Saturday, March 31, 2018

Loyola/Michigan basketball becomes the battle of the deli sandwiches

Just in case anybody had doubts about how significant the Loyola vs. Michigan semi-final game in the NCAA Men’s basketball tourney is to Chicago, we have the latest bit of evidence.
Manny's gets free publicity from latest sporting bet
It’s VERY significant, because the mayors feel compelled to turn it into a sporting bet.

AS IN ONE of those things where the mayor of Chicago feels compelled to defend the honor of the Second City against that of the other city. Which in this case is Ann Arbor, Mich.

And in which case, each of the mayors puts up some food item supposedly significant to the respective city. Somebody supposedly will get to do some good eatin’ depending on who manages to prevail in Saturday’s game that leads up to the NCAA championship game scheduled for Monday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is willing to buy corned beef and pastrami from Manny’s Deli and send it off to Ann Arbor IF Loyola’s “Cinderella” surprise team finally meets its match to Big 10 powerhouse Michigan.

But if it turns out that Loyola prevails and winds up playing in the championship game against the winner of Kansas/Villanova, then Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor will be sending sandwiches to City Hall from Zingerman’s Deli.

SPECIFICALLY, THE GEORGIA Reuben sandwich – which I’m told is turkey, cheese and cole slaw served on rye bread and slathered with Russian dressing.

It doesn’t sound appetizing to me (something about thick, creamy salad dressings is a turnoff), but I’m told by various University of Michigan alumni that it is a big deal – and something many of them crave when they think back to their collegiate days.
Will Chi win piles of Georgia Reubens?

I’ll have to admit to thinking this particular political bet is a little more intriguing than most. Usually, our public officials manage to put up a generic list of food products that they claim is associated with Chicago.

I remember back in the days of Richard M. Daley as mayor, the bets usually produced something resembling a grocery list that only Chicago-oriented geeks would ever think of buying.

TURNING THE WHOLE spectacle into little more than a marketing ploy – free advertising for Chicago-based companies. Rather than something that anybody with a real sporting interest would have put together.

I’m certainly glad to learn that Chicago isn’t offering to send pizzas to some other city so as to show off the superiority of the local product compared to whatever Little Caesar’s-like product the other city thinks is edible.

Largely because too many Chicagoans can’t agree on what a “real” pizza consists of, or how its slices should be cut (party-style into squares, I argue, and certainly not into triangles that one folds over. That’s playing with one’s food, rather than eating it).

Anything we’d send to another city would create a local conflict over whether we truly sent our best representative of pizza. Unless you’re so convinced that the Chicago-oriented ball club will prevail and we won’t have to send anything!

SO WHAT SHOULD we think of this bet? I like the part where the mayors also say they’ll make a contribution to the charity of the winning city’s choice. Which probably says more than the shipping of sandwiches.

Although to get within the spirit of the event, let’s say that Loyola manages to defeat number 3-seeded Michigan (Loyola’s ranked 11th) and takes on the Kansas/Villanova winner.

Do we get to see our public officials make another bet? I can’t think of anything edible in either of those places. Particularly from anything in and around Lawrence, Kan.

Is this the ultimate Loyola over Villanova prize?
But if it became a matchup between Loyola and Villanova, would we get an Italian beef vs. Philly cheesesteak brawl? If so, we all know the superiority of a “hot, dipped combo” over any gooey mess that becomes a cheesesteak.


Friday, March 30, 2018

What about Roseanne & Ill. Lottery? An unanswered question about re-boot

I was never a big fan of “Roseanne” back when it was in its first run on television, although I have managed to see several episodes as the show continues to live on in reruns.

Meaning I’m fully aware of the fact that the story line over its nine seasons on the air included a sequence in which the fictional Conner family wins the Illinois Lottery. Supposedly $108 million, and there was a year’s worth of episodes in which the newly-wealthy Roseanne and her family try to adjust to life amidst old-money types and their “strange” ways of doing things.

SO AS THE program is in a re-boot and we’re supposedly seeing what has become of all the characters some 20 years later, I can’t help but wonder. What happened to the big bucks of their Lottery prize?

Much has been made of the fact that the pater familias of Dan Conner (played then, and now, by actor John Goodman) is still alive – even though the series ended back in 1998 with hints that Goodman’s character had died of a heart attack.

But what about the money?

Should we now presume that Roseanne and her whacky sister Jackie (who supposedly was once a cop in their fictional suburb located on the fringes of the Chicago area when she wasn't being a truck driver) never had the prize?
TRUMP: Is it really all about The Donald?

