Quick Hits – On the incompetence and hypocrisy of Collar County city councils

Don’t get me wrong, there are some fine local city councilpersons out there who truly listen to and serve their constituents. Geneva, Illinois, Third Ward alderman, Jeanne McGowan is a perfect example of this too-rare breed. The problem, of course, is, their far more numerous self-serving pandering peers generally drown them out.

To wit, one of my favorite friends recently regaled me with tales of Geneva First Ward Alderman Mike Bruno co-opting the October 7 city council meeting to the point where it went well into overtime.

She said she got so tired of having to watch him pontificate that she wanted to gouge her eyes out. I explained that, had she embarked upon that drastic course of action, she’d still have to listen to him, and that’s so much worse.

Illinois Pot

Bruno, a legend is his own mind, wouldn’t let go of the fact he was the only alderman opposed to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church installing new siding on the Larrabee House they once used as a rectory. So, he relentlessly and pointlessly droned on making the meeting last three times longer than necessary.

Then, his ‘Mr. Smith Goes To Washington’ proclivities notwithstanding, the council voted 9 to 1 to override a Historical Preservation Commission vote denying the renovation. I’m sure you know who the lone “no” vote was.

The Chairman and I discuss this lost art all the time. Understanding you’re about to go down in electoral flames is lost on so many city councilpeople. When you know you’ve lost the battle, the correct strategy is to briefly voice your opposition and move on. If you keep your legislative powder dry, you might actually make a difference on the next vote. But if you consistently tilt at windmills, you’ll be labeled as a loon and your council peers will simply tune you out.

Rest assured, Mr. Bruno will have a credible and well-funded opponent in 2021.

But as bad as he is, watching Collar County city councils tackle the looming legalized marijuana issue is so much worse. Is it any wonder why the rabble is starting to think that old white men suck?

With all of the absurd gnashing of teeth, keening, and rending of garments, you’d think they were talking about bringing back opium dens, or God forbid, pool halls!

Collar County municipalities like Wheaton, Plainfield, Naperville, Sugar Grove, Campton Hills and Batavia have all opted out of recreational pot sales by applying a “logic” that has no logic. Though the Naperville city council finally decided to let the voters make the call via referendum.

Campton Hill Village President Mike Tyrell opposed recreational marijuana sales because “It would increase the number of impaired drivers on the road.” That’s certainly a possibility, but a Campton Hills ban wouldn’t nearly mitigate that problem. Their residents will simply drive to St. Charles and Geneva to buy their pot, and what would stop pot-impaired folks from driving through that municipality?

Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michel is also against recreational sales on the grounds they could put a dispensary directly across from Waubonsee Community College. First, college students won’t be the least bit daunted by having to drive elsewhere, and doesn’t the gas station right across the street sell booze?

And second, were I a college student, I’d be rather insulted in regard to that kind of ironic Republican nanny state-ism. Sean! Trust me! Any Waubonsee student who has a hankerin’ for pot is probably already partaking.

But, as is almost always the case, the worst case of this Quincy Wagstaff Adams thinking is none other than the King…I mean Mayor of Batavia, Jeff Schielke. Just like that River City con man Harold Hill, without as much as consulting the city council, Schielke launched into his own version of ‘Ya Got Trouble’ claiming marijuana would bring about the downfall of his beloved city.

No Jeff! That’s been your job for nine too-long terms

If you’re gonna ban marijuana for its inherently evil propensities, then you damn well better shut down all of those Batavia liquor stores and bars, too.

Ask any police officer who they’d rather encounter, a pothead or a drunk, and their answer will be unanimous. A felony court judge told me his court call would be reduced by 70 percent if they could effectively ban alcohol, but if they managed to eliminated illegal drugs, it would decline by a mere 20 percent.

So, why isn’t Batavia addressing the far more insidious alcohol scourge? That’s right! It’s because of the inevitable massive tax revenue hit – particularly in regard to the local restaurants and bars – and we tried that back in the 30s and it didn’t work out too well now, did it?

It’s really sad when people who clearly are aware of history choose to ignore it. Though I suppose I should be grateful that all those Batavians will be coming to Geneva with their legal marijuana tax dollars.

