Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Trigger warning!

Here are six programs that are in serious danger of missing the playoffs after making it last year. (I know I said I wouldn't do this. Sue me.)

Fremd (0-4)
2016 Record: 7-4

Thornwood (0-4)
2016 Record: 5-5

Bradley-Bourbonnais (1-3)
2016 Record: 10-1

Vernon Hills (1-3)
2016 Record: 10-4

Highland Park (1-3)
2016 Record: 7-3

Waubonsie Valley (1-3)
2016 Record: 6-5

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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

Image result for naperville central metea
...a list of some other schools that are on track to reach the postseason after missing it in 2016.

Naperville Central (4-0)
2016 Record: 4-5

Eisenhower (4-0)
2016 Record: 4-5

South Elgin (4-0)
2016 Record: 4-5

Wheaton North (3-1)
2016 Record: 4-5

Schaumburg (3-1)
2016 Record: 4-5

Warren (3-1)
2016 Record: 4-5

Bolingbrook (3-1)
2016 Record: 4-5

Hinsdale South (3-1)
2016 Record: 4-5

I'm watching "The Vietnam...

...War," Ken Burns's excellent new film on PBS. I just finished Episode Two, “Riding the Tiger” (1961-1963), and at the very end journalist Neil Sheehan says:

We thought we were the exceptions to history, the Americans. History didn't apply to us. We could never fight a bad war. We could never represent the wrong cause. We were Americans. Well, in Vietnam we had proved that we were not an exception to history.

That reminds me of a post I wrote a while back. Since November I've been thinking that Donald Trump's election is somewhat analogous in our time to the American experience in Vietnam for my parents' time. They thought that not only could the U. S. not lose a war, but that the U. S. couldn't possibly be on the "wrong" side. And for all my life I've assumed America could never elect someone as unqualified and unfit for the presidency as Donald Trump. For crying out loud, it's not like we're some kind of Latin American banana republic, or even Italy, which seemed to change its government as often as I change my underwear.

But I guess it turns out that maybe we're not so special after all.

I also read a piece in The Atlantic this morning, "How the GOP Prompted the Decay of Political Norms," and it made me think that "norms" are only "norms" until they aren't. Either President Trump's behavior becomes the new "norm" or the old norms are written into law. And I would bet more on the former than the latter.

Unlike the authors of that piece, I think Democrats should stop whining and just plain get used to the new norms. And fight back. And maybe establish some new norms. Maybe New Gingrich was right when he told a group of college Republicans in 1978:

You’re fighting a war. It is a war for power. Don’t try to educate. That is not your job. What is the primary purpose of a political leader? To build a majority.

I actually think Democrats should "try to educate," because they have the better policies. But as for the rest of it, I think Gingrich is spot-on. Maybe all this current polarization isn't such a bad thing. It gives people a real choice between two world views. Let's just hope the better one prevails. But after Trump's election, that's not a sure thing.

Yesterday I promised...

...to look at some of the programs that are under- or over-performing in 2017 versus last year. In the interest of keeping things positive (these are just kids, remember?), I'll focus on seven over-achievers in particular. But where do you begin?

How about Stagg, which is 3-1, compared with last year's 0-9? What's going on down there in Palos Hills? The Chargers haven't finished with a winning season since 2005, when they went 9-2! Will this be the year they return to the playoffs?

Oh, sure, you might be thinking, Stagg's three victories came over teams with a combined 1-11 record. But so what? If they can defeat Sandburg (1-3) and Moline (2-2) they might just qualify for the postseason.*

Or Glenbrook South, which is also 3-1? Last year the Titans were 1-8 under first-year head coach David Schoenwetter. The last time the Glenview squad finished with a winning record was in 2014 (6-4).

The Titans' victories so far came over three opponents with a combined record of 5-7. If they can beat Niles North (2-2) and Niles West (0-4) they too can make the playoffs.

Crystal Lake Central is 3-1, after finishing last year at 2-7. But as recently as 2014 the Tigers were 7-3.

CLC's three wins were over teams with a combined record of 2-10. But if they can beat Hampshire and Dundee-Crown (both 1-3) they may also be headed for the postseason.

Buffalo Grove is undefeated, at 4-0, after last year's dismal 3-6 finish. The Bison were 5-4 in 2014.

