Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Game of the Week..., of course, Maine South at Glenbard West on Saturday. Two weeks ago I wrote:

This one's a no-brainer: last year's 8A champ vs. 2015's 7A winner at one of the nicest stadiums in the Chicago area. Plus, I don't think the two schools have ever played each other.

And today all the rankings are in. The visiting Hawks (11-3 last year) are No. 2 in the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times and No. 4 in MaxPreps. The Hilltoppers (10-3 last year), meanwhile, are No. 1 in the Trib, No. 6 in the Sun-Times and No. 21 in MaxPreps.

Maine South boasts Fotis Kokosioulis (above), the top running back in the state according to Beth Long of the Sun-Times:

1. Fotis Kokosioulis, Maine South, Sr., RB (5-9, 170): Last season Kokosioulis produced 25 plays of 25 yards or more and he’s primed to put up big numbers for the defending Class 8A state champions. The NIU recruit averaged nearly nine yards a carry, ran for 1,464 yards and was scored 29 touchdowns. He’s a back you can count on.

Glenbard West, for its part, has wide receiver Alec Pierce:

10. Alec Pierce, Glenbard West, Sr., WR (6-3, 200): A long and quick athlete with reliable hands, he has the ability to cover the field. Pierce has a solid frame and the ability to tack on yards after the catch. An integral part of a Glenbard West team that advanced to the class 8A state semifinals last season, will be needed to make another run this year.

Better get there early!

While I'm at it, here's...

...another great scene from Mad Men, both visually and aurally. It's from "The Phantom" (Season 5, episode 13, the finale). Don Draper walks off a colorful set into the dark to the opening bars of  "You Only Live Twice," by Nancy Sinatra. Well done!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Jerry Lewis died on Sunday... age 91 and you can count me among those who just didn't "get" his comedy. (Maybe it's because I'm not French.)

But his obit in the Times allows me to return to one of my favorite subjects, Nature vs. Nurture. Dave Kehr writes:

The experience of being passed from home to home left Mr. Lewis with an enduring sense of insecurity and, as he observed, a desperate need for attention and affection.

Really? How do you know that, Mr. Kehr?

In fairness, I feel like you see and hear things like that all the time. So-and-so was such-and-such because of some particular experience from his childhood. They never seem to add a "maybe" or any other qualifying word. No, it's usually delivered with a great deal of confidence, as if it's beyond question. But I always want to say, How do you know? Maybe that person is a certain way because of his DNA, not because of some life-shaping event from his upbringing. Maybe Mr. Lewis had "an enduring sense of insecurity and a desperate need for attention and affection" because he was born that way. Would you be surprised if one or both of his parents were that way? I'd be surprised if they weren't.

I thought I knew...

...a thing or two about '60s music and yet while watching Season 6, episode 10 of Mad Men last night I heard a song I had never heard before.* It's "Found Love" by the Fly Bi Nights. What? Who?

How come I've never heard of this song or this band? Turns out they don't even have a Wikipedia page! The best I could do was this.

So who found this song anyway? I agree with this:

How did the Fly Bi Nites record something as magical as “Found Love,” stick it on a B-side, then disappear into record-collector cult status?

* It's a cool scene; watch it here.

According to Beth Long...

...of the Sun-Times, Payton Thorne (above with his father and grandfather) is one of the Chicago area's top ten quarterbacks (my emphasis):

7. Payton Thorne, Naperville Central, Jr., QB (6-2, 180): First team All-DuPage Valley last season, threw for 1,623 yards and 23 touchdowns for Metea Valley. The junior has transferred to Naperville Central and will have to adjust to a new system. He has size, field vision and the ability to make the long toss. Thorne is capable of putting the ball on the ground, but is most dangerous through the air.

First team All-DVC last year and he transferred across town to Naperville Central? What gives? Did his parents suddenly up and move to a different school district?

Coincidentally, I received this email last night from a friend in Naperville. (It's lightly edited with my emphasis.)

Hope all is well, on the eve of another high school football season!

Some info to pass along you might find interesting. None of it is “insider info” these days, ha, but still might be interesting.