And the level of hypocrisy in ignoring alcohol’s ills while demonizing pot, says it all. Old white men, and particularly those who serve on city councils, really do suck! Thank God I’m an honorary Mexican.


Quick Hit’s Supplemental Part II – I’m back on the radio!

That’s right! For those of you who don’t get enough Jeff Ward, and who does, I’ll be on my favorite crazy conservative friend, Phil Kranz’, Black Dog INDIE Country Radio show somewhere between 6 and 8 p.m. central time this evening (10/17) to discuss my new book, ‘So You Want to Win a Local Election?’

Black Dog

Since the syndicated show emanates from Ringgold, Georgia, your best bet is to pick it up on the Net right here:


If you are otherwise occupied, though I can’t imagine what could possibly be more important than me, all of Phil’s previous shows can be located simply by clicking on the “Episodes” tab at the top of that page. That way you can listen at your leisure.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity to promote the book throughout the Southeast and I’m sure the discussion will be quite entertaining. Please tune in!


Quick Hits Supplemental – It’s a Thriller!

By now you know Vargo’s Dance at Route 38 and 2nd Street in Geneva, Illinois, is one of my favorite places on the planet, and I’m pleased to say they’re planning quite the Halloween event!


Yes! On Tuesday, October 29, various Vargo instructors and a plethora of students will perform Michael Jackson’s legendary Thriller dance at Rt. 38 and 2nd Street in beautiful downtown Geneva. This free performance marks the second annual “Thriller on 38” which will proceed like this:

8:15 – 9:15         Outdoor music, food trucks and more

9:00 – 9:05         The performance

9:15 – 10:30      After Party at Old Towne Pub Upstairs ($15 cover) Costumes encouraged!

In dance studio owner Jamie Vargo’s own words:

Bring the kids, bring the family, bring a date and watch the dancers perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We decided to move the event to Route 38 and 2nd Street this year to accommodate more people, more food trucks, and give everyone a chance to grab a cocktail and watch the dancers from the beautiful upstairs patio at Old Towne Pub. The more small businesses we can support the better!

The vendors include the Chicago Donut Company, The Grumpy Gaucho, and the All Chocolate Kitchen – so far!

Now, I know what you’re thinking! Will yours truly be performing with the dancers?  I would if it weren’t for two issues.

The first is, much like it was with Elvis, my unique brand of dance would whip my adoring female fans into the kind of frenzy that would have them ripping the clothes right off my body – again. Not only would that become a distraction, but having to regularly replace reasonable attire ain’t cheap!

The second problem is, after four months of foot injuries, I’m finally getting back into the dance swing of things (pun intended), but I’m still beyond rusty. Perhaps I’ll participate next year if you ladies promise to behave yourselves.

Even though 9 p.m. is well past my bedtime, I will make an exception for this performance and I certainly hope to see you there!

Quick Hits – Suing the KCSAO for sexual harassment would be career suicide!

The irony of Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon offering more absurd excuses than the defendants he prosecutes certainly isn’t lost on me, and it shouldn’t be lost on you either. His newest response to the Kane County Board’s questions about the insistent and rampant sexual harassment in his office is that it didn’t happen because none of the “victims” sued him.

Joe McMahon

Oh! Really??? That’s a lot like saying, “Clearly, I never drive over the speed limit because I never get a ticket.” Right! If a prosecutor tried that sixth-grade logic with a judge, he or she would be laughed right out of the courtroom.

For my newer readers, in October of 2018, I filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) for all sexual harassment complaints and the disposition in regard to just one former prosecutor. Civil Division Head Joe Lulves’ response consisted of 255 grayed out pages with the exception of just one unredacted sentence.

Lulves regularly brags that his office is FOIA-proof.

So, I filed an appeal with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office the following month and they ruled in my favor in June. But the KCSAO hasn’t turned over those documents because McMahon and Lulves, the very souls sworn to uphold and prosecute the law, continue to ignore that ruling.

With no other available option, I sued the KCSAO in civil court to get a judge to order them to turn over the unredacted complaints. That case will be heard before Judge Melissa Barnhart in Kendall County courtroom 110 on November 6 at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, I’ve spoken at the last three Kane County Board meetings in an effort to engage those capable commissioners in the process of putting pressure on the KCSAO to do the right thing.

