Don’t Let a Cross Word Get You Down: An Entertainmenton November 28, 2021 at 6:46 pm

The Quark In The Road

Don’t Let a Cross Word Get You Down: An Entertainment

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Michael O’Brien’s final 2021 Super 25 high school football rankingsMichael O’Brienon November 28, 2021 at 5:26 pm

Cary Grove’s captains accept the trophy for the Class 6A state championship in DeKalb. | Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Four contenders vie for the top spot.

Eight state champions were crowned in DeKalb this weekend.

There was Fenwick as the debutante, winning its first title. Joliet Catholic, the kings of Illinois high school football, added to its state-record trophy haul.

Lockport and Wheaton North returned to glory for the first time in many years and Cary-Grove continued the Fox Valley’s recent tradition of excellence.

One thing that wasn’t settled is the matter of No. 1. Maine South entered as the top-ranked team, based on their resume. The Hawks were soundly beaten by Lockport and have lost their claim to the spot.

Fenwick had two losses during the regular season and the Class 5A field didn’t provide significant opportunities to improve its resume, so set the Friars aside.

That leaves Lockport, Wheaton North, Joliet Catholic and Cary-Grove as the contenders for the final spot on top of the Super 25.

Some years there will be a reporter (ok, probably me) that asks coaches and players who the number one team is. That didn’t happen this weekend. But one coach gave his opinion without being asked.

“We told our kids on Monday we thought we were the best team in the state of Illinois,” Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. “And I think we did everything today to prove that’s certainly a possibility if not a definite thing.”

Seaburg is right. East St. Louis was considered the best team in the state all season long, by literally everyone that does any form of rankings or spouts an opinion publicly.

Cary-Grove beat the Flyers. It was universally hailed as one of the greatest championship games in Illinois High School Association history. That only happens when a game is not just close, but is played at a high-level.

East St. Louis, loaded with probably a dozen or more future FBS college players, just could not stop the Trojans’ double option.

Cary-Grove’s full-season resume isn’t as strong as Lockport’s. The Porters defeated Bolingbrook, Glenbard West, Glenbard North and Loyola. That’s a terrific season. They also showed they were clearly better than Maine South in the title game.

But the Porters have a blemish on their resume. They lost at home to Lincoln-Way East. Starting quarterback Hayden Timosciek handled punting duties in the game but was too injured to play quarterback. That’s obviously a factor, but other teams managed to pull out victories this season while missing injured stars.

Well, it is time for this. Which team is No. 1?

— Michael O’Brien (@michaelsobrien) November 28, 2021

Joliet Catholic’s case is also strong. The Hilltoppers dominated on their run to the Class 4A title and have impressive regular season wins against Brother Rice, Crete-Monee and St. Louis Cardinal Ritter.

Wheaton North saved its best performance of the season for the Class 7A title game. The Falcons dominated St. Rita just a week after beating Brother Rice. But Wheaton North’s schedule has a blemish as well. The Falcons lost at Batavia in overtime in Week 3.

Clearly any of the four teams can make a legitimate claim to the top spot. But I agree with Seaburg. Cary-Grove’s performance on Saturday at Huskie Stadium proved it to me. The Trojans are No. 1.

2021 Final Super 25

With record and preseason ranking

1. Cary-Grove (14-0) 12

2. Lockport (13-1) NR

3. Joliet Catholic (14-0) 7

4. Wheaton North (13-1) 9

5. Maine South (12-2) 10

6. St. Rita (11-3) 1

7. Loyola (12-1) 4

8. Brother Rice (10-3) 3

9. Fenwick (12-2) 17

10. Neuqua Valley (10-2) 15

11. Lincoln-Way East (9-3) 5

12. Mount Carmel (8-4) 11

13. Batavia (10-1) 16

14. Marist (9-4) 6

15. Glenbard North (8-4) NR

16. Kankakee (13-1) NR

17. Warren (9-2) 2

18. Crete-Monee (9-4) NR

19. Lake Forest (10-3) NR

20. Lemont (11-1) NR

21. Glenbrook South (9-3) NR

22. Hinsdale Central (9-2) 8

23. Wilmington (14-0) NR

24. Prospect (10-3) NR

25. St. Ignatius (9-2) NR

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Fire Matt Nagy? Fire Ryan Pace? Fire himself? George McCaskey has a lot of optionsMark Potashon November 28, 2021 at 5:31 pm

The Bears are 46-61 (.430) with one winning season and two playoff berths in seven seasons with Ryan Pace (foreground) as general manager — with six games left in the 2021 regular season. Bears chairman iGeorge McCaskey (background) will decide if Pace will remain as GM. | Tim Boyle/Sun-Times Media

With the Bears’ abysmal record in the post-Ditka era — seven playoff appearances and four playoff victories in 28 seasons — at some point George McCaskey has to consider that McCaskey family leadership is part of the problem.

