My holiday gift to you: Several reminders
& more final scores from Northwestern football games
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Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above.
I have two reminders for you as seasonal gifts, gifts that might save you some money.
Reminder No. 1
If you get Sunday home delivery of the the Tribune. Every month, the paper tacks on an extra charge of $8.99 for what Tribune Publishing refers to as a “Premium Issue.” The one for November was the Holiday Gift Guide, a nice little catalog of notions, novelties, gimcracks, and other suggestions whose utility was vastly diminished because the listings contained no information about prices!
You will find very little information online about these Premium Issues, which also also include “Health,” “NYT Travel,” “The Year in Photos,” “Life Skills” and “Summer Entertaining.” And perhaps you may feel that these 12 annual offerings are worth nearly $108 a year tacked on to your subscription fees (it was $72 a year as recently as January, but, you know, inflation).
If you don’t feel that way however, and would like to opt out of the Premium Issue program, can you go to “manage my subscription” online and do so?
You have to call customer service — 312-546-7900 — and fight through the phone tree to speak to a live person. Only then can you opt out.
Can you simply opt out forever from the Premium Issue program?
You can opt out for only six months at a time. So you have to continue to remember to call and cancel, or else the charges will be added back onto your bill.
I wrote about this sleazy practice in Picayune Sentinel No. 17, in the Picayune Sentinel No 30, in the July 12 Picayune Plus, and in the August 30 Picayune Plus. And I will continue to provide regular reminders about this, and, while I’m at it, about the fact that your online subscription price is highly negotiable.
A number of grateful readers have noted that this advice saved them quite a bit more than the annual paid-subscriber rate for the Picayune Sentinel.
Which brings me to …
Reminder No. 2
I began my paid-subscriber program just about a year ago — on Dec. 7, 2021 — and annual subscriptions are set to automatically renew for the first wave of readers who signed up. Substack, which handles the business end of things, sends out an email about a week before auto-renewal which alerts you to cancel if you are so inclined or to update your credit card information, which may have expired, if you are inclined to continue.
In case you overlook that email — or in case your provider filters out email from Substack, as can happen — I wanted to do my best to make sure that you knew about this. I would very much appreciate your continued support, but not if it means being part of an opaque subscription process designed to take advantage of inattention.
This reminder is also a renewal of my commitment to keeping the PS going for at least another year. If your interest wanes, you can always put in for a pro-rated refund.
And how about this great idea for a holiday gift? A year’s subscription to the Picayune Sentinel!
More final scores
In last week’s edition I proposed that given Northwestern University’s dismal performance in football this year it was time for a renaissance of shutout jokes, which were a thing in town more than 40 years ago — 1976 through 1981 — when the Wildcats were 3-62-1, including a 34-game losing streak, the longest in major college football history. The current losing streak is now 11 games. I summoned a few of these “final scores” last week and clever readers contributed the following:
From last week: Catch 22, Northwestern 0 Fahrenheit 451, Northwestern 0 Northside 777, Northwestern 0 Speed of Light 186,000, Northwestern 0 Ways to Leave Your Lover 50, Northwestern 0 Readers contributed these: Interstate 94, Northwestern 0 Oceans 11, Northwestern 0 Dalmatians 101, Northwestern 0 Slaughterhouse 5, Northwestern 0 Trombones 76, Northwestern 0 Heinz 57, Northwestern 0 Chicago 7, Northwestern 0 Reno 911, Northwestern 0 Tops 4, Northwestern 0 Deadly Sins 7, Northwestern 0 Problems 99, Northwestern 0 Horsemen of the Apocalypse 4, Northwestern 0 Dave Clark 5, Northwestern 0 Boeing 747, Northwestern 0 Martin Luther 95, Northwestern 0 Avogadro 6.022 × 10 to the 23rd power, Northwestern 0 Brides for Seven Brothers 7, Northwestern 0 Pennsylvania 6-5000, Northwestern 0 Arabian Nights 1001, Northwestern 0 Musketeers 3, Northwestern 0 Vrdolyak 29, Northwestern 0 Days of Summer 500, Northwestern 0 Commandments 10, Northwestern 0 Candles 16, Northwestern 0 Room 222, Northwestern 0 Angry Men 12, Northwestern 0 Jenny 8,675,309, Northwestern 0 Things I Hate About You 10, Northwestern 0 Miami Sound Machine 1-2-3, Northwestern 0 Hawaii 5-0, Northwestern 0 Joe Dimaggio 56, Northwestern 0 Mt. Everest 29,032, Northwestern 0 Jump Street 21, Northwestern 0 Wise Men 3, Northwestern 0 Tears 96, Northwestern 0 Land of Dances 1,000, Northwestern 0
Update: late-arriving suggestions:
Route 66, Northwestern 0
Shades of Gray 50, Northwestern 0
Summer of '42, Northwestern 0
Stalag 17, Northwestern 0
Chicago 25 or 64, Northwestern 0
Seagram 7, Northwestern 0
Jackson 5, Northwestern 0
Coulomb 6.24 x 10 to the 18th power, Northwestern 0
Magnificent 7, Northwestern 0
Bottles of Beer on the Wall 99, Northwestern 0.
Chicago 25 or 6 to 4, Northwestern 0
John 3:16 Northwestern 0
Speaking of zeros: It’s World Cup fever time again!
I’m a big fan of Tribune contributing columnist Laura Washington but, alas, Monday she joined the ranks of the besotted soccer triumphalists who are just gosh darn sure that the world's favorite game is at last going to convert Americans.
Soccer is the place to be.
Here, it’s the Chicago Fire. Our soccer team is a forward-looking and welcome alternative to the soon-to-be-out-of-towner Bears. It is (aptly) named for the event that put the city on the path to greatness. That disaster laid the groundwork to rebuild Chicago to world-class status.
If the Bears skedaddle, the Fire could become the stadium’s marquee tenant.
In Chicago, soccer is hot. Last week, news reports depicted avid fans crowding neighborhood bars to cheer on their favorite World Cup teams.
If you attend a Chicago Fire game, you will encounter a fervent, youthful fan base that reflects the city’s hallmark diversity.
Yeah, and if you attend a Chicago Fire game, you’ll have your pick of seats. The team averaged 15,848 fans this past season in a stadium designed for nearly four times that number. And the team had better be “forward looking” because looking back at its 2022 record of 10 wins, 15 losses an 9 ties — including 12 games in which they didn’t score even one goal— is pretty depressing.
Washington writes, “Buh-bye, Bears. Soccer is Chicago’s future.”
But for how many decades now have we been hearing that surely, surely the next generation of Americans will embrace “the beautiful game” of soccer? How often have true believers told us that kids who spent their Saturday mornings running around the pitch in clumps booting at a ball will graduate into devoted fans of the professional, adult version?
Not quite as long as we’ve heard death knells for American football, the greatest sport there is. The most cerebral, the most dramatic, the most engaging. Our football is a battle of wits, brawn, speed, luck and incredible skill that unfolds in discrete increments, the pauses between plays allowing for all the second-guessing, analysis and predictions a fan could want.
It’s an exquisitely conceived game wrapped in pageantry. Conceptually simple yet deceptively complex. With games neatly spaced a week apart to reflect on the chesslike x's and o's and to anticipate the matchups.
Even after many years of bad publicity — not just about brain damage from on-field collisions but about unsavory behavior of players and preposterous salaries for college coaches — football remains staggeringly popular.
"What is your favorite sport to watch?" asked a poll conducted five years ago by The Washington Post and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said football. That was equal to the combined percentage of the next five most popular sports: basketball, 11%; baseball, 10%; soccer, 8%; ice hockey and auto racing, 4% each.