Payton Thorne transferred from Metea Valley to Naperville Central this year, and by all accounts will have the starting quarterback job at Central. He’s just a junior if I recall correctly. He played at Metea last year as a sophomore and is the son of Jeff Thorne, who’s the head coach over at North Central College, smack in downtown Naperville and oh, about 600 yards from Naperville Central, ha. Word is senior Thorne had a falling out with Metea’s coaches about how his son was being used (can’t confirm, all second hand), and that it was time to move on. Payton is listed at 6'2" 170 lbs or so, so could grow into a larger frame. By all accounts, Payton has a long, long, long way to go to develop as a quarterback, but interesting that he already has an offer from Western Michigan University. Oh, and WMU’s coach? Tim Lester, who was teammates with Jeff Thorne at Wheaton Central (now Wheaton Warrenville South), back in the day. Will be interesting to track young Payton’s development.

That picture at the top of this post was taken from an article last year in the Naperville Sun:

[Payton's] grandfather won four state championships in the 1990s during a 22-year run at Wheaton Central and Wheaton Warrenville South. He then went on to become North Central College's winningest coach before retiring after the 2014 season.

Payton's dad, North Central's current coach, starred at quarterback at Wheaton Central and Eastern Illinois before following John into the coaching business.

On the basement wall is a photo of his grandfather, John, hugging his dad, Jeff, after winning a state championship at Wheaton Warrenville South.

Oh, and yes, according to the piece young Payton was named after a certain Chicago Bears running back.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

In case you were wondering...

...I have all the maturity of a third grader. (And that may be an insult to third graders.)

Seriously, the look on that pitcher's face is absolutely priceless.

This is why I'll never... a high school football coach.

In today's Sun-Times, Michael O'Brien ranks Waubonsie Valley No. 4 in the state. (MaxPreps has them at No. 10.) His piece features a wide receiver named Charles Robinson (above), whom he calls a "legitimate star, a game-changing force."

Mr. O'Brien writes (my emphasis):

Receiver Charles Robinson can bust open a defense at any time. It was all on display last season in the Warriors’ upset of No. 2 seed Hinsdale Central in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs. Robinson lit up Hinsdale that afternoon, catching six passes for 214 yards with touchdowns of 34, 56, 65 and 11 yards.

[Robinson] has offers from several schools, including Mississippi State and Minnesota. He’s a serious contender for Player of the Year.

Six passes? That's it? Granted, Robinson scored four touchdowns in that game, but wouldn't you want your best athlete -- a legitimate Division I recruit -- at quarterback? Wouldn't you want that kid touching the ball on every play, instead of just six times all day? If he was calling signals, there's no telling how many touchdowns he could have scored, right? (Yes, I'm thinking of Aaron Bailey.)

I guess that's why I'll never be a high school football coach. (That, and the fact that I really don't know that much about the game.)

Prairie Ridge is ranked No. 1... MaxPreps' preseason rankings and No. 23 nationally. Really? I've always loved this program, but that sounds a little generous to me. Could the Wolves beat a Loyola, say, or a Maine South? Doubtful. (Good football stadium, though, above.)

To save you a click, here's the rest of the Top Ten according to MaxPreps (with last year's records in parentheses):

1. Prairie Ridge (14-0)
2. Loyola (13-1)
3. Marist (8-2)
4. Maine South (11-3)
5. IC Catholic Prep (14-0)*
6. East St. Louis (14-0)
7. Sacred Heart-Griffin (13-1)
8. Rochester (13-1)
9. Lyons (8-3)
10. Waubonsie Valley (6-5)

* IC has a really good program, too; last year the Knights went undefeated en route to the 3A title. But let's get real here -- there's no way a 3A school like IC could compete with any of the teams listed below it in that ranking.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Joseph Bologna, who...

...starred in My Favorite Year -- a really underrated movie, I think -- died at age 82.

From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

He combined comedy and the tough-guy personality, and received the best reviews of his career, in “My Favorite Year” (1982), as King Kaiser, a tyrannical 1950s TV variety-show host modeled on Sid Caesar. Kaiser may have been a law-abiding citizen, but his ego was criminal.

But that's not all. Does this story sound familiar?

Joe Bologna was the son, grandson and nephew of bootblacks. His grandfather Giuseppe Bologna was the author of “At the Feet of the Mighty: A Bootblack’s Biography,” and Joe’s uncle Pat Bologna recalled giving investment advice to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. that helped Kennedy avoid the financial devastation of the 1929 crash. Kennedy remembered it with a slightly different point of view. “When the shoeshine boys have tips,” he said, “the stock market is too popular for its own good.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Glen Campbell is dead at age 81.

Did you know about his association with the Beach Boys? From his New York Times obit (my emphasis):

But his skills eventually took him into the recording studios as a session musician, and for six years he provided accompaniment for a host of famous artists, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson and groups like the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas.