Thankfully, the Board has called Joe McMahon on the carpet three times so far, but every time they do, he issues another insipid the-dog-ate-my-homework excuse. His latest alibi is the harassment didn’t happen because no one sued him.

Of course, the harassment victims didn’t sue him! It would be bleepin’ career suicide if they did!

First, if any Kane County attorney sued McMahon for sexual harassment, the KCSAO would refuse to make any plea deals with their clients, they’d tie those clients up in court, and they’d generally make their practice as miserable as possible.

And Second, and so much worse, McMahon has a reputation for being exceptionally vindictive. If any of his former employees had the temerity to sue him, he would pursue them like Captain Ahab tended to go after white whales.

“Oh c’mon, Jeff! You’re just making this up because you don’t like Joe McMahon.”

Au contraire, dear reader! As is always the case, I have beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence to back up my claim!

You see, when I originally broke the KCSAO sexual harassment story, a father and daughter attorney team privately came down on me like white on rice, and I couldn’t figure out why. But as any reasonable journalist would, I kept the conversation going until I better understood the situation.

As it turns out, the daughter had been similarly harassed by this former prosecutor and the father thought I was writing about her. That’s how pervasive the sexual harassment was.

The father was furious that I was writing about his daughter without her express written consent, which would be more than understandable if that were actually the case. And he was even more furious because of the repercussions McMahon would rein down on their practice if he thought they were the source.

To quote that great philosopher Alannis Morrissette, “Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?”

Think about it! Those attorneys were so terrified of McMahon that they inadvertently outed the daughter as one of the victims. And this is a law firm that’s raised quite a bit of campaign cash on McMahon’s behalf over the years. They continued to send those checks even after the daughter was harassed, despite the lack of any real consequences for the harasser(s). And the did that because they didn’t want to make Joe McMahon angry!

So, tell me, what hope does a former female prosecutor have against the full weight of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office and Joe McMahon’s vast propensity to exact a pound of flesh, particularly when they’re trying to establish a new practice? That’s right, virtually none!

And McMahon’s contention that he’s innocent because no one’s sued him is worse than just immoral, it’s downright despicable.

But the fat lady ain’t sung yet! When McMahon steps down in 2020 and a new SA takes the helm, he will no longer have the kind of leverage that keeps local attorney’s in line. And these aggrieved former prosecutors have very long memories – as they should.

Perhaps Joe won’t be able to say he hasn’t been sued much longer!

Quick Hits – A Curmudgeon Book Chapter!

With the morning having gotten away from me due to a number of strange issues, I did not manage to make it to Quick Hits. But fear not dear reader, as my second book is progressing, I thought it might be fun to share another chapter from “A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Life.”

And this particular passage explains why we don’t need to be “fixed,” or somehow turned into fun-loving extroverts. Enjoy!


We don’t need to be fixed!

But you know, I’m the negative-Nancy, curmudgeon, glass-half-empty-with-a-leak-in-it guy – which is basically the fuel that fires me up anyway. Without that, we wouldn’t have me.

Maynard James Keenan


If I could drag Walt Disney’s sorry anti-Semitic frozen ass out of that secret compartment beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean exhibit, I’d bring him back to life just so I could kick it all the way to Agrabah.

Though I’m thinkin’ that proposition might be problematic!

First, no self-respecting curmudgeon would ever be caught dead in a place of eternal damnation like Disneyland. Second, the whole cryogenic thing is an urban myth, and third, no one’s ever conclusively proven that Uncle Walt went out of his way to inspire Mel Gibson.

But since the truth never stopped any American from blaming everyone else for their self-inflicted sad lot in life, I’m gonna throw caution into the wind and go with that sentiment, because Disney and his irrepressible ilk have done more damage to my people than Donald Trump has done to the presidency.

Can someone please explain why every third Pixar movie has to be about some cranky old man who, but for the wisdom and love of an errant, ebullient boy scout, has been living a life of not-so-quiet desperation waiting to be rescued from the kind of self-inflicted inner torment of which they were completely unaware. Is there some federal law I haven’t heard about before?