Soccer has a fan base. That’s cool. I’m not part of it but I’m happy for those who are and who find themselves glued to World Cup matches and can be satisfied by 0-0 ties. Decades hence, their descendants will be airily assuring my descendants that soccer is the sport of the future in the United States.
And football will still be reigning supreme.
Notes and comments from readers —lightly edited —- along with my responses
Joan P. — In your proposal to move Thanksgiving to October, you suggest bumping Halloween back to September. But Halloween is All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day, which is November 1. Moving it would be like moving Christmas Eve to some other day than December 24, (and that would have more justification, since no one really know when — or if — Jesus was born).
I could be wrong, but I don’t think most people or even a sturdy fraction of people know or care about the relationship between All Saints Day and Halloween.
Tom O. — Hands off Thanksgiving! If you have inclinations to move major holidays go big. Christmas Day falls on Sunday this year. This is best scenario from cultural and Christian perspective. Christmas Eve Saturday and Boxing Day Federal holiday Monday. Clergy, lay ministers, choir etc and parishioners don’t suffer burnout from consecutive days of service, worship.
Given that we don’t really know when Jesus was born, moving his “birthday” to the fourth Sunday in December would be fine — it would fall anywhere from the 22nd to the 28th (which would be awkwardly close to New Year’s Day).
DWD — If we want to be historically accurate, we should ditch the turkey for the original meal: Freshly killed deer, assorted wildfowl and a bounty of cod and bass.
Yeah, no. Unless you invite Napoleon Dynamite to your feast:
Marc M. — In Land of Linkin’ last week you linked to “How Colleges and Sports-Betting Companies ‘Caesarized’ Campus Life,” a report in The New York Times plainly critical of how colleges and universities are cutting deals with online sports gambling companies to try to hook young gamblers. I have three points.
First, are people adults at 18 or not? Or are they still children needing guidance and protection? Who thinks that college students aren't already betting?
Second, the audience for college sports is not current students, but the general public. The massive money for telecasts and merchandise is not to reach students. The sports betting business might get a long-term lift from gaining student customers, but they are after the broad national market. College students, like everyone else, are already exposed to a deluge of sports betting ads. There is no reason to believe that students will be especially influenced by a college deal.
Finally, college sports are about nothing but money, and I recall one of the sports betting ads that encourage customers to bet their school loyalty but to also place additional bets when those looked like losers, because it is just about winning money. Sports betting fits the 'mission of higher education' just as well as the professional sports teams that they host.
I guess it feels a bit like a college or university striking a deal with a cigarette company to promote their brand among the undergraduates. Yes, some students are already smoking, yes college kids themselves aren’t a huge market, but if you can hook them as undergraduates you can addict them for life.
This metaphor accurately reflects my dim view of anything other than minor recreational gambling. And it seems like something that respectable institutions ought not be actively encouraging.
Rosalie Z. — Your pre-holiday issue was great. Many laughs out loud! Happy Thanksgiving. Speaking of which, I'm grateful for your twice-a-week online publication (and getting the Tuesday issue is well worth having a paid subscription).
Thanks, and I’m hoping all of my supporters will be sticking around for another rollicking year.
Ya gotta see these tweets!
I often run across tweets that rely on visual humor and so can’t be included in the Tweet of the Week contest (the template I use for that poll does not allow me to include images). Here are a few good ones I’ve come across recently:
“In the thought experiment, a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of its fate being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur. This thought experiment was devised by physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935, in a discussion with Albert Einstein.”
I’m embarrassed to admit my lack of knowledge since my father taught quantum mechanics at the University of Michigan.
Vote for your favorite. I’ll share the winner as well as last week’s visual tweets winner in Thursday’s main edition.
There’s still time to vote in the conventional Tweet of the Week poll!
Thank you for supporting the Picayune Sentinel. To help this publication grow, please consider spreading the word to friends, family, associates, neighbors and agreeable strangers. And this holiday season, why not give the most picayune gift of all?