Over the Thanksgiving weekend I heard Lovie Smith had been re-signed by the University of Illinois football program for two more years. Not being much of a college sports fan, that information would have normally gone in one ear and out the other. I did think it odd though, as I recalled the Fighting Illini didn’t have a very good season…again. I also recall wishing they had signed Mike McCarthy instead, just so we could get Mike out of Green Bay.
Anyway, Monday rolls around and I’m skimming the Chicago Tribune and run across a dispatch by Shannon Ryan, a contact reporter at the Trib. Ms. Ryan confirmed that in fact, Lovie did get a contract extension for two more years. She also pointed out he had only four wins this past year. I didn’t know he had that many.
Lovie has nine wins total in three years. Had I been looking for sensationalism I might have then mentioned that cost the University $1.17 million per win. She also informed us that, had Lovie been let go after the conclusion of this year, the University would owe the coach a twelve-million-dollar buyout, as his original contract called for six years. This news got my attention.
Both the original contract and the extension were at the largess of Athletic Director Josh Whitman, who himself makes $624,000 per year. Plus, a list of incentives as long as your arm.
So, I wondered, who is footing the bill for all this futility. Then I corrected myself, as the U of I is an institution of higher learning and not a professional franchise. Right? Wins and losses shouldn’t really matter. But, still, there is an awful amount of money flowing around the university to play a game.
Well, imagine my surprise when I dug a little deeper. I hadn’t hit the top drop of the tip of the iceberg. The head coach of the basketball program, Brad Underwood makes $2.75 million per year. These two gents are the highest paid government employees in the entire state of Illinois. Does Mike Madigan know about this?
I had brought this up a few years ago and was informed by friends that no taxes are used to pay the head coaches. The money to pay the coaches comes largely from the money the programs make. Even if you put aside the fact that those are ridiculous salaries and perhaps the money might be better used to reduce school expenses for students and their loan debt, there is still the matter of benefits and pensions paid to these individuals. Guess who pays that? You probably guess it is paid, courtesy of the tax payers of Illinois. Keep in mind, the higher the salary, the higher the subsequent benefit cost is as well.
In research for this commentary, I stumbled across a scathing four-part report from last year by Jay Rosenstein called “The Million Dollar Head Shake.” https://ijec.org/2017/12/26/the-multimillion-dollar-head-fake/
Mr. Rosenstein is part of the faculty of the U of I, and, based upon his biography, probably not going to be attending Trump rallies with me. He is also the culprit largely responsible for getting Chief Illiniwek the boot out of Illinois, too.
In his report, Mr. Rosenstein mentioned former Illinois Athletic Director, Ron Guenther as an example. Mr. Guenther, according to Mr. Rosenstein, was paid a salary of $340,000 in 2003. Five years later it had increased to $600,000. Today, his pension, paid by taxpayers, is $473,000.
Just the retired coaches and athletic administrators from only the University of Illinois, costs taxpayers more than $2.6 million per year. They also are guaranteed a 3% increase every year. In fairness to those individuals, while they were employed, they did contribute 8% of their salary towards the pension, but that money runs out quickly and guess who is left with the bill?
The entire report was eye-opening. In his account, Mr. Rosenstein described other abuses, causing both students and taxpayers to pony up for absurd athletic fees that were to be temporary, but never went away. We have toll roads like that too. I would encourage anyone paying tuition to the U of I, or paying taxes in Illinois, to read the report.
As I was reading it though, it occurred to me Mr. Rosenstein was reporting only on one university…out of thousands. Millions of our kids are drowning in school loan debt - the amount owed nationwide is in excess of $1.48 TRILLION at this time. And politicians keep talking about bailing them out.
With yet more taxpayer money!
Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and 85% of us "average" Americans have consumed 4,500 calories, traveled 214 miles to see mom, and survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we have to start thinking of working off that 1.2 extra pounds we gained. (I gained two pounds just sitting too close to the breadbasket.) Speaking of Black Friday, did you know that is also the busiest day of the year for plumbers?
Fortunately, we only eat like that for one day; the original Pilgrims and their Indian counterparts gorged for three days at the "original" feast in 1621. (There seems to be some historical debate as to whether that was the original feast.) I guess not having football would make you want to eat more.
There were fifty surviving Pilgrims, only five of which were women, and ninety Wampanoag Indians feasting, although...not on turkey. Shellfish, deer, fruits, maize (corn), and a delightful dish of boiled pumpkin were on the menu that day. Really, that's what they ate for three days?
