gets reelected in 2020) but four, or eight, years can be a long time when you're living through it. (Just ask some of those Germans, if there are any left, about that 12-year Nazi period.) And, while I would think that the pendulum would swing back at some point, that could be a long time from now. I'll be 60 years old next year. I only have about twenty or thirty good years left. So I don't have all day; about two-thirds of my life is over. That moral arc had better hurry up!

If there's a God -- or any justice in the world -- the Democrats will take back the House next year and the Senate and White House in 2020. But I'm not so sure. There aren't a whole lot of swing districts left in Congress so between gerrymandering and voter suppression I'm not holding my breath. Although I suspect there's a younger and more charismatic version of Bernie Sanders out there somewhere, I doubt if he'll emerge soon enough to take on Trump in 2020. And any other Democrat -- Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, or any other of a number of ten or twenty potential candidates -- will be demonized with such a fervor by Fox News and the rest of the right-wing echo chamber that I'll bet Trump skates to victory by an even larger margin next time around. (Yep, you read that right. Think Nixon in 1972.)

Once again, the arc of history bends toward justice, but it can be an awfully long wait, and in the long run we're all dead, remember? So that's not a whole lot of comfort for a Never Trumper like me. And I'm afraid that pendulum I mentioned above isn't going to swing back anytime soon.

Oh, well. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Listening to the Sandals...

...on YouTube the last couple of days brought me to this video of a guy named Junior Brown whom I don't think I had ever heard. Who is this guy?, I thought, and what the hell is he playing?

From Wikipedia:

Jamieson "Junior" Brown is an American country guitarist and singer. 

Aha! That explains it.

Brown's signature instrument is the "guit-steel" double neck guitar, a hybrid of electric guitar and lap steel guitar.

I have to admit, I've never heard of that.

In 1985, Brown created a new type of double-neck guitar, with some assistance from Michael Stevens. Brown called the instrument his "guit-steel." When performing, Brown plays the guitar by standing behind it, while it rests on a small music stand. The top neck on the guit-steel is a traditional six-string guitar, while the lower neck is a full-size lap steel guitar for slide playing. . . Brown has stated that the invention of the guit-steel was always a matter of convenience so that he could play both lap steel and lead guitar during live performances and not directly motivated by a desire to be a "one man band."

Finally,

Although Brown plays such neotraditional country styles as honky-tonk, Western swing, etc., few of his performances will finish without some blues and Tex-Mex tunes playing as well as surf rock instrumentals.

Cool.

Pat DiNizio, lead singer...

...and songwriter for the Smithereens, died at age 62.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bruce Brown, whose...

..."documentary The Endless Summer, which followed two surfers on an epic adventure in pursuit of the perfect wave, became an unlikely hit when it was released nationally in 1966," died at age 80.

It's actually a very cool movie, with excellent surf music from the Sandals.

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to London Breed, the acting mayor of San Francisco.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When I saw the title...

...of Noah Smith's piece in Bloomberg, "Nurture Counts as Much as Nature in Success," you know I clicked on it right away.

If you're not a regular reader of this blog you wouldn't know that "Nature vs. Nurture" is one of my favorite topics. If there's a heaven, and if I get there (stop laughing!), one of my first questions will be what is the correct ratio in that debate. (Two others would be, "Who killed Kennedy?" and, "Are markets efficient?")

My current guess -- yes, current -- is that Nurture has some role, perhaps ten or twenty percent, but that it's far outweighed by Nature. No matter how hard I worked at it, for example, I was probably destined to never make the NBA. Conversely, they probably should have just given me a college degree at birth because there was really never any doubt I'd get one someday. (Or was that nurture? I was born into a solidly middle-class family in which all four of my older siblings graduated from college.)

Mr. Smith begins his piece by saying (all emphasis mine):

As a result, it’s hard to know what people really think about the nature-versus-nurture question. My impression is that most Americans subscribe to a casual, reflexive faith in the primacy of inborn ability.

And, right away, I have to take issue with that. I'd say that most people believe just the opposite: that with hard work, etc., one can do or be anything one wants. Isn't that right? Haven't you ever heard someone say, "If I had only done X (or hadn't done X) I'd by Y today"? Or, in relation to their kids, "If we'd only pulled this lever or pushed that button our kid would have turned out [better]"? I mean, really, isn't that human nature? If someone puts a pot of water on the stove, turns on the gas, and the water boils, aren't they correct in assuming that they "made that happen"? And don't people feel they have that kind of control over just about everything else in life? I'll bet my parents went to their graves thinking it was their fault somehow that their kids didn't turn out perfectly. "If only I had done [fill in the blank]..."

Smith goes on to say:

...people whose parents are inventors tend to become inventors themselves.

And while he uses this as an argument for Nurture, I think it could cut both ways. When I was growing up, if someone became a doctor or a lawyer people would often say that "his father was a doctor (or a lawyer)" as if to imply that the child observed the parent close up, liked what they saw, and decided to become a doctor (or a lawyer) too. But couldn't Nature be the reason? If someone is a doctor, they were probably good at math and science and worked hard in school. Couldn't those traits be hereditary? If a doctor's kid became a doctor, wouldn't it be a reasonable assumption that he or she was also good at math and science and had a tendency to work hard in school (and not screw around like I did)?

Smith concludes by saying:

So many different kinds of nurture matter in determining success. Effort matters. Education matters. And social environment matters. Americans discount these factors too much. The country would be a better, richer, more equal place with less emphasis on natural talent and more on humans’ potential to improve each other and themselves.

Yes, it would. And the country might be a better place if everyone had a pony. But this reminds me of what my friend Jamie (who grew up in Scotland and has lived all over the world, including Chicago) once told me: America's greatest strength is also one of its greatest weaknesses -- the idea that anyone can grow up to be anything. It's obviously a strength because, unlike the Old World, an individual isn't stuck into the class in which he was born, but through hard work and determination can become president of the United States (think Bill Clinton), a billionaire (think Steve Jobs) or pretty much anything he or she wants. It's a weakness, however, in that people are also led to believe that anyone can achieve these things despite not having innate intelligence, innate social skills, etc. and it makes for a lot of very disappointed people. And a lot of people who -- wrongly -- blame themselves for not achieving such dizzying heights of success. This, in turn, leads to a lot of discontent.

So, should I beat myself up for never having made it to the NBA? Probably not; I'm only 5'7". (But maybe with a little more hard work I could have made my high school team. Or is the tendency to work hard innate? And, anyway, I was never very passionate about basketball in the first place. Is that something you can change about yourself?) Should I hold myself responsible for never having become a billionaire? Maybe. I don't know. What do you think?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tracy Stallard, famous...

...for serving up Roger Maris's 61st home run in 1961, died at age 80.

