Reap The Fruit


Robert
Oct 12, 2019
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35 Comments

There are about four posts I've wanted to write today. This is the fifth one. The best one. I need to describe my afternoon and evening if I'm going to explain why I bailed on the first four posts. Just like last night's post, this might take a while.

It's October 12, 2019. I told you, in no uncertain terms, that this was going to be the moment. Just hold on, a payoff is coming. We will finally announce our presence on a national stage.

And when we cut the 28-point lead to 3, I honestly thought it was happening. Is October 12, 2019 seriously going to end with the greatest comeback in Illini history? How would I even write that post? Would my fingers fall off?

That was post one. It didn't happen. Stanley Green was one inch from an interception. We had a chance to stop Michigan on fourth and three. None of that happened. Michigan won. I pointed to the left field bleachers and then popped out to the shortstop.

I then recorded From The Stands which... I might not post? I tried to post it, but it wouldn't work, and when I went to try to upload it from my laptop, my laptop battery died. I can tell you what it was about - it was about Dre Brown. He inspires me. The things he did to get from three knee surgeries to a touchdown (and two-point conversion) getting us within three of Michigan at home on October 12, 2019 - it inspires me. I choked up talking about it. Does anyone truly comprehend the effort he personally put in attempting to bring this program back? It's so incredibly inspiring.

I then interviewed Dre after the game which... I might not post? It felt more like a conversation than an interview, and posting it feels like I'd just want you to hear how many compliments I showered on him. I really think I'm going to just keep it between him and me. I needed to tell him that his fight meant something to me. So much turmoil around him (three head coaches), so many barricades in his way (three knee surgeries), and now, so much fight in his senior year. Kid is balling out there.

I wanted to post my From The Stands but I also wanted to swing by the tailgate I attend (a Tailgreat-winning tailgate, I might add), so I went to the elevator to go back to the pressbox to get my power cord to charge my computer to post the From The Stands (that would have been post #2). While waiting for the elevator I was engulfed by the Michigan media horde returning from Jim Harbaugh's presser.

I'm not sure if you know how these things work, but media hordes are much like cliques at high school. The stoners behave the way you'd expect the stoners to behave and the mean girls behave like you'd expect the mean girls to behave and the Michigan media horde behaves exactly like you'd expect a Michigan media horde to behave. Line for the elevator? There's no line - I don't know that guy, but I'm going to get in front of him because I have a Michigan story to write. Normal filing off of an elevator, people near the door first and then people at the back last? Screw that, I'm shoving past. He must not know we write about Michigan. Michigan.

At that point, I'd had enough. I grabbed my power cord and headed right back to the elevator. I can't write right now (that would have been post #3 which would have basically been "ever watched the Michigan media horde descend on a visiting pressbox like they own the place? I have"). Best to just get out of there. Someone get me a drink.

So I went to the tailgate where I met up with my wife and friends. I needed to forget about Illini football. The tailgate wrapped up around 5:00 and then we headed to Murphy's. It was my freshman roommate and his girlfriend, my senior roommate and his wife, my wife and I. Time to act like it's 1994 again.

My wife and I arrived first (ALWAYS park on Healey, people), so we held down a table and waited for our friends to arrive. Well, my wife held down the table and I went up to order. I ordered a basket of fries for an appetizer, a pitcher of beer for the table, and a vodka tonic for my wife. Then a guy appeared from my right saying "are you Robert? I want to pay for your order." Then a guy appeared from my left saying "are you Robert? I want to pay for your order." And then they fought over paying.

I need to you know, this means a lot to me. When you do something as your hobby and not your career, I can't really describe how great it is to have people reach out and say "hey man, I appreciate what you do". When I'm driving home from Champaign at 1:30 in the morning after some basketball game in February, thinking back on moments like two guys wanting to pay for the drinks at my table means a ton. Seriously - a ton.

