Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Posting pictures at United Center entrances -- how else to ban them?

Chicago Blackhawks officials say four fans of the hockey team are now banned from the United Center for life because of their behavior at a weekend game against the Washington Capitals.

You know, the four who insisted on shouting racially-motivated taunts at a black Capitals player during his time in the penalty box!

THE BLACKHAWKS HAVE made all the appropriate statements how they’re appalled that any of their fans could have such horrid thoughts. A lot of people are engaging in verbiage meant to make themselves sound appropriately concerned.

Yet the truth is I don’t have a clue how you can possibly do anything to enforce this; unless you can find a way to put a Scarlet Letter, of sorts, on all the racist knuckleheads of our society.

Many of whom, if you branded them with a “K” (or a “B” for bigot) would probably take it as a badge of honor – that’s how twisted their thought processes are.

I don’t have a clue how the Blackhawks can say they’re banning four individuals from the stadium and their games. Do we literally post their pictures at the stadium entrance – with orders that the quartet be shot on sight if they try to attend a game.

DO WE EXTEND it to all the ticket services that none of the four ever be sold tickets to a Blackhawks game?

Maybe we should ban them from even following hockey games or teams? Although I don’t have a clue how this could be enforced.

Many people have gone out of their way to say the proper things, but I’m not convinced there’s going to be any serious change in attitudes or behavior.

Because a part of me believes that many sports fans are serious believers of Homer J. Simpson when he once said, “This ticket (to a ballgame) doesn’t just give me a seat. It also gives me the right, no the duty, to make a complete ass of myself.”

WHICH THOSE FOUR fans now banned from the hockey arena certainly did on Saturday when they insisted on implying that a black player doesn’t belong in hockey.

What I find almost humorous (but in a pathetic way) is the marketing campaign the National Hockey League has ongoing these days – “Hockey is for Everyone,” which is supposed to make the sport out to be something for all, and not just for white people from Canada.

In fact, the Blackhawks had a promotion based on the theme during their Thursday match against the Anaheim Ducks. It seems the message of a “safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status” didn’t take.

Because just two days later, the incident singling out Devante Smith-Pelly occurred. Although the Blackhawks’ lone black player, Anthony Duclair, said those four fans’ bad behavior wasn’t in any way unique, or isolated.

I’M SURE THOSE four fans, along with many others, are prepared to dismiss the whole affair as a lot of ‘politically correct’ trash talk about nothing. There probably isn’t anything that can be done to change such attitudes, or convince them of how big of knuckleheads they truly are.

Now I’ll admit to not being much of a hockey fan (although I appreciate the significance to the Chicago sports scene of a team that has three Stanley Cup championships in this decade). Part of it is that I have never ice-skated – and floor hockey is a second-rate game that filled up some childhood gym class time.

I’m sure that is true for many others – particularly in parts of the country where the existence of ice and snow is considered a myth.

Which means we’re likely to see more continued bad behavior – and most likely the instances of the four banished from the United Center finding a way to sneak into a Blackhawks game; while taking a perverse pride in being able to do so.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

There’s a perfectly-good reason they call this time of year the ‘silly season’

We’re one month away from Election Day, as in when we the electorate declare our partisan intentions and decide whom each of the political parties will have on the ballot come the Nov. 6 general elections.
BISS: The $56 man?

Which means we’re already enduring more than our share of stupidity in the name of politics – and we’re going to get 30 more days between now and the primaries.

YOU COULD CUT short the amount of time you have to care about such nonsense if you decide to cast your ballot at an early voting center. March 5 is the day people can start showing up to express themselves early.

Yet we’re enduring all kinds of stunts.

Such as the one by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss – who officially pulled out his checkbook and wrote out a $56 check to his own campaign.

It was supposed to be a mocking of the $7 million more than overly-wealthy opponent J.B. Pritzker gave to himself – bringing his total campaign fund to $56.7 million.

BISS, IN A video snippet he posted on Facebook, said he can’t come close to matching that amount of money. So instead, he coughed up $56 – while asking individuals to also donate $56, in hopes that the overall total will add up to something significant.
PRITZKER: Biss tries to mock his millions

While also trying to make a deeper point that Biss, a one-time mathematics teacher turned state senator from Evanston, is closer to being like everyday people than Pritzker.

Or even the other Democratic challenger, Chris Kennedy, whom Biss claims has given some $1.2 million of his own money to his gubernatorial campaign. Which means that no matter who wins a month from now, there is going to be a lot of self-money wasted on political fantasy.