Mr. Stallard's life wasn't all that noteworthy other than that one pitch, but his name has some significance for me. You see, growing up (and even today, if I'm honest), I was always conscious of having a girl's name for a last name.* (It could have been worse; I once knew a guy named Rick Lisa.) Even more than some jackass asking me if I had a brother named Dick ("Yes, as a matter of fact I do!" "Really?" "No!"), I always worried that having a girl's name for a last name would somehow make me less . . . manly. So even though Tracy as a first name is probably more often a girl's name, I was always prepared to trot out Tracy Stallard as an example of a man -- a professional athlete, no less -- with the first name Tracy.** So imagine my relief when Tracy McGrady came along and became such a star. I thought for sure that every mother in America would want to name her firstborn son Tracy. "Tracy is a girl's name? Are you crazy? Haven't you ever heard of Tracy McGrady? Sheesh."

P. S. My wife has run into her own trouble concerning our last name. "What's the name?" "Tracy -- Julie Tracy." "Okay, Tracy..."

* Maybe that explains my obsession with unusual names, hence my Name of the Day feature.

** Turns out Tracy is actually Mr. Stallard's middle name. Same with Tracy Kidder. Shhh!

Friday, December 8, 2017

William Gass, a writer...

...whom you may have never heard -- and I admittedly haven't read -- died at age 93. I remember his name from a college English class in connection with his work, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country. From his New York Times obit (my emphasis):

Since his first novel, “Omensetter’s Luck,” was published in 1966, Mr. Gass was one of the most respected authors never to write a best seller. (He wrote only two other novels but many novellas, short stories and essays.)

He received a raft of awards, including two National Book Critics Circle Awards for collections of criticism and philosophy: “Habitations of the Word” in 1985 and “Finding a Form” in 1997. He won four Pushcart Prizes, the Pen-Faulkner Prize and a $100,000 lifetime achievement award from the Lannan Foundation in 1997.

The novelist John Barth, a fellow practitioner of metafiction, predicted that Mr. Gass would someday rank high in the history of American arts and letters. “If he doesn’t,” Mr. Barth said in 1999, “it will be history’s fault.”

As I said, I've never read anything by Mr. Gass. Since I recognized his name, though, I read his obituary with anticipation. And I found it encouraging; here was a guy content to live in obscurity writing works of fiction that he thought had real value, rather than best sellers that would have made him rich. I've started novels by writers like Stephen King and John Grisham and just couldn't get very far. It's not that I'm some kind of literary snob; I actually don't read much fiction. But I just don't like wasting my time on pulp fiction. So I admire someone like Gass who decides he's not going to write for a popular audience but instead aspire to create the highest quality art possible. Looks like he never got rich, but he lived comfortably. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves some day.

I used to think Fox News...

...was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, problems in America. Yep, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report and now Brietbart. Those, I used to think, were the biggest problems in America. It was right-wing media, I reasoned, that dumbed-down the Republican Party base, giving us first the tea party, and now Donald Trump.

But now I think just a little differently. And a piece in Bloomberg this morning, "What If the Courts Were Filled With 'Little Scalias'?," reminds me why (my emphasis):

The left has lately been in a panic at the realization that President Donald Trump has so many vacancies to fill on the federal bench, a panic hardly abated by conservative proposals to add a lot more seats. The fear, as one of my Yale colleagues puts it, is that Trump will appoint lots of “little Scalias” -- a reference to Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016 and was succeeded on the Supreme Court this year by Neil Gorsuch.

Whom, you might ask, are all these "little Scalias"? And the point is, it doesn't matter: they're out there, apparently, and just waiting to be appointed to the federal bench. And the point, further, is that they weren't created by Trump or Jeff Sessions or even Fox News. And neither were Fox News's viewers. No, they were out there all along and merely there for the taking. Do you think, for example, that Sean Hannity's recent paranoid conspiracy rantings are costing him viewers? Then think again.

So my final point is that Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and, yes, Donald Trump, wouldn't exist without a ready and willing audience to support them. A nation of over 330 million people is bound to have a few jackasses like Sean Hannity and Donald Trump. (It's probably a bell curve.) The problem -- the main problem -- here is that over 60 million adults in this country thought Trump was qualified to be president. As Pogo famously said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Or, as Jerry Seinfeld put it:

"I will never understand people."

"They're the worst."

That's the problem with America -- Americans.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Name of the Day...

...is actually a tie, and can be found on the same page of the print edition of the New York Times.

Robert Youngentob, at top, is president of the Maryland-based real estate developer EYA, and Barry Swatsenbarg, above, is a senior vice president for Colliers International.

Neither name is particularly funny, just a mouthful.

Why didn't someone years ago, for example, shorten "Youngentob" to just plain "Young"? Gary Hart's last name was originally Hartpence. That's not as bad as Youngentob. Imagine:

"Table for four?"

"Sure; the name?"

"Youngentob."

"Youngen . . . [maitre d' looks up] what?"

"Never mind; Young."

"Oh, yes, right this way, sir."

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

John Anderson, who ran...

...as an independent candidate for president in 1980, died at age 95.

I voted for Mr. Anderson that year -- it was my first-ever vote for president -- and, looking back on it, don't regret it. From his New York Times obit (my emphasis):

Mr. Anderson refused to pander, telling voters in Iowa that he favored President Jimmy Carter’s embargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union after it had invaded Afghanistan. He called for a gasoline tax of 50 cents per gallon — when a gallon cost $1.15 — to save energy.
___

Early on, when all six of his rivals for the Republican nomination assured the Gun Owners of New Hampshire that they firmly opposed gun control legislation, Mr. Anderson said, “I don’t understand why.”

“When in this country we license people to drive automobiles,” he added, “what is so wrong about proposing that we license guns to make sure that felons and mental incompetents don’t get ahold of them?”

He was roundly booed.
___

...he had harshly criticized President Richard M. Nixon, a fellow Republican, over his handling of the Watergate scandal. 
___

He was a leader in the passage of open housing legislation in 1968 and in setting campaign contribution limits in 1974, and he worked with his Democratic friend, Morris K. Udall of Arizona, to create 10 national parks in Alaska, protecting 100 million acres.
___

But he grew increasingly impatient not only with the House but also with the growing strength of the right wing of his own party.

“Extremist fringe elements,” he complained in 1977, “seek to expel the rest of us from the G.O.P.” He warned, “If the purists stage their ideological coup d’état, our party will be consigned to the historical junk heap.”
___

He left Congress so he could seek the presidency in 1980, then considered another presidential run in 1984 but ended up supporting Mr. Reagan’s Democratic challenger, Walter F. Mondale, the former vice president. He backed Ralph Nader’s third-party run in 2000 and disapproved of the Tea Party movement, telling The New Yorker in 2010, “I break out in a cold sweat at the thought that any of those people might prevail.”
___

Though Mr. Anderson’s candidacy had little impact on the outcome of the 1980 election, his campaign was memorable for its candor. Appearing in Des Moines with six rivals for the Republican nomination, Mr. Anderson was alone among them in saying something specific when asked if there was anything in his career he would take back if he could.

