Wednesday, February 17, 2010

University of Chicago Football Punts To Bears and Cardinals

A few days ago on the web I came across a photograph of the University of Chicago 1901 football team. The provider of the image remarked something along the lines of “Notice they’re wearing the Chicago Bears C-logo.” Well, where to start.

The University’s first football practice was led by new coach Amos Alonzo Stagg in nearby Washington Park on the new University’s first day of classes, October 1, 1892.

Chicago was a charter member of the Big Ten Conference, and had much success in football and other sports. The old trophy room at Bartlett Gymnasium, where I learned squash and handball and played in many a pick-up basketball game, was a sight to behold. Indeed, the first Heisman Trophy was awarded to Chicago running back Jay Berwanger in 1935. [Quick time-out for a trivia question: What school has the winningest record against Notre Dame in football, 4-0, outscoring them 83-11, and is the only school ND has played more than once but hasn’t beaten (with the exception of two recent bowl game losses to Oregon State); you only get one guess (okay, all the wins were in the 19th Century, but still). Answer: link.]

Chicago left the Big Ten in 1946 (football in 1939) because then-President Charles Maynard Hutchins, a young progressive educator, found the academic compromises attached to the increasing necessity of awarding football scholarships to be inconsistent with the University’s nature. Legend also has it that Hutchins was not athletically inclined, reportedly saying that "whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I lie down till it passes.” This story may be apocryphal, but, as the old saw goes, it’s too good to check out.

As for those Bears, they didn't come into existence until around 1920. Their young coach, George Halas, a Chicago native and former University of Illinois football player, eventually adopted U of C’s football-shaped “C” logo for his Bears as well, and soon enough Chicago’s “Monsters of the Midway” sobriquet was being applied to his team to boot. And now many think they originated with the Bears. Stravinsky’s old quip comes to mind – bad artists borrow, great artists steal.

And incidentally, the Bears weren't the only professional football team to take something from U of C. When the Chicago Racine Avenue west side football team went looking for new uniforms, it settled on a used set from the U of C Maroons, and, as the story goes, upon observing the faded color, adopted the name Cardinals and has worn red ever since. The team has gone on to become the oldest one in the National Football League, with the Bears second right behind them. So, of the two oldest NFL football teams, one wears the U of C’s faded colors and the other bears its “C” emblem and nickname. Not a bad legacy.

The "C-Bench" (c1976) outside Cobb Hall on the main quadrangles of the University of Chicago, originally intended for the exclusive use of athletic lettermen. Jay Pridmore writes in his Campus Guide that "the bench constitutes something of a parabolic chamber that amplifies whispers in unexpected ways." Only at U. of C.

Richard Balsamo

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Partisan Senator Bayh Now Decries Partisanship in Politics; and the Myth of a “Moderate” Democrat

Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana is shocked, shocked to find bitter partisanship in American national politics, and is now fed up with it. He apparently hadn’t seen much of it before. At least that’s what he’s saying now, as he announced his decision not to seek a third term in this fall’s elections.

But partisanship has always been there, it’s just that he’s accustomed to being on the delivering end. This is the Bayh whose Democrat party’s once-nominee for president, Al Gore, with whom Bayh had hoped to run as the VP candidate, shouted in a frenzy to a whipped-up audience that George Bush had “betrayed this country.” This is the same Senator Bayh who voted against George Bush’s two respected and distinguished supreme court nominees, Roberts and Alito, because they were too “extreme,” while Republicans a few years earlier almost unanimously voted to confirm President Clinton’s two ultra-liberal nominees, Breyer and Ginsburg, out of the tradition of bipartisan deference to the president’s choice. Bayh even voted against the confirmation of his former Senate colleague John Ashcroft as Attorney General. And writes Jay Nordlinger at National Review Online (link): “Bayh gave a speech at the ’08 Democratic National Convention that was obnoxious in its partisanship — even given that it was a convention speech.” This is the Senator Bayh, a media-proclaimed “fiscal conservative,” who voted for ObamaCare and the reckless, wasteful, and ultimately unsuccessful Democrat spending plan they called the “stimulus.”

Evan Bayh is the poster child of the fake moderate, who talks a good, conservative game back home with the folks and then votes in a hyper-partisan liberal way in Washington, knowing that most back-home voters aren’t paying attention to specific votes and that the liberal media will cover for him, all the while raking in campaign contributions from liberal interest groups. Here’s the Chicago Tribune editorial board, today (link): “Bayh was too centrist — and not concerned enough about placating interest groups — to make him a comfortable fit in Washington.” Is the Tribune that clueless or that deceitful? Evidence offered by the Tribune of Bayh’s “moderation” in the Senate: zip. The reality: it’s not that Bayh is too “centrist” for Indiana voters, you at the Tribune editorial board, it’s that he’s too partisanly liberal, and enough voters, in Indiana and elsewhere, have woken up to that fact.

But the radicalism of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi has unmasked these so-called Democrat “moderates” and has exposed them to the suddenly alert, attentive, and wised-up public (link). So now Bayh’s in trouble in the polls, at risk of losing his seat later this year, and so has decided to quit and take his multi-million dollar campaign fund home with him. There’s nothing wrong with being partisan and liberal in American politics, but it’s hard to respect a man who says one thing when home but votes another way in Washington, who is one thing but pretends to be another.

John M Greco

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

One of the gems of the University of Chicago, The Oriental Institute (link) houses a museum, an auditorium, a beautiful library, classrooms, and scholars’ offices. The museum, open to the public, contains countless artifacts gathered during excavations in the Near East over many years by University faculty, students, and staff. Among the striking treasures displayed: an Assyrian Lamassu, or human-headed winged bull (link); a Striding Lion of Babylon (link); a statute of King Tutankhamun from Egypt; and a colossal Persian bull’s head from Persepolis.