And that was going to be my fourth post. I get "are you Robert?" a ton, and please, never hesitate to stop me on the street. Knowing that people read and appreciate the blog is life fuel for me. We're all in this together, so if you want to stop me on the street to chat about the offensive guards, I am absolutely down. You're never, ever bothering me. To the group of guys over by where you pick up your Murphy's order - I'm sorry I couldn't stop and talk longer. To the guys who split the tab for my drinks - thanks so much.

Then we went to KAM'S. And we've now reached the fifth post. The one I'm writing.

Today was really, really difficult for me. This might not be my job, but I do ask people to pay $24 per year for full access to every post. So I feel a certain responsibility to my readers. It's dumb, I know, but it's the only way I can do this. We made a deal and you pay me money so I must bring you my absolute best.

In the last 3.5 years, I cannot tell you how many people have reached out to me with "October 12, 2019" (Twitter, texts, emails, yelling it across the street). I clung to it and I asked you to cling to it. Just hold on. It's all going to turn around soon. Just a little longer.

Michigan 42, Illinois 25. It didn't happen.

So my anger at the Michigan media horde was probably a tiny bit related to that. I feel like I let everyone down. I know that makes you say "Lovie let us down, not you", and I get that, but this is just how I felt. This is where I was when I walked into KAM'S one final time before it closes (and moves) in a few weeks.

Then I ran into... all of you. As I type this, the phone keeps buzzing with group texts from my friends and more photos they took of people coming up to say hi. I got absolutely Are You Robert'd to death, and I loved it. I needed it.

You told me how much the site means to your dad. You invited me to your weddings (I'll seriously be there). You told me how your husband clings to the blog to get him through these impossible times. You asked me to never give up hope. You bought me shots.

I ran into the group of guys who all tweeted me at midnight last night (like, all of them, exactly at midnight) to point out that it's October 12, 2019. I told them this morning that we were going to meet up at the northwest corner of the stadium if it happened today. When we cut it to 28-25, I was dreaming of that celebration. We just couldn't get there.

I ran into the group of guys I hung out with at Braggin' Rights a few years ago when I couldn't find my friends at Ballpark Village afterwards. We recorded ILL-INI chants to be sent to parents. We talked what's next and how will this ever turn around and is basketball really going to save us?

I ran into a group of former student managers who called themselves five of the seventeen. They gave me the same encouragement - keep going, keep believing, some day we'll get everything right and it will happen and we want to read about it when it does. I cannot tell you how good it is for my soul to remember that we're all in this together. My angst over October 12, 2019 faded and I remembered why I do this: to be inspired by Dre Brown and to laugh, cry, grieve, and (hopefully, eventually) celebrate with you.

Like, I don't need to figure it out. I don't really need to tell you when the program is going to turn around. This whole October 12, 2019 thing grew into something I couldn't control, and I rode the wave, thinking I might be on to something, and then we got to a scenario where if we had won on 10.12.2019 our coach would have been 5-25 in Big Ten games. Instead, he's 4-26. Was October 12th really going to make that much of a difference?

So tonight re-centered me. I'm so incredibly inspired. I know what I need to do. And my chat with Jack helped me get there.

Jack was the last person I talked to before we left KAM'S. He comes to every game, and he reads the blog, and he wanted me to know how much it meant to him. Again, I'll never tire of hearing that. I do it for that.

I'll try not to share too many details of my chat with Jack - he got very personal discussing his father and how his Illini fandom stretches back to the construction of Memorial Stadium - but I do want to end on something he said.

"Some day, we will reap the fruit."

He talked about olive trees, and how they sometimes take years (more than a decade) before producing fruit, and his family's rich history with olive trees (and their patience waiting for the fruit). And his statements were completely disconnected from what we spend all of our time thinking about ("is the coach the right guy?" "will this ever turn around?"). It wasn't "just wait, the Lovie hire will bear fruit". Nothing of the sort. It was very simple: Illini fandom is in our blood, and for some of us (like him and me), it was passed down from our fathers, and we'll never, ever stray from it.

That can be taken advantage of, obviously. If Jack and I are going to show up for games year after year, decade after decade, why is there any incentive for the powers-that-be to build a winning program? Wouldn't it be better if we spoke with our wallets? Shouldn't I use more words here to put pressure on the administration?