While also showing that Biss’ own level of support is limited to the point where one could argue a vote cast for him is a vote wasted.

THE ONE THING I do know is that I probably shouldn’t go wearing a “Biss” campaign button on the day I show up at a polling place. I usually don’t give much thought to what I wear for that occasion – other than that I’ll get that sticker reading “I Voted!” to paste on myself that day.
Campaigning by intimidation?

It seems, however, that the Supreme Court of the United States is going to give thought to this issue. A week from Wednesday, the nation’s high court will hear arguments in a case out of Minnesota – where Tea Party-type activists are challenging state laws that required them to cover up the party t-shirts they wanted to wear while voting.

It may be subtle, but I don’t doubt it is intimidation in its own form. Just as I suspect every jackass who insists on wearing one of those ridiculous “Make America Great Again” caps is looking to provoke a reaction from everybody who doesn’t agree with them.

Although it’s not as blunt as a few years ago, when on Election Day, a polling place worker insisted on saying “Don’t Vote for the Son” as he guided us to empty ballot machines – remember Todd Stroger (the son of John) running for Cook County Board president re-election in 2010?

I ALSO GOT my chuckle from a campaign mailing I received from Patricia Joan Murphy – who’s running for the Cook County Board seat her late mother (Joan Patricia Murphy) held for many years.
Thorough instructions

The mailing included postcards I could send in to the county clerk’s office so that I can cast my ballot by mail. I don’t even have to show up at a polling place.

The card is actually an application to Cook County to send me a ballot to fill out at home. And for what it’s worth, Murphy’s postcards are already marked in a way to ensure I’m sent a Democratic Party primary ballot. How thoughtful (heavy sarcasm intended) of her.

It’s almost enough to make me want to pick a Republican ballot. But then I’d have to be confronted with the thought of the worst of evils between Gov. Bruce Rauner and challenger Jeanne Ives. Too nauseating to contemplate.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Sports fans say they want escape from life's tensions, but mostly only want their own attitudes reinforced

I found myself enjoying some baseball this weekend, in the form of the college baseball tourney recently renamed for one-time Chicago Cubs star Andre Dawson.

The new namesake of HBCU tourney
That tournament played this weekend in the much milder weather of New Orleans gave the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames a chance to start out their season away from the Saturday afternoon snowfall we had in Chicago. But the rest of the schools participating were southern in nature, and most were the HBCUs of the country.

THAT’S AS IN Historically Black Colleges and Universities – the schools that date back to when black people were excluded from traditional higher education, so a class of colleges sprung up to create opportunities.

Those colleges aren’t exclusively black enrollment anymore, but there are some people who feel more comfortable trying to get a higher education in an environment where they’re not the minority. This weekend, places like Alabama State, Alcorn State, Grambling, Southern, Prairie View A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff got to show their stuff on the baseball diamond.

I’m sure there are going to be some people who will be offended that such a tournament is taking place. The Major League Baseball website is filled with nameless comments calling the tourney "a joke" and emphasizing they'd never heard of it before. But then again, they’re the ones whose idea of integration is that everybody act as though they were white.

They are the first to scream “racist!” (or their favorite taunt, “reverse racism!”) whenever something comes along that forces them to admit racial bias still exists. They don’t want to be called out on their own Archie Bunker-like tendencies.
Helping to advise new HBCU tourney

IT WAS NICE to see that Major League Baseball is giving this particular tournament some support and publicity. What with Dawson (who played college ball at the historically-black Florida A&M University) giving his name, and one-time Chicago White Sox manager Jerry Manuel serving as a consultant.

For what it was worth, it was nice to be able to ignore the Saturday snowfall that reminded us winter ain’t through by any means to see baseball being played – with the Flames overcoming a 4-3 deficit in the 9th inning to ultimately win the ballgame 9-5.

Which makes me feel sorry for those people who are going to want to think I wasted my Saturday afternoon away by watching some lower class of baseball. One they probably think is not worthy of any public attention.
Wrong sport? Or knucklehDeaded fans?

Probably the same kind of people who get upset whenever anybody points out the declining number of black ballplayers currently on Major League rosters. They’ll argue black people just don’t play baseball that much, and we shouldn’t think it an issue.

LIKELY, THEY BELIEVE the lasting lesson of 2014 and the Little League World Series that the Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago is that a majority-black ball club can only win if it cheats.

