On Friday, June 24, after an early inning pitchers’ battle, the Chicago White Sox fell behind the Washington Nationals 3-0. Then a three-run home run by Mark Teahen in the ninth tied the score and sent the game to extra innings. The Sox fell behind again the 10th, only to tie it up again in the bottom of the inning. Of course, it all fell apart in the 14th, after Alexei Ramirez’s throwing error, as the Sox finally lost 9-4.
We had the best seats ever for a game. We even got a foul ball, the only one of my life, that I gave to my daughter, Hanna, since she was sitting next to me. We also had a couple friends along, Kelly and Jeff. Except for the White Sox losing—and the game going so long that we couldn’t go out afterwards because we had to get back to the babysitter—it was a great night.
But there is no escaping other track coaches—or the multiplier.
First, on the concourse to buy some refreshments, I bumped into Bud James, long-time track and cross country coach at University High, also long-time race director for the Park Forest 10-miler, and my wife’s colleague at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Actually, he was a gym teacher for both my daughters Hanna and Mairead there, as well—and he will likely teach my 4-year-olds Maisie and Luc, too. When I returned to our seats, Hanna said, “He taught me to play golf!”
Bud and I had just emailed that week about a new cross country invite that Saint Ignatius and Fenwick will organize together this year, to be held at Midlothian Woods on Saturday, September 17th. Fenwick and Ignatius have both competed for years at the Argo Invitational on that third September Saturday, but with the change away from the old traditional course at Bullfrog Lake required by the prairie restoration project there, the Argo race has lost some of its excitement for us. We’re starting something new.
We need to recruit some schools for the invite, and we do not want to steal teams from Argo. U-High and Ignatius compete often in track, first at the indoor U-High Friday night meets at the University of Chicago and then at our low-key outdoor weekday home meets. Bud makes his home in Flossmoor, and I figured a race close to home would interest him. He likes good excuses to bring his U-High city runners down his way to train or compete, often bringing them home afterwards to his professional runner wife Cindy for a team barbecue. Bud begins his cross country season slowly and carefully, mainly with low-key home meets in Washington Park, and his approach often has his runners perfectly ready for the end of the season IHSA meets. But this meet seemed to fit his plan—and he had the date open to join us on Saturday, September 17th. First, before committing, he had to check the Jewish religious holiday calendar and with his athletic director. University High, a school with a large population of Jewish students, does not compete on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur in the fall. No problem for our date this fall, it turns out, and Bud said he was in for the meet this year.
On the concourse, we didn’t talk about cross country. Bud just said, “I thought that was you sitting down there!” Jeff, my partner for the refreshments run, and I just smiled—as Bud and I shook hands. (A couple days later Bud sent me a photo he took from his row 21 seat behind the visitor dugout of us sitting across the park in our front row seats.)
As it happens, I ran into Bud again later on another refreshments run. But he was not the only coach I met on the concourse.
Bob Geiger, Whitney Young girls’ track and cross country coach—and editor of the Dyestat Illinois/ESPNRise web site, called out to me on the concourse, probably when the men were on yet another refreshments run, and we shook hands for hello. I also shook hands with Bob’s son, who was decked out in a black White Sox jersey and hat—a genuine Sox fan. I had forgotten to wear my Buehrle jersey and instead had on a Saint Ignatius track polo, as it turned out. At least it was black.
“That was a good article,” said Geiger, right away. He was, as it turns out, one of the select few first readers of my new blog—one of 20 or so, according to the WordPress site statistics. Geiger’s Dyestat colleague Mike Newman had posted the blog link on his Facebook page.
Then Geiger quickly filled in my account of the multiplier with his own story about the original multiplier proposal , especially the role of then Hoffman Estates Conant principal Joe Schlender, president of the IHSA board of directors in 2004-5. The multiplier rule was Schlender’s last act as board president, something he had apparently been pushing for some time. It was implemented in the fall of 2005, the result of an IHSA board decision that spring, acting on the recommendations of a board-appointed Public-Private Task Force. Schlender was chair of the task force. After a court challenge by a coalition of private and Catholic schools and an out-of-court settlement, the multiplier was put to a vote of the IHSA membership, where it was approved in December 2005 by an overwhelming margin by a membership that is overwhelmingly made up of public schools. But Schlender was a key player in that original implementation process. [This paragraph has been corrected and edited since its first publication.]
If you don’t like the multiplier, it turns out, there are a lot of villains.