I can't speak for you (and perhaps I'm making a big assumption by saying I can speak for Jack), but we can't do that. This is college football, and the players are there because they want to attend my school and wear our colors (OUR colors), and I want to watch them every chance I get. It absolutely sucks that we let them down time after time with bad administrative decisions, but the reality is that Jack and I will simply wait to reap the fruit. If it takes ten years for the tree to bear any fruit, man, that's so unfair, but we're in.

So I feel like I sit here a changed man. A re-focused man. Like I lost my way but just found the road I was looking for. I'm not a reporter nor am I a prognosticator. I'm a fan first and foremost (and, perhaps, only), and we're all in this together. Tonight, you all helped me remember that.

And when it does happen? I'll see you all at the Rose Bowl.

Please come say hi.

Comments

iluvrt on October 12 @ 11:15 PM CDT

Applause - Rosebud

Dr Luke on October 13 @ 01:30 AM CDT

Wow. Most probably came to this blog waiting for the following:

A mea culpa. (“Sorry I was wrong about the 2019 season and wrong about reassuring all of you along the way that questioned the path”

Or something about the game. (“For the first time all season there was a glimmer of effective football. How did it happen? Which players stepped up in the 3rd q)

Or something about Lovie’s tenure and likely impending coaching search.

But you surprised me Robert by writing one of the most self indulgent posts I’ve ever seen on a day that was supposed to be your comeuppance.

Bravo ??.

One of the worst sins one can have is Pride. And I think people like you and Jack exhibit “Illini pride”. Except that’s not a positive thing. Being prideful over success is natural. Remaining prideful over failure is arrogance. And what this fanbase needs is less arrogance, less pride, and more shame, anger, accountability, and motivation that demands a level of excellence that at one point was commonplace.

Very nicely written post tho. From a literary perspective, one of your best. From a personal perspective, one of your worst.

Robert on October 13 @ 06:36 AM CDT

Welcome back, Joe.

uilaw71 on October 13 @ 07:45 AM CDT

There are haters on every site. But this person just might top that list. As for the rest of us, even when we disagree we get where your heart is. And almost any of us would have been proud to share your tab, Robert.

mattcoldagelli on October 13 @ 08:34 AM CDT

Imagine thinking that this is what sports fandom is supposed to be like. Imagine secretly delighting in the failures of the team you purport to follow so you can wake up early on Sunday and relish the comeuppance of a guy who spends his free time traveling to and writing about football practices so the rest of us can read about it. This site is not brand new - you know what you’re getting here. If you want to take swipes at the DIA, there are lots of other ways to do so (I’ve used some! It’s easy!). But instead of doing that (or maybe in addition, I guess I don’t know how busy your day might be), the thing you decided you needed to do was to take a drive-by dump on a guy who was written millions of words on this program, most of them for free.

Imagine most of all, doing that and then possessing such a pure, uncut lack of self-awareness that you lecture other people about the less attractive side of pride.

IlliniOllie on October 13 @ 09:18 AM CDT

Meh, this has been Joe’s schtick for years.

Illinimac68 on October 14 @ 04:06 AM CDT

Shtick is supposed to be amusing.

Dr Luke on October 13 @ 09:34 AM CDT

Matt,

It’s the exact opposite. I agonize and am disgusted with the performance of Illinois football. There’s no delight whatsoever in their failure. But there is a lot of anger. And that anger is stoked by realizing we have many Roberts, Jacks, and I suppose I can put yourself in that category of “fans aka cheerleaders” that will literally support anything because “Illinois”. I long for the day we have a group of rabid SEC crazy level boosters demanding we win, and running a coach out if he fails after 2 years, let alone 5 that Robert has endorsed. That level of urgency and expectations is what this program needs. I firmly believe it. But then, I read posts like Robert and yours, and some of the other commenters, and start to believe maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe nobody cares anymore? And judging by the fan attendance, that’s probably true.