OR SHOULD WE presume that the Conner clan had those big bucks and somehow managed to waste it away? Blew it all on trivialities to the point where there’s nothing left and their lifestyle is back to the same ol’ blue collar, lower-middle-class standards of the past.

Not that I’m losing much sleep over this “burning” question. If I really want to see the wealthy Roseanne, all I have to do is watch the re-runs on any of the many channels that air them.

But considering how some people are trying to make a big deal out of this particular reboot of an old television program (whose ratings for the Tuesday night rebirth were 18.2 million viewers and more people than watched the record-high viewership that the show’s farewell generated in ’98), I can’t help but expend a little bit of brainpower on it.

Because if it turns out that the show being touted and praised by those who are in full support of this Age of Trump that we’re now in is really about people who had a chance, and blew it big time, I’d say that doesn’t say much about us as a society.
The 'queen' of over-reaction -- Becky, ...

OF COURSE, IF it (the lottery winnings) didn’t happen, it would still be sad if we’re talking about people whose fantasies focus around a once-in-a-lifetime prize and they do nothing to try to make it a reality.

For what it’s worth, the news reports told of how President Donald Trump himself felt compelled to place a telephone call to Roseanne Barr on Wednesday to congratulate her on a television success story – managing to draw all those viewers back to the character for which her life will forever be remembered while also giving the Trump presidency a plug or two!

Which, to my mind, means Trump (himself once the character of a television program The Apprentice) probably thinks this is a priority – and that the “real” issues he’s confronted with are all the “boring” details that overly-serious people think are important.

Personally, I find it amusing the way some people are getting so worked up over this reboot; largely because I think it sad that some people want to make careers out of broadcasting the same ol’ stuff over and over again. Coming up with new characters and stories is just too much work, it seems.

I EVEN FIND it pathetic the way many people feel compelled to go on various Internet sites to post anonymous comments bad-mouthing Barr & Co. If the show dulls your sensibilities that much, just change the channel. There are so many others to pick from in the modern-day programming environment.
... or Marcia Brady?

As for me, my own thoughts about Roseanne were cemented the one time I actually watched an episode back in the show’s first-run days.

It was the episode where daughter Becky (played by Evanston native Lecy Goranson) was convinced her life was forever ruined because she farted in the middle of giving a speech to the student council. Similar to that old Brady Bunch episode where Marcia got hit right on the nose with a football, causing it to swell up. In the end, Roseanne/Mike Brady gave their daughters a lecture making them realize how the humiliating moment wasn’t that big a deal.

I might be the first person to make a comparison between Roseanne and The Brady Bunch. Except that I can’t help but think that Maureen McCormick (the ultimate teenaged television cutie) played out her scenes with more sophistication.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

EXTRA: The Good, the Sad & the Ugly

For a moment, he had best stats
Baseball is back! The 2018 regular season began Thursday, and what was notable about this date?

THE GOOD: The very first game of the whole season was the Chicago Cubs in Miami taking on the Marlins. And as it turns out, Cubs outfielder Ian Happ was the first batter who managed to hit the first pitch of the season for a home run.

Which got a lot of people all worked up. Not even the sight of that ridiculous light show with swimming dolphin-like creatures that takes place at Marlins Park could bring people down.
15th Sox player ever to hit 3 HRs in game

Even better was the Chicago White Sox' 14-7 victory in Kansas City. Six Sox home runs, including three by infielder Matt Davidson. Only three other ballplayers ever have hit that many in an Opening Day game, including Tuffy Rhodes of the Cubs back in 1994.

THE SAD: Rusty Staub, the one-time player known as Le Grande Orange (he was a red-head who played for the Montreal Expos for a time) died Thursday morning.

Which means he got a baseball-wide moment of silence prior to every opening game, and fans of the Houston Astros, New York Mets and Detroit Tigers fought it out with Expos fans over which ball club was most significant to his career (he’s the guy who managed 500 or more base hits with each team). While Chicago fans could reminisce about all the big hits he got against our city's ball clubs.

THE UGLY: The Cubs started out their season with that home run and managed to add on two more runs before the Marlins even got to bat.

Yet it only took two more innings before Miami tied the ballgame, meaning the Cubs couldn’t even hold the lead. The Cubs may think they’re of championship quality these days, but it seems certain aspects of Chicago Cubishness will never change.
And yes, I know the old Sergio Leone film was The Good, the BAD and the Ugly. But when it comes to baseball, there is no Bad. Unless you count people who slather ketchup on their ballpark hot dogs – even Clint Eastwood’s later character "Dirty" Harry Callahan (who at least had a name) would agree with that.


