This isn’t without precedent, so let’s just get this out of the way now: just like last year, I drove the 500 miles to an Illinois home game in which we were favored against a Big Ten opponent and it went poorly. This was different, however. Where last year a decent crowd gathered to watch Illinois battle traditional rival Purdue for last place in the Big Ten West and the Purdue Cannon, our new rival Rutgers came to town this year on a 16-game Big Ten losing streak.
The game was 14-3 before I had any idea what was going on. I thought the crowd would fill in over the course of the first quarter, as is often the case. But they never came, despite the weather being more reminiscent of a beautiful late Midwestern summer than fall in Champaign. Sunshine and 80-degree weather were accompanied by a light breeze.
Perfect weather for a funeral.
It really did feel as though I was there to lay to rest an old friend that, though they had alienated many people in their life through erratic behavior, had always had my faith and support. There was minimal anger; the mood was instead somber and reflective. Not a single “I-L-L I-N-I” chant was heard; it wasn’t the time or place for pride, just to silently pay our respects to our dear friend. At halftime, the casket containing Illinois Football was lowered to a quiet but reverent rendition of the Alma Mater.
Ever so true, so true...
We love no other, so let our motto be
Rest in peace. This one’s dedicated to your memory, Illinois Football.
Sorry. Bear with me. It’s tough to purge this whole damn thing from my system.