Wednesday, November 23, 2016


“Life is never boring, but some people choose to be bored.” Wayne Dyer
Motivational speaker Wayne Dyer (1940-2015), a Detroit native raised in an orphanage, said: “The concept of boredom entails an inability to use up present moments in a personally fulfilling way.” His self-help book “Your Erroneous Zones” (1976) has sold more than 35 million copies.  He advised readers to beware of guilt trips and to pursue self-actualization. In the best-seller “Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting” (2012) Dyer cited Swami Muktananda, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Lao Tzu as philosophical influences.

I often say, “Life is never boring,” especially when something unexpected occurs.  A fan of sports talk radio, I got a chuckle from the furor over a Chicago-area football game in the state championship semi-finals.  Fenwick was leading Plainfield North with four seconds to go when the quarterback, following his coach’s directions, dropped back and threw the ball far downfield as time expired. According to the rules, the game should have been over, but the referees called intentional grounding and by mistake allowed Plainfield North one more play.  They converted a field goal and “won” in overtime.  Illinois High School Association (IHSA) officials admitted the egregious error but declared that the outcome would stand because by-law 6.033 clearly states that ‘the decisions of game officials shall be final.’”  Fenwick appealed the decision in court. 

While most radio jocks want the courts to stay out of the case, Fenwick supporters have pointed out that the IHSA reversed the result of a 2009 soccer match between Marquette Catholic in Alton and Metro-East in Edwardsville that went to a shoot-out.  The rules state that each team gets five chances and, if still tied, one each until there was a winner.  Instead the referee gave each team five more kicks.  Only Metro-East scored on the sixth try, but Marquette emerged with more after ten rounds.  Thus, a precedent exists for the ISHA overruling game officials. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune called on Plainfield to do the right thing, writing:
  In 2008, the IHSA established precedent by overturning results of the Illinois wrestling tournament three days after Edwardsville celebrated beating Granite City by half a point. A recount revealed Granite City actually won by a half-point and the IHSA — after initially clinging to a rule that says results must be corrected within 30 minutes of the end of a tournament — rightly reversed the outcome.
In that case, the Edwardsville coach detected the scoring error himself and contacted the Granite City coach in a display of the type of sportsmanship we all want to define youth sports. Likewise, Plainfield North officials have an opportunity to make a bold, principled statement on behalf of honesty and fairness by forfeiting a game the IHSA agrees it lost in regulation.

Fenick’s attorney argued that the school had never been to the state final in its entire 87-year existence and compared what happened to cheating the Cubs out of participating in the World Series.  After the judge refused to reverse the IHSA’s decision, the attorney said that school officials believed they had owed to the players to seek an injunction but accepted the decision and wished Plainfield North well.

At Jewel with Toni and I filled two carts with groceries, including ingredients for a double batch of cheesecake, which I agreed to make for Thursday.  I ran into Nick Didonna, whom I used to bowl with at Cressmoor Lanes.  When I told him we’d be having 17 people for Thanksgiving dinner, the Italian-born septuagenarian replied that they’d often have 50 but now let younger folks host.
In Jeopardy’s teen tournament one question James would have aced asked for the name of the Finn and Jake “Adventure Time” series robot.  The answer: Beemo (BMO).  The “Final Jeopardy” category was Early America, and all three contestants knew the Mayflower Compact was the Plymouth colony pilgrims’ governing document.  Runner-up Alex Fischthal thought he had won only to end a single dollar behind Sharath Narayan of Madison, Alabama.
 Steve and Judi Tallackson
A Jeff Manes P-T column on Steve Tallackson, 72, who still teaches history at both Purdue Northwest campuses, Hammond and Westville, brought back memories of when he resigned in 1979 after six years as director of the Gary Human Relations Commission to work for the federal government.  Ron Cohen and I persuaded him to donate his papers to the Calumet Regional Archives and had just finished loading several boxes into my car when we spotted Tallackson’s successor coming out of City Hall. Not waiting to see if he was about to object to our action, we took off.  We never heard from him, but better safe than sorry.  The Post-Trib used a photo of Tallackson gardening, but the newspaper’s website has replaced it with a more formal shot of Steve and wife Judi.
 Tommie Agee
In a New Yorker 60s anthology I found legendary sports scribe Roger Angell’s article “Days and Nights with the Unbored” about the 1969 “Miracle Mets,” written days after their World Series triumph over the heavily-favored Orioles.  In the regular season Baltimore sluggers Frank Robinson, Paul Blair, and Boog Powell had hit almost as many homeruns as the entire Mets team, and its trio of starters, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, and Jim Palmer had the lowest ERA in either league.  Earlier in the year New York’s Jets had beaten the Baltimore Colts and in basketball the Knicks had beaten the Baltimore Bullets.  Angell wrote: “Disbelief persists, then, and one can see now that disbelief itself was one of the Mets’ most powerful assets.” With the Fall Classic tied one apiece, Mets outfielder Tommie Agee made two unbelievable catches with men on base. In game four Ron Swoboda made an even more incredible catch, and the Mets’ winning run scored on a bunt and wild throw.  In the clincher the Mets came back from a 3-0 deficit with Swoboda driving in the winning run.  Angell’s concluding remarks could well apply to the 2016 Cubs, who 47 years earlier had a late-season collapse:
  I had no answer for the question posed by the youngster in the infield who held up – amid the crazily leaping crowds, the showers of noise and paper, the vermillion smoke-bomb clouds, and the vanishing lawns – a sign that said “WHAT NEXT?”  What was past was good enough, and on my way down to the clubhouse it occurred to me that the Mets had won this great Series with just the same weapons they had employed all summer – with the Irregulars (platoon players), with fine pitching, with defensive plays that some would remember for the rest of their lives, and with the very evident conviction that the year should not be permitted to end in boredom.  Nothing was lost on this team, not even an awareness of the accompanying sadness of the victory – the knowledge that adulation and money and the winter disbanding of this true club would mean that the young Mets were gone forever.  In the clubhouse Ron Swoboda said it precisely for the TV cameras: “This is the first time. Nothing can ever be as sweet again.”
  Later, in his quiet office, manager Earl Weaver was asked if he hadn’t thought that the Orioles would hold on to their late lead and thus bring the Series back to Baltimore and maybe win it there.  Weaver took a sip of beer and smiled and said, “No, that’s what you can never do in baseball.  You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and kill the clock.  You’ve got to throw the ball over the plate and give the other man his chance.  That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”
Robin and Jef Halberstadt wedding photo 

My good friend Robin Halberstadt passed away.  A few days ago, she had moved to a hospice, aware that the end was near.  Yesterday son Charles posted that she died peacefully, surrounded by family.  Ironically, November in pancreatic cancer awareness month.

In a New Yorker anthology of 60s writings I found John Updike’s short story “A & P,” about a 19 year-old cashier who quits after his boss insults three girls who entered the grocery wearing only bathing suits and the Sylvia Plath poem “Tulips” narrated by someone in a hospital bed.  Here is the fifth verse:
          I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free!
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing – a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.

Nick Mantis visited the Archives doing research for a documentary on Jean Shepherd.  He’ lined up an interview with Jerry Seinfeld when the comedian comes to Chicago I a couple weeks.  Seinfeld idolized the Region bard and named his dog Shep.  I gave Mantis my latest Shavings, which mentions Shepherd seven times. Later I got Angie to order me ten copies of “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” online for Christmas presents.  Altogether they cost just $50.

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