Alright! Alright! The biplane flying dogs were funny, but that doesn’t change a damn thing.

Get off my lawn

Then, to make matters so much worse, we have horror novels like ‘A Man Called Ove,’ a truly terrifying tale of curmudgeonly redemption if there ever was one. Stephen King ain’t got nuthin’ on Fredrik Backman.

No self-respecting curmudgeon would ever consider suicide. Our existence is far too important and we have no intention of letting the rest of you off the hook. We would never allow ourselves to be “adopted” by a young family with two children and a third on the way, either.

Talk about Dante’s first circle of Hell!

No! If the book were true-to-life, the hero would be screaming at those children to stay off his lawn from the comfort of a front porch swing. And while we’re certainly capable of solving any neighborhood problem that might arise, no one ever listens to us but other curmudgeons, so what’s the flippin’ point?

“Oh! C’mon Jeff! Who cares about movies and books? If you don’t like ‘em, then don’t avail yourself of them!”

I’d generally agree with your assessment, but unfortunately, this stilted silver-screen portrayal of curmudgeons as lost souls who can be rendered “normal” by a child’s loving presence completely destroys the experience for those of us who truly enjoy it.

Armed with the latest Disney flight of fancy, some of y’all are convinced that, if I would just open myself up to the magic of existence and let you love me with all of your freaking heart, I would quickly see the lifelong error of my way only to carpe diem the bleep out of everyone and everything in the kind of Grinch-esque heart enlarging frenzy that would make that ‘From Here to Eternity’ beach scene pale in comparison.

(Now that’s a run-on sentence!)

No! No! No! That’s not the way it works! The truth is, though it does have its highlights, existence generally sucks and so do extroverts, and nothing – not even someone as “irresistible” as you – is going to change that. Paul McCartney was wrong, all I need is me. I like being a curmudgeon and I have absolutely no intention of abandoning that halcyon role anytime soon.

A good friend recently told me he hopes I find the peace I’m looking for. After successfully stifling the urge to dig his still-beating heart out with a dull spoon just to prove a point (no jury would ever convict me), I responded, “This is my peace! Not only do I enjoy sitting well out on the autistic bell curve but making people uncomfortable is one of my favorite things.”

That means no small talk, no stupid people, no parties, no bars, no movie theatres, no neighbors, no ill-mannered children, and no time-wasting endeavors in general. It means seeing the truth and regularly pointing out the error of your ways as a result. It means not caring what you, or anyone else thinks about us, never considering the consequence of speaking our minds, and never having to say we’re sorry, because we’re never wrong.

It means Ebenezer Scrooge is my literary hero, right up to the moment when he changed! Talk about a tragic ending!

Scrooge was right! Christmas is a horrifying proposition, and it’s gonna take a lot more than three spirits to get me to willingly endure the spirit of that godforsaken season, which, as far as I can tell, includes mobs of angry shoppers, motorists bent on their own and my destruction, and the kind of rampant crass commercialism that makes me long to be Amish.

“War on Christmas?” Wait till Fox News sees what I have to say about it! Of all people, Dr. Seuss should’ve known that an enlarged heart is never a good thing.

But I digress!

Stop trying to fix us! It only makes us angry, and you don’t like us when we’re angry.


The next bleep who utters the word “microaggression” dies!

The concept of “microaggression” is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be “hate speech,” instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas. To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them. ― Thomas Sowell

And for reference purposes, the sage Mr. Sowell is black.

Meanwhile, Merriam-Webster defines microaggression as, “A comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”

To be more specific, telling a black person they’re particularly “articulate,” a male “re-explaining” what a female coworker just said at a meeting, or asking an Asian where they’re from are all examples of “microaggressions.”

Leave it to liberals, and especially the vapid college campus variety, to criminalize “unconscious or unintentional” behavior. How in the bleep can something possibly be considered an “aggression” when it’s an entirely unconscious act? There’s massive difference between being overtly racist and simply being ignorant.

Ignorance is generally curable with the clear exception of Trump voters!

Victim 2

The problem with bludgeoning someone over the head with their own obliviousness is it fails to encourage change and generally drives the hapless victim even deeper into darkness. But it sure makes progressives feel better about themselves, doesn’t it?