It’s all about the quarterback in the NFL, especially when the quarterback is a talented rookie capable of one day putting a struggling offense on his shoulders and lifting a wayward franchise out of the muck.

But as the Bears’ 2021 season has veered off course in Justin Fields’ first season, coach Matt Nagy’s fourth and general manager Ryan Pace’s seventh, not even the quarterback will command the entire spotlight in the final six weeks of the season.

It’s all about the owner, now.

Bears chairman George McCaskey spoke to the team last week prior to the Bears’ 16-14 victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field. But he has been silent publicly since the Bears’ end-of-season press conference in January in which he and president Ted Phillips almost sheepishly acknowledged their decision to bring back both Pace and Nagy was an unpopular one.

McCaskey usually talks to the media at least once each offseason. But not this year, with the possibility of leaving Soldier Field and the future of Pace and Nagy obvious hot topics.

So he wasn’t asked the most obvious question heading into the 2021 season: How does he define “progress” after stating that as the barometer of success when he decided to bring back Pace and Nagy?

That question looms larger than ever with the 4-7 Bears unlikely to make the playoffs, but Fields starting eight games — and possibly getting as many as six more starts when he recovers from cracked ribs he suffered against the Ravens last week.

The firing of Nagy is considered by many as fait accompli, with “Fire Nagy” chants breaking out at various Chicago-area venues. But the fate of both Nagy and Pace are unclear after last week’s chaotic episode in which it was erroneously reported that the Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions would be Nagy’s last as Bears coach — in part because it’s hard to know what George McCaskey is thinking.

We’ll find out soon enough. But until then, speculation about Nagy, Pace — and McCaskey and Phillips themselves — will continue to fester as the season concludes. All we know now is what could happen. So here are four scenarios to consider when the Bears’ 2021 season ends, or possibly sooner:

1. George McCaskey and Ted Phillips step aside.

The McCaskeys are not going to sell the Bears, at least not while Virginia McCaskey is the owner. But with the Bears abysmal record in the post-Ditka era — seven playoff appearances and four playoff victories in 28 seasons — at some point George McCaskey has to consider that McCaskey family leadership is part of the problem.

(Only three NFL teams that have been in the league throughout that span have fewer playoff victories. Only three have fewer playoff appearances.)

The McCaskeys could still retain ownership but restructure the franchise so that a president of football operations — presumably a someone with a proven history of football, management and public relations expertise — is making all football decisions, including the hiring of the general manager.

That’s no assurance of success. But better leadership alone would be an improvement — especially in a scenario like last week, when a weak crisis management plan created another embarrassing episode for the Bears organization.

2. George McCaskey cleans house — fires GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy.

This is what many frustrated Bears fans are expecting after Pace and Nagy appeared to be a singular entity — with their valued collaborative working relationship a major reason for hope that 2021 would be an improvement after back-to-back 8-8 seasons.

The Bears are 46-61 (.430) with one winning season and two playoff berths in Pace’s seven seasons as general manager. That’s a little misleading because his first three seasons were a virtual tear-down of the roster before the re-build. But two major Pace mis-evaluations have kept the Bears on the skids — trading up to draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky in 2017 and hiring Nagy in 2018.

Trading up to draft Fields in 2021 could end up being a masterstroke. But poor management of the offensive line among other personnel errors have prevented the offense from showing enough improvement to support Pace’s case.

Pace has had hits and misses, but the overall ledger is in the negative. Outside of linebacker Roquan Smith, even Pace’s biggest hits have struggled to sustain success or stay on the field — Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson, Allen Robinson, Eddie Goldman and Tarik Cohen among them. But his misses are forever — Trubisky, Kevin White, Mike Glennon, Adam Shaheen, Cody Parkey, Nick Foles, etc.

3. Ryan Pace fires Matt Nagy, stays as GM.

This is arguably the most plausible scenario. It would give McCaskey the change that would prevent Bears fans from storming Halas Hall or talking boycott. And it would spare McCaskey and Phillips the chore of finding another general manager — their third in 10 years after firing Jerry Angelo after the 2011 season and Phil Emery in 2014 — which is not their strength.

The best argument for Pace is based almost entirely on potential — he addressed two of his biggest offensive issues in the 2021 draft with Fields and offensive tackles Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. But he hired Nagy, drafted Trubisky, has a defense that is aging quickly, has injury issues, salary cap issues and doesn’t have a first-round draft pick in 2022.