Baseball back in Chicago, and Sout’ Side plays off a Springpatch delicacy

I know there are the hard-core fanatics who think that going to a ballgame and getting something to eat means ordering nothing more than a bag of peanuts and/or a hot dog. If they really want to splurge, maybe they’ll go for a polish sausage.
A capital take on the 'horseshoe'

Which is why I found it amusing when Major League Baseball conducted a food festival earlier this month in New York, where each of the 30 ball clubs felt compelled to feature what they consider to be a unique item their concessionaires sell at the ballpark.

FOR THE CUBS, the featured food was a hot dog. As in served “Chicago-style” with tomatoes, that glow-in-the-dark pickle relish and sport peppers (and absolutely NO ketchup!!!). Which might offend some sensibilities that the Cubs would try to claim such a common food item as their very own.

But the White Sox may be the ball club that came up with something unique.

As in their featured foot item was the “South Side horseshoe,” a sandwich that is considered a variation of that dining “delight” unique to the Illinois capital city of Springfield.

Personally, I have to admit that during the seven years I worked and lived in Springfield, I only once ate a horseshoe. I didn’t think it much of a big deal. In fact, I think it a sign of the lack of a capital cuisine that THIS is considered the unique dining experience (that and chili, which the locals insist on spelling “chilli” sold at “chilli parlors” that Chicagoans most likely would think of as dives).
White Sox offering up a fancier take on the horseshoe
SO TO SEE that the White Sox are adding to their food menu (albeit only at the concessions stands that service the private boxes – the riff-raff sitting in the allegedly cheap seats won’t have easy access) a horseshoe variation makes me want to chuckle.

Particularly since my comprehension of the White Sox version of the sandwich is that it will have Italian sausage and giardiniera, in addition to the French fries and beer sauce that a Springfield-type horseshoe would have.

I suspect that many a Springpatch-type will look at the White Sox’ take on the horseshoe and dismiss it as high falutin’, and way too overly fancy. Others might think it is tampering with the capital’s attempt at culture and cuisine.
Cubs offer a high-priced hot dog

So will be White Sox be selling a “real” horseshoe at the ballpark this season – beginning a week from Thursday when they have their home opener against the Detroit Tigers?

LIKE I SAID previously, I had a horseshoe once when I lived in Springfield, and what I had was turkey on toasted bread with the fries piled on top and the cheesy beer sauce poured on thick. Hamburger or ham are popular alternatives to turkey.

I know of people who think horseshoes are something special who contend that it’s the beer sauce that makes all the difference between a delicacy and an unhealthy pile of slop.

In the case of the White Sox, they’re supposedly using Modelo-brand beer to create their sauce for the sandwich. Whether that makes a difference, I don’t know. But because Modelo is the “official import beer of the Chicago White Sox,” the ballclub feels compelled to promote it.
Old-school red hots at the ballpark

All I know is it will be amusing if the Springfield horseshoe actually catches on at White Sox games. Or if it winds up being dismissed as yet more evidence of the unsophistication of the Illinois capital city.

FOR I’M SURE it will wind up being more adventurous than the Cubs offering up hot dogs. Even if they use the real Vienna beef brand of wieners, I don’t doubt that the Cubs’ take on a hot dog with everything (“dragged through the garden,” so to speak) will wind up coming off as second-rate to the hot dog one can buy at any corner stand.

Particularly when one compares the dollar or so for a hot dog in the real world, compared to the $6 one will have to pay at Wrigley Field.
One-time star now a sandwich

But ballpark food caters to a captive audience, and we wind up paying the high prices for everything (in my case, $9 for a Minnie Miñoso-branded “Cuban Comet” sandwich) in order to experience the thrill of a competitive ballclub trying to do proud by our city.

Anyway, baseball is back for this season (the White Sox start out in Kansas City, while the Cubs ‘do’ Miami), and I’m bound to try to get out to a few games this season. Sitting down by the foul pole in those cheap – by modern standards – seats, where maybe we can compare the merits of a Sox-style horseshoe.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rauner to run to the ‘right?’

It’s one of the so-called rules of running an election for government office that in a primary, one takes on all the ideological issues they’re comfortable with so as to get the hard line voters possible.

RAUNER: Wants the 'right-wing' vote
But come the general election cycle, candidates of both major political parties veer to the “center,” so to speak – so as to try to get as many people as possible to cast ballots for them.