“It would have been the vote that I cast in favor of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution,” he said, referring to the 1964 congressional measure that gave President Lyndon B. Johnson license to widen the war against North Vietnam.
___

He was equally forthright in defending his call for an emergency excise tax on gasoline, unpopular though it might have been.

“I did it as a security measure, to be sure,” he told the September 1980 debate audience, “because I would rather see us reduce the consumption of imported oil than have to send American boys to fight in the Persian Gulf.”

Even though Jimmy Carter is probably the best former president of the United States, he really was a uniquely ineffectual chief executive. (A cautionary tale for true outsiders.) I guess I could have voted for Carter anyway, but it didn't really make a difference -- I lived in Minnesota at the time and the state went solidly for the incumbent. And after reading some of those excerpts from Mr. Anderson's obituary, I don't feel so bad about supporting his quixotic candidacy back then. If anything, maybe it foreshadowed my own -- gradual -- conversion to progressive causes.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mitch McConnell just said...

...something that might actually be true. (I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day. Or, in Mr. McConnell's case, at least once in a lifetime.)

From "For McConnell, Health Care Failure Was a Map to Tax Success" in the Times (my emphasis):

“[The Democrats] are convinced it is good politics to be against [the tax bill], and we believe it is good politics to do it,” he said. “We either get the growth rates or we don’t. In other words, one of these sides is going to be proven wrong.”

And that to me is the silver lining to the story of this tax bill. (And maybe to this entire era of political polarization in which we live.)

In today's world, unlike the past, when you vote Republican or Democratic at least you know what you're getting. And, as demonstrated by this Congress, more and more the party in power is able to enact their policies and we're able to find out once and for all if they work or not. (I'd argue that the "Kansas experiment" of the last few years has already answered it, but now the whole country is going to see for themselves.)*

Despite projections the legislation could cost the government $1.5 trillion, [McConnell] insisted it ultimately would not add to and might even shrink deficits because of the economic expansion he expects it to generate.

“We are pretty confident this is going to get the country up to a higher growth rate, which will improve wages because demand for employees will go up and improve the government revenues as well, which makes the deficit shrink,” he said.

And, again, Mr. McConnell is right: we'll actually get to see if this radical approach improves wages and government revenues and makes the deficit shrink. I happen to think not, but at least we'll all have our answer. (And, if I am indeed wrong, I hope I have the maturity to say so, and be happy that the country is prospering.)

But if I'm right, then hopefully the Democrats will take back the House and Senate, the White House, most state legislatures and statehouses and eventually the courts. (That sounds like a lot to take back, doesn't it?) And if there's any justice in the universe (or at least this country) that will happen and more progressive policies will be put in place. (Although between gerrymandering and voter suppression I have my doubts.)

Am I angry about the process? Absolutely. (Just as I'm angry about the whole Merrick Garland affair.) But, as they say, paybacks are a bitch. And the Democrats, who will surely ride the pendulum back to power at some point, will probably be just as ruthless as the Republicans. My guess? The filibuster will be toast and legislation will be passed in the Senate by simple majority rule. (Say hello to Medicare for all.) And that's ultimately a good thing. Voters will know what they're voting for, they'll get it, and we'll all get to see if it works or not.

P. S. Here's a good thread on "process."

* Still not sure if the "Kansas experiment" was a success or not? Then ask yourself, why is its architect, Gov. Sam Brownback, leaving office early to be the nation’s "international ambassador for religious freedom" (whatever that is)? If it worked, wouldn't he be sticking around to take bows for it?

Mitch Margo, an original member...

...of the Tokens, who sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," died at age 70.

Although I especially like the woman's voice in that video, I always preferred this version by the Weavers:

 From the Times:

[The] song was based on a 1939 recording, "Mbube" — Zulu for "The Lion" — by the South African musician Solomon Linda and his group the Original Evening Birds.

Pete Seeger recorded a version in the 1950s as “Wimowe,” which is how he sang the original lyric “mbube” (pronounced EEM-boo-beh). The American songwriter George David Weiss reworked it in 1961, adding the lyrics “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.” That’s the version made famous by the Tokens.

While I'm at it, I always liked this song too:

It was Mr. Margo’s idea for the Happenings to do an up-tempo version of the Gershwin brothers’ “I Got Rhythm,” his nephew Noah Margo said. The record reached No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart in 1967.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Another star of a great...

...sitcom from my childhood has passed away. Jim Nabors, who played Gomer Pyle in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. from 1964 to 1969, died at age 87.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Loyola has now appeared...

...in five of the last seven 8A championship games, winning the title in 2015. That's pretty good, isn't it?

Not for my brothers, apparently, one of whom played on that storied 1965 City Championship team (back in the Stone Age, before they had a state tournament). On Sunday morning my other brother -- not a Loyola alum -- texted me:

1-4. Not that impressive. With the numbers and money they have not sure any other school is as blessed.

(To be honest, I think he was just trolling our other brother. Families are like that.)

But let's take that seriously for just a second. (It's kind of a slow news day.) Who else has performed as well as Loyola in recent years? And is it true that the Wilmette school is "blessed" with more "numbers and money" than its competitors? Here are the results of the last ten 8A championship games. (I'll confine this to 8A; the news isn't that slow.)

2017: Lincoln-Way East 23, Loyola 14
2016: Maine South 27, Loyola 17
2015: Loyola 41, Marist 0
2014: Stevenson 31, Homewood-Flossmoor 25
2013: Naperville Central 13, Loyola 10
2012: Mount Carmel 28, Glenbard North 14
2011: Bolingbrook 21, Loyola 17
2010: Maine South 28, Mount Carmel 7
2009: Maine South 41, Marist 17
2008: Maine South 41, Hinsdale Central 21

The Ramblers, as you can see, have appeared in five of those title games, while Maine South has been in four but only once in the last seven.

(I said I'd only talk about 8A, but in fairness, Lincoln-Way East was in the 7A championship in 2012 and Mount Carmel has played in either the 8A or 7A contests in 2010, 2012 and 2013. The others have been in 8A the whole time.)

So who's done better than Loyola? I can't find anyone. In the last seven years, seven different teams have brought home the 8A crown. You have to go all the way back to 2008-10 (the Iron Age) when Maine South won three straight to find a dominant team.

What about my brother's contention that Loyola is uniquely "blessed" with "numbers and money"? Baloney. Sure, Loyola is the largest private school in the state and seems to reload every year. (I've often thought that while the Ramblers don't seem to produce a lot of Division I prospects, they sure seem to turn out a lot of D3s. And I wonder -- seriously -- how they'd do against one of the lesser D3 programs.) But if you're talking "numbers and money" no one takes a back seat to the likes of Stevenson (one of the largest schools in the state and the choice, it seems, of many of the offspring of Chicago's professional athletes), Homewood-Flossmoor, Naperville Central or Hinsdale Central. Even Lincoln-Way East and Bolingbrook seem well-heeled to me. (Have you seen their stadiums? And how many sets of uniforms does the Brook have? Does the University of Oregon have as many?)