Buffalo Grove's opponents are 5-11, and all they have to do is defeat Prospect (1-3), Elk Grove Village (0-4) and/or Wheeling (1-3) and they have a ticket to the Dance.

Hersey is another team off to a 3-1 start after last year's 3-6 finish. The Huskies were 6-4 as recently as 2014.

The Arlington Heights squad has beaten three schools with a combined 3-9 record. If they get past two of those same three teams I just mentioned, Elk Grove Village, Wheeling and/or Prospect, then they may also be playing in November.

Thornton is the other undefeated team in this list, at 4-0, after finishing 2016 at 3-6. In 2015 the Wildcats were 9-2.

Thornton's opponents so far have gone a combined 6-10. If the Harvey school can beat either Sandburg (1-3) or Thornwood (0-4) they could be back in the playoffs.

Finally, there's one of my favorites, LaSalle-Peru. The Cavaliers are 3-1 after last year's 3-6 finish. You have to go all the way back to 2009, when L-P was 7-3, to find the last time they had a winning record.

The Cavaliers beat three teams with a combined 2-10 record, but they still face Sycamore, Ottawa and Yorkville (all 1-3). Not hard to imagine them finding two more victories in that schedule.

Why do I like L-P? Well, I've never actually seen the Cavaliers play but I've always wanted to visit Howard Fellows Stadium, at the top of this post. It's supposed to be one of the best in the state. I wrote about it a few years ago here.

* Most, but not all, teams that finish 5-4 go on to the playoffs. (It's sort of a complicated formula, which I won't go into right now.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

The rankings are in...

...and the only significant change in the three news outlets I follow is in MaxPreps, where Homewood-Flossmoor vaulted 13 spots to No. 3 after its decisive 48-20 win over Bolingbrook.
___

In his column in the Sun-Times, Michael O'Brien mentions Brother Rice:

The Crusaders are now 1-3 after losing to Montini on Friday. 

The path to the playoffs looks very difficult for Brother Rice. The Crusaders have home games remaining against Providence and St. Rita and travels to Mount Carmel, St. Joseph and Loyola.

Brother Rice was 9-3 last year. Who else is under- or over-performing versus 2016? I'll take a look at that tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are the rankings this week (undefeated unless otherwise noted):

WEEK FIVE

Tribune:

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

Sun-Times:

1. Lincoln-Way East
2. Prairie Ridge
3. Maine South (3-1)
4. Phillips
5. Loyola (3-1)
6. Lyons
7. Homewood-Flossmoor
8. Marist
9. Lake Zurich
10. Naperville Central

MaxPreps:

1. Prairie Ridge
2. Lincoln-Way East
3. Homewood-Flossmoor
4. Naperville Central
5. Maine South (3-1)
6. Cary-Grove (3-1)
7. Marist
8. Phillips
9. Loyola (3-1)
10. East St. Louis (3-1)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

There weren't too many...

...surprises this week as all of the top teams in the Chicago area were victorious.

I was at the Mount Carmel - Loyola game and at one point tweeted, perhaps ungenerously, This may be the worst Mount Carmel team I've ever seen. (I try not to say anything too negative -- these athletes are kids, remember -- but I was just so shocked at the mismatch I was witnessing.) And, if I'm not mistaken, the Caravan wasn't using its veer offense as it always had in the past; they seemed to be passing more, for example. What gives?

This morning I read in Michael O'Brien's "Four Downs" column in the Sun-Times (my emphasis):

Don’t read too much into Mount Carmel’s rough game against Loyola on Saturday in Wilmette. The Caravan is without quarterback Alek Thomas, their best player. Jack Bracewell, starting in his place, fumbled three times in the first half. All three of the turnovers led to Loyola points. The Ramblers won 31-7.

Thomas has a great reason for missing football games. He’s the best baseball player in the state and one of the best high school players in the country. Thomas is in Ontario playing with Team USA in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U18 World Cup. Thomas started in left field and was 1-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI in a 9-0 win against Australia on Saturday.

Thomas is expected to return to football for the Caravan’s Week 5 game at St. Rita.

Mount Carmel’s offense may have had a valid excuse for Saturday, but the defense was at full strength. That’s a strong sign for Loyola’s offense, which had started the season slowly. The Ramblers didn’t just score points, they flashed the impressive up-tempo offense they’ve had in past years.