COULD THE RE-ELECTION campaign of Bruce Rauner for governor become an exception to that “rule?” Could his campaign for the Nov. 6 election become a test of just how conservative can Rauner make himself appear to be?

Rauner is the guy who narrowly won the Republican primary held last week, with his opponent going out of her way to tag him as some sort of liberal freak who stands against everything “real” Republicans are about.

She brought up his actions during his first term as governor related to abortion, immigration and civil rights for gay people, and her message stuck. There are people who insist they’re Republicans, but won’t consider a vote for Bruce come the general election.

It doesn’t matter that the very essence of Rauner’s term as governor were actions meant to push for policies that would undermine the influence of organized labor within government. Rauner is anti-union enough to be a hard-core Republican, but that’s not good enough.
PEREZ: Rauner's sacrificial lamb?
SO IS RAUNER going to start looking for every means possible by which he can make himself appear to be some sort of right-wing ideologue – being worthy of those people whose own image of what our society ought to be about is such that they’re totally comfortable with this Age of Trump in which we’re now in?

There was that veto the governor handed down right before the primary election – the one in which he rejected a bill the Democrat-controlled General Assembly handed down related to firearms and state regulation of gun shops.

It was the Illinois Legislature’s reaction to the violence at a school in Parkland, Fla. – which means Rauner made his own statement with regards to gun control measures.
IVES: Inflicted serious damage to Bruce

And now, there’s the deportation of Miguel Perez, Jr., who served in the Army in Afghanistan and was under the assumption that he became a U.S. citizen at that point in time. But after military service, he became involved with illegal narcotics, wound up being arrested and serving time in prison.

PEREZ CAME TO the United States from Mexico when he was 8 and had a “green card.” But that was revoked upon his conviction, and because of his lack of citizenship, upon his release from prison Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials began the process of deportation.

Which in his case took 16 months because he tried fighting it. But in the end, Perez was among a group of deportees being held in Kenosha, Wis., who recently were put on a bus and driven to the Gary/Chicago International Airport, where they were put an an airplane and flown to Brownsville, Texas, Then, they were driven over the border into Matamoros in Mexico, where they were formally turned over to Mexican authorities.

It turns out that among the moves Perez tried making to stay in this country was a request for a pardon from Rauner. If he had been granted some form of clemency for his drug conviction, it might not have been able to be used against him as far as deportation proceedings were concerned.

But Rauner went out of his way to reject such a request. While refusing to be specific on his reasons, Rauner wanted it known he said “no” to a U.S. military veteran whose problems post-military were due to post traumatic stress disorder.

“WE MADE THE decision not to grant (clemency) in that case,” Rauner told WLS-TV.
PRITZKER: Will J.B. be ultimate victor?

Rauner already was getting grief from the ideologues because he didn’t veto a measure that restricted Illinois law enforcement authorities from cooperating fully with federal immigration officials, similar to the “sanctuary city” initiatives that exist in Chicago and Cook County or the “welcoming city” measures of places like Evanston and Oak Forest – or Gary, Ind. (whose airport is used as part of the deportation process, which angers some local officials).

So is forcing Perez, who hadn’t actually been in Mexico in 31 years and whose life is oriented towards being in this country, to leave just Rauner’s gesture of support to the ideologues? If it is, it’s a cold gesture.

It makes me wonder how many more “gestures” Rauner is going to feel compelled to give to the “right” to bolster his standings, and if he’s going to wind up becoming more “Trump-like” in his political behavior. Because, after all, he needs the votes to avoid getting his clock cleaned Nov. 6 by Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Does McCarthy have a political ‘base’ to support his mayoral fantasies?

It’s going to be intriguing to see just who, if anyone, thinks one-time Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy ought to become mayor of the Second City.

McCARTHY: Does anyone want him for mayor?
McCarthy is the guy who lost his police post more than a year ago when Mayor Rahm Emanuel canned him, with the hope that dismissal of a police chief would be sufficient to satisfy the public anger that arose from the shooting death of a 17-year-old by a Chicago police officer.

THE COP WHO pulled the trigger 16 times and caused the death of Laquan McDonald is facing criminal charges, and the mayor wants to think he cleaned up the police department by hiring a new superintendent.

Which, of course, angers McCarthy. He resents the notion that he is in any way to blame for McCarthy’s death.

In fact, there are some people in Chicago who are bothered by the notion that the police are at fault in the teenager’s death. They’d just as soon believe the “kid” had it coming.