The Institute's beautiful building was dedicated in 1931. From Jay Pridmore’s architectural guide to the University: “Designed by the same [architectural] studio [responsible for Rockefeller Chapel], the architects certainly intended for the Institute to harmonize with if not resemble [the nearby] modern Gothic chapel. But for reasons of fashion and a few characteristic design features, [the Institute] is commonly tagged ‘Art Deco.’ The building’s simplified Gothic exterior is indeed notable for planes and masses similar to those of Art Deco or Art Moderne commercial buildings of the period, such as Chicago’s Board of Trade [building]…. [Nevertheless,] despite its exotic and modern touches, the Oriental Institute remains an integrated part of the Gothic revival campus…. its gables and gray stone, as well as its bays and buttresses show that the Gothic revival was still regnant in the early 1930s.”

American Egyptologist – Breasted & The Oriental Institute
A "colossal" statute of Tutankhamun (c. 1334 B.C.), “one of the most famous pharaohs of ancient Egypt” says the note in the museum. Excavated in modern Luxor, it is one of a pair, the other of which stands in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Richard Balsamo

Related Previous Posts:
Ancient Assyria & the Transience of Economic Strength
The Oriental Institute's "Striding Lion" of Babylon
American Egyptologist – Breasted & The OrientalInstitute

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Observations on the 2010 Illinois Primary Results

Ballots in hand have now been tallied from yesterday’s Illinois primary elections.

* Although overall turnout was low by primary standards, the percentage of Republican ballots requested was relatively high. I read that sometimes the Republican percentage can be as low as about 33%, but yesterday, using tallied votes in the governor’s race with 98% of precincts reported, the Republican percentage was about 46%. Yes, still fewer ballots than those voted by Democrats, but a considerable improvement. This result bodes well for the fall election.

* The Republican nominee for the Obama/Burris Senate seat is five-term Rep. Mark Kirk, 50, from Chicago’s tony North Shore suburban 10th Congressional District. A reserve Naval intelligence officer with a very good reputation in Washington, he bills himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate, and is strong on national defense. Despite some waffling (for example, he voted for the “cap and trade” carbon tax bill that eventually went nowhere and whose reason for existence is now discredited), he looks strong against the young (33 yo), inexperienced one-term state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democrat primary winner with 39% of the vote who’s under fire for some in-office performance issues as well as for his earlier activities as a senior executive of his family’s politically-connected but failing Chicago bank.

* In the 6-man Republican primary for governor, State Senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard are in a race still too close to call – Brady leads by about 400 votes, at 20.3%, with all votes in-hand counted but with, according to WGN TV News, over 10,000 absentee votes still outstanding, about 8,000 of which are from Cook County. Most of the Cook County ballots should be Democrat, and most of the rest are likely Republican. Assuming the 10,000+ number is roughly accurate, assume 3,500 Republican absentee ballots are outstanding and that 2,000 will be received. With a 400 vote margin, Brady's lead looks hard to overcome unless Dillard has a significantly disproportionate showing. Such ballots need to have been postmarked by Feb. 1 and need to be received soon, meaning we won’t have a winner declared for a few weeks; a recount could delay the final determination even further.

Brady is a fiscally-conservative downstate businessman who’s already being attacked by the liberal media as holding “extreme views”, as two different TV commentators phrased it yesterday, for his anti-abortion and pro-gun rights (conceal and carry) positions. Dillard is from west suburban DuPage County, strong Republican territory, whose history on fiscal conservatism is questioned by some, and he notoriously participated in a 2008 Democrat primary campaign commercial for his state Senate pal Barack Obama, widely seen as a de facto endorsement, which has hurt him much among Republicans. Conservatives looking for a fresh face split their vote in the crowded 6 man race between Adam Andrzejewski and Dan Proft; combined the two carried over 22% of the votes, enough to win. Third place finisher Andy McKenna, Chicago businessman and former state party chairman, is about 8,000 votes behind Brady and almost certainly can’t catch up through the absentee ballots. Whoever wins the nomination will be in a tough race with the very erudite, bright, and affable Democrat incumbent governor Pat Quinn, who himself just barely survived a rancorous primary challenge.

* In the Chicago collar counties there are three traditionally Republican Congressional seats held by Democrats. In the far southwest suburban 11th District, Republican Reserve Air Force Captain Adam Kinzinger looks solid against first-term Democrat Debbie Halvorsen. In the far western suburban 14th District, Republican State Senator Randall Hultgren beat back a challenge from political rookie Ethan Hastert, son of former Speaker Denny Hastert, who had held the seat for a long time; he will face Democrat Bill Foster, who in 2008 won both the special election to replace Hastert (after his mid-term retirement) and the regular election against the same weak Republican opponent. Hultgren looks much stronger in a Republican year. Finally, in the northwest suburban 8th District, Republican political newcomer Joe Walsh won the nomination to challenge three-term Democrat Melissa Bean, who has positioned herself as a centrist; this race will be tough. I think the Republicans have a very good chance to pick up two of the three seats.

* In the north suburban 10th Congressional District, political newcomer Robert Dold won the Republican primary to face Democrat Dan Seals in the fall election to replace Mark Kirk. This race could go either way.

For the Illinois federal races, if I had to bet now, I think in the fall Kirk wins the Senate seat and Republicans have a net gain of two Congressional seats (which would raise their share from 7 to 9 of the 19 Illinois seats).

Related Posts:

Illinois Republicans: Slip, Slidin’ Away

John M Greco