Yet this kind of attitude isn’t limited to baseball and springtime. Take hockey, where also on Saturday several Chicago Blackhawks fans were ejected from the United Center for their racially-tainted taunts of visiting team players.

Specifically, of Devante Smith-Pelly, a forward for the Washington Capitals who is one of the few black players in the National Hockey League.

When he was sent to the penalty box during the game, Blackhawks fans taunted him with a reminder that they thought he was playing the wrong sport.

FOUR FANS WERE kicked out of the stadium and the Blackhawks issued an apology, yet the Internet is filled with rants (anonymous, of course) contending that people were too sensitive about the slur (which was “basketball, basketball, basketball).

Black Lives matter activists “can call for the deaths and killings of police officers and that’s considered free speech?... Enough of this out-of-control absurd political correctness,” one Chicago Tribune commenter wrote.
Now playing for Toronto, Granderson was on hand to root for alma mater Flames

Of course, the very phrase “political correctness” has become a way of judging one’s racial attitudes – the ones who toss it out usually are upset that they’re being called out for their own bouts of verbal nastiness. As though their free speech right entitles them to the last word on EVERYTHING!

The sad part is that it means we can’t get away from this racial nonsense even at the ballpark or the stadium. Even though the ironic part is that many sports fans claim they follow ballgames as a form of escape – what they really seem to want is to have their own close-minded thoughts reaffirmed.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Is anyone really shocked the jail inmates cheered for the cop killer?

I really have a hard time believing that Cook County sheriff’s police officials could be shocked that jail inmates awaiting their day in court on Thursday would cheer for the guy who’s facing criminal charges for the shooting death earlier this week of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
Defendant? Or anti-hero?
If anything, I’d be shocked to learn they had been respectful of their jailers, or the legal system that I’m sure many of them believe is railroading them into a few years’ residence within the state prison system.

NEWS ACCOUNTS FROM both of the major metro newspapers (Sun-Times, Tribune) indicate the sheriff, who runs the county jail and criminal courts complex, wants to identify the disrespectful inmates.

With their names to be turned over to the assistant state’s attorneys who are prosecuting their pending criminal cases. Their hope is that someday, those disrespectful inmates will have extra time added to their punishments because of their behavior this week.

While several of the inmates awaiting trial in Cook County may wind up finding themselves transferred to county jails elsewhere. They may wind up awaiting trial in some rural county jail where their legal proceedings will be far more complicated to carry out.

But a little bit of inconvenience is being deemed as warranted for acting as though Shomari Legghette were some sort of hero because of the half-dozen gunshots he fired when Bauer tried to catch him Wednesday at the Thompson Center state government building.

THE NEWSPAPERS ARE going along with this tone – the county sheriff provided video taken of a holding cell so we can see, and hear, crude images of the cheering inmates as Legghette is brought past their cell en route to the courtroom – where a judge decided that Legghette should await trial inside the jail without the option of bond.

Now I’m not saying I think these inmates were anything but buffoons in the way they behaved, or that Bauer (who will get the full-ritual police funeral on Saturday) is deserving of disrespect.

It’s just that I wouldn’t expect anything but tacky behavior from jail inmates.

No matter what legal basis there is for saying these men (including Legghette) are innocent until proven guilty, the fact is that many of them are misfits from the standard beliefs of our society.

WHICH IS WHAT led most of them to actions that would bring them under suspicion by police and prosecutors and cause them to have criminal charges pending against them.

Besides, there’s something about incarceration that would break the spirit of just about anybody – surround yourself with enough misfits, and you’ll find yourself starting to take on their ideals.

I remember one time I was inside the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet (as a reporter-type person). As the group I was with was passing the roundhouses, we could hear the inmates taunting us – letting us know they regarded us as being as much a part of the problem as anybody else.

It was execution duty (back in the days when Illinois still committed homicide in the name of justice), and the inmates let me and others know we would “burn in Hell” as much as anyone else for being a part of the ritual.

I ALSO RECALL crude and vulgar threats shouted specifically at the prison staffers – letting them know how they would be “f---ed up” by the inmates if they ever wound up inside the prison proper.

With that kind of mentality, it wouldn’t shock me in the least to learn that some of the county jail inmates (some of whom are bound to wind up in the Illinois Corrections Department eventually) would think cheers and applause would be worthy of a man charged with the shooting death of a cop.
Could he be Cook County sheriff?

So to learn that aides to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart are saying the inmate behavior is “disgraceful and despicable, just beyond the pale” has a familiar ring to it.

