Friday, October 21, 2016

Chicagoans would rather watch playoff baseball than crummy football

I happened to eat dinner Thursday night at a Mexican restaurant that had two televisions set up at opposite ends of the dining hall.
Will these be legitimate next week, or just good for a laugh?

One tuned to the National League playoff game in which the Chicago Cubs ultimately beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, placing themselves one win away from their first league championship in 71 years.

THE OTHER SET was tuned to Thursday Night Football – whose broadcast this week was the usual Chicago sporting favorite, the Bears, takin on their arch-rivals, the Green Bay Packers.

Usually, that’s a game that gets sports-oriented people in Chicago to wet their drawers with glee and excitement. It stirs up a lot of rhetoric, regardless of how either team is playing.

Simply put, the fact that the Bears have won only one game this season shouldn’t have put a damper on the event. But it did.

The television ratings that came in for Thursday night showed the Cubs broadcast in Chicago getting a 24.1 share, which translates roughly to 1 million people in the metropolitan area actually watching the ballgame.

BY COMPARISON, THE Bears only got a 12.8 share, or just over half of what the Cubs managed to attract.

So much for the notion that Chicago is primarily a football town and that it is the Bears who are the team that manages to bring the city together as a whole in spirit.
'85 Bears still the big gun of Chicago sports memories?

Although I have always thought that Chicago is primarily a baseball town and that a local fan’s baseball preference is always stronger than what he feels for the Bears. Only with the baseball fandom split between two ball clubs, it means the Bears can claim a larger audience than either team. Which makes me wonder what things would be like if the Cardinals had never left town and remained a charter member of the NFL on the South Side?

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka, who has made his efforts to stay in the public eye by latching onto Cubs attention and publicly rooting for the team to make it to the World Series next week, has said he thinks a Cubs World Series title would be bigger than the ’85 Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl victory.
Did '05 Sox top Bears in some minds?
IT WOULD BE to that segment of Chicago sporting society that cares about the Cubs. Just keep in mind that to White Sox fans, their ’05 World Series win already has topped the Bears in importance, and there’s no way a stinkin’ Cubs pennant would ever top the memories of Paul Konerko, Mark Buehrle and manager Ozzie Guillen signaling for the big, tall and fat relief pitcher to come in to save the game.

Not that any of this detracts from what the Bears accomplished 31 years ago by becoming the first Chicago team in decades to win a thing.

If anything, what with the Bears, the Bulls, the Blackhawks and White Sox all having won championships within our lifetimes, it probably is about time that the Cubs get off their duffs and win something – just so we can quit thinking there’s anything particularly special about them.

It’s about time that the Cubs win something so we can put a rest to those out-of-town types who denigrate the Chicago sporting experience – largely by claiming there can’t be anything special about a city that takes a team with the Cubs’ losing ways at all seriously.
Still a 21st Century 1st for Chicago

ALTHOUGH ONE CAN argue that the new Cubs management has already succeeded in that they have put together a ball club that will likely be a legitimate contender for the rest of this decade. Even if the Dodgers manage to prevail this weekend, the Cubs probably will be in the running for a championship come 2017.

There’s also the fact that even if the Cubs were to win a thing (and I don’t doubt there are many Chicagoans who dread the very concept), all it would really mean is that the Cubs will finally have matched the White Sox in championships achieved during this century.



Thursday, October 20, 2016

Is Capitol Hill really that much better than being governor of Illinois?

He could always change his mind. In fact, it’s probably a safe bet to presume a political person will not try to run for a particular post until that election cycle passes without their name on the ballot.
DURBIN: Maybe he'll change mind, or not

But long-time member of Congress Richard Durbin says he’s happy with what he has, and has no intention of trying to become governor of Illinois.

WHICH IS RELEVANT because Durbin’s name is one being tossed about as a potential challenger to Gov. Bruce Rauner come the 2018 election cycle. We’re not even through the ’16 electoral nonsense yet, and there already are those speculating about the next election.

It’s as nonsensical as those people who want to talk ever since spring training how the Chicago Cubs are entitled to win this year’s World Series – only to see the ball club stagger a bit as they get within a couple of games of an actual National League championship.

But, back to Durbin, who is an East St. Louis native who has lived the bulk of his life in Springfield, from where he has been elected to a few terms in the House of Representatives, then became Illinois’ senator some 20 years ago.

It is figured by those people who keep talking up his name that he has the recognition to be taken seriously against the money that Rauner most definitely will put into his re-election bid in two years to try to bury anybody who has the unmitigated gall to try to challenge him.

