What Chicago sportswriters want you to forget

With GM Phil Emery finally cut loose and the short, but not-quite-short-enough, Trestman era coming to a crashing end, the last major item on the Chicago Bears’ to do list is to find some NFL patsy willing to take Jay Cutler off their hands.

But as Jay slowly fades into the turnover sunset, I want to remind folks that, back in 2009, the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, and Daily Herald sportswriters were virtually unanimous in clamoring for the Bears front office to go after the mentally weak Broncos’ quarterback at all costs. Why, that gaggle went as far as accusing the Bears of not really wanting to win if they dared to pass up this possibility.

cutlerThe irony, of course, is, those very sportswriters are the same ones currently calling for Cutler’s head. And they’re doing their damndest to make it sound like they were onto him all along because they clearly believe the rest of us have very short memories. But I haven’t forgotten about all those old columns.

Once! Just once, I would love to see a Chicago sportswriter simply admit they were wrong about something. Though I’m sure that will never happen because, when you consider their dismal track records, the mea culpas could go on for days.

C’mon! The Tribune sports team was a dismal 10 and 39 in predicting the outcome of Bears games seven weeks into the season. And we’re talking about simple wins and losses here –  they didn’t have to deal with the spread! Even Marc Trestman’s record was better than that!

Our intrepid sportswriters did do better in the second half, but that’s only because they finally started predicting losses long after the rest of us had already come to that foregone conclusion. (And, per their own prose, if Trestman and Emery got fired for so often getting it wrong…)

The sad thing is, Cutler’s mental collapse should come as no surprise to anyone with half a brain which explains why Chicago sportswriters completely missed it. If the mere mention of a trade – to the Patriots, no less – was enough to send a supposed frontline quarterback flying into a furious demand-to-be-traded temper tantrum frenzy, then can the fact that he can’t figure out which team he’s supposed to throw to come as any shock?

The guy is passive aggressiveness personified. If just one teammate/coach/GM/owner fails to consistently extoll his endless virtue, Cutler gets back at ’em by playing like abject crap. He’s the NFL equivalent of a Jewish mother-in-law.

Rodgers, Brady and Peyton Manning have all had their ups and downs, but as real leaders always do, they take responsibility for the downs and give their teammates credit for the ups. Jay Cutler has never understood that dynamic and, thus, he will never be more than a mediocre quarterback. And he soon will be gone.

All I can say is good riddance!

And maybe, just maybe, someday, Chicago sportswriters will actually get something right!

A book excerpt: On Newsrooms

As you may have noticed, I’m kinda taking the adult version of Christmas break. The news cycle gets slower this time of year, Larry and I have an unusual two weeks off the radio, and, with my wife being a teacher, we’re all just hanging around enjoying each others company. Well…at least I’m enjoying theirs.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve put the pen down completely! The book goes well and, in lieu of any posts here, I thought I’d share some excerpts. And the first is my thoughts on newspaper newsrooms. Enjoy!

—-

“…You see, long before the dawn of this dismal print media downturn, newsrooms were some of the worst places on the planet in which to work. And even though those wretched souls will shriek, howl, and rend their garments at the mere mention of their implicit and complicit misery, as Shakespeare so aptly put it, inordinately vehement protests only serve to prove the proponent’s original point. Nobody’s happy in a newsroom.

Some of ‘em may love that platonic journalistic ideal, and some of ‘em may even love their coworkers, but trust me, they can’t stand working for a newspaper.

And it all starts with the publishers who couldn’t give a flying fuck about any of the individual players because they know they have an inexhaustible supply of starry-eyed Woodward wannabes and desperate middle-aged writers who’ve long since given up on their dreams, but, demoralized by the insistent inculcated lack of newsroom respect, now believe themselves to be unsuitable for any other task.

The former are willing to take all sorts of crap because they don’t know any better and they’ve yet to abandon their Quixotic flights of fancy. But when they finally do fall prey to this persistent and harsh reality, they become the latter, an unhappy group of mediocre past-their-prime penitents who inexplicably and ferociously cling to jobs they slowly start to loathe while self-medicating with copious amounts of alcohol.

To be fair, that’s a vast oversimplification which we’ll explore later. But suffice it to say that the publishers treat the managing editors like shit who, in turn, treat the editors like shit who, in turn, treat the talent like shit who, in turn, treat the freelancers and stringers like shit.

But the most remarkable thing about this phenomenon is, per our previous sinking ship analogy, it all takes place on an unconscious level. It’s like it was with NFL concussions. Those incrementally deleterious injuries were such a fundamental part of the macho folklore that no one dared speak their name until some suffering former players forced them to talk about it.