For current students, or even those alumni of the last 10 years, I can understand the malaise or the “eh what can you do” attitude. But for those of us that were there in the 80s, 90s, thru the best Zook years, I’ll never understand accepting or tolerating what we’ve seen the last 10 years.

mattcoldagelli on October 13 @ 10:12 AM CDT

I am hardly a cheerleader for all things Illinois regardless of how they are going. I punted on two potential football trips after the EMU game - which is the antithesis of what is being suggested above.

I guess I’m also a mature enough adult to realize that not everyone does fandom - especially college sports fandom - the same way, and that attempting to make everyone do it your way is a fool’s errand of the saddest variety. I’m going to end up intentionally attending zero games this year because I’m really frustrated with the results and life is too short to subject myself to the level of play and preparation that this staff has put forth. By your metric, do I “care” more than Robert?

Dr Luke on October 13 @ 09:10 PM CDT

If your behavior is changing due to the performance of the program, then you clearly care more about “winning” than Robert, Jack or most of the others commenting here that are in the “we’ll be there every Saturday no matter what hoping for the best” boat. And if this blog is just speaking for that group, so be it. I’ll never understand that attitude though. It’s like leaving your hometown when it was a bustling vibrant place, and returning 15 years later to see it completely run down. Most people would return thinking “What is going on here? This is unacceptable”. Not “well it’s run down but it’s still my hometown and I’m proud to be here”.

Every program has fans and cheeeleaders. Most of the Illinois fans have left. 37,000 announced attendance for a Michigan has to be a low point. This blog could be the voice of a fan base that is angry with the results, critical of the process along the way, and working to create a level of accountability that the local media refuses to (N-G is a mouthpiece of the DIA, Tribune doesn’t care, Werner has finally started to hold the program accountable).

I can just imagine what an Alabama football blogger would think after reading this blog: “So let me get this straight. This guy devotes all his free time to covering his favorite football team. They are terrible year after year. And yet he never is critical of the program, coach, or demanding of changes? Does he just not care if his team wins?”. Because from the outside, that’s what people see.

What’s it going to take to light that fuse, and start saying enough is enough? Clearly with you, not going to games, you made that decision. What’s the tipping point for Robert? As you say, nobody does fandom the same. But supportive myopia isn’t being a fan. It’s a stubborn dogged arrogance.

blackdeath on October 13 @ 10:08 PM CDT

"This blog could be the voice of a fan base that is angry with the results, critical of the process along the way, and working to create a level of accountability that the local media refuses to (N-G is a mouthpiece of the DIA, Tribune doesn’t care, Werner has finally started to hold the program accountable)."

Maybe start your own damned blog and put your money where your mouth is instead of pissing your pants here about Robert all the time. What you'd write sounds like a ton of fun and would surely provide the missing piece that's held Illinois football back all this time.

mattcoldagelli on October 14 @ 09:19 AM CDT

I get where you’re coming from, honestly, but

  1. It’s not like there are a shortage of places for the angry Illini fan. Look at any message board or go on Twitter on game days. I know you said Chicago media doesn’t care (and that’s sort of true but also IMO a reflection of shrinking newsroom resources) but they haven’t pulled punches - the tiresome “Chicago media hates us” routine from the downstate portion of the fanbase is incorrect but not baseless (they’re harsh but they don’t hate us specifically, they hate losers)
  2. I don’t know why you’re insisting Robert has to be that guy. Not only has he made it clear through numerous personal stories that that’s just not how he relates to this team, but there’s a bit of a chicken-egg thing happening. This site wouldn’t exist if Robert was like that. I mean, find me a comparable site among our peer set of Power 5 failure. I would be genuinely shocked if there’s an independent Oregon State site being written in ragevoice.

jdl on October 14 @ 04:46 PM CDT

You're badly confused about cause and effect. The Bama fans get mad when they lose because they're used to winning so much. Illinois fans don't have that experience, we've never had any kind of real sustained success. When we do win, it's a pleasant change but it never lasts long enough for people to develop that same mentality and "get mad" about losing.

To sum it up, you can't cause winning by "getting angry like Alabama fans do", that's not how it works.