To wit, immediately after Bruce Jenner “transitioned” to “Caitlyn” in 2015, liberals would go absolutely nuts if anyone dared refer to “her” with an errant pronoun. Did my fellow liberals ever freakin’ think that, after 64 years of being male, it might take some time for the rest of us to get used to calling him “her.”

Some things aren’t “microaggressions,” they’re simply habits. And habits can be changed, too!

I’m no fan of Maya Angelou who practiced a particularly pernicious form of racism, but she was dead on when she said, “I did then what I knew best, when I knew better, I did better.”

At our evolutionary core, human beings are tribal by nature. It’s an instinctual imprint that allowed us to survive a plethora of prehistoric perils. But just like our modern sugar, fat and processed food diet has outstripped our evolutionary foundation, our drive to seek and bond with similar folks doesn’t serve us nearly as well as it once did, either.

I moved to Geneva, Illinois, for the schools and the ability to run and ride my road bike west into the safer rural areas right from my front door. But I do have regrets about moving into a city that’s so completely Caucasian (96.36 percent), I call it “The City of Whites.” There’s just one Asian family, two black families, and one Hispanic family in the entire southern section of our subdivision.

So, when my then 8-year-old son asked me why there were so many “brown people” on the Chicago Bears, it was quite a shock to my south Evanston, Illinois, system. But rather than lay him out for that comment, I realized I had some work to do.

I explained that the Chicago metropolitan area is still very segregated, that diversity is something to be sought after, and our Geneva neighborhood in no way represented the racial, ethnic, and religious variety that defines this country.

But most liberals just don’t get it. In their headlong pursuit of who can claim the purity prize, like the Saudi Arabian Religious Police, they insist upon beating hapless people about the head and demeaning folks who haven’t had the benefit of the same life lessons and experiences.

DON’T GET ME WRONG! I’m not talking about your garden variety bigot who knows exactly what he or she is doing. I’m not talking about those insipid white folks who call the cops on blacks for breathing, either. And I’m not talking about adults who gleefully choose to court ignorance.

I’m talking about those Americans who don’t realize that saying “some of my best friends are black” is a lot like running your nails down a chalkboard. Per the late Ms. Angelou, those folks need to be educated, not berated. Once educated, they’ll do better.

Most human beings want to learn, understand, and grow, which ironically, can lead to asking minorities and women some suspect questions. But without parental intervention, how is a Geneva kid supposed to develop a diverse sensitivity when, out of 1,900 high school students, just 150 are Hispanic, 87 are Asian, and a whopping 19 are black.

And minorities certainly aren’t above exploiting this dynamic either. Prolific bestselling author David Sedaris likes to regale his audiences with tales of book signings where he attempts to acknowledge readers from previous signings. But when he made a mistake with an Asian woman, she immediately launched into a “So, apparently you think all Asians look alike” tirade.

Sedaris responded, “No! I simply thought I’d met you before.”

The problem with a ridiculous construct like a “microaggression” is that the progressives who love to wield it as a weapon always insist upon taking it to is illogical extreme. Like the great Sigmund Freud once said, “Sometimes a bleepin’ cigar is just a bleepin’ cigar.”

But here’s the amazing irony in the whole “microaggression” phenomenon – it truly is the highest form of bigotry! It is beyond patronizing for white progressives to somehow believe they can automatically assume the mantel of the protector of women and minorities everywhere.

I’ve never met an adult woman or minority who couldn’t take care of themselves. If they ask for my journalistic help, and some have, I’ll be more than happy to tell their story. But I would never assume they’d require any unasked intervention on my part. And for white liberals to believe that’s the case is so much worse than those Charlottesville white supremacists. One might even call it a “microagression.”

The reason it’s so much worse is because that’s the very same argument slave owners used to justify that practice. They claimed that blacks were incapable of taking care of themselves. Social justice warriors my bony white posterior!

So, with that in mind, I am officially and unilaterally removing the word “microaggression” from the lexicon such that it will never be uttered again. And I fully plan on enforcing that fiat, too! I know where you live.


Quick Hits – Evolution has outstripped the game!