Quarterback Quinn Boyle was in complete control of the game. He was 17-for-25 passing for 144 yards and had 13 carries for 79 yards. Loyola receiver James Joyce was his favorite target and finished with five catches for 48 yards and one touchdown.

A word about that kid Boyle: I don't recall ever seeing a Loyola quarterback run with the ball so much or so well. Am I wrong, or has Coach John Holecek changed his approach? Or is Boyle just a particularly good runner?
___

Finally, what the heck is going on with Waubonsie Valley? A preseason No. 3 in the Tribune, No. 4 in the Sun-Times and No. 10 in MaxPreps, the Aurora squad is 1-2 so far. In Week One the Warriors were upset by Lake Park, 36-34, came back in Week Two to defeat Glenbard North handily, 21-7, but then got upended decisively on Friday by rival Neuqua Valley, 29-7. And this week they have to face a strong Naperville Central team! Could these guys start off the season 1-3? What's more, with remaining tests against Lincoln-Way Central, Naperville North (both undefeated) and Wheaton North (2-1), Waubonsie could conceivably miss the playoffs. Are there some key injuries out there in Aurora or something? What am I missing?

On to this week's rankings. (All teams undefeated unless otherwise noted.)

WEEK FOUR

Tribune:

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

Sun-Times:

1. Lincoln-Way East
2. Prairie Ridge
3. Maine South (2-1)
4. Phillips
5. Loyola (2-1)
6. Lyons
7. Homewood-Flossmoor
8. Marist
9. Lake Zurich
10. Naperville Central

MaxPreps:

1. Prairie Ridge
2. Lincoln-Way East
3. Maine South (2-1)
4. Naperville Central
5. Marist
6. Phillips
7. Loyola (2-1)
8. Cary-Grove (2-1)
9. East St. Louis (2-1)
10. Rochester

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Before we go any further...

...it may be worth noting that Loyola has beaten Mount Carmel in five of their last six outings. Or, the Caravan has bested the Ramblers in eight of their last fifteen meetings. So until we get to this week's Game of the Week, cherry-pick away! (Home team in CAPS.)

2016: Loyola 35, MOUNT CARMEL 28
2015: LOYOLA 49, Mount Carmel 21
2014: MOUNT CARMEL 10, Loyola 7
2013: LOYOLA 24, Mount Carmel 17
2012: Loyola 30, MOUNT CARMEL 27
2011: LOYOLA 12, Mount Carmel 7
2010: Mount Carmel 31, LOYOLA 24
2009: Loyola 28, MOUNT CARMEL 15
            Loyola 24, MOUNT CARMEL 7 (playoff)
2008: MOUNT CARMEL 35, Loyola 14
2007: Mount Carmel 31, LOYOLA 24
2006: MOUNT CARMEL 32, Loyola 14
2005: Mount Carmel 21, LOYOLA 3
            Mount Carmel 41, LOYOLA 3 (playoffs)
2004: Mount Carmel 20, LOYOLA 0

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Don't ask me how...

...I got here in my random morning "surfing," but this is apparently the first mention of LSD in rock music.

"LSD 25" was recorded in 1959 by the Gamblers, an early southern California surf band. (It was released in 1960 on the flip-side of "Moon Dawg!")*

The instrumental was written by band members Derry Weaver and Sam Taylor after the pair read about the hallucinogenic drug in a magazine. As music historian Michael Hicks explained: "The title connotated nothing about the musical content, but only demonstrated that the name 'LSD' was being assimilated into mass culture."

P. S. Another member of the Gamblers was Bruce Johnston, who went on to join the Beach Boys in 1965 on tour to replace Brian Wilson.

* The title was inspired by early rock 'n' roll disk jockey Alan Freed's on-air nickname "Moondog."

Monday, September 4, 2017

Shelley Berman, who...

...played Larry David’s father on Curb Your Enthusiasm, died at age 92.

Walter Becker, who...

...with Donald Fagen founded Steely Dan, died at age 67.

Funny, I wasn't a big fan back in the 1970s when the band was at the height of its popularity, but their music has grown on me over time.

The biggest change...