TAKING ON RAUNER isn’t a challenge for the meek at heart, or for the little-known.

It may even be that Durbin could be a worthy public official if he were to try to serve as governor. Although the fact is that while he lives in Springfield, he is not a part of the local political process.
RAUNER: Which Dem will challenge him?

He’s the guy who went “up and out” to a bigger post in Washington, albeit one that isn’t all that important to the political people whose view of the world doesn’t extend beyond their local ward office.

If anything, Durbin is like Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, in one aspect – he has his sights set elsewhere in hopes that he can bring that place’s influence to use back to the local scene.
FOR MADIGAN, THAT local place is the Statehouse in Springfield. He rose to the ranks of House speaker for all these decades largely so he can ensure the Legislature works in ways that are of benefit to Chicago.
MADIGAN: Likes the power of being "Mr. Speaker"

While Durbin works the halls of Capitol Hill to try to bring back those federal benefits to Illinois – making sure the Land of Lincoln gets something back for all the tax dollars we have to pay in to the federal treasury.

Personally, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Durbin said recently he wants to remain in

Washington and is more likely to run for re-election rather than consider coming back home to be governor. He made such a statement while appearing this week in Champaign, saying he’s satisfied with his current lot in life.

Part of it, I’m sure, is that he knows it would be a tough political fight – although I don’t doubt he wouldn’t mind it in the least if he were remembered as the guy who dumped Bruce Rauner come 2018.

BUT IT’S PROBABLY more like Madigan in that he focuses his attention on an out-of-town political entity because he likes being part of the political scene there. It’s not like many Chicago political observers would think it wise to willingly want to live part of the year in Springfield, yet he does because he enjoys being the “almighty and powerful” speaker of the House.

While Durbin, I’m sure, fantasizes about the day he can be the Senate majority leader. Perhaps his goal is not to depose Rauner, but to be the guy who replaces Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Although as minority whip, it can be argued he already has a position pretty close to the top.
A remodeled home not enough to entice Durbin?

Important enough that his proximity to the top of Congress is a benefit that Illinois likes to play off of. If he came back to Springfield, he’d have to start focusing on such parochial concerns.

Besides, perhaps he figures the fact he’d be expected to live in the Executive Mansion isn’t all that much of a perk – no matter how much the place gets fixed up in coming years by the Rauners.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Election Day won't bring to an end our national partisan political stalemate

There’s nothing terribly surprising about failed presidential candidate John McCain talking about how his Republican counterparts in Congress are prepared to be obstructionists with regards to any effort by a “President Hillary Clinton” to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court of the United States.
McCAIN: Senator says 'no judges' for Hillary

Obstructionism has been the ways and means of operating our federal government for the past six years that Congress has been in the hands of Republicans who don’t want President Barack Obama to have any lasting effect on the nation.

SO IT WOULD seem that obstructionism will be the way they will deal with a second coming of the Clinton family to the White House.

There’s still that vacancy on the Supreme Court caused by the death of Antonin Scalia early this year. Any hope that the passing of Election Day in a few more weeks will result in a return to normalcy is just a dream.

Either that, or obstructionism has become the new normal.

In some ways, hearing that Senate Republicans would be inclined to refuse to confirm any Clinton appointment to the nation’s high court may be the most sensible thing we’re hearing these days.

AFTER ALL, IT would mean that Republican opponents of a President Clinton would be staying within the process created for our government’s operations. Not that the Founding Fathers ever envisioned government officials would be petty enough to resort to such tactics.

Then again, maybe petty has become the new normal.

Hearing that the Senate would refuse to confirm a Supreme Court nominee sounds more sane than those people who talk of a coup d’ tat within our government – so as to keep “that broad” (they probably use much harsher terms to describe her) from taking office.
TRUMP: His followers prepared to wreck havoc

There’s even one website now ( with a video snippet of somebody saying he’s prepared to kill Hillary Clinton should she manage to be able to win the presidential election – which various polls and studies are indicating is somewhere in the vicinity of a 90 percent certainty.

AT THE VERY least, there are those who take Donald Trump’s “stupid speak” of Clinton being prosecuted and incarcerated if he were to win the just a tad too seriously. Let’s only hope that Trump himself has never engaged in a business deal that could be construed by a prosecutor as criminal in nature.

Although I’m sure the Trump-types would dismiss his future indictment as some sort of conspiracy by Clinton to cover up her own wrong-doings.

All of this is relevant because of the likelihood that Republican interests will hold on to their control of Congress. I know many of the e-mail missives I receive from Democratic interests these days always make the point of how we have to dump the GOP control of Congress if a “President Clinton” is to be capable of achieving anything.

