Great America in Gurnee has now been open for 42 years. If only we could turn back time to the beginning ... | SUN-TIMES MEDIA FILE PHOTO
Updated: September 23, 2013 6:13PM
Other points pondered after polishing off an entire Jack’s frozen pizza in 3 minutes 43 seconds, and wondering if hot dog-eating champ Joey Chestnut could do better than that.
■ True story about Luke Mertens, who is the only football coach Lakes High School in Lake Villa has ever had (this is Year 9 for the program).
When Lakes first started playing football, and you sat on the Lakes side of the field during games, you had to feel sorry for the coach.
Without a doubt, the first several years he was at the wheel, he was the target of more verbal abuse from his own fans than any other coach in the area took from theirs.
Back then, there were a group of adult men in the stands who were rooting for Lakes, and had voices that could be heard above almost any roar from the student section. And that group verbally punished Mertens to the point where you felt bad for the coach — seriously, it’s not like the team was bad or played poorly.
Maybe every coach gets it from the cheap seats, and maybe it was just that these voices could be heard above any roar, that made it so sad.
Anyway, the betting line at the time was that he would be looking for the first good job he could get elsewhere.
Now, as things have turned out, virtually the best football job in Lake County this side of Stevenson is at Lakes.
They rule their league, they are a lock to make the playoffs, there is a pipeline of good players, they have an energized student fan section, they have a great mascot (the Eagle), and everybody now loves the coach. He does not need earplugs.
By the way, lest you think Lakes football is alone in having vocal fans sometimes be an irritant, let the record show that there’s a boys basketball equivalent to the way things used to be at Lakes.
And if you knew which school’s basketball fans it was — and still is — you’d faint.
■ One experiment to watch in area high school football this fall is the development of junior Titus Booker if the move the speedy running back to quarterback at Grayslake North.
Last year, as a sophomore, the 6-0, 170-pounder was the main running back on a team dominated by now-graduated QB A.J. Fish.
Booker rushed 114 times for 688 yards (6-yard average) and scored 11 TDs for an 8-2 playoff team.
In fact, at the end of last season, the talk regarding Knights football was how they were going to have to get the ball into Booker’s hands more this season, now that Fish is gone.
Moving him to quarterback solves that problem. He played the position during the 7-on-7 winter indoor league in Barrington, and is exactly the kind of QB that all teams at all levels are now going to — mobile, fast, can think on the run, can throw on the run, and can create play when there doesn’t seem to be any play.
If he has the season that some believe he will have, you watch the college scouts flock around him. Mobile QBs who can run the spread-option offense are gold these days.
■ An inquiring mind wants to know what’s worse:
Paying a huge bill for car repairs, or driving out onto the street after paying the huge car-repair bill and realizing that while driving, you now have to reset every button on your car radio and also reset your car clock?
■ This is a long time coming, but it’s going to be money well spent.
Word has it that Mundelein High School is going to make great improvements to its varsity baseball field, turning it from a park into a stadium.
The fact is, baseball may be the most successful sport at Mundelein, and there’s never any shortage of players. They probably deserve a first-class facility and now they’re going to get it.
The piece de resistance, of course, would be lights for the field so early-season games wouldn’t be called because of darkness and fan-friendly night games could be scheduled. Hopefully, that’s a project in the works, as well.
■ In his five NBA Summer League games, Gurnee’s own Brandon Paul averaged 7.6 points per game while playing around 13 minutes a game for the Timberwolves franchise.
If you do the match on that and give him 30 minutes of P.T., and he averaged about 18 ppg. He shot 43 percent from the field.
As an undrafted free agent, Paul can sign with the NBA team that wants him. He was connected to the Minnesota team only for Summer League purposes. It will be interesting to see if any team inks him.
■ The new No. 1 must-have T-shirt?
It’s a yellow one with a giant picture of the Bee on it and the words Z-B Pride in huge lettering on the front.
■ Great America is in Year 42 of its existence. It would be fascinating to go back in time to see what the park was like when it first opened.
One memory is that the ride where you went up in the air and over everything/everyone from one side of the park to the other, didn’t have an “other” to it as one end of the park was still under construction. So, that ride started at one end, and actually was a down-and-back ride that brought you back to where you started.
What you could see while up in the air was everything that was in the park.