If even one of these lowly newsroom minions managed to summon up the courage to stand on their cubicle desk and shout, “this ain’t right,” they’d be replaced in a heartbeat by one of the thousands of soulless stringers who have it even worse than they do. And it wouldn’t have anything to do with insubordination – it’s the fear that the heresy they put forth threatens to bring the entire collective cognitive dissonance crashing down from within.

Had a retired lineman shouted “concussion” a decade ago, they would’ve been labeled a pussy. But now high school players are filing lawsuits.

So while my former compatriots love to shake their fists and shout at the dastardly Internet, the truth is, this untenable business model was already failing long before our precipitous newspaper decline served to make matters so much worse.”

Finally! The December 18, 2014 edition of Left, Right and You…

… is right here!

Sorry for the delay folks!

So Elgin city council contender Fred Moulton was the first to take us up on our “state your case” challenge and Larry and I think he did pretty damn well. If you’re running for office and you get a crack at free publicity, you need to be prepared as Fred most certainly was!

Moulton show 3Up to this point, none of the challengers have really impressed me (there’s still time!), but it would certainly behoove the incumbents to pay attention to Fred.

Then Larry and I got into a rather spirited discussion on roadside safety checks, a subject on which we did not agree. It’s a good thing I’m always right!

Don’t forget, with Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Thursdays, Left, Right and You will not be back until January 8, 2014 when former Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez joins us in the studio. The following week we’ll host our second Elgin city council candidate, Rose Martinez.

Until then, please have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa, and a Furious Festivus. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and you might want to watch out for those inevitable December 31, roadside safety checks.

Thank you for listening!

Get ready for Left, Right and You!

That’s the voice promo and now for the full breakdown!

Larry and I have already had an interesting conversation on the Tribune’s Brian Dugan interviews so we thought we’d share it with you. This individual certainly elicits some very strong feelings, but how is that no one caught on to him long before he became a serial killer?

Fred Moulton (courtesy of the Daily Herald)

Fred Moulton (courtesy of the Daily Herald)

Then, Elgin City Council candidate Fred Moulton will join us in the studio to issue his opening statement. Larry and I are looking forward to it!

Using a Geneva “event” as an example, in the second half, we’ll be discussing the effectiveness of and fallout from those police “roadside safety checks.” Apparently some folks don’t understand the notion of “probable cause!”

Have you noticed that the sun only seems to come out before Left, Right and You comes on? Perhaps the Big Guy is trying to tell you something! At least that’s the conclusion most conservatives would come to.

That’s Left, Right and You, with the Smiling Conservative, Larry Jones, and me, Jeff Ward, every Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m on WRMN AM1410. Be there or be square!

It’s time to stop calling ourselves Christians

So since it was Wednesday, an after a morning of writing, I dutifully headed off to Graham Cracker Comics in St. Charles in eager anticipation of acquiring this week’s new releases.

You see, when we last left off, Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, had traveled to the planet Apokolips to rescue the body of his son Damian, aka Robin, which had been stolen by his arch nemesis Ra’s al Ghul. Using his advanced battle suit, Batman is about to square off against Darkseid in an effort to acquire the Chaos Shard and resurrect his dead son.

accidentAnd I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Don’t laugh! There’s a little bit of Sheldon Cooper in all of us.

But as I was walking into the comic book store, I heard the sudden screeching of tires followed by that telltale sickening metallic whump. My line of sight was semi-blocked by all the construction materials used to renovate that strip mall, but I still managed to see one car sitting sideways across the east side of the Prairie Street and Randall Road intersection.

Figuring there wasn’t much point in running the 220 yards up to the scene of the accident to see if anyone was injured, I immediately dialed 911 in the hope of getting the folks, who actually knew what they were doing, out there as soon as possible.

The fact that I was transferred once and the length of the emergency call surprised me, but, in the end, the St. Charles Police and paramedics got there within a scant two minutes.

But here’s the thing, as I stood there talking to the dispatcher and waiting for the first responders to arrive, not a single motorist stopped to offer assistance of any kind. For five minutes they simply drove around the crash and went along their merry way. I wonder if any of them even bothered to call 911. At least they didn’t start honking.

So much for that highly vaunted American holiday spirit. Could this be the war on Christmas that Fox News keeps talking about?