But I’m skeptical that there’s going to be an outcry of people wishing to PUNISH Rahm Emanuel for picking on the police and placing blame on them.

BECAUSE IF THERE is a stronger sentiment, it’s that Emanuel himself deserves some sort of political punishment ALONG WITH the police for the death of McDonald.

The kind of people who are going to be inclined to want to vote against Emanuel because of Laquan McDonald certainly aren’t going to side with McCarthy in this particular political fight. They’re going to think he got what he deserved, but it isn’t enough to resolve the overall problem of police misconduct – or as they’d rather perceive it, police running roughshod over the citizenry of Chicago.

Of course, there’s always the chance that enough time has passed between the shooting (2014), the discovery of video (without audio) of the shooting that showed how graphic and violent an act it was (early 2016) and the next municipal election (February of next year).

EMANUEL: Will he have a serious challenger?
People do tend to have short memories, and it’s always possible that a good number will have gotten over their anger, or let the details slip into the crevasses of their minds.

THAT CERTAINLY SEEMED to have happened in the most recent elections with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who was supposed to become political history because she supported the “pop tax.” Instead, she won by a solid margin and appears poised to become the new Cook County Democratic Party chairwoman.

Yes, it’s true that Preckwinkle faced a less-than-stellar opponent in last week’s Democratic primary. But McCarthy, a career law enforcement officer with no electoral experience, could appear to be an equally-weak challenger to Emanuel.

If there is a real mayoral challenger to Rahm, it could be Paul Vallas – the one-time Chicago Public Schools CEO and career educator/administrator. But he hasn’t even formally declared a candidacy yet.

It is with all of this in mind that I find it amusing to learn that McCarthy is saying he’s the man who can “save” the lives of black people if he becomes mayor.

AS HE SAID on a recent WLS-AM weekend radio broadcast, 80 percent of people who die in incidents deemed murder are black men (or male blacks, in official police lingo that attempts to mimic legal language). Which makes him think only a police officer can solve the problem of urban violence.

Whether that is true remains to be seen.

VALLAS: Will he ever make up mind?
I can’t help but think that McCarthy shares the same problems in gaining the votes of black people that Emanuel would. If anything, more. McCarthy, after all, wore the badge and was supposed to be in charge of the department at the time of the violence.

Of course, we have some 11 months to go before the municipal elections – and 13 months to go, if we wind up needing to have a municipal runoff. I’m sure many of us will be so absorbed with the Rauner/Pritzker “battle of the billionaires” in search of a post to keep themselves busy that they will be completely frazzled by the time the mayoral election becomes a priority.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Could Toni P. someday be head of local regular Democratic organization?

It was just one week ago that some people were convinced that Toni Preckwinkle was a political has-been.
PRECKWINKLE: Soon to be the new boss?

The Cook County Board president, after all, was the woman whom the electorate was going to revolt because of the “pop tax” – that penny-per-ounce fee on sweetened beverages that she lobbied for, but that the county commissioners eventually repealed.

IT SEEMS THAT Cook County residents weren’t as worked up about that tax as some ideologues wanted to believe. Either that, or the fact that she ran against a political mediocrity like Robert Fioretti gave her a victory in last week’s Democratic primary.

With her fate assured for the next four years (there isn’t a serious Republican challenger for the Nov. 6 general election), the long-time alderman from Hyde Park turned eight-years-and-running county president wants to strengthen her post.

Such as her public statement Friday that she wants to become the new chairwoman of the Cook County Democratic Party – a post that some local political watchers believe is more significant than that of the Illinois Democratic Party chairman (because local is ALWAYS more important than state).

The post is open because of another electoral result from Tuesday – the defeat of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. He’s the man who has been county Democratic boss since 2007.
BERRIOS: Will Toni friendship last?

BUT HIS DEFEAT as assessor undermines his ability to keep the Democratic Party post. Why should the Democratic Party’s local organization keep as its boss a guy who couldn’t even win re-election?

Which has Preckwinkle publicly saying she’s willing to challenge Berrios for the position that enhances his political party.

Consider Richard J. Daley, who may have committed many significant acts toward the long-term future of Chicago as mayor. But it was the fact that he doubled as the Democratic Chairman that gave him the power to keep getting re-elected as mayor, and also to have an influence that caused national Democrats to care what he thought.