So, no, Loyola doesn't have any special advantages and even plays in arguably the most competitive conference in the state. (Three of the five teams made it as far as the semifinals this year and one to the quarterfinals.) If you go back ten years then, yeah, Maine South has done better than them, but other than that, the Ramblers have done as well as, or better than, anyone else in recent years. Give credit where credit is due: head coach John Holecek has done a pretty darn good job.

The football season is over...

Could anyone have beaten Lincoln-Way East this year?
...and Mike Clark of the Tribune and Beth Long of the Sun-Times have courageously included their preseason rankings next to their final ones. (MaxPreps didn't; I added what I know.)

I say "courageously" only tongue in cheek; this isn't a "gotcha" moment for me. Rating teams is a mug's game, as the Brits would say, and I doubt if I would be any better at it than anyone else. The high school football season is long -- the teams in the finals play a total of 14 games!* -- and so I find the comparison useful only insofar as it's interesting to see what the experts thought before the season started and how individual teams either surprised or disappointed them. (I'd still like to know, for example, what happened with Waubonsie Valley. Was it injuries? How did they fool Mr. Clark and Ms. Long -- who are both very good at what they do -- and even the bloodless computers at MaxPreps?)

As for the final rankings themselves, I don't have much to quibble with. I probably would have wimped out and had Phillips and Prairie Ridge tied for second, but that's about it. Yeah, Phillips beat Loyola in Week One but Prairie Ridge was so dominant all season. Could either of them have defeated Lincoln-Way East? Possibly, but I'd say the Griffins would have taken at least two out of three with each of them. (We'll never know, will we?) And what about Maine South? Does it deserve its No. 2 ranking in MaxPreps? Maybe; the Hawks' only two losses were close games with Lincoln-Way East. This is the kind of stuff we can talk about all winter.

Again, here are the final rankings with records in parentheses followed by their preseason rankings. And the actual Week One rankings are below.

Tribune:

1. Lincoln-Way East (14-0) 4
2. Prairie Ridge (14-0) 5
3. Phillips (14-0) 14
4. Loyola (12-2) 6
5. Maine South (11-2) 2
6. Batavia (13-1) NR
7. Lake Zurich (13-1) 10
8. Naperville Central (9-3) 9
9. Marist (11-1) 12
10. Nazareth (12-2) NR

Sun-Times:

1. Lincoln-Way East (14-0) 7
2. Phillips (14-0) 8
3. Prairie Ridge (14-0) 1
4. Loyola (12-2) 3
5. Maine South (11-2) 2
6. Batavia (13-1) 23
7. Marist (11-1) 10
8. Nazareth (12-2) 17
9. Lake Zurich (13-1) 15
10. Oswego (10-2) 18

MaxPreps:

1. Lincoln-Way East (14-0)
2. Maine South (11-2) 4
3. Prairie Ridge (14-0) 1
4. Phillips (14-0)
5. Loyola (12-2) 2
6. Batavia (13-1)
7. Lake Zurich (13-1)
8. Naperville Central (9-3)
9. Rochester (14-0) 8
10. Marist (11-1) 3

WEEK ONE

Tribune:

1. Glenbard West
2. Maine South
3. Waubonsie Valley
4. Lincoln-Way East
5. Prairie Ridge
6. Loyola
7. Lyons
8. Homewood-Flossmoor
9. Naperville Central
10. Lake Zurich

Sun-Times:

1. Prairie Ridge
2. Maine South
3. Loyola
4. Waubonsie Valley
5. Lyons
6. Glenbard West
7. Lincoln-Way East
8. Phillips
9. Homewood-Flossmoor
10. Marist

MaxPreps:

1. Prairie Ridge
2. Loyola
3. Marist
4. Maine South
5. IC Catholic Prep
6. East St. Louis
7. Sacred Heart-Griffin
8. Rochester
9. Lyons
10. Waubonsie Valley

* I can remember a time when colleges only played 11 games in a season.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The other Name of the Day...

...belongs to Walter Wager, a novelist who wrote 58 Minutes, the inspiration for the Bruce Willis film Die Hard 2.

I bet you never heard of him.

Only in the New York Times...

...would a typewriter repairwoman's death make the obituary page. Mary Adelman, above, died last Wednesday at age 89.

And only in New York would a typewriter-repair shop be frequented by the likes of Isaac Bashevis Singer, David Mamet, Erich Maria Remarque, Nora Ephron, Gene Shalit, Philip Roth, Joseph Heller and Peter Shaffer.

Rance Howard, Ron Howard's...

...father, died at age 89. I didn't realize until now that it was Mr. Howard that played the blind man at the gym in this scene from Seinfeld.

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson.

Since I don't follow college football like I used to, Mr. Johnson's may be a household name for all I know. But it's new to me and incredibly fitting. (And, what the heck, an opportunity to listen to three ancient rock 'n' rollers sing a classic tune again.)

Hat tip: Tom H.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

My son graduated from Dartmouth...

...in 2012. (I have only one son who went to college, he went to only one, and he left almost six years ago. That's my only personal experience with higher education -- except for watching college football games once in a while on TV -- since I got my own graduate degree way back in 1992. So it's admittedly a small sample; but it's all I have.)

One day, when my wife and I were visiting him on campus, we walked past a tent on a street corner with an "Occupy Dartmouth" sign. (It looked much like the picture above. I know it's not the best, but it's all I could find on Google Images.) I was actually encouraged by the sight -- college kids today are politically active? Who knew? But my son, who played a varsity sport, was a member of a fraternity, and dated a girl from Connecticut whose father was a big shot on Wall Street, i. e., a typical Dartmouth student, was dismissive. "That's just a couple of fanatics," he sniffed. Talk about a role-reversal!

But I've often wondered, is all this talk nowadays about colleges and universities being "politically correct" with "trigger warnings," "safe spaces," and fear of "microaggressions" more hype than reality? I mean, really, have you ever heard anyone in real life mention any of that? Like, "Boy, when I was in college just a few years ago, I couldn't believe all the time we spent talking about 'trigger warnings,' 'safe spaces,' etc." I haven't. (Is it just me?) Or is all this a figment of the fevered imaginations of the talking heads on Fox News? After all, "Occupy Dartmouth" was only about a dozen or so students out of a student body of over 6,000. (In other words, a fraction of one percent.) And I wonder, is all this current chatter about "politically correct" colleges and universities just made up of a handful of kids at a handful of schools?

P. S. From Paul Krugman's column this morning:

...according to Pew, 58 percent of Republicans now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, versus only 36 percent who see a positive effect.