HailToTheOrange on October 13 @ 10:57 AM CDT

Oh, yes...because that's what we need more of in sports fans (and the world in general). More anger, more arrogance, more entitlement, more ego.

I truly hope you find your path Joe. Because the one you're on isn't leading anywhere good.

MuckFichigan92 on October 13 @ 02:53 PM CDT

Splendidly put, Matt. We park our cars in the same garage.

thumpasaurus on October 14 @ 09:08 AM CDT

For God's sake, just say you don't understand Robert's blog at all. It's always been driven by his story as an Illini fan. That much has NEVER changed. What about anything he's written has suggested that he's happy with the football program?

My goodness, if what you want is to read/hear/see someone screaming angrily into the void about Illini football, you need to follow me on SBNation and social media. I do plenty of that, complete with all kinds of curse words and pithy insults. Guess what? Despite all my yelling, scathing articles and mean tweets, Illinois football still sucks!

The reason you don't see that many of us blogging anymore is because Illinois has won 10 of its last 68 conference games over the last 8 years.

mmyers74 on October 13 @ 09:15 AM CDT

Nah... "Most" probably came here for the same reason they always come here. To hear a fan of the Illini largely reflect (and place more aptly into words) that which we feel and believe as well.

Sure, I love some insight... but Robert and I don't often agree on strategy. (IE, I feel we'd have 4 wins, if we had just never thrown the ball once, or run outside the tackles)... and thus, strategic insight is sometimes left for elsewhere.

I, for only whom i can speak, come here Bc Robert is the embodiment of the best of us, and the worst of us. He represents the hope that we have, the angst we wear, the blind naivety that we sometimes witness the program through... and the annoyance with ourselves that as awful as this may feel, it isn't going away.

Maybe you came here to read an absolutely unnecessary mea culpa (as if Robert owes me, or anyone, anything, after giving more than you or I ever will.) If you did, it says more about you than anyone else.

I came here because I'm the guy that scolds the dude in the gym for saying he went to Illinois but doesn't watch the sports "Bc we suck"... I'm the guy that creates an uncomfortable situation for that guy by saying "oh... good to know what kind of guy I'm dealing with. Hope i never disappoint you in any way so you can trash me when I'm not in the room. With friends like you, who needs friends." I'm hear Bc i daydream about telling Whitman to just let me manage the clock. Just let me choose the challenges, and manage the clock for the last 5 minutes of every half. Suddenly, we aren't inept. Next thing you know, I'm game planning. Next thing you know, we are maximizing our chances. (Not always winning, but giving away nothing.). That's who I am.

So, Robert. You keep doing you.

Doc, you do yourself too. But differently, if you know what i mean.

CommanderW on October 13 @ 11:03 AM CDT

Dr. Luke. Please go away. You clearly have no idea what this community is, and this is a community of people that have chosen to be here and contribute because in some way, we relate to Robert and the emotions of orange/blue in our veins. We also relate to him in other ways beyond the Illini, whether with his family or his love for classical music. It's a blog. That's what blogs do. Please go away.

Steve on October 13 @ 02:17 AM CDT

I have followed since I was a student during the early days of alioneye.com. These posts remind me of one of the first posts I read here more than a decade ago, when I bought my first year of season tickets.

I know why I feel guilty. I pushed all in. I sold out to the idea that this was the year that everything comes together. Not 2001 or 2007 caught-every-break-we-needed-to-catch comes together, but actually comes together. As in January bowl, followed by January bowl. The corner was here. We had our turn-signal on.

And then we get rear-ended by Blaine Gabbert.

As today's game progressed, I felt a roller coaster of emotions. The first half was utterly depressing, and I thought 63-0 was a certainty. Then the third quarter happens. That beautiful third quarter. I have seen a lot of bad Illini teams, and I knew to center myself before thinking Illinois would pull off 'October 12, 2019,' but in the back of my head, a voice kept asking, 'Was Robert right? Is this actually going to happen?' Then the offense sputtered, giving up two quick turnovers, and game over.