Wonder what the other 15% were doing? Some might have been those misguided souls who convene yearly at Coles Hill in Plymouth Massachusetts or Alcatraz in California to belabor the plight of the Native American Indian, only later to return home...off the reservation, to feel better about themselves. I'm sorry, but can you envisage the world had the United States not been "created?" Think Senator "Pocahontas" Warren was there?
Thanksgiving is a cornucopia of interesting historical facts. What seems to be perhaps most overlooked is the significance of an Indian by the name of Tisquantum, more commonly known as Squanto. A case could be made that had it not been for Squanto, there would be no Thanksgiving. Having been kidnapped from America to Europe to be sold in to slavery, he escaped and returned, learned English, and taught Pilgrims how to survive in the harsh conditions of the New World. Ironically, during his imposed hiatus to Europe, his tribe, as well as many other Indian tribes in New England, were nearly wiped out by disease. Thought to have been somewhat a "double-agent", his death may have been a result of poisoning by his own people.
If Squanto could be considered the Father of Thanksgiving, the accomplished Sarah Josepha Hale may be considered the Mother of All Thanksgivings. A teacher, prolific writer, influential editor, and mother of five children, she is the author in 1830 of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," which has absolutely nothing to do with this Thanksgiving epistle. I just thought you would want to know that information too. Her husband, David, passed away after only nine years of marriage, inducing her to dress in black for the rest of her life. She also helped to form Vassar College, at the time an all-women's college, in Poughkeepsie New York.
Anyway, she got it in her noggin' that Thanksgiving should be celebrated as a national holiday on the same date, by the entire country. At that time, Thanksgiving was largely just a New England holiday and even they didn't celebrate the festival on the same day. The South was not having anything to do with what those Yankees were doing either.
She began her quest in 1846 by badgering President Zachary Taylor. Continuing her pursuit on through president's Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, she finally convinced, who else, but President Abraham Lincoln to support legislation to make it a national holiday.
President Lincoln also began the silly act of pardoning the turkey, when he pardoned his son's bird. I personally think the Lincoln's should have ate the feathered fowl and saved us all this time and tomfoolery by politicians with better things to do. (That last statement might go a long way to explain why my wife thinks I'm a Grinch.) For awhile after the Lincoln turkey incident, poultry farmers or children's groups began sending turkeys to presidents as gifts. That lasted until Harry Truman brought back pardoning of the bird, largely for political reasons. I guess the buck didn't always stop at Harry's desk after all.
This year, President Trump ceremoniously pardoned two birds, drolly named Peas and Carrots. To demonstrate I am not always foolishly guilty of committing "Trumpism's," which I gather is considered a bad thing to support our president in today's America, I have to wonder how does that "Keep America Great?"
Originally from South Dakota, the birds will now "retire" to Gobblers Rest on the Virginia Tech campus, where other presidentially absolved birds by the names of Drumstick, Wishbone, Tater, and Tot reside. This country eats 580 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Day and these six birds live in collegial comfort?
You can bet had those birds been sent to Chebanse, we'd have eaten them.
I used to live for NFL games on Sunday. For most of the past forty years, it has been part of my very soul. If the Green Bay Packers were playing football, the family knew not to include me in anything but watching or listening to the game. I scheduled trips around the Pack.
I spent most of every Sunday watching football. The perfect Sunday was a Packer win combined with a Bear loss. Ideally, I would get to watch both games The dopamine rush was exquisite, and made Monday at work blissfully quiet. It's happened a lot in the past twenty-plus years. Packers have been fortunate with their QB picks.
Then the kneeling started, which upset me to the point of not watching many games, with the exception of the Packers. They didn't kneel. I found more to do with my time. If my schedule doesn't now permit, I record the Green Bay game and watch later, zipping through commercials.
I suppose some of my decreasing enthusiasm could be linked to the Packers wasting yet another #@&* year of the career of arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Coach Mike McCarthy seems to be doing a masterful job of ensuring he's going to be coaching a different team next year, more than likely the Cleveland Browns, which will prove karma exists.
And some of my apathy comes from the Chicago Bears actually having a decent team this year. Despite a schedule that might include playing a Division III college team, they are winning for a change and most of Bear-nation is lining up for Super Bowl tickets. Is there anything more insufferable than a Bears fan during a rare winning season? It won't be long now and I expect the Super Bowl shuffle will be brought out of hibernation.
But there is more to it than that. I'm tired of "hot-dog-players," down by 24 points late in a game, making a tackle and doing a silly dance over the player he just knocked down. Or the constant pushing and shoving after most plays, mindful of school girls on a playground. After a play this year, one Packer defender slapped - open handed - an opposing player...on the face mask. Made about as much sense as pounding a fist into a brick wall. Not only was he ejected, it cost the Packers a major penalty. It was a juvenile act. The Packers did have the sense to cut the player from the team.