I can only imagine how terrifying it must’ve been for Aiden Carlson’s parents, coaches and teammates to watch him collapse in the parking lot after last week’s St. Charles East – North High School football game. It’s certainly something I never want to have to witness.

Apparently injured on the last play of the game, Carlson managed to make it off the field under his own power but lost consciousness shortly thereafter. He was swiftly airlifted to Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois, where the Delnor doctors put him into a medically induced coma and performed emergency neurosurgery to repair what turned out to be severe brain damage.

Carlson did wake up on his own shortly after the operation, and while our sophomore’s prognosis is quite good, a long and arduous rehabilitation road awaits. And sadly, I’m guessing his football playing days are over.

Considering the inevitably enormity of the medical bills, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help his parents cope.

Hard hit

But before we continue, let me clearly stipulate that I did not see the play in question. For all we know, it could’ve been a freak accident or perhaps Carlson had a predisposition to that type of injury. But we do know is football is the mitigating factor such that it was unlikely to occur in any other setting.

All I can say is, I’m beyond grateful that neither one of my two sons had any inclination to play the sport because I’m not sure I would’ve said “no” to something they truly wanted to pursue.

Don’t get me wrong, playing high school football confers a number of amazing benefits, not the least of which are learning how to win, learning how to lose, teamwork, and a camaraderie people who don’t participate in sports will never understand. But the exponentially growing peril – just in the brief span of my lifetime – has rendered it not worth the risk.

When I was a fast Evanston Township High School sophomore back in 1973, some of the players asked me to go out for the JV team. But at 5 foot 9 and all of 130 pounds, I thought I wouldn’t be long for this planet if I did. Some of those linebackers were somewhat large.

But the truth is, there weren’t all that many oversize players and I was only a little lighter in the weight department than most of the other players.

Fast forward to 2005, and in a Plimpton-esque pursuit of a Geneva Patch column, Geneva High School Coach Rob Wicinski was kind enough to let me “try out” for the varsity team. And let me tell you, as a 6 foot, 185 pounds 44-year-old walk on, those teenagers dwarfed me in every possible way. I felt a lot like the thinnest tree in a vast, tall forest and the amount of free weights these “kids” could handle was rather stunning.

Thank God it was a no-contact practice because, aside from speed, I’ve never felt so athletically overmatched in my entire life.

Let’s, once again, fast forward to today’s NFL. Steeler’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Saints quarterback Drew Brees are already out for the season. Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky has a dislocated shoulder, and Bronco’s cornerback De’Vante Bausby said he was paralyzed for 30 minutes after a collision with his own teammate during Sunday’s game.

And it’s only going to get worse.

Think back to that halcyon 1985 Bears team when Gary Fencik, who still holds the team record for tackles and interception, was an All-Pro free safety. At 6’, 1” and 195 pounds he might not make it today’s NFL. The same goes for the similarly sized 70’s Bears feared strong safety, Doug Plank.

Part of the reason they asked me to go out for that ETHS football team was my capacity to run a 4.4 forty-yard dash. But current 6’, 6”, 262-pound Redskin’s defensive end Montez Sweat is equally as fast. If he ran into me on a football field at that speed there’d be nothing left but a cloud of dust.

So, when future Colts’ Hall of Fame quarterback Andrew Luck shocked the NFL by retiring in the middle of the preseason because he was tired of playing with the pain, I had to stand up and applaud.

Have any of you watched “Iron” Mike Ditka or Hall of Fame defensive tackle Dan Hampton simply try to walk? It ain’t pretty. And then there’s all the retired NFL players with varying degrees of CTE. The price of playing high school, college, or professional is truly frightening.

You can fix baseball and basketball by simple rule changes, but how is the NFL supposed to deal with players who’ve evolved beyond what league founder George Halas could’ve ever possibly envisioned? And the players are only going to continue to get larger and faster.

To make matters much worse, we tend to focus on the stars, but the truth is, the average NFL career is a scant 3.5 years – just long enough to do real physical damage.

Despite the vast amount of money involved, I don’t see how the sport survives. Those great life lessons notwithstanding, my current theory is, the physical toll makes it no longer worth playing the game.