Pace is a capable general manager who could win big in optimum conditions — the Buccaneers’ Jason Licht had a worse history as a GM before striking gold with Bruce Arians and Tom Brady. But Pace’s luck really has to change in a hurry.

4. Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy both stick around.

For Bears fans, the doomsday scenario. It’s unlikely that McCaskey instructed Nagy to start Fields, as has been reported. But it wouldn’t be that far-fetched that McCaskey told Nagy he values having a young quarterback in place more than a playoff berth with Andy Dalton.

And if that was the impetus for Nagy’s decision to go with Fields, it’s possible that if Fields continues to make the improvement he showed against the 49ers and Steelers when he returns from his injury, that could fit McCaskey’s definition of progress.

It’s not likely, but possible. At Halas Hall, anything is possible.

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What can be done to stop Chicago’s Black exodus?Elvia Malagónon November 28, 2021 at 4:28 pm

Chicago’s Black population has fallen for a generation — can anything be done to bring people back to Black neighborhoods like Englewood? | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Community leaders in Greater Englewood and Austin think a concerted effort to close the gaps in homeownership, wages and life expectancy between Black and white Chicagoans could stem the city’s loss of Black residents.

Anthony Simpkins remembers when the Greater Englewood neighborhood was a thriving Black community with more than 100,000 residents and a commercial strip that rivaled downtown’s shopping district.

“It was one of the most active commercial strips in the city of Chicago, and then — over decades — that all deteriorated,” said Simpkins, president and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.

“The mall was demolished, and there were literally hundreds and hundreds of properties — both homes and apartment buildings — that were torn down, and all that remains are the swaths of vacant land.”

In the past 10 years, the exodus of Black families has continued in Chicago, which was once a prime destination for Black Americans fleeing the violence and racism of the Jim Crow South. West Englewood and Austin have lost the most Black residents in the past 10 years, according to the 2020 census.

The Chicago Sun-Times shared the stories of Black Chicagoans who had left the city and how their lives improved — but is there a way to stop this 30-year-decline in population?

Community leaders say in order to bring Black residents back, the city must devote more resources to closing gaps in homeownership, wages and life expectancy between Black and white Chicagoans, though admittedly it will be no easy feat.

Simpkins said there has been “significant investment” happening in Greater Englewood in the past six years, and he hopes people will notice the positive change happening already.

That includes the opening of Englewood Square retail center at 63rd and Halsted streets — home to a Whole Foods Market, a health clinic and clothing stores. The city also has helped create affordable housing, with the new Montclare Senior Residence of Englewood, 6332 S. Green St., and Hope Manor Village Veterans Housing, 6002 S. Halsted St. And in May, the city advanced a $20.9 million plan from developer Keith B. Key Enterprise to bring more affordable housing along Halsted Street.

Simpkins said those investments should be celebrated, but homeownership is truly the way to bring residents back to Greater Englewood, which includes both the Englewood and West Englewood community areas — and Chicago at large.

“Homeownership is critically important when you are talking about a neighborhood like Englewood because homeownership not only removes blight and improves the neighborhood sort of physically, it also is an opportunity for families to create generational wealth since that is the main driver in America for families to do so,” he said.

Boosting homeownership also drives up the neighborhood’s density — key to a thriving community, because homeownership increases foot traffic along the neighborhood’s commercial strip. There can’t be one without the other, Simpkins added.

Research from the Institute for Housing Studies shows predominantly Black census tracts in Chicago saw a loss of homeowner households from 2010 to 2019. The number of owner-occupied households in Black neighborhoods dropped 13.6%, compared to a 2.8% decrease for the entire city.

Despite the decrease in residents, Bradly Johnson said he has never felt more hopeful about Austin’s future, particularly because of collaborations between various community organizations.

Johnson, director of external affairs for BUILD Inc., said Black residents have been leaving not just Austin but the entire city for opportunities elsewhere, while others want to get away from violence. Still, he points to a 70-page quality-of-life plan for Austin that he and other community organizations worked on as an example of how the West Side community can move forward.

The plan lays out ideas ranging from a manufacturing training center to helping residents get better-paying jobs to training parents to become involved in local school councils.

“If we could create the opportunity to do something creative to increase homeownership and access to homeownership, to new business development and incubation, education and also help Black residents get a foothold in the trades, which are pretty much homogenous because of the unions and historically how they are set up,” Johnson said. “If we could address those things, I think that you’ll see a turnaround in the Black population.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Yolanda Anderson and her family left Austin after their iconic pink and white Victorian home was sold earlier this year. Anderson said her family left their beloved house after they were unable to secure funds to do the extensive renovations needed at the Austin property. It’s one reason why Black residents have left some Chicago neighborhoods.