I feel so tired waiting, dealing with pain, getting a tease of actual progress and watching derailment after derailment. I want to stop getting 'rear-ended.'

.#IWantToBelieve

thumpasaurus on October 14 @ 09:22 AM CDT

I hope I'm not a bad fan, but I never believed.

Had Illinois held Michigan to a three-and-out after cutting it to 28-25, it might have turned the tide for me and catapulted me out of my seat in rapture.

But I simply can't see an explanation for what happened other than that Illinois continued to fight after Michigan hit cruise control up 28-0 in the first half. Their offense and defense started just running the same look play after play after play. Of course, I thought it was POSSIBLE that Michigan might have coasted too long and would be unable to turn it back on, but unfortunately that was not the case.

Bear8287 on October 13 @ 02:46 AM CDT

That can be taken advantage of, obviously. If Jack and I are going to show up for games year after year, decade after decade, why is there any incentive for the powers-that-be to build a winning program? Wouldn't it be better if we spoke with our wallets?

Ah, see that right there shows that you didn't grow up being a Cubs fan. :-D

Dickbupkis on October 13 @ 07:08 AM CDT

Terrific post. You keep reminding me why I stick with the Illini and not the really good team who plays a short drive from where I live. Plenty of Illinois grads around here have.

I never expected the White Sox or Blackhawks to win it in my lifetime, but they did(OK throw the Cubs in there, too). One hire can do that for the Beloved. You have made me almost look forward to my trip to Champaign next week. Almost. ;)

Altenberger with cheese on October 13 @ 08:49 AM CDT

Robert, like you, I self identify with this program that breaks our spirits, and I can’t give it up. My three boys, who I’ve been driving to football and basketball games for 15 years now, have never known true success. They’re approaching college selection years. When I was their age the Flyin Illini were dunking their way to Seattle and Jeff George-to-Shawn Wax was winning the Glasnost Bowl. My boys have seen nothing approaching that - the Tyler Griffey layup to beat the Loosiers was such a flash in the pan. I always expect my boys to turn to me during another loss with the question “Why do you do this to yourself?” Posts like this remind me why.

Bear8287 on October 13 @ 11:12 AM CDT

Kind of reminds me of the "Mutts Speech" that John Winger (played by Bill Murray) gave in he movie Stripes.

Well, I guess we are the "Fighting Illini", right?

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Brave Illini on October 13 @ 09:16 AM CDT

Robert, Brilliant, just f'ing brilliant. Congratulations for knowing who you are, and thank you for being true to yourself. Please don't change, and keep doing what you do. It makes (most of) your followers happy.

HailToTheOrange on October 13 @ 11:04 AM CDT

Love this post Robert. And super grateful you ended the day being buoyed up instead of dragged down.

Here's to fandom that runs deep, but without so much attachment and emotional entanglement.

Hoping the Illini head to the Bay Area in the not-too-distant future so I can buy you a beer (and your wife a vodka tonic).

Peace.

ATOillini on October 13 @ 11:57 AM CDT

I’m actually shocked I didn’t recognize the sentence structure and haughty tone when it reappeared just a few days ago. In retrospect it was obvious, and clearly Robert’s “Do I know you?” response reveals he was on to you.

Whatever your real underlying issues are, I honestly hope you find the answer. Your unrivaled vitriolic attacks on Robert serve only to reveal a person in need of help. Please seek it.

PacNW Illini on October 13 @ 12:58 PM CDT

Robert, I haven't posted much, but I have been a follower of your work since "A Lion's Eye" days. I'm also third of four generations of Illini. Keep on keeping on and thanks for the thoughtful post.

Dr. Luke, I think your mom is calling

Dr. Luke, I think your mom's calling

IBFan on October 13 @ 01:11 PM CDT

Bravo Robert! I don’t always agree with Robert, I even thought the repeated 63-0 thing was going to end my readership, I saw no point in it. But the man’s writing can make me smile, laugh, cry...even inspire me to be a better fan, person, dad so here I am happily with the rest of you. Illini fans discussing what we love coping the best way we can. Very proud the guys came out in the second half and played and didn’t crumble. Whatever was said the intensity level was definitely up a notch.