Gee, where do you suppose that came from? Could it be the constant bashing from right-wing outlets like Fox about "political correctness," etc. on campus?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

There were so many notable...

...deaths this week that it's hard for even an Irish sports page a New York Times obituary junkie like me to keep up.

The first of which was Mel Tillis, who wrote “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” -- one of the few country songs I actually like -- and died on Sunday at age 85. I always assumed the song was about Vietnam, but I guess not. From his obit:

“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” an anguished ballad sung from the perspective of a disabled Korean War veteran whose wife is cheating on him, was covered by numerous artists. The 1969 recording by Kenny Rogers and First Edition reached the pop Top 10 and the country Top 40.

The second big death this week was Charles Manson, who requires no introduction, at age 83. (If you want to read a truly scary book, try Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.)

No Name Maddox, as Mr. Manson was officially first known, was . . . believed to have fathered at least two children over the years: at least one with one of his wives, and at least one more with one of his followers. The precise number, names and whereabouts of his children — a subject around which rumor and urban legend have long coalesced — could not be confirmed. 

Now that would make for an interesting study in the whole "nature vs. nurture" debate, wouldn't it?

Finally, there was David Cassidy, from the 1970s television sitcom The Partridge Family, who died on Tuesday at age 67. (That's his co-star and real-life stepmother, Shirley Jones, in the video above.)

I never missed the show, of course, but did you know it was inspired by the Cowsills? From Wikipedia (my emphasis):

The Cowsills are an American singing group from Newport, Rhode Island. They specialized in harmonies and the ability to sing and play music at an early age. The band was formed in the spring of 1965 by brothers Bill, Bob, and Barry Cowsill; they shortly thereafter added their brother John. Originally Bill and Bob played guitar and Barry was on drums. When John learned how to play drums and joined the band, Barry went to bass. After their initial success, the brothers were joined by their siblings Susan and Paul and their mother Barbara. When the group expanded to its full family membership by 1967, the six siblings ranged in age from 8 to 19. Joined by their mother, Barbara Cowsill (née Russell), the group was the inspiration for the 1970s television show The Partridge Family.

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to former Oklahoma state senator Ralph Shortey. Hard to be afraid of a guy named "Shortey," isn't it?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I know that prediction markets...

...have performed -- ahem -- less than perfectly in the recent past, but I still think they're worth looking at.* (If you don't agree with them then place a bet. As we used to say at the Merc, "Got a hunch, bet a bunch.")

And on PredictIt, Roy Moore is a heavy favorite to beat Doug Jones in the special election in Alabama next month, 60-40.

* My TV weatherman doesn't bat 1.000 either, but who else am I supposed to consult for tomorrow's forecast?

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Tom Toles...

...cartoon of the day.

Here are just a few thoughts on...

...the Illinois high school football playoffs as we enter the semifinals.

First of all, the last two of my Magnificent Seven (actually Awesome Eight) went down to defeat in the Second Round. (I got a little distracted by my last-minute trip to Minnesota. Thanks for all the kind wishes; looks like the storm has passed.)

No. 8-seed Hersey (9-1) fell to No. 9 Lincoln-Way Central (9-1), 21-7, and No. 10 Buffalo Grove (9-1) bowed to No. 7 East St. Louis (9-1), 40-18. Kudos, though, to all eight teams that made the playoffs after what was in some cases a multi-season drought.

Second, two of the three Lincoln-Way teams, Lincoln-Way West and Central, that could have played each other in the 7A semis both lost on Saturday. That leaves only No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (12-0), which has a rematch with No. 5 Maine South (11-1), this time at home. (Sounds like the Game of the Week, doesn't it?)

If the Hawks should happen to win that contest they could face No. 6 Loyola (11-1) in a rematch from last year's 8A championship game which Maine South won, 27-17. (The Park Ridge squad came from behind to defeat my dark horse team, No. 13 Naperville Central (9-2), 39-28. Sounds like it was a heck of a tilt.)

The Ramblers, meanwhile, will travel down to No. 26 Edwardsville (9-3) on Saturday to take on this year's Cinderella team.

Speaking of Loyola, with two rounds to go we find ourselves in a situation where the three remaining Catholic League Blue teams -- No. 18 Mount Carmel (9-3) and No. 13 Providence (8-4) are the other two -- could conceivably win the 8A, 7A and 6A titles. Wouldn't that be something?

(To be fair, two East Suburban Catholic Conference schools, No. 17 Benet (9-3) and No. 2 Nazareth (11-1), could win 7A and 6A, too.)

But first the Caravan has to get past No. 3 Lake Zurich (12-0) and Providence would have to defeat Nazareth. Mount Carmel, you may recall, blanked the Bears, 30-0, in the 2013 7A championship. If the South Siders do win they could face Benet in a 7A final featuring another couple of dark horses.

Nazareth won the 5A title in 2015 and the 6A crown in 2014, while Providence captured the 7A title in 2014. I'm not sure if these two Catholic school powerhouses have ever played, but it sounds like they've been circling each other for a few years now.

Finally, we have two undefeated teams, No. 1 Phillips (12-0) at No. 2 Sterling (12-0), in the 5A semis. It has to be hard to win twelve straight games only to watch the championship on TV, but one of these two programs will have to. Oh, well.

Enjoy the games! (I'll be in New York at Night of Too Many Stars.)

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Wendy Gooditis, a newly-elected Democrat to the Virginia House of Delegates. Sounds like some sort of medical condition, doesn't it? "The woman is too nice; she has good-itis."

Friday, November 10, 2017

I saw a picture...

...like this on TV the other night and thought to myself, I must really live in a liberal bubble. I can't imagine walking into a store like that and buying an assault rifle. Do people really do that? Who has a need for one of those? And what kind of a country allows that sort of thing?

I guess I'm really out of touch.

Robert P. Jones, the author...

...of The End of White Christian America, was on Chicago Tonight this week. I can't figure out how to upload the video, but you can watch it here. It's an interesting segment (and a reminder to myself to watch this show more often), and Mr. Jones says something at about 3:45 of the interview that I've been thinking about myself a lot lately.

Talking about how younger people are less affiliated with organized religions (beginning at about 2:30), Mr. Jones mentions that almost 40 percent of Americans under the age of 30 "claim no religious affiliation whatsoever."

He goes on to say that "a litmus test issue for this generation is conflicts around gay and lesbian rights." (My emphasis.) And, "a third of them say that negative teachings about, or negative treatment of, gay and lesbian people were one of the important reasons why they left."

And this is what I've been thinking lately about the Catholic Church. If you think in the convenient terms of "three strikes and you're out," this would be the last, and most devastating, strike for the Catholic Church. It may, I submit, be the death knell for Catholicism in America.

Too harsh? Maybe. But let's consider what I would term the other two strikes against the Catholic Church in modern America.