...in this week's rankings is the elevation of Lincoln-Way East to the top spot in both Chicago papers while the Griffins vaulted 13 spots to No. 2 in MaxPreps. Other than that, I think the big news is that Chicago teams went 3-1 in interstate play (Loyola, Homewood-Flossmoor and Marist all won while Stevenson lost) and Illinois teams as a whole went 3-3 (East St. Louis and Edwardsville lost).*

Here are this week's rankings with all teams undefeated unless otherwise noted.

WEEK THREE

Tribune:

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

Sun-Times:

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

MaxPreps:

1. Prairie Ridge
2. Lincoln-Way East
3. Rochester
4. Marist
5. Maine South (1-1)
6. Phillips
7. Loyola (1-1)
8. Huntley (1-1)
9. Cary-Grove (1-1)
10. IC Catholic Prep (1-1)

* I just found out that Simeon lost to Detroit Cass Tech (MI), 17-12. That makes Chicago schools 3-2 for the weekend and Illinois teams 3-4. My bad!

Friday, September 1, 2017

I finished "Mad Men"...

...last night, and unless I missed a lot -- and I probably did -- I can still only give the show a solid B or B+. It's not as good as, say, Breaking Bad or Seinfeld, but more on the level of The Sopranos.

(I would say Breaking Bad is the best drama I've ever seen, Seinfeld the best sit-com -- although Curb Your Enthusiasm has to be right up there too -- whereas The Sopranos just had too many scenes and episodes that left me thinking, It wouldn't happen that way. I may not be an expert on organized crime but I do consider myself a bit of an expert on life and human behavior. And much of The Sopranos just wasn't believable to me.)

But, like The Sopranos, Mad Men passed the acid test of a good show: I looked forward to watching it. And I liked talking about it and reading about it.

So why do I give Mad Men only a B or a B+? Even though I would read what Alan Sepinwall had to say about each episode after watching it, I either didn't catch enough of what was actually going on or there just wasn't as much going on as Mad Men's greatest fans thought. I'll concede that I probably missed a lot but it's worth remembering that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I don't think it's uncommon for a viewer to see something that a writer never intended. Also, like most television shows Mad Men struck me as a glorified soap opera. Rather than having a clear arc -- a beginning, a middle and an end -- I imagined the writers getting together during the off-season and asking each other, "Okay, now what do we do?" After a while it seemed like everyone was just jumping into bed with new characters without any progression to the plot. They ended it up nicely -- too nicely, I would say -- but I could imagine it going on and on, or ending after Season Three or Four or . . . take your pick.

As for that final episode, I'm glad Joan started her own business (she seemed to be the one character who experienced true personal growth throughout the series and actually became the person she always had the potential to be), but I found Roger's, Pete's and Peggy's stories either implausible (are we supposed to think that Roger and Pete will take their new relationships any more seriously than their old ones? Is Roger done being a womanizer? Why would we think so?) or just downright odd (am I the only person in America who thinks Peggy and Stan are an unlikely couple? Could they possibly survive?). I would have much preferred to remember the swaggering Peggy in that gif above. That should have been her last scene in the show.

And Don? I think he found some measure of peace at that retreat, returned to McCann and his kids, wrote that new Coke ad and led a more or less happy rest of his life. (As my wife said, he was at heart an adman.) But did he stop chasing women and drinking? I see no reason for that.

As for Jon Hamm, despite that scene near the end where he's talking to Betty on the phone and crying which I found almost embarrassingly bad, I was impressed with what a good actor he is. I am admittedly no expert on this subject as I must be the only person in the universe who doesn't think Meryl Streep is a good actress. (Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.) I can't help it -- every time I see her on the screen I think to myself, Oh, there's Meryl Streep and she's acting. There's her signature laugh, her signature this-or-that, etc. I never see past her to the character. And isn't that what a good actor is supposed to do, lose themselves in the character? Now, having said that, I will contradict myself completely and say that in what was probably my favorite scene -- I can't upload it for some reason -- in all of Mad Men (Season 6, episode 10: "A Tale of Two Cities"), I thought to myself, Wow, Don really looks stoned -- good job! Most actors, I find, overact when it comes to being drunk or stoned or when crying. (That last one is one of my pet peeves. Watch somebody cry sometime: they wipe at their tears furiously; they don't just let them roll down their face. We get it: you're crying -- you don't have to knock us over the head with it.)

So there it is: my first, "hot" take on Mad Men. Subject to change, of course.

Now what should I watch?