I despise the choreographed touchdown dances... well, except for the Lambeau Leap. You have to admit - it's cool. But, I long for the days of the great Walter Payton, who handed the ball to the referee after he scored. When Walter got tackled, he got up first, no matter how hard he got hit, and helped his tackler up. The man had more class in his little finger than 90% of the hot dogs playing today. And I don't go for that "youthful exuberance" excuse either - it's spoiled athletes.
My late father bemoaned the money in football going all the way back to the 80's when he stopped watching the game. It took awhile but I have realized he was right. The amount of money the owners and players make have crowded out the guy wanting to take his family to a game. (The drunks don't help the game much either for the family man, but that is a rant for another day.) Not only do they empty your wallet should you go to a game, in some cities they get you, even if you hate professional sports, by taxing you for the arena the game is played in.
My favorite player is probably Aaron Rogers. He was just awarded a contract for $134 million over four years. That includes the $55.5 million he received up front. Folks, that is $2.1 million per game. Nobody is worth that, and that kind of money is driving the average fan out of the arena he probably helped to pay for.
And finally, the referees are killing the game. Penalties are up year after year. The NFL toughened up the roughing-the-passer penalty this year, now on track to nearly double from last year. There is no reason any longer to have a kicking or punting game as there seemingly is a flag every time a toe touches a ball. Some referees' names are more well known than offensive linemen who have played for ten to fifteen years. Let the prima-dona's play!
Perhaps a microcosm of our nation, America's game is being ruined. And there seemingly is no way to put the genie back in the bottle.
To quote the late BB King, "...the thrill is gone."
I went south for a couple weeks and while gone the city of Chicago elected their preferred governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker. Seventy-two percent of all Chicagoan's voted for Mr. Pritzker, which was more than half his total votes. Ironically, 72% of the folks from Iroquois County, where I'm from originally, voted for JB's challenger, the incumbent Bruce Rauner. The problem - there is a whole bunch more Cook County city-folks than Iroquois farmers. Rauner won Kankakee County too, but not overwhelmingly like Iroquois.
If you were to look at the voting by county in Illinois, it might give one pause to wonder if we should instill our own electoral college. Rauner won nearly 85% of the counties in this state, yet there is Chicago, reminding us once again we will do it their way.
Quick, who won the Lieutenant-Governor's office for Illinois? (Answer below.)
I guess it is understandable why Mr. Pritzker won. Governor Rauner didn't accomplish much, was usually diametrically at odds with his Conservative base, and delivered little of what he promised. Given his failures, combined with an inability to get along with Boss Madigan - but I repeat myself - he didn't offer much in the confidence needed to send him back to a governor's mansion that he restored. Having a couple third-party candidates instilled to siphon off a few more votes didn't help his cause either.
One really has to wonder though why the 53-year-old Governor-Elect Pritzker, worth $3.5 billion and heir to the Hyatt Hotel empire, would want a governor's job paying $176,000 a year? (I understand, copying President Trump's tendency, Mr. Pritzker will not take a salary now.) Consider that kind of individual net worth would be like having your own personal genie in a bottle. How many of you Illinoisans would rub the magic lamp, and then request to be governor of Illinois as your only wish?
And yet, Governor-Elect Pritzker spent $171.5 million of his own personal wealth, more than any candidate in the history of politics, to occupy the big chair in the governor's mansion. Seems to defy logic to me, but I'm from Chebanse.
Surely Mr. Pritzker has taken a look at this state's $161 billion debt or 258,000 people who won't work, but still take our benefits? Even if he gave us his net worth he couldn't put a dent in the Illinois debt load. Why would he want to be a yes-man to Mike Madigan while having to listen to whoever is Chicago's next mayor? That has to be a sandwich nobody in their right mind would want to be part of, quipped a friend of mine.
What drove Governor-Elect Pritzker to be caught on tape trying to squeeze former governor and current Englewood Colorado Federal Corrections inmate, Rod Blagojevich, for the Illinois treasurer's office in 2008? Why would he buy the house next to his Astor Street mansion on the Gold Coast of Chicago, only to remove the toilets and have the dwelling declared uninhabitable, just to save on real estate taxes? And even more incredibly, knowing all this due to Rauner's multitude of television ads, why would the people of Illinois still vote for Mr. Pritzker anyway?