Something similar to that of Capt. Renault from “Casablanca,” when he uttered his now-memorable line about being “shocked, shocked to learn that gambling is taking place on the premises” of Rick’s Café. Both of them are worthy of an equally insincere sigh.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Kennedy wants racial/ethnic vote to turn Dem gubernatorial primary into a two-way campaign w/ Pritzker

Some may dismiss one-time Illinois Senate President Emil Jones as “crass,” but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy is banking that he can turn the March 20 primary into a one-on-one fight with J.B. Pritzker – the man who has support from much of the Democratic establishment of Illinois.
KENNEDY: Can non-Anglo vote make him a winner?
For Kennedy, whom some polls indicate has been caught by third candidate Daniel Biss, is the guy using radio spots featuring the gravelly voice of Jones to appeal to the African-American portion of the electorate.

PRITZKER HAS BEEN ahead in various polls, indicating his self-provided millions have been effective in getting his name recognition out there. But he’s also made his share of gaffes indicating he may have offended potential black voters.

Which has Kennedy going in for the kill.

He’s hoping that becoming the gubernatorial candidate of choice for black people will put him back in the running against Pritzker. Because it could make Biss’ attempt to appeal to a certain segment of white people insufficient to win overall.

For what it’s worth, Jones uses his minute of time in the radio spot to remind an older generation of African-Americans just who Kennedy’s father (Bobby) and uncle (Jack) were.
JONES: Obama mentor boost Kennedy?
THE MAN WE recently learned was belittled by Pritzker (in private conversations a decade ago with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich) tells us how the Kennedys, “fought and struggled and sacrificed alongside Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) in the civil rights movement,” and also tells us that Chris would continue on in “the Kennedy way.”

Indicating that Kennedy is banking on the black vote to turn out in strong enough force to enable him to overcome those polls of late that say Biss has actually overcome Kennedy to be the serious challenger to Pritzker.

Actually, what the polls say is that there remains a strong-enough share of people who are undecided in the Democratic primary, with Pritzker, Biss and Kennedy all following behind.
PRITZKER: Still leading, but can he hold it?
This primary may be just a month in the future, but it is far from settled.

PERHAPS THE KENNEDY campaign is influenced by that PPP poll (conducted for Our Revolution Illinois/Chicago) that shows amongst potential black voters, Kennedy is not only second behind Pritzker (38 percent to 31 percent), Biss is virtually irrelevant (7 percent).

And when it comes to the Latino vote, Kennedy is actually the leader (31 percent to 28 percent), with Biss only at 14 percent.

Perhaps it is the spirit of the Viva Kennedy clubs of old that enabled Chris’ uncle, Jack, to win the 1960 presidential bid, but it may well be a combination of the Latino and black vote that keeps the Kennedy gubernatorial dreams alive.

And ensures that the suburban white segment of the Democratic primary electorate that actually takes Biss seriously never grows into a larger coalition that could actually win the March 20 primary.

IT MAKES ME wonder if this campaign advertising spot (which is airing on the Chicago radio stations appealing to African-American listeners) is going to be the first of many the Kennedy campaign will issue.
Can Chris resurrect JFK's 'Viva Kennedy' spirit?
Will we see every ethnic and racial name dredged up to make endorsements in hopes they will sway more non-Anglo voters to turn out for the primary election – hoping they will be the kind of voters who will not easily be swayed by the millions of dollars that Pritzker could put into his own campaign for governor.

Which, to be honest, seems to be the primary factor that wins over the support of his political backers. They like the idea of someone who won’t be constantly hitting them up for more money in order to pay for his campaign.

Although it should be noted that with the dozens of millions of dollars that Gov. Bruce Rauner has committed to campaigns for himself and for allies in the General Assembly, even Pritzker will be grossly outspent in a campaign battle for the Nov. 6 general election.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

EXTRA: Sox/WGN not radical change

Still the voices, for better or worse ...
For those of you still having fits over this week’s announcement that the Chicago White Sox are shifting their radio broadcasts (for the next three seasons) to WGN-AM, relax.

Yes, that station once spreading the Tribune Co.’s image throughout the nation’s airwaves did develop an unnatural closeness to the Chicago Cubs – helping to bolster their image as a cutesy batch of losers.
... of White Sox baseball

BUT THE REALITY is that in sports broadcasting, it’s really the ball clubs that are in charge. It’s still going to be the voices and personas of one-time White Sox ballplayers Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson who will be doing the games. It’s still former ballplayers whom the White Sox think are best employed in the broadcast booth, and not on the field as a manager or coach!