I eventually ended up talking with a couple of St. Charles firefighters who, despite the two obviously disabled vehicles, assured me that no one was hurt. But even though the drivers were fine, my perception of my fellowman’s capacity to be their brother’s keeper certainly took a massive hit.

What’s happening to us? We’re waging a war on the poor, we actually believe there could ever be a justification for torture – especially of innocent people, and it’s OK to kill someone for selling untaxed cigarettes on the street. When did our automatic response to anyone who finds themselves in a difficult or dire situation become “bleepin’ deal with it?”

When did we get to the point where we can’t even be bothered to expend the 60 to 120 seconds it would’ve taken to stop and check on two fellow human beings who could’ve been hurt? Isn’t the principle conveyed by the story of the Good Samaritan, a parable I learned in third grade, as important as any other biblical tenet?

Before y’all starting hammering me for “bashing” Christians – again – please remember that I’m not the one who came up with the rules. I’m simply pointing out a vast inconsistency between those rules and those people who purport to follow them.

So all I can say is, considering those perpetually packed Randall Road and Tri-Cities churches, our pastors, ministers and priests are failing miserably. What are you guys doing up there every Sunday? Isn’t Christianity supposed to be a bit more than railing at gays and beating up liberals?

Maybe it’s the fear of a lighter collection plate, or maybe you just can’t bring yourselves to challenge your flock, but if we’ve really gotten to the point where the plight of our fellowman means this little, then the least we can do is stop calling ourselves Christians.

Todd Martin weighs in on “roadside safety checks”

Regarding yesterday’s piece on the Geneva Police Department’s roadside “safety check” which netted all of ONE drunk driver out of 41 tickets issued. So here’s semi-frequent contributor Todd Martin with his thoughts, which for some strange reason, always seem to be more brief than mine:

martin“From the data, it is clear that most of the enforcement is regarding people having proper paperwork to drive their car: registration, license, proof of insurance. This makes sense, since when you are pulled over in one of these traps, this is what they ask for. They don’t have a mechanic looking at your brakes or a truck scale to see if you went over the GVWR rating on your car or have you prove the turn signals/brake lights/headlights all work.

These roadblocks are there to raise money from people that fall behind in their paperwork. In America, we should not have to “show our papers” unless there is probable cause. In America, we should not have our cash seized by the police through “Civil Asset Forfeiture” because you have money in your vehicle and can’t prove on the spot where it came from. In America, sniper rifles should not be pointed at peaceful protesters from atop military vehicles.”

And I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now, if we can only get the Geneva Police to read it.

What customers hate about their servers

I know it was a mistake, but it’s so fascinating to delve into an entitlement mentality so vast that the oblivious wielder is willing to put it out there for all to see without any concern for the repercussions that are so blitheringly obvious to the rest of us.

And that mistake was to read yet another one of those “What your waitress/bartender/server really hates about you,” pieces on the Net.

Now, I hope I don’t sound like my more conservative friends here, but sometimes they’re right! If the sum total of your workforce skillset consists of being able to write stuff down and carry a plate 10 yards to a table, then it’s not my problem.

I was a waiter for a very short time, but, having quickly given up on the notion of having to deal so directly with the public, I didn’t complain – I simply moved on. For all of those servers who so clearly feel the same way, may I humbly suggest embarking upon a similar course of action.

Waitress Holding Tray

So! Since turnabout is always fair play, here’s what customers can’t stand about their servers/bartenders/hostesses:

1. Ask us if we made reservations when there’s four people in your 350 seat restaurant.

It doesn’t make you or your empty restaurant seem any more important to us, but it does make us question your eyesight and poor judgment.

2. Seat us right next to the kitchen when there’s four people in your 350 seat restaurant.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Frank Sinatra’s dead. There’s absolutely no chance that he and his entourage will show up at TGI Friday’s to demand all the “good” tables any time soon.

3. Introduce yourself and tell us you’ll be our server.

Have no fear! I would never have mistaken you for the Belgian Diplomatic Attache and, as far as your name goes, I have enough trouble remembering my wife’s name, so I’m gonna forget yours the second you leave our table.

4. Take twenty minutes to bring our drink order, get it wrong, and then spill a drink because you weren’t really looking where you put it down.

If the restaurant is packed to the gills, I understand, but when it’s 5:30 on a Sunday evening, I don’t. A glass of wine and a beer aren’t all that difficult to remember and they don’t require anything more than a bit of pouring! Also, after spilling the drink, it would be nice if you or a cohort  actually wiped the now sticky table down with a wet towel.