Some go right out and try to scare me by saying it is inevitable UNLESS Democratic candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives win – which usually means more campaign cash. Which really means they want me to kick in money, and they’re trying to make me feel guilty because I haven’t contributed a dime to any candidate.

NOT NOW. NOT ever, actually.
CLINTON: Is she really such a shoo-in to win?

Although I don’t doubt the truthfulness of an obstructionist Congress. It may well be McCain speaking the blunt truth when he talks about an ongoing effort to keep the Supreme Court short-staffed – unless conservative ideologues get to pick one of their own to replace Scalia (and any other judge who retires or dies in the near future).

All of which means we’re not going to get radical change in the way our government operates these days. Which is sad, because radical change is what we desperately need. And NO, Donald Trump is as far removed from “radical change” as we could get.

It is sad that we have a political mindset by which people can only work with themselves and are incapable of working with others. The only way our government gets anything accomplished is if the “game” is rigged in someone’s favor – and bipartisanship becomes the ultimate vulgar expression.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

EXTRA: Illinois Comptroller forum to be held in ‘Blues Brothers’ church

It’s a shame that Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger isn’t expected to show up Tuesday night at a candidate forum in which all three of her likely Election Day opponents will partake.

That forum will be held at the Pilgrim Baptist Church in the South Chicago neighborhood, which has a personal tie in that it is down the block from the church (Our Lady of Guadalupe) in which I was baptized as a baby.

BUT I’M SURE for the masses out there who are old enough to have seen “The Blues Brothers” when it was in the movie theaters or have since seen it rerun on television throughout the decades, the church will stand out as the one that became the "Triple Rock Church" that turned a Baptist church service into a rockin’ musical revival.

As in James Brown singing “The Old Landmark” while parishioners danced about and went soaring through the air. A little bit over the top, I’m sure!

But that scene was shot at the Pilgrim Baptist Church, just a few blocks from the 95th Street bridge that the Blues Brothers drove their hand-me-down police car over while it was fully erect (another scene over the top, I’m sure).

Tuesday night, it will be the place where Democratic comptroller candidate Susana Mendoza (currently the Chicago city clerk) will try to explain why she ought to get the state political post.

AND NOT JUST because we ought to want to dump someone who is a political appointee of Gov. Bruce Rauner. She has to offer up reasons why we should want her in the office instead.
MUNGER: A no-show?!?

Otherwise, we might as well contemplate Libertarian Claire Ball or Green Tim Curtin for the post. Both of them also are expected to attend the event, and both could definitely use the jolt of publicity.

Particularly in the case of Green, who when you do an Internet search for his name, the top result that comes up is a biography for the leader of the band “Pig Vomit.”

Perhaps her absence means that Munger thinks she also can’t use a publicity injection. I think she should, mainly because it could be a chance for the little-known Munger to set herself apart from the other candidates. Show that she’s really the best qualified.
MENDOZA: Can she beat incumbent?

SHE ALREADY HAS the endorsements of the two major metro daily newspapers (both the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times), although those seemed based on the idea that Mendoza is aligned with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and perhaps ought to be better off if she just stayed within Chicago city government.

There’s also the fact that Republican Party officials in Illinois are going all out to ensure Munger has adequate funding to operate a credible campaign. They want to be able to ensure they keep the state post that was filled by gubernatorial appointment when Judy Baar Topinka died just under two years ago.

After all, how lonely would Rauner be if he were the only Republican state constitutional officer in Illinois government, along with a General Assembly dominated by Democrats and a national Republican Party that has been devastated by the existence of Donald Trump.
BALL: Also in the running

Which is the exact kind of loneliness Democrats would like to create for him the next two years as he prepares for a re-election bid -- one in which they hope they can find a gubernatorial candidate who can take him down politically.

PARTICULARLY AT THIS forum, which claims to be bipartisan but is being sponsored by various groups with urban-interest, non-Anglo ethnic, Democratic Party leanings.

Which most likely is the reason why Munger isn’t likely to show up. Either that, or she thinks the South Chicago neighborhood is somewhere on the other side of the planet and that she’d be contaminated by the residue of the steel mills that used to exist throughout the area.
CURTIN: Not the guy from 'Pig Vomit'

Heck, there are long-time local residents who have that very same fear, breathing in the air that has the stink of decades of industrial waste built up.

Either that, or she's afraid the ghost of James Brown will drown her out with his powerful voice.