In short, it wasn’t the “Mayor of Chicago” that John F. Kennedy sought out when he ran for the presidency in 1960 – it was the “Democratic chairman” who turned out all those hundreds of thousands of votes that resulted in Illinois’ electoral college going into the JFK column, rather than for Richard Nixon.
Would JFK have sought Daley if he weren't chair

HECK, IT CAN be argued that it was the fact that Edward R. Vrdolyak served as Democratic chairman from 1982-87 that gave him the power to influence a council majority to openly defy Harold Washington during much of his mayoral term.

Other significant names to serve as Democratic chairman for Cook County include George Dunne, Jacob Arvey, Edward J. Kelly and Anton Cermak – the latter of whom used the party chairman post to rise to being Chicago mayor.

This will be the class of politicos that Preckwinkle would elevate herself to – IF she can become the Democratic chairwoman for the county of Cook.

She’d be the first woman to hold the post, although she’d be replacing the man who was the first Latino to ever hold the post. Depending on how strongly Berrios would want to hang onto political power, this could become an ethnically-inspired political brawl.

ALTHOUGH IT COULD wind up that the political elements wishing to elevate the number of women holding political posts could rise up to fight for Preckwinkle. It would be something of an achievement if the el jefe of Cook County Democrats became a la jefa.
CERMAK: Used post to become mayor

Kind of odd, since Preckwinkle herself was a Berrios backer. She constantly spoke out on behalf of retaining Joe as county assessor; even when others were bashing him about for all the family members on his government payroll and allegations that he gave tax breaks to his political donors.

So now, by saying she wants to replace Joe Berrios, Toni Preckwinkle is turning on him at his lowest moment. Which may illustrate a reality of electoral politics.

Political allies are friends so long as they can do something for your – and no longer! Not bad for somebody who some people wanted to believe would be political history by now.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

EXTRA: Loyola - 78/Kansas State - 62

The Ramblers of Loyola University are in the Final Four.

They defeated the Kansas State University Wildcats 78-62; having an eight-point lead at half-time of Saturday's game in the NCAA men's basketball tourney, and grew the lead as the game progressed.

NOT EXACTLY THE one-point victory with Loyola's fate uncertain until the final second that all of the Ramblers' other victories were, to this point.

Loyola now gets a week off, with their next game set for March 31. If they manage to win then, the championship game would be April 2.

Which means that college basketball won't have the decency to be complete when Major League Baseball kicks off its own activity March 29 -- with the Chicago White Sox starting their season in Kansas City and the Chicago Cubs traveling to Miami to begin 2018.


What’s Loyola legacy for ’18 basketball team in Chicago sports history?

When I think of college basketball locally, the school that pops into my mind is DePaul University. But that fact may not be true for much longer.
Aguirre (right) went on to NBA glory
I was a high schooler back when the Blue Demons (still playing in the old Alumni Hall gymnasium) had that string of competitive teams in the early 1980s to go with that team that managed to make it to the Final Four of the 1979 NCAA men’s basketball tourney.

WITH LONG-TIME coach Ray Meyer at the head and star Mark Aguirre leading the team, there was a time when DePaul was one of the big deals of Chicago sports – certainly more significant than the pre-Michael Jordan era Chicago Bulls ever were.

They may not have made it to the championship game (that was Michigan State/Indiana State that gave us a national preview of future NBA stars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird). But there is a generation that will never forget that era of our local sports scene (particularly since the only other championship team of that time period was the 1981 Chicago Sting soccer team).

But is DePaul’s long-time local rival, Loyola University, about to knock the Blue Demons’ squad of nearly four decades ago off their perch.
Better known than any Loyola players
For the Ramblers who managed to gain themselves a spot in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tourney have managed to far exceed what they should have achieved.

THEY’RE IN THE ‘Elite Eight’ of teams (65 started out the tourney a couple of weeks ago), and their victories were all by single points.

Loyola University has given us some gut-wrenching games to follow, ones that weren’t settled until the final seconds. I’m sure there will be many people watching Saturday night when the Ramblers take on Kansas State University.

CBS Sports is calling the game “the most unpredictable Elite Eight game in NCAA Tournament history.” Who’s to say if Loyola is capable of another victory – which would officially mean the Ramblers of ’18 will have matched the Blue Demons of ’79 in terms of athletic achievement.
The 'old days' of Blue Demon basketball
Which I’m sure would make Loyola alumni and Ramblers fans happy, since even though the school likes to boast that they’re the only Chicago entity to ever win the NCAA tourney outright (back in 1963), that one seems so long ago and some basketball fans I’ve heard dismiss it on the grounds that the game itself has changed so much.