Strike One was Humanae vitae, the encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968. "Subtitled On the Regulation of Birth, it re-affirmed the orthodox teaching of the Catholic Church regarding ... the rejection of most forms of artificial contraception." (My emphasis.)

Now, regardless of how you feel about this issue, it's been estimated that as many as "98 percent of U.S. Catholic women of childbearing age have used contraception at some point while they’ve been sexually active." Even if you cut that number down to, say, 80 percent, that's still an overwhelming majority of Catholic women. And what does that say? They're ignoring a pretty important teaching of the Catholic Church. One that touches them on a pretty regular basis. And what does that further imply? That the laity is going to be the final arbiter of what's right or wrong rather than looking to some institution for moral guidance.

Strike Two against the Catholic Church was the emerging awareness in the 1980s and '90s of child sexual abuse "by Catholic priests, nuns and members of religious orders, and subsequent cover-ups [that] led to numerous allegations, investigations, trials and convictions." And this led to two problems in my opinion.

The first is that the scandals cried out for reforms to the priesthood, namely allowing married and women priests. Why they haven't done this is a separate question, but the problem for me and many other people I suspect is that not only has the Church not taken these most obvious reforms, but they still don't have a good answer (or any answer I would contend) as to why priests can't marry or why women can't be priests, especially when almost every other denomination has evolved in that manner.

But even more important than that is that many studies have claimed "that priests in the Catholic Church may not be any more likely than other men to commit abuse." Now, on the face of it, that may seem to exonerate the Church. But I would contend just the opposite. In fact, it reveals an even greater and more damning truth about the priesthood: these men are no better or worse than anyone else. In other words, they're human beings and nothing special. (When I was a kid my parents seemed to think priests almost had some sort of special pipeline to the Big Guy Upstairs.) So why would anyone look to them for spiritual or moral guidance?

And that brings me back to Strike Three against the Catholic Church: its hostility to the LGBT community. If you know anyone under the age of thirty (and I have two sons in their twenties), you would know how differently they feel toward gays and lesbians than previous generations. While I was raised to think of homosexuality as some sort of personality disorder to be "cured" or at the very least contained, young people today seem to treat it as we would have treated left-handedness: a trait that appears in a certain percentage of people but not a big deal by any means. In fact, young people can't seem for the life of them to understand earlier generations' fear and loathing of gays and lesbians. Never mind gay marriage, of which the Catholic Church will never approve, just its unspoken and subtle hostility toward gays and lesbians will drive many of the remaining straight young people out of the Church. It's as if the Mormons still excluded blacks from most rites and ceremonies. How many white Mormons would still be comfortable with that today?

So, yeah, three strikes and you're out would imply that the Catholic Church is doomed. I'm not prepared to say that (organized religion has more "legs" than I would have thought), but it's going to at least hold back membership and most likely hasten its decline. While the Catholic Church will always be here (at least in my lifetime), I could see it going the way of the mainline Protestant churches: a place to get married, baptize children and have a funeral, but not something that holds a central place in one's moral or even spiritual life.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The other Name of the Day...

...belongs to Arjay Miller, a former president of Ford Motor Company who died on Friday at age 101. (That's him at the far left in the picture above.)

When I first saw that name in his New York Times obit I thought it must have been a nickname for his initials, R. J., that just stuck. You know, like Fuzzy Zoeller. Maybe his real name was Robert James Miller or something.

But then I read on and discovered (all emphasis mine):

Arjay Ray Miller was born on March 4, 1916, in Shelby, Neb., a village west of Omaha. The youngest of eight children, he was named for the first initials of his father, Rawley John Miller, a farmer.

Why not just name him Rawley John Miller, Jr. and call him "R. J." for short? Whatever. I guess after seven kids they ran out of good names.

Finally:

“I always thought it was some help coming from a rural situation,” Mr. Miller told The New York Times in 1966. “You aren’t so perplexed about the world: Milk came from a cow, not from the grocery store. Eggs came from a chicken.”

Is that all it takes to become president of a Fortune 500 company? Heck, I grew up in the suburbs and knew that. I must be less "perplexed" than I thought.

The first year of the Trump...

...administration has been, by any objective measure, an unmitigated disaster. (Don't believe me? Just look at his approval numbers. That's how Trump would judge it, wouldn't he?) While I won't go into all the details (mostly because you're well aware of them all), a piece in the Daily Beast, "One Year in, Trump-World Is Drowning in Regret and Chaos With Little to Show for It," has me thinking: how could things have been different for President Trump?

Imagine this scenario, if you will. After his very encouraging speech on election night, what if Trump had followed that up with an equally positive Inaugural Address? And what if, instead of having Mike Pence, Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan staff his cabinet and White House with Republican Party establishment figures and Beltway swamp creatures, Trump had reached out to more populists like Steve Bannon (without all the racism, etc.)?

And what if Trump had begun his administration by saying to Congress, "I want a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on my desk within 90 days"? "If it isn't truly bipartisan, I won't sign it. So get to work you guys! And after that, I want a truly bipartisan tax reform bill and a bipartisan fix for health care. I don't care if you repeal and replace Obamacare or just tweak it, but it has to be bipartisan." And then if nothing happened he could have campaigned against Congress, instead of railing at both parties like he is now for the Republicans' failure to put any bills on his desk.

What if a President Trump had run a truly populist administration and succeeded in breaking the partisan gridlock in Congress? Wouldn't his numbers be much, much better? Could they possibly be any worse?

Now, I know especially after rereading that piece in the Daily Beast that this is all pie in the sky. You'd have to imagine a President Trump who doesn't thrive on confrontation and controversy and doesn't tweet or watch Fox News all day. You'd also have to imagine a President Trump who released his tax returns and was sensitive to nepotism and the appearance of any conflict of interest. You would have to imagine a President Trump who turned his back on The Wall, the Muslim ban, and a bunch of other silly ideas. Oh, and you'd have to forget about North Korea and that whole Russia thing too.

So I guess this is all a waste of time. Trump is Trump. He's unqualified for the job and unfit for the office and we knew it all along. He's oddly thin-skinned and insecure while having a giant ego at the same time. Honestly, he's one of the weirdest guys I've ever seen in my life.

But a guy can daydream, can't he?

Just a few thoughts...

...on some of the other games this weekend.

In 8A No. 9 Oswego (10-1) will travel to No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (11-0). While I don't know anything about Oswego, Lincoln-Way East has won two close games in the last few weeks, 15-14 over No. 17 St. Charles East (8-2) last week, and 18-14 over Bolingbrook (7-3) three weeks ago. Are the Griffins beatable? Or will they meet up again with Maine South (10-1) in the semis next week?

And that brings me to No. 13 Naperville Central (9-2) at No. 5 Maine South (10-1). Will the Hawks get a chance to redeem themselves for their Week Two 28-26 loss to Lincoln-Way East? And will they get an opportunity to defend their 8A crown against Loyola (10-1)? Or will Naperville Central -- my dark horse -- spoil all that and get a chance of their own to play Loyola again in the 8A final after beating the Ramblers, 13-10, in the 2013 final? (A game, if memory serves, in which the Redhawks' offense didn't score a touchdown.)