Besides, WGN has the history of Chicago in its background – even that part of the history that occurred around 35th Street and Shields Avenue.

It was long-time Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse who actually was the voice we find on the recordings of that September 1959 night when the White Sox actually won the pennant (not that he’s to blame for the city officials who celebrated by sounding Chicago’s air raid alarm system).
Comiskey Park on Brickhouse statue

Maybe it should also be noted that the only time the legendary Chicago broadcaster got to do a World Series was that very same ’59 Go-Go Sox ball club that, sadly enough, lost in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

GOING ALONG WITH the tradition of the times, the World Series paired up the lead broadcasters for both ball clubs – creating a Vin Scully/Jack Brickhouse team that many baseball-minded people would regard as a broadcast fantasy pairing; both recipients of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Frick Award for broadcasters.

Besides, the Cubs have been off WGN radio for a few years now. The tie was already broken.
Nobody liked this image

It’s not like the ghost of Ron Santo is going to return from the Great Beyond to become the Voice of the White Sox, just as he spent the final years of his life adding to the image of Chicago Cubdom by being their radio voice.

Now as someone old enough to remember the sight of an aging Santo trying to play infield for the White Sox, that truly would be a dreadful thought. But it’s going to be the same sounds of Sox baseball – only at a different spot on the radio dial.


Rauner remembrance of tragedy – an effort to divert public’s attention?

Reading Gov. Bruce Rauner’s formal address to present a state budget for Fiscal 2019, I couldn’t help but notice his opening bit.

RAUNER: Trying to redeem his pol priorities?
The reference to it being exactly 10 years since the day a former Northern Illinois University student felt compelled to fire off his weapon – killing five students before he turned his gun on himself.

THE NEWS EVENTS of the day even called for a last-minute rewrite, also offering a mention of the death Tuesday of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer – the officer who tried to stop a fleeing suspect being chased by other police, only to get shot and killed.

Both tragic happenings. In the case of the DeKalb slayings a decade ago, I’m sure the memories remain as strong now in the minds of those who were there as they were back then.

But a part of me couldn’t help but wonder how much this bit of rhetoric was an attempt at misdirection.

Rather than get worked up over the details of the budget proposal Rauner wants the General Assembly to approve for Illinois government for the fiscal year beginning July 1, he’d rather we think of these other happenings.

BECAUSE IF WE think too much of budgetary matters, then we wind up touching on some sore spots of the Rauner era of state government.

Let’s not forget that Rauner, although in his third year of government, has never managed to get a budget proposal of his implemented into law. Heck, he’s never offered up anything that wound up becoming policy.

The only reason we have a budget in place now is because Democratic legislators were joined by a few Republicans willing to put the daily workings of government at the forefront to pass a budget that Rauner himself tried to use his veto powers to kill off!

Because Rauner is the guy who came into the governor’s post thinking he could strong-arm the rest of state government into going along with his vision – one in which organized labor and unions take a severe blow to their influence over Illinois.

THAT CONCEPT WAS more important for the past two years to Rauner than anything concerning the daily operations of the state, which does have responsibilities to fulfill – regardless of one’s ideological hang-ups.

The question we ought to be asking ourselves is whether Rauner is willing to get serious and try to put together budget proposals this year – or if we’re headed for another budgetary standoff.

The last of which stretched out over two years, caused serious complications for daily government operations and created financial problems that will take Illinois years (if not decades) to resolve.

You’d think that Rauner, facing a re-election cycle complicated by the fact that the conservative ideologues the governor is counting on to support him have their own partisan objections (being anti-union isn’t conservative enough for them), would want a straight-forward budget process. Something to ensure that he signs into law the Fiscal ’19 budget on or before June 30.

BECAUSE THE $37.6 billion spending plan for state government the governor put forth includes some serious changes to the way retired teacher pensions are funded – mostly by sticking them on the school districts.

Something I’m sure will tick off the Chicago Public Schools, where officials would actually like to have the state assume a larger share of those pension costs. Is the governor’s budget address merely another excuse to set up a political brawl with Chicago interests later this year?

Some reports made mention of the fact that Wednesday’s budget address, in addition to being 10 years since the bloodshed at DeKalb, was 225 days from the end of the budget standoff.

Will it also become the beginning of a political sequel – one in which Rauner will try to redeem his political self-image at the expense of the people of Illinois. Elections day are March 20 and Nov. 6; those dates can’t come soon enough.