NOW I’LL ADMIT to being a band-wagon type fan in all of this. My own alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan, plays Division III basketball, and yes, the Fighting Titans this year qualified for the NCAA tourney, but wound up losing in the first round to the Wooster Scots (they’re in Ohio).

Meaning there wasn’t much to root for on that front. Which made it possible to follow along with Loyola and also wonder about those individuals scattered around the country who have taken to using the name and image of “Sister Jean” in vain.

Mostly fans of the schools that have managed to lose by one point apiece during the three games Loyola has played this month. Should we expect those fans to have to go to confession for besmirching the image of the 98-year-old nun who has made herself the most visible Ramblers fan?

Although what can be said of the fact that for many people watching the games, they probably know of Loyola as Sister Jean and a batch of players they never paid much attention to before.

UNLIKE THE DEPAUL squads of those past decades where Aguirre was the “big name” that was destined to play a dozen years professionally in the NBA with Dallas and Detroit.
The only (oft-forgotten) Chicago team to win an NCAA tourney -- '63 Loyola
Although I suspect if you toss out the “Aguirre” moniker to a modern-day Chicago fan, his Blue Demons stint is more memorable than anything he did for those Pistons teams that won NBA championships just prior to the Bulls’ own string of six champs during the 1990s.

So what’s likely to happen Saturday. Will the Sporting News turn out to be correct in their prediction of a Loyola victory and a trip to the Final Four, being held this year in San Antonio, Texas?

Or will DePaul fans and alumni be able to breathe a sigh of relief that this year’s Ramblers’ squad didn’t go so far as their own team’s historic run of ’79?


Friday, March 23, 2018

Is “too little, too late” for sexual harassment worth $350,000, legal fees?

A one-time aide to the political operations of Illinois Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan is suing both the state Democratic Party and the Friends of Michael J. Madigan organizations, seeking $350,000 (plus legal fees) to make up for the sexual harassment she says she had to endure on her job.
Alaina Hampton is taking Michael Madigan and the Democrats in Illinois to court. Photo provided by Kulwin, Masciopinto & Kulwin law firm
Yet that may be the wrong focus – this ‘story’ isn’t about the money. It’s about wanting to create political embarrassment for people, including Madigan himself, for their refusal to take seriously her early accusations that she was treated as an object of sexual titillation.

ALAINA HAMPTON FILED her lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago late Wednesday, and Thursday morning met with TV-types to ensure that everybody knew all about her legal action.

She claims the fact that she resisted sexual advances by higher-ranking Madigan operatives essentially killed her chances of rising professionally within the Democratic Party ranks, where she worked in a number of roles and campaigns from 2012-17.

One such operative, Kevin Quinn (whose brother is the alderman of the Chicago ward in which Madigan lives) has already been publicly dismissed because of his behavior – which amounts to not being able to recognize that “no” means “no!”
Is there a political path from Fritchey loss ...

In fact, another Madigan aide also has lost his job as a result of sexual harassment allegations.

WHICH HAS MADIGAN-types insisting there’s no problem. The Illinois House speaker learned of allegations, had them investigated, and wound up removing people from their politically-influential positions upon learning of their truth.

Which is true (sort of). Madigan has hired an attorney, Heather Wier Vaught, to look into such matters, and she was the one who uncovered all the harassing and sexually-suggestive e-mail messages that Quinn had sent to Hampton.

But Hampton has implied that it took Madigan quite a while to get off his keister and initiate some action; almost as though he was hoping the problem would go away if it were ignored long enough.
... to eventual Madigan demise?

That ultimately is going to be the issue that will be decided in both this lawsuit, and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that Hampton filed in February.

WHAT I FIND most interesting about the Hampton situation is how she has managed to cope with the circumstances her professional life has taken.

After realizing she wasn’t going to have a work-life as part of the Democratic organization, she turned herself into a political consultant for-hire who during this most-recent election cycle worked for the campaign of Bridget Degnan.

She’s the woman who ran for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners and managed to win in Tuesday’s primary, defeating John Fritchey – who had been on the county board since 2010.

While I’m sure she can use the money from a lawsuit or eventual settlement, I don’t doubt the biggest desire of Hampton and those people most enthusiastically supporting her is to create bits of political embarrassment that could force political change.

PERHAPS EVEN CAUSING enough embarrassment to put the political pressure on Madigan himself? I’m not certain this can stretch out that far – mostly because I believe the people inclined to want to dump Madigan are also going to have their own ideological hang-ups that would cause them to want to dismiss the significance of sexual harassment.
DEGNAN: First victory for Hampton?