In 7A, we could conceivably get a semifinal showdown between No. 9 Lincoln-Way Central (10-1) and No. 12 Lincoln-Way West (9-2). Sounds confusing, doesn't it? The only thing we can say for sure about that game is that it would take place in New Lenox. What's in the water down there?

During the regular season, Central topped West, 21-17, in Week Two, and the Knights' only loss came to -- you guessed it -- Lincoln-Way East, 28-14, in Week Five.

In the bottom half of the 7A bracket, No. 18 Mount Carmel (8-3) could face No. 11 St. Rita (9-2) in the semifinals. They're both underdogs this week, however, so it's unlikely. But wouldn't it be something if the Catholic League Blue had four teams (including Providence) in the semis?

In 6A the Game of the Week could definitely be No. 2 Nazareth (10-1) at No. 6 Sacred Heart-Griffin (9-2). The visiting Roadrunners won the 5A title in 2015 and the 6A crown in 2014. Sacred Heart-Griffin, meanwhile, has appeared in the state finals in three of the last four years, finishing second in 6A last year and winning the 5A title in 2014 and 2013. Could this be the most overlooked contest of the day?

Finally, in 5A, there's No. 4 Lemont (10-1) at No. 1 Phillips (11-0) at Gately. Phillips went undefeated in 2015 en route to the 4A crown and beat big, bad Loyola in Week One of this year, but the Indians have won ten straight after a Week One 21-0 shutout at the hands of 7A quarterfinalist Batavia (10-1). This could be a heck of a contest too. And even if Phillips survives this one they may have to face another undefeated squad, No. 2 Sterling (11-0), in the semifinals next week. Mama never said it would be easy!

The weather report for Saturday is crummy: high thirties and cloudy. But at least it won't be raining. This will be my last chance to see a game in person as we will be in New York next weekend. I have Loyola at Marist as my Game of the Week, but I just might have to go to a contest closer to home and earlier in the day. We'll see. Enjoy the games!

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to novelist Donna Tartt.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Would you believe...

...that before Loyola's 41-0 thrashing of Marist in the 8A title game in 2015* that the two Catholic schools hadn't faced each other since at least 2003? And maybe ever?

But Saturday's rematch at Marist could be quite a bit different. That's why it's my Game of the Week. (Although Naperville Central -- my dark horse -- at Maine South should be good too.)

The visiting Ramblers (10-1) are the defending 8A runners-up and seeded No. 6 in the bracket. The Wilmette squad is ranked No. 4 in the Tribune, No. 5 in the Sun-Times and No. 9 in MaxPreps. After losing the season opener to Phillips Loyola has rattled off ten straight, including six victories over winning teams. The Ramblers have outscored their opponents, 343-124, and four of those schools are still in the playoffs. In fact, all four teams that qualified from the Catholic League Blue -- Loyola, Mount Carmel, St. Rita and Providence -- are still in the hunt. (Only Brother Rice failed to make the postseason from that conference.) Oh, and Mount Carmel and St. Rita could conceivably meet up in the 7A semifinals.

Here's Loyola's full 2017 schedule (with home team in CAPS):

PHILLIPS (11-0) 20, Loyola 14
LOYOLA 13, La Puente (Bishop Amat), CA (4-4) 6 
LOYOLA 31, Mt. Carmel (8-3) 7 
Loyola 42, ST. FRANCIS (1-8) 7 
LOYOLA 41, Fenwick (7-4) 14 
Loyola 34, St. Rita (9-2) 14 
LOYOLA 49, Leo (4-7) 7
Loyola 28, PROVIDENCE (7-4) 3
LOYOLA 28, Brother Rice (2-7) 7
LOYOLA 35, New Trier (6-4) 32
LOYOLA 28, Hinsdale Central (8-3) 7

I'd say the most impressive victory in that list was the 25-point win over Providence while the closest call was that squeaker over New Trier two weeks ago.

As for the RedHawks, do you think they'll have a chip on their shoulder after that drubbing two years ago? Undefeated Marist (11-0) is the No. 3 seed and ranked No. 5 in MaxPreps and No. 6 in both the Trib and the Sun-Times. The Mount Greenwood squad defeated six opponents with winning records (Marian, Nazareth and Benet are still alive) and outscored its foes by an eye-popping 474-128. Here's their schedule:

MARIST 23, Brother Rice (2-7) 14
Marist 42, MISHAWAKA, IN (5-4) 15
MARIST 45, Carmel (1-8) 14
Marist 45, MARIAN CENTRAL (7-4) 20
Marist 63, MARIAN CATHOLIC (0-9) 6
MARIST 56, St. Patrick (2-7) 7
MARIST 42, Nazareth (10-1) 0
Marist 38, BENET (8-3) 24
MARIST 42, Joliet Catholic (3-6) 14
MARIST 44, Oak Park and River Forest (5-5) 0
Marist 37, CURIE (8-3) 14

The RedHawks' closest margin was nine points in Week One over archrival Brother Rice. And notice those two shutouts, against Nazareth and OPRF.

So what about this Saturday? Well, as I mentioned, Marist has to have a pretty big chip on its shoulder, they arguably have a much better team than two years ago, and the contest is on the South Side. If I were a bookmaker, I'd have the RedHawks about a one-touchdown favorite. But I'm going to be a little bit of a contrarian here and say the Ramblers pull this one out. I still see them in the 8A finals (in a rematch with Maine South?).

If you can't make it you can follow the action @BoringOldWhtGuy.

* Here's my preview of that game.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

Someone told me yesterday...

...that I looked like Dean Jagger -- not Mick Jagger, but Dean Jagger, the actor. Who? I thought. I quickly googled his name and recognized him as the general from White Christmas, above. (Is that a good thing? I guess there are worse-looking people.)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jack Bannon, who played...

..."the genial and raffish assistant city editor Art Donovan on the long-running television series Lou Grant," according to his obit in the New York Times, died at age 77.

Lou Grant was "a newspaper drama spun off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which starred Ed Asner in the title role and was seen on CBS from 1977 to 1982."

I remember watching that show and really liking it.

Bob Schieffer was on Charlie Rose...

...recently and it reminded me of why I endure Mr. Rose and his show: he has such great guests. (By the way, either I'm softening on Rose or he's getting better as an interviewer.) But here are some great quotes from Mr. Schieffer (all emphasis mine).

On these crazy times in which we live:

...my favorite moment in 2016 was when the speaker at that time, John Boehner, called Ted Cruz Lucifer in the flesh and the devil worshiper society put out a press release and denied it.