Sharif Walker thinks collaboration between organizations is how communities like Austin begin to see quality of life improve for Black residents.

Walker, president and CEO of Bethel New Life, said his non-profit organization, which provides affordable housing for seniors, worked with other organizations to create a community garden that produced fresh vegetables. Walker said they also teamed up to do cooking demonstrations for the seniors in their buildings.

It’s one step toward reducing the life expectancy gap between Black and white residents in Chicago, Walker said.

Black residents in Chicago on average live 71.4 years, compared to 80.6 years for non-Black city residents, according to a report released earlier this year by the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Nicole Acree, 29, grew up in Austin but moved to Atlanta to start her professional career. She has deep ties to Chicago’s West Side and would like return there one day to bring the arts and music programming she thinks is necessary to help younger generations thrive.

“I want people to realize that what we have could truly be magical if we all come together as one city, not just multiple sides; but if we come together as one city, we could really change some things,” she said.

Jesse Howe and Andy Boyle contributed to the data analysis for this report.

Elvia Malagon’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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What delusional Chicago Bears fans should be rooting for in Week 12Ryan Heckmanon November 28, 2021 at 3:00 pm

It took a last-second field goal for the Chicago Bears to beat the worst team in football on Thanksgiving, but a win is a win, nonetheless. After the Bears’ victory over the Detroit Lions, fans at least had something positive to think about as they gorged themselves with turkey, mashed potatoes, among other things. During […] What delusional Chicago Bears fans should be rooting for in Week 12 – Da Windy City – Da Windy City – A Chicago Sports Site – Bears, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Fighting Illini & MoreRead More

Cirque du Soleil – ‘Twas The Night Before… is entertaining but lack that Christmas Magicon November 28, 2021 at 2:44 pm

Let’s Play

Cirque du Soleil – ‘Twas The Night Before… is entertaining but lack that Christmas Magic

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Playoff preview between Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat was intenseRyan Heckmanon November 28, 2021 at 2:20 pm

Saturday night, the Chicago Bulls hosted the Miami Heat and fans got a glimpse at what might unfold should these teams meet in the playoffs down the road. A day after a convincing win over the Orlando Magic, the Bulls ran into a difficult task. The Heat provided the Bulls with one of their toughest […] Playoff preview between Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat was intense – Da Windy City – Da Windy City – A Chicago Sports Site – Bears, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Fighting Illini & MoreRead More

1 killed, teen among 22 wounded in citywide shootings since Friday eveningSun-Times Wireon November 28, 2021 at 12:26 pm

At least one person was killed and 22 others wounded in shootings in Chicago since Friday evening. | Sun-Times file

A person was found shot to death Saturday night in Avalon Park on the South Side.

At least one person was killed and a 16-year-old boy among 22 others wounded in citywide shootings since Friday 5 p.m.

In the weekend’s only fatal attack so far, A person was shot to death Saturday night in Avalon Park on the South Side. The male, between 18 to 35 years old, was found under a viaduct about 7:30 p.m. in the 8100 block of South Anthony Avenue, Chicago police said. He was found with a gunshot wound to the head and was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, police said. His name hasn’t been released.
In nonfatal attacks, A 16-year-old boy was shot while buying drugs in Humboldt Park Saturday afternoon. The teen boy walked into a residence to buy drugs about 6 p.m. in the 3300 block of West Beach Avenue when two males pulled out a gun and shot him, police said. He was struck in the leg and drove himself to Swedish Hospital in good condition, police said.
About three hours later, a man and woman were walking in the 6900 block of South Campbell Avenue when they were both struck by gunfire, police said. The woman, 32, was shot in her foot and the 37-year-old man was shot multiple times in his chest, arm and leg, police said. The man was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was in critical condition, and the woman was taken to Holy Cross Hospital, where she was in good condition, police said.

At least 19 others were wounded by gunfire in Chicago since Friday 5 p.m.

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Chicago Week in Craft Beer, November 29 – December 2on November 28, 2021 at 7:13 am

The Beeronaut

Chicago Week in Craft Beer, November 29 – December 2

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Will IL’s soaring crime, taxes, pension liabilities & abuse of parents by the ISBE and teachers’ unions make JB Pritzker a one term Gov?on November 28, 2021 at 7:35 am

Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz

Will IL’s soaring crime, taxes, pension liabilities & abuse of parents by the ISBE and teachers’ unions make JB Pritzker a one term Gov?

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