Trying to make Madigan an enabler of people who can’t keep their hands to themselves amongst women might be too much of a stretch. I’m not sure I see a connection that can be drawn from Fritchey’s demise to the dreams of “Dump Madigan!” that Gov. Bruce Rauner and his biggest fanatics will be spewing forth in coming months.

For her part, Hampton said Thursday she is hoping this encourages other women who have suffered harassment to come forth. “They are watching closely to see how my case is handled,” she said.

While also watching closely will be Madigan & Co., watching to see if the issue is capable of gaining any traction between now and the Nov. 6 general election.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Is Chicago’s political “Machine” dead? Evidence leans in both directions

“The ‘Machine’ is dead!” Or is it, “Long live the ‘Machine’!”
BERRIOS: Off to political retirement?

For those people who like to rant about Chicago politics and the dreaded “Machine” (a.k.a., the regular Democratic Party organization) that runs it, there was superficial evidence from Tuesday’s primary election to indicate both stances.

IT’S HARD TO say the “Machine” is alive and thriving when the Cook County Democratic Party chairman can’t even get himself re-elected to his own government post.

Sure enough, Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios is out – having lost his primary bid to a political amateur. Albeit one with University of Chicago academia experience. Although in many ways, that qualifies as the ultimate “nobody nobody sent” that the old school says is completely undesirable.

Of course, Berrios had so many people singling him out for a political demise. He had built up throughout the years a massive list of people who had nothing but contempt for his political existence. He was counting on the Democratic organization to turn out the votes to lead to his electoral success.

What is it that made Berrios so many electoral enemies? The fact he liked to have family members on his government office payroll didn’t help his image. Nor did the perception that he was using his office to give significant property tax breaks to business interests who contributed financially to his campaign fund.

HENCE, WE HAD a lot of voters who went to their polling place Tuesday (or an Early Voting center during previous weeks) with two goals in mind – a choice for governor, and ANYBODY except Berrios!

Which is why we now have Fritz Kaegi as the Democratic nominee, and likely the eventual Assessor for the next four years.

Unless Andrea Raila, a third candidate whose campaign got seriously hemmed in by Kaegi-backer antics to keep her off the ballot, succeeds in forcing the election results to be tossed out and a special election to be held.
LIPINSKI: Returning to D.C.

If the ‘Machine’ still had significant life, that might be a possibility. But since there aren’t “re-dos” in electoral politics (just as “there’s no crying in baseball), we’re likely stuck with Tuesday night’s election results.

BUT BEFORE WE say the ‘Machine’ is a relic of the past, keep in mind the apparent victory of Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill.

He’s the Congressman from Southwest Side Chicago and surrounding suburbs whose Democratic partisan leanings are due to his support for organized labor and unions. On many of the social issues that a new generation of Democrats think are all important, he’s hostile – particularly abortion.

Lipinski, the son of Bill Lipinski who also served in the City Council and later in Congress back when the ‘Machine’ was a reality of political life, always gets people claiming he’s “too conservative” to be a Chicago congressman. But this election cycle, he got a challenger in the form of Marie Newman and the many national Democratic support groups willing to prop up her campaign financially.

But according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the 56.58 percent of votes Lipinski got in the city portion of the congressional district far exceeded the 51.59 percent support the Cook County Clerk’s office says Newman got in the suburbs.

THE DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION can be said to have done its part to send Lipinski back to Capitol Hill and ensure that the Democratic caucus has people representing various points of view on issues within its membership. Although the people who always make this argument don’t seem the least bit concerned that the Republican caucus is overwhelmingly dominated by conservative ideologues.

But back to Berrios for a bit. I suspect there are some people whose objections include a tinge of ethnic hostility. I remember when his daughter, Toni, lost her re-election bid to an Illinois House seat in 2014, with some voters saying they didn’t want Latino political representation for an area with a gentrifying population.

But before anybody thinks I’m saying Joe Berrios was picked upon for his ethnic origins (he’s Puerto Rican), I’d have to acknowledge the political victory the very same night for Aaron Ortiz – who defeated Dan Burke for his Illinois House seat.

Burke most definitely would have won yet another term (he’s been at the Statehouse since 1991) if the ‘Machine’ were truly thriving. Now, he’s probably wondering what’s the world come to when Ed Burke, the City Council’s long-time Finance chairman, can’t even get his own brother re-elected to office.