Governor-Elect Pritzker's positions on many things are certainly liberal. He is for causes most right-minded Conservatives find repulsive, such as abortion and Planned Parenthood. Additionally, he is for illegal-alien healthcare, DACA - the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy allowing those brought here illegally as children to receive deferred action from deportation and become eligible for work permits, and a promise to sign the Illinois Trust Act, a pro-immigration bill.
He is also for legalization of recreational pot and the expansion of sports betting. Perhaps these vices will pay for it all?
Maybe the residents of Illinois know something about Mr. Pritzker that I and fellow Conservatives don't. Beyond doubt, I hope those Pritzker voters are right, as we so desperately need someone to take over running our state and dig us out of the hole past politicians have put us into.
Perhaps Governor-Elect Pritzker will outgrow his youthful transgressions, stand up to Boss Madigan, say no to the new Chicago mayor, and do what is best for the entire state of Illinois. It was a great state at one time and those of us that haven't left...yet can only hope that someone honorable will bring it and the citizens back to its once-glorious state.
Governor-Elect Pritzker, are you that person?
(Juliana Stratton from the 5th District is the Lieutenant-Governor-elect.)
"We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them."
Those words were stated by CNN’s Don Lemon while discussing the tragic murder of two black men, allegedly by a white guy in Kentucky. You probably didn’t hear about this incident as it was the same week the media was hysterically reporting on an inept pipe bomber and the caravan “heroically” heading our way from Central America.
When Mr. Lemon made the remark, it was in a television conversation with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, himself a married white man with three children. Predictably, Cuomo sat there like a rock and said nothing until the end of the conversation - “You’re making the right point,” said Chris. Mr. Cuomo might want to look at his children’s pigmentation.
Mr. Lemon, a journalist at CNN can publicly say things like that, of which most people won’t, because he is a minority. Mr. Lemon is free to use his First Amendment Rights, which many Americans aren’t, because they aren’t from the right tribe; or won’t, because most people have better sense.
Don’t believe that, imagine the outcry had I said the same words in a commentary, but replaced the word “white” with any number of other words such “black” or “gay.” Pick other words that might trigger an uproar, such as “Democrats, Liberals, Women, or maybe even Chicago Bear fans.” I would’ve been suspended (again) or fired for such blasphemy. Consider this for a headline commentary – “The biggest threat to our country are White Sox fans, and we have to start doing something about them.”
Seemingly, the term “white men” can now be pummeled in discussion openly in society, while all other groups of people are strictly off limits from any criticism, when referenced together as a group. Donald Trump says he is a “nationalist” and somehow that is interpreted as “white nationalist,” as stated on CNN and MSNBC.
Anyone besides this pleasingly plump pasty white guy see a problem with that?
Consider Mr. Lemon’s words – “we have to stop demonizing people’, but at the same time “realize the white men is a terror threat,” - the biggest one at that? Are white guys not people now? Are they the only group allowed to be “demonized? Mr. Lemon went on to lament that there was a travel ban on Muslims, but not on white men. Later in the week, when questioned, he doubled down on his comments about white men.
In a politically correct society, shouldn’t we all be off limits, or should we finally take off the gloves, say what we want, and be prepared for the consequences – even if it’s a knuckle-sandwich? Should Mr. Lemon be able to single out one set of people, and openly disparage them on national television? Or am I being overly sensitive as this was just a sad ploy for viewers by CNN or Lemon’s career? After all, CNN ranks behind the Hallmark and HGTV channels in ratings.
Obviously, Mr. Lemon and I are not in agreement on this matter. But I’m not going to call for him to be punished by CNN, or for his resignation, as that is not what Conservatives do. We realize this is still America and Mr. Lemon is allowed to have his thoughts and speak his mind, even if wrong.
Mr. Lemon’s statement was perhaps a result of CNN directives, or his hatred of Donald Trump. Hatred for Trump at CNN seems to be a policy set by CEO Jeff Zucker, no fan of the president himself, and followed in lockstep by CNN employees. Last January, Mr. Lemon childishly began a nightly program with the statement “This is CNN Tonight, I’m Don Lemon. The President of the United States is a racist.”
Mr. Lemon’s comments cannot just fly under the radar. He seems an impertinent individual, evidently devoid of a Civics education. He would do well to bone up on the matter, as well as American history. Had it not been for the class of people he railed against to his meager audience his flamboyant lifestyle might be much different. And he very well might be speaking German or Japanese.
He sits in an ivory tower doing nothing to promote racial or political harmony, but spews the same guttersnipe found in most of CNN’s low rating anchors and commentators.
I would be interested in knowing however, just what should be done about those right-leaning white guys, and how Mr. Lemon intends to implement his plan.
Peace, Love, and Rock ‘n Roll