‘Safe roads’ amendment one of those things you ignore ‘til it's too late

You probably received a little booklet printed on light blue paper a couple of weeks ago, and promptly tossed it into the trash (or your recycling bin if you’re environmentally conscious).
Story in the red box easily dwarfed by Cubs

If you bothered to look at a printed copy of the Chicago Tribune on Monday, your attention was dominated by the full-color photograph and copy about the Chicago Cubs’ 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fact that there was a news story also on Page One above the fold probably got lost in the Cubbie trivia.

AS A RESULT, you’re going to walk into your polling place on Nov. 8 (or perhaps earlier if you’re conscientious-enough to show up at an Early Voting Center) and suddenly be hit with a referendum question that you won’t have a clue what it’s about.

You may well let out a little curse and exclaim that “Nobody Told Me About This!!!” You may well think of people to blame for this lack of information.

So because I’m going to want to throw your cluelessness back in your face, I’m going to take a crack here at trying to explain the Safe Roads Amendment, which is the measure that all voters across Illinois will be asked to say “yes” or “no” to when they also decide whether they detest the concept of “President Hillary R. Clinton” so much that they’d vote for a lame-brain like Donald Trump instead.

It’s actually a simple concept. There already are taxes being charged whose purpose is to raise money for road maintenance projects in communities across the state.

THOSE GAS TAXES that make the price of gasoline for your car cost more in Illinois than if you fill up your tank in Indiana (which some Chicagoans insist on doing) are among those taxes.

But what happens sometimes is that political people, in order to fund special projects, divert some of that money. What officials want is for an order that says all money raised by these taxes for road repairs must actually be used for road repairs and related projects.

No diversions whatsoever!!!

If you buy into that line of logic, vote “yes.” In fact, a group called Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding has come up with new television spots that may catch your attention (unless you’re the type who deliberately blanks out when you see partisan political advertising on TV) that tries to say the only sensible vote one can cast on this measure is an “aye.”

AFTER ALL, THE reason those particular taxes are in place is to provide the state with money it then distributes to local communities to pay for the road resurfacing projects it needs to do in any given year.

Unless you happen to live in one of those communities (usually more rural places) that believes pot holes are a part of nature and it’s not normal to have a perfectly-smooth road surface on a road that has a few years accumulated on it.

Yet I have to admit I haven’t fully made up my own mind how to vote, largely because I wonder how much this initiative is motivated by the lobbyists for the construction industry – people who want to view those road fund monies as their own private source of income and resent the idea of officials tapping into it for something else.

I do think government officials ought to have a certain amount of discretion to decide what to do with funds, and am not sure that anyone is entitled to a guarantee of tax revenue proceeds.

AS IT IS, the Chicago Tribune report acknowledged that the lobbyist group pushing for this amendment is one that represents the International Union of Operating Engineers – which represents the construction workers who would be employed by future road repair projects.

The Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding has raised some $3.3 million thus far to support their lobbying efforts, of which about $1 million will be spent to air those partisan commercials on television in coming weeks.

You’ll have to decide for yourselves who you back, and which way that swings your vote. Keeping contractors busy, or trusting your local government official to be able to decide when discretion should be used and funds should be shifted elsewhere?

It’s something to think about. The real losers will be those people who keep themselves clueless all the way through Election Day, then try to figure out whom they can blame for their lack of information about the issue.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Trump wants any edge he can get in upcoming (and final) debate w/ Clinton

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has already shown that in a head-to-head oratorical competition against Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, he’ll get his clock cleaned.
The halls of UNLV will host the final presidential debate

His gut instinct is to spew so much nonsense on pseudo-issues that only the most illogical of people will take him seriously.

SO ANYBODY WHO expects this Wednesday’s political faceoff between the two to produce anything in the way of serious data is kidding themselves.

Heck, there’s the fact that Trump already has tried to make an issue of drug-testing, trying to imply that Clinton is unstable and must somehow be “high” on something. Nobody believes that to be true – except for the nitwits who want to believe the worst in her.

Trump also has been spewing the continued rhetoric of how the election process is being rigged against him – possibly because he thinks it is absurd to let people who don’t support him even have a vote.

To that end, Trump has hinted that he now thinks the two debates he already has done are sufficient and he may not even bother to show up. Although he also has made other statements implying he will participate, but that he intends to behave like a complete horse’s behind.

AS THOUGH TRUMP think we ought to be blessed to be in his presence and let him enlighten us with his nonsense.