On our current polarization, which I have likened to a religious war:

...we are in the midst of a communications technology revolution that is having as profound effect on our culture and the people of our time as the invention of the printing press had on the people of that day. But the difference is, while the printing press improved literacy, it caused the reformation, the counter reformation, it also was followed by 30 years of religious wars and it was literally 30 years, three decades before equilibrium was reached in Europe. We're at the very beginning of this communications revolution, it is having a profound effect on all of our institutions but especially on the way we get our news and also on our politics, and we're right in the middle of it right now.

And one of the causes of our current polarization, the tendency of most of us (myself included, if I'm honest) to consume our news from sources we already agree with:

In those days, which I call the gatekeeper era of journalism, where you had three television stations in every town and everybody had a pretty good newspaper in their town, people generally base their opinions on the data they got from those sources. Now with the echo chamber channels that we have and so many of the social media channels out there, if you get your news from this source over here, you're also getting one set of facts. If you get it from this source over here, you're getting another set of facts. So what has happened is we're now basing our opinions on separate sets of facts. We no longer have common data that we're basing our opinions on. So is it any wonder that the partisan divide grows deeper and wider.

To repeat: We no longer have common data that we're basing our opinions on. In other words, it's not enough to have your own opinions, we now have our own facts, our own realities. How do you bridge that? Are we in for another Thirty Years' War? Seems like it.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

There are so many...

...interesting matchups this week -- No. 13-seed Naperville Central (8-2) at No. 4 Homewood-Flossmoor (9-1) and No. 2 Normal Community (10-0) at No. 18 Mount Carmel (7-3) (my upset of the week?) are just two that immediately come to mind -- but my Game of the Week has to be No. 1 Prairie Ridge (10-0) at No. 9 Cary-Grove (7-3). Remember, the Wolves beat the Trojans by only one point at home in Week One.

The two schools, less than eight miles apart, are both in District 155 and I imagine many of the parents and kids know each other. (And, for all I know, there may be some overlap in their feeder programs.)

Prairie Ridge is the newest of the four high schools in the district, having been founded in 1997 to address the overpopulation of the other three. The Wolves won the class 6A title last year and in 2011. 

This year Prairie Ridge has been, of course, perfect. The Wolves are currently ranked No. 2 in the Sun-Times, No. 3 in the Tribune and No. 10 in MaxPreps. Here's their schedule so far (home team in CAPS):

PRAIRIE RIDGE 7, Cary-Grove (7-3) 6    
Prairie Ridge 51, HUNTLEY 43 (8-2)    
PRAIRIE RIDGE 56, Crystal Lake Central (5-5) 13    
Prairie Ridge 56, CRYSTAL LAKE SOUTH (3-6) 14  
PRAIRIE RIDGE 63, Bartlett (2-7) 7    
Prairie Ridge 42, McHENRY (4-5) 14    
Prairie Ridge 55, HAMPSHIRE (1-8) 14    
PRAIRIE RIDGE 30, Jacobs (6-4) 16    
PRAIRIE RIDGE 55, Dundee-Crown (1-8) 14    
PRAIRIE RIDGE 61, Crystal Lake Central (5-5) 24

What a juggernaut! After that first game against Cary-Grove, the Wolves outscored their next nine opponents, 469-159, or on average, 52-18. Wow. And, including Cary-Grove, PR has defeated five playoff teams.

Cary-Grove, for its part, was founded in 1961. According to Wikipedia, the school's colors were originally purple and white and the tune for its song was borrowed from Northwestern University. In 1978, however, "while the school colors remained purple and white, the sports, cheerleader and band uniforms became navy and white. The school song remained the Northwestern University school song." But during the 1980s, "the change to navy blue and white became official." Was the principal at that time a Penn State alumnus? I wonder.

Also from Wikipedia (my emphasis):

Every year before school ends, all students who have not missed more than 12 days of school and have not received any discipline referrals are invited outside to a grill-out style party for two class periods. The event is accompanied by music performed by the school's jazz combo. All eligible students are given hot dogs grilled by the deans and parents as a form of reward for maintaining a good disciplinary and attendance record throughout the school year.

How many kids is that, do you suppose? And why didn't my high school have something like that? I would have had a much better record!

As for the football team, the Nittany Lions Trojans won the 6A title in 2009 and were runners-up in 2004, 2012 and 2014.

This year, though, Cary-Grove has been inconsistent. The Trojans outscored their opponents, 350-201, but have split with the six playoff teams they've faced. C-G is unranked in the Trib and Sun-Times and No. 46 in MaxPreps.

PRAIRIE RIDGE (10-0) 7, Cary-Grove 6
CARY-GROVE 29, McHenry (4-5) 7  
Cary-Grove 57, HAMPSHIRE (1-8) 14  
CARY-GROVE 52, Jacobs (6-4) 26  
HUNTLEY (8-2) 41, Cary-Grove 32  
CARY-GROVE 49, Dundee-Crown (1-8) 22  
CARY-GROVE 41, Crystal Lake South (3-6) 14  
SOUTH ELGIN (8-2) 21, Cary-Grove 6
Cary-Grove 36, CRYSTAL LAKE CENTRAL (5-5) 35
Cary-Grove 42, ST. IGNATIUS (7-3) 14

Of their seven common opponents -- McHenry, Hampshire, Jacobs, Huntley, Dundee-Crown, Crystal Lake South and Crystal Lake Central -- Prairie Ridge won by a greater margin than Cary-Grove in all but two. Needless to say, though, these are both really good programs.

To give you even more perspective, here's their record against each other going all the way back to 2004.

2016: Prairie Ridge 26, CARY-GROVE 14
2015: CARY-GROVE 21, Prairie Ridge 14
2014: N/A
2013: Cary-Grove 6, PRAIRIE RIDGE 0
2012: CARY-GROVE 35, Prairie Ridge 14
2011: Cary-Grove 22, PRAIRIE RIDGE 21
2010: N/A
2009: CARY-GROVE 40, Prairie Ridge 7
2008: N/A
2007: PRAIRIE RIDGE 16, Cary-Grove 14
2006: CARY-GROVE 48, Prairie Ridge 6
2005: Cary-Grove 42, PRAIRIE RIDGE 7
          Cary-Grove 28, PRAIRIE RIDGE 0 (playoff)
2004: CARY-GROVE 42, Prairie Ridge 14

The Trojans have prevailed in nine of the last eleven meetings. Is that helpful? Who knows? I like it.

Look, there's no way to sugarcoat this: Prairie Ridge is the heavy favorite Saturday. But this contest will be at Cary-Grove, could take place in the rain, and stranger things have happened in this crazy world. Just two weeks ago for example, the other No. 1 seed in 6A, Crete-Monee, was upset by No. 16 Hinsdale South, 28-20. So take a chance, drive up to Cary and check out this tilt -- it could be a good one!

If I decide to brave the weather and the distance -- Cary-Grove is almost 50 miles from my house! -- you can follow me on Twitter @BoringOldWhtGuy.