IlliniOllie on October 13 @ 01:27 PM CDT

Good stuff, Robert. I didn’t actually get to the point of “is this actually happening?” - I figured Michigan would step back on the gas pedal at some point, and that would be it - but I was with you on thinking that we’d have our answer by now. I think we actually had our answer over the last three weeks, but today was our confirmation. Michigan could’ve won 100-0 if they had kept up what they were doing in the first quarter. At home, in Year 4. It’s not nearly enough.

Here’s to finding our next coach, and him taking this roster of seniors next year and actually hitting the ground running in his first year - what a concept, not going 2-10 and being a complete wasteland in your first season!

IlliniBobLoblaw on October 13 @ 01:45 PM CDT

This feels to me like a team that could still break out. Wisconsin will be tough, but every team left on the schedule has its own set of problems.

Bear8287 on October 14 @ 10:21 AM CDT

I'm not necessarily sure what you mean by "break out". Are you talking about like the kid in the South Park picture above (yikes! call the dermatologist) or in a good way like actually winning a few games?

Maybe this is the saddest part; many were thinking that this year's schedule was setup for a run to a 7-5 bowl season. Half way into it, it now looks like maybe it wasn't even as tough of a schedule as was originally thought.

It looks like the Illini only have 3 "good" teams on the schedule this season, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. The Illini are 2-4 and likely need to go at least 4-2 to get to a bowl game. Wisconsin and Iowa remain so if those two are lost all of the rest need to be won. Purdue and Michigan State are both on the road and the Illini haven't been a great away team. Not saying it's impossible, but it's a longshot at best.

Most concerning stat heading into the Wisconsin game? I'll vote for time of possession. Wisconsin is at the top of the B1G with an average of 37:35 per game and Illinois is at the bottom at 27:12 per game. Given that disparity, it would be reasonable to expect that both teams will move even farther in both directions. If Wisconsin just bumps that up slightly to 38+ minutes, it's probably going to get really ugly (you can now fill in all of the reasons for why the time of possession would be so lopsided to predict how the game will go).

Sha oobie.

Go Illini!

tgb on October 13 @ 02:43 PM CDT

Robert, this post brought tears to my eyes. I was 3 years old, and sitting on my dads knee the first time i went to an Illinois game. I became a fan for life when I went to the 64 Rose Bowl at the age of 8. I get as frustrated as the next fan, but I know my boys will be Illini fans for life, and they will cherish the times together as I did with my dad. I’m also glad they don’t have the me first attitude that they know everything, and will say stupid mean things to prove their point. I feel sorry for Joe, but we all know he can’t help himself.

No bowl, no tourney on October 13 @ 08:32 PM CDT

I was at one of the premier college football games in the country (Texas v. Oklahoma - just to experience it with buddies and wow, what an experience). But like many of us lifelong fans (not in the Robert caliber by any means) I was following the Illini on my phone. The slide down to 28-0 was something we're oh so used to. "Here we go again."

Then they started to come back. By the time they converted for two to make it 25-28 my buddy and I looked at each other with a look of semi-bewilderment. "Here we go ... never." If nothing else, the team got us to that point. Like Robert said, could this be our greatest comeback ever? (Giving it a 20% chance in our heads.) At least we were there to make Khaki pants sweat. With our backup QB.

I couldn't see what happened in the game after that. The gameday updates on the phone sites are so mechanical and without emotion. Reading about the sacks with a side of fumble were really frustrating but, sadly, not a shock. Like at all.

I'm sorry that we lost. I'm happy the team fought back to give our fans REAL belief. I was ok paying way too much to see one of the nation's great college football spectacles. But I was really happy that, with all of the shortcomings we have had - for seemingly ever - that I still want to check on our game 50 times while in that kind of scene. A died-in-the-wool OU fan behind me asked what game I kept checking on my phone (I had on an orange and blue flannel in an absolute solid sea of crimson and burnt orange). I told him we went to Illinois. He looked at me with a bit of confusion. Or maybe it was sympathy. Or maybe it was relief - that he wasn't in my shoes.

