clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Dagger To The Heart: A Series Of Rants On The Sad Past And Present of Illinois Football // B1G 2018

New, 63 comments

Existence is pain

Rutgers v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

In the wake of the Nike uniform fiasco, I decided I didn’t want to write anything positive for Illinois week. I didn’t want to write anything really. This is our fourth consecutive meaningless season.

But I did write something. I wrote a number of deranged rants to some colleagues in the OTE and The Champaign Room slack channels. Some of you don’t really fully subscribe to the idea that to still be an Illinois football fan after all we’ve been through, you have to be absolutely nuts. Allow these conversations to convince you. These are presented without comment or without any editing aside from a few off-topic omissions and of course formatting.

Without further ado,

Dagger to the Heart: The Collected Rants of Thumpasaurus, April 2018

Chapter 1: Correspondence with Brandon Birkhead of The Champaign Room

Thumpasaurus: ugh. why i feel so dead re: illini football. because this season is another largely meaningless shitshow. just like last year. just like 2016. and as soon as bill cubit was hired, everyone that actually knows things about illini football said “oh great, now the next three seasons are meaningless”

Brandon Birkhead : that was such a pathetic move by the university

Thumpasaurus: i will never ever ever stop being mad about that. Seriously though. Failures in leadership. I mean there wasn’t much that could be done after the death penalty. And you almost can’t blame us for hiring Gary moeller. A highly successful coach recommended the shit out of him. Really though, like...College football could have done one of two things when the slush fund scandal occurred. 1. Admit that the traditional amateur model had morphed into an enterprise of under the table cash. 2. Successful programs try to be more discreet about their bagmen and everyone goes SHAME ON YOU ILLINOIS! How inconceivable that ANYONE would provide money to college football players. Good thing we solved that problem before it got out of hand! And then the NCAA has the public believe the bagmen era is over because they were all at Illinois and now Illinois is dead. We died to redeem the sins of college football

Birkhead: i don’t think the ncaa or big ten cared what the public though. they just didn’t like illinois being good and threatening their programs dominance

Thumpasaurus: Definitely true of the Henson era lies

Birkhead: unc created a fake degree program for athletes. and nothing will happen b/c they are in the club

Thumpasaurus: But knowing how illinois’ administration reacted I would imagine schools like Michigan wouldn’t want to think their DIA is paying students under the table

Yes but this was in 1967. When recruiting was transforming into the ridiculous pageant it now is. We now know that there are bagmen everywhere and that the head coach may actually have no way to control them. Except we know they aren’t at Illinois because we do more for compliance than any other school. Like...I’m sure you’ve seen pony exce$$. That whole thing where SMU had to tell a bunch of rich boosters to fuck off forever? We had to do that

Birkhead: i worked at smu dude. like smu just isn’t a thing in dallas anymore. used to be THE thing. but Bush jr. still goes to some basketball games, and actually smu basketball is getting ok, probably b/c of some bagmen. i mean, they hired larry brown lol

Thumpasaurus: So anyway neale stoner decided at long last let’s actually get some fan interest and some donors and raise some money to upgrade facilities and generate buzz around the program. The NCAA and big ten was on his ass from the get go because they didn’t like the idea of junior college transfers. Dave Wilson broke his hand on the first snap of his last juco season. They tried to say this meant he didn’t qualify for a medical redshirt, Wilson sued the NCAA and they allowed him to play. But you know how that goes. If you show up the NCAA, even when you’re right and they’re wrong, they’ll find a way to get your program. So they finally caught assistant Rick George (!!!) buying a recruit lunch when they were on the road and used that to get Illinois banned from bowls. Now they were recruiting against Oklahoma State...who was playing in the Big 8 against the likes of EXTREMELY bagman driven programs like Oklahoma and Nebraska. IIRC Hart Lee Dykes would later openly admit to taking money at ok state. So neale stoner I believe hired John Mackovic just before his failure of leadership (one of the running themes) came to light and he had to go. Mackovic should never have been the AD precisely because of what happened after he left. A failure in leadership on the part of the chancellor, and then on the part of the president for making the coaching decision himself. Ron Guenthers failures in leadership are well documented. Ron Turner failed to adapt, Ron Zook failed to organize a consistent coaching staff, Mike Thomas was hired by President hogan and chancellor wise...and he hired Tim Beckman. Failures. Fucking failures.

aight so i finally caught up on those OTE comments. i love all this “yeah well iowa had two bad seasons and attendance only dropped to 80% capacity”

Brandon Birkhead: our students are literally in champaign and don’t go to games b/c the team sucks. but i guess that’s because living in the middle of nowhere is so depressing you won’t leave your dorm

Thumpasaurus: ”michigan state drew great numbers even when they had a coach that wasn’t great for three years and then another one for four years.” see they just see “the team sucks.” and then they’re like “oh, well, once, michigan state was kind of shitty for a bit.” yeah, that’s TOTALLY the same

Birkhead: we’ve had two good years since 2000

Thumpasaurus: and they weren’t consecutive

Birkhead: 4 if you include the bowl game yeras

Thumpasaurus: see in MSU’s case, they had, what, seven years with two different coaches where they only went to two bowl games? ok. well. that’s not really that much time to be mediocre. not nearly enough for the diehards to waver in their faith

Birkhead: people underestimate just how bad we are/were

Thumpasaurus: essentially you’re talking about the locals. they have reason to believe that MSU will bounce back even if they had two shit hires in a row. they have reason to stick with kirk ferentz at iowa. who’s been similar to us? only indiana. purdue has been fucking awful, but that has seriously only been since 2013. look at indiana’s attendance

Birkhead: purdue is weird. IU has such a nice stadium too haha

Thumpasaurus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Wisconsin_Badgers_football_team

now, wisconsin is great, right? and because of their location and culture, fans will pack the stadium even if they suck for decades right? season finale? 38K

Birkhead: seriously if illinois starts pumping out 7-8 wins on the reg, we would fill that shit up. but we’ve only won 7 games three times since 2000

Thumpasaurus: wisconsin was actually bad prior to alvarez

Birkhead: but we’ve only won 7 games three times since 2000. Wisconsin was what we are now prior to Barry, but without the history

Thumpasaurus: being bad for this long and especially the crashes after turner and zook really really just crushed the will of the fanbase. like. the diehards now have learned that even if illinois is good, that’s no guarantee they won’