5. Water down the drinks in hopes we’ll order at least five $8 margaritas.

This one applies to the bartenders who clearly believe the fact they’re not servers sets them somewhere on a par with English royalty. As the great Paul Simon once sang, “who do you think you’re foolin’?” It certainly ain’t us.

7. Act surprised when we virtually have to tackle you to place our dinner order.

The fact that we’ve been waiting 20 minutes since the botched drinks, our menus are closed and neatly placed at the edge of the table, and we’re consistently glancing in your direction is not nearly enough of a clue that we’re ready to order. Perhaps we’ll use a signal flare next time.

8. Have no clue who ordered what when you bring the food back to the table.

I thought that’s why you wrote it down! There’s only two of us! Throw caution into the wind and give it your best shot.

9. Have no clue what a rare steak is and then sneer when we send it back.

Despite the fact that I specifically asked if your kitchen can handle a rare steak order, you bring me something a lot closer to the charred remains of a barn fire. A rare steak is so easy to cook that even I can consistently pull it off.

9. Spend more time flirting with the other servers or the manager than doing your job.

We all know you’re utterly irresistible and we understand that kind of thing can be a real burden, but might I suggest turning to  Match.com instead? That way, your job won’t get in the way of your flirting.

10. Purposely ignore us once the meal is served.

I’m no monster. I realize that, after serving two drinks and hauling two plates all the way from the kitchen, you may need to take a nap. But all I really want is a little more water because you serve it in absurdly small glasses in the hope that we’ll resort to ordering more alcohol-free margaritas. I can’t tell you how much we love your Helen Keller (look it up) impersonation in regards to any attempt to get your attention.

11. Please look up the word “grooming” too!

I’d like to inform all the male servers that the Charles Manson look is out. In fact, it was never “in.” He may get all the hot chicks, but it doesn’t play well in a restaurant. There’s a fabulous device called a comb and, trust me, there’s no such thing as too much deodorant.

12. Please wear a bra.

And I mean the kind of brassiere that you would wear to your grandmother’s funeral, not the kind that provides us with a clear indication of how cold the restaurant really is. Unless you work at hooters (your mother must be so proud!), we really don’t want a peep show, we just want our bleepin’ drinks and dinner. We’re not giving you a bigger tip just because you jiggle so nicely.

13. Get the check wrong, bring the wrong check, or ignore the discount coupon.

Which all happen with alarming frequency. Look, I understand that folks don’t always get tipping right on the pre-discount amount. But if you don’t like it, then complain to the owner who’s simply trying to get more butts through the door. And go ahead and bring the wrong check as long as it’s less than ours.

14. Put cute notes and smiley faces on the check.

If out of the goodness of your heart, you’ve decided to pay half the bill, then by all means, scribble away. But as far as anything else goes, we’re not in third grade anymore! You seem fairly pleasant, but despite your best efforts to be friends, we’re not gonna put you on our Christmas card list any time soon.

15. Ask if we need change!

No! When I put that C-note down on a $60 dinner tab, I fully intended to give you a 66 percent tip. You’re just that good! Trust me, if we’re all set, you’ll be the first to know.

16. Think we care about what you think.

Because we really don’t. Perhaps you’ll be president one day or you may even write the great American novel, but until then, our only concern is that you don’t spit in our food.

Listen, being a server or bartender is a time honored profession, but the truth is, any competent sixth grader could pull it off. (And that goes double for flight attendants who are nothing more than sky servers.) So please get over yourselves even though I know you never will.

Who said I couldn’t out entitlement mindset anybody out there?

Your constitutional rights at work!

I still love newspapers and, just like it is with any love affair, there are times those Daily Herald reporters drive me nuts, and there are times when I wanna kiss them (male or female) squarely on the lips. I still can’t stop thinking about Jake Griffin’s piece on just how Caucasian our suburban police departments really are.

And I’m in a kissing mood again because the DH’s Susan Sarkauskas did what every good reporter should do – she brought a simple yet fascinating fact to light. It was something most folks would’ve completely missed if not for her due diligence and the City of Geneva’s well-known capacity to misstate the facts.

Normally I’d just link directly to the story so the reporter gets full credit, but so far, the stats are only up on Facebook which makes that impossible.

Basically, late December 6 through early morning of December 7, the Geneva Police set up what law enforcement officers euphemistically call a “safety check” at 1166 East Route 38. And I say “euphemistically” because it has absolutely nothing to do with safety.

Police

The ostensible objective of these “events” is to remove drunk drivers from the road. But unlike No Refusal Weekends, in which drunk drivers and only drunk drivers are targeted, a “Roadside Safety Check” consists of pulling people over at a check point with no probable cause whatsoever.