After playing on many Beach Boys sessions, Mr. Campbell became a touring member of the band in late 1964, when its leader, Brian Wilson, decided to leave the road to concentrate on writing and recording. He remained a Beach Boy into the first few months of 1965.

Since the news... a little slow (thank God!) -- except for the part about launching a nuclear first strike against North Korea -- and since I just mentioned how I don't expect to go to many high school football games on Friday nights this year, I thought I'd take a look at this year's schedule and see if there are any good matchups on Saturday afternoons. (Fortunately for me, Loyola and Glenbard West still play their home games on Saturday.) And whaddaya know? It doesn't look too bad. (Last year's records are in parentheses and home teams are in CAPS).

Week One: Maine South (11-3) at GLENBARD WEST (10-3).
This one's a no-brainer: last year's 8A champ vs. 2015's 7A winner at one of the nicest stadiums in the Chicago area. Plus, I don't think the two schools have ever played each other. 

Week Two: Bye (I'll be at a wedding).
But if I weren't, Muskegon, Michigan (12-2) at STEVENSON (8-2) looks interesting. The Big Reds were ranked No. 6 in the state of Michigan last year by MaxPreps.

Week Three: Mount Carmel (8-5) at LOYOLA (13-1).
Should require no explanation, although Phillips (11-2) at SIMEON (8-6) could be good too.

Week Four: Bye (I'll be out of town for another wedding).

Week Five: Fenwick (11-2) at LOYOLA (13-1).
Could this be the year the Friars upset the big, bad Ramblers?

Week Six: St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio (9-3) at NAPERVILLE CENTRAL (4-5).
St. Edward was No. 9 in the state of Ohio last year according to MaxPreps; the Redhawks, despite a losing record in 2016, are always tough. This could be a good interstate matchup.

Week Seven: Hinsdale Central (9-1) at GLENBARD WEST (10-3).
The Red Devils defeated the Hitters last year by only a point in Week Six for the first time in forever. Can they make it two years in a row?
Week Eight: Carmel (5-5) at ST. PATRICK (4-5).
Despite last year's so-so records, this East Suburban Catholic tilt could be a sleeper. And October 14 could be positively gorgeous in Chicago; don't sit inside and watch some random college game on TV!

Week Nine: Brother Rice (9-3) at LOYOLA (13-1).
Once again, a Catholic League Blue showdown like this should require no explanation. And what if both squads are undefeated by this point?

Have I missed any?

Monday, August 7, 2017

I finished Season Four...

...of Mad Men and there's a scene in the last episode in which two of the characters go to Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood. My Doors antenna immediately went up, of course, and I checked in which year this season was supposed to take place. It's between November 1964 and October 1965, and the Doors didn't become the house band at the Whisky until at least 1966. Darn!

Oh, well, it's still a good opportunity to revisit the video above in which Ray Manzarek recalls the night the band was fired from the club. Worth a watch!

A few thoughts on a random...

...Monday morning about blogging, Twitter, high school football, New Yorker cartoons and whatever else happens to cross my mind. (The first of which is that that isn't even a complete sentence. Whatever.)

In case you haven't noticed, I've been blogging quite a bit less lately. Is it writer's block, bloggers' burnout (a term I just invented) after eight years at the keyboard, Trump fatigue (how is anyone supposed to keep up with the constant stream of outrageous news nowadays?), or is it something else?

And I'm guessing it's the last one. (Mostly.) Like a lot of people, I think, I've been quietly migrating to Twitter. Where in the past I may have read a good piece and written a blog post in reference to it, I now either quote key sentences of it on Twitter or make my comments while linking to the piece. It's probably not necessary to write an entire post around one central idea so I think I've been Tweeting my thoughts instead of blogging them.

While I'll still try to post my Names of the Day and recognize noteworthy obituaries, I really and truly believe the cartoons in the New Yorker just haven't been that good lately. It's not like I've forgotten them; I still look at them every Monday -- they're just not that funny and therefore not worth posting.

And then there's high school football. I've got my eye on that Maine South at Glenbard West matchup on opening weekend in three weeks, but I think I'm going to consider myself at least semi-retired on the subject. Friday nights are too hard for me to drive all over to see a game, and, frankly, I think I may have just gotten the whole thing out of my system (watching it and writing about it). We'll see.

So while I'm not ending this blog by any means (this is no Andrew Sullivanesque statement!), I think I have to acknowledge that I'm writing less and will probably continue writing less in the future. As I alluded in the second paragraph, eight years is a pretty good run. Thanks for reading!