A part of me wonders if Trump would think of claiming that the location of the final debate is somehow biased against him – the Las Vegas campus of the University of Nevada. Which usually is a school known for nothing more than its occasionally-talented basketball teams.
Would Trump think his hotel/casino be a more conducive debate forum?

It wouldn’t shock me if he’d think that a more appropriate place to hold a debate would be the Trump Casino – any place where he thinks he’d have the psychological advantage over Hillary Clinton.

If you think this is absurd, take into account the last debate at Washington University in St. Louis. That was the one where Trump kept walking around the stage during the debate so as to constantly be standing behind Hillary.

THERE WERE THOSE people who joked that Trump became Clinton’s stalker during the debate. Personally, I think he thinks that somehow, the fact that his pudgy image was constantly in view meant that people were focused on him – rather than on anything that Hillary had to say.

Which makes me wonder if the only person who might have been “high” during the debate was Donald Trump himself.

Then again, Trump likely isn’t high. It’s just an over-bloated ego on his part – and the idea of having to endure another face-to-face confrontation with Clinton must be a blow to that ego.

Particularly since it would mean more direct evidence that Trump isn’t anywhere near qualified to be a government official at any level, whereas Clinton likely has experience unique to any other president – and not just because her husband was a president some two decades ago.

SO WHAT WILL the point be of Wednesday’s political spectacle, other than seeing how debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News can handle the bloated Trump ego – and if he brings any reminiscence of his early 1970s days as a WBBM-TV reporter from the days when Channel 2 news reigned supreme with “Bill and Walter” at the head.
Can one-time Chicago newsman top Trump ego

Debt, the economy, foreign hot spots, immigration, the Supreme Court are all among the topics to be discussed, although I suspect the portion where they’re allowed to discuss each other’s fitness to be president will be the key component most likely to attract attention.

Who comes up with the most outrageous cheap shot against the other’s personal existence may well be the quote of the debate.

And when it comes to being able to spew nonsense that makes for good video, that could be an area in which Donald Trump is capable of coming out on top.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

EXTRA: Beisbol heroics on Sabado from a pair of Latin American catchers

For those people who want to downplay the great significance that Latin America plays in modern-day professional baseball, Saturday was likely a swift kick to the huevos.
Carlos Santana became a Cleveland hero ...

For both the American and National leagues had more games in their ongoing quest to produce league champions who will face off against each other in this year’s World Series.

THE CLEVELAND INDIANS gave themselves a significant jolt in their chances of being one of those World Series-bound ball clubs – what with them beating the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 to take a two games to nothing lead over their Canadian competitors.

While the Chicago Cubs started off their round of playoffs with an 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Three more wins, and the Cubs could have their first league pennant since 1945.

In both games, the big bats came from catchers who hail from Latin American nations – Carlos Santana of the Indians from the Dominican Republic and Miguel Montero of the Cubs from Venezuela.

Both men managed to hit home runs that gave their teams the leads they ultimately held. Both may well have had the highlights of their professional careers on Saturday.

FOR SANTANA, HE hit a line shot off Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ that managed to clear that 19-foot high wall they have at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, which may be as ridiculous a corporate ballpark name as Chicago’s new Guaranteed Rate Field.
... to be followed a few hours later in Chicago by a Cub

While Montero hit a four-run home run for the Cubs, coming in as a pinch hitter and breaking up a tied score that the Dodgers had just managed to accomplish.

Just at a time when the Dodgers thought they were going to outsmart the Cubs, a little bit of muscle broke the game open.

Just as how Santana broke up a double shutout game by putting the Indians on the board; creating a mood throughout Cleveland that had fans convinced that victory was theirs. And for at least a day made him the more important “Carlos Santana” than the legendary guitar player.

I WOULDN’T BE surprised if people in Cleveland and on the North Side were now gearing up for an Indians/Cubs World Series scheduled to begin Oct. 25. For what it’s worth, Halloween will be a travel day between games six and seven – if it turns out that those games need to be played.
For a day, he's just a guy named 'Carlos'

Although anyone with baseball sense knows nothing should ever be taken for granted until it’s a done deal. Anybody who has watched the Indians sweep the Boston Red Sox and handle Toronto thus far ought to be able to see they’re not going to be the least bit intimidated by the Cubs – no matter how much some people are determined to think it is inevitable that there will be an ultimate Chicago victory.

Toronto fans surely think things are about to change come Monday with the return of playoff games to Ontario, while Dodgers fans know that with six more games to play against the Cubs, they could still rebound.

Which is why baseball truly is the greatest of games, and only a fool will be paying any attention to the Bears Sunday as they play (and possibly lose to) the Jacksonville Jaguars.