Then, even if the driver is as sober as it gets, the officers can still demand a driver’s license and registration and then proceed to write the motorist up for any other number of unrelated offenses. A more appropriate term for this kind of endeavor would be “Trolling for Tickets.”

But don’t take my word for it, simply review the following “safety check” stats that Ms. Sarkauskas was kind enough to provide through the Illinois State Police:

Violations Enforcement Activity

2          Registration offenses
16        Driver’s license offenses
3          Occupant restraint offenses
1          Driving under the influence arrest
5          Other alcohol/drug arrests

41        Total citations/arrests
6          Total written warnings

What that means is, out of the 41 tickets issued, a grand total of one arrest (two percent of all the “enforcement activity” if you count the warnings) can be attributed to the “safety check’s” original intent.

Nice!

To be fair, Geneva is not nearly the only Illinois municipality engaging in this sad practice. That said, the GPD’s generally laudable propensity for writing warnings certainly didn’t show itself that night! And to make matters worse, on their own Facebook page, the City of Geneva reported they’d actually written five DUI’s, which may make the police department look better, but it’s clearly not the case.

I did ask the State Police exactly what they meant by “Other alcohol/drug arrests” and, while they said they’d get back to me with a more specific definition, a spokesperson told me they’re definitely not DUI’s.

So here’s what we have folks!

As long as they follow the “rules,” any Illinois police department can set up a “roadside safety check” by which they can randomly stop motorists with no probable cause. Then, even if the driver isn’t the least bit inebriated, the officers can demand a license and registration and proceed to write up the vehicle’s occupants for any number of violations completely unrelated to the “safety check’s” sanctioned purpose.

And all the police have to do is sit there and wait for the motorists to come to them! Only in America!

One of conservatives’ favorite fears du jour is the “dismantling of our Constitution.” But if you ask them to define exactly what that means, they can’t seem to come up with an answer. Meanwhile, in yet another supreme irony, the “dismantling” process is taking place right under their collective noses.

Here’s to Joe Marconi!

There are very few out-of-the-blue guests who truly impress my capable radio cohost, Larry Jones, and myself. But Batavian extraordinaire Joe Marconi was certainly one of them. Whenever you apply that “one-of-a-kind” appellation to any individual (like me for example), it’s typically a much nicer way of saying they’re a real pain in the ass.

But that wasn’t the case with Joe, he really was one of a kind.

Marconi

When I called him out the blue to come on the show, he couldn’t wait to be a guest and insisted on coming in to the studio. The problem was, he never told us about the wheelchair and there’s no way around those 30 separate steep steps up to the WRMN offices.

So without a single complaint, Joe did the show from the small downstairs vestibule on his cell phone. Then he got straight to the point while taking a humorous tack to get there. When Joe spoke, Larry, myself, and his attorney, Michael Childress, immediately gave him the floor, not because he was intimidating, but because we really wanted to hear what he had to say.

Joe commanded respect because he’d earned every last bit of it.

The truth is, I’ve dealt with more “local activists” than you can shake a stick at and, virtually without exception, they’re a bunch of self-serving smarmy ideologues who always manage to make matters far worse.

But Joe’s efforts made Batavia much better.

And that wasn’t easy in a city with an administration and school board addicted to making bad moves and spending other people’s money.

There was no “try” with Joe, he just did it! He put his money where his mouth was and he did it effectively. He expected no acknowledgement, praise, or gratitude – he did it because he knew it was the right thing to do.

I only met Joe that one time, but he’s one of the few people who left a lasting impression. Larry and I were really looking forward to having him back on the show.

But sadly, Joe Marconi left us on December 4 at the grand old age of 88. In the end, diabetes was one of the few things he couldn’t beat. Thankfully, the lawsuit he initiated to rectify Batavia’s ridiculous electric rates will move forward.

If you want to read more about Joe, Susan Sarkauskas did a pretty good job summing up what can only be called a fascinating life.

If there really is a gleaming set of pearly gates complete with a former apostle manning that entrance, I’m convinced the only question will be, “Did you leave the planet a better place? And Joe Marconi is one of the vast minority of people who can truly say he did.

And the second St. Peter lets him in, Joe’s gonna start rearranging the afterlife, but before the Big Guy can get a word out, he’ll stop, consider it, and think to Himself, “You know! That really isn’t a bad idea! Why didn’t I think of that?”

Give ‘em hell Joe!