Well whatever. I really think someday we'll get back. We understand that we've missed over and over on the last few coaching hires. When we get that right, we'll be the ones thwarting the comeback. I'm not saying we'll be Michigan or Wisconsin perennially, but well be able to make some postseason plans. And celebrate postseason victories. Make a great hire, Josh. Stem this tide on weak coaching and see what this program can do.

WeatherfordForMVP on October 14 @ 07:36 PM CDT

I'll share my own, abbreviated, version of Robert's post.

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Both my parents went to Illinois. Neither were or are big sports fans but they certainly rooted for the Illini in their own rather ambivalent way, and growing up in the Chicago area in the 90s, there wasn't another obvious college team to root for. I liked the idea of rooting based on bloodlines, so I've always rooted for the Illini to some degree.

From 2004-2006 when I was on campus, I went to every home football game for which I was on campus...missed maybe two or three over that span. I was at first admittedly somewhat uneducated about the world of college football, having followed pro football much more as a child. The first game I attended as a student was 4 September 2004, and we beat Florida A&M 52-13. I thought that meant we were good. We went 3-9 that year, winning only one conference game, against Indiana, by three points.

Active duty military life is not conducive to attending Illini games...the last one I attended was when I was stationed in Arizona and we played Arizona State. 45-14, Sun Devils...oof. And even when stationed in the lower 48, having two children under the age of 8 is not conducive to watching games.

This past weekend, I was due to pick up chairs we had ordered from a local furniture store at exactly the time the game was to start. My wife and family friends visiting from out of town were to leave for my daughter's U6 soccer game at the same time, after which I would meet them at the field. I was following on ESPN's Gamecast. By the time I reached the field and the Illini were down 14 or 21 to nothing (I can't remember) I was in the worst of moods. All over Illini football, when my daughter was playing her own game and we had close friends in from out of town who I don't see but maybe two or three times a year, at best. I told myself I wouldn't check the score anymore, lest I let the game ruin an otherwise perfectly enjoyable Saturday.

I couldn't do it. KNOWING that they were going to lose, I couldn't not follow the Illini football program. I kept checking. And we kept scoring. We left the soccer game and came home, where the game was being broadcast nationally, even in New Mexico. My friend is a Texas fan, and they were playing a much more significant game against OU. We switched between games. The Illini kept scoring.

We were supposed to go to lunch at 1pm MST before heading to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta later in the afternoon. We couldn't go to lunch at 1pm MST because the Illini might still win! Probably not, but maybe! It would be a program-changing victory if it happened! We couldn't leave! So the other three adults and four children delayed their lunch, which could have had ripple effects regarding the Balloon Fiesta, so I could finish watching the Illini. (Fortunately, we made the Balloon Fiesta.)

I kept telling myself, and kept saying out loud, that the Illini would break my heart again. And when they did, it was expected. I am sort of proud to say that I enjoyed the rest of the day. (The Balloon Fiesta is a remarkably unique event that you should all try to attend at some point in your life, if possible.) On some level, I always knew the Illini would lose. On some other level, I couldn't help but think that maybe Robert was right. Maybe this is the day it all turns around. And so they held my attention until they dorked up a couple plays and couldn't possibly win. Just like, on that first level, I knew they couldn't.

And I'll tune in to the next game...maybe Robert was just off by 7 days.

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I won't beat the Dr Luke criticism to death, but I will say this: the motivation to build a winning program shouldn't be based on butts in the seats or dollars in the coffer, but making good on the emotional investment folks like Robert, me, and thousands of others have made in this program. Let me state it plainly: if college football could be analogized to actual monetary investments, the DIA would be the Bernie Madoff of the industry. Asking more and more of the investors without any returns. The only difference is that at least a significant percentage of this fanbase has no choice but to invest. We just don't. If that doesn't energize the DIA to make positive change, to wipe away our heartbreak...well, I don't think any number of butts in the seats or dollars in the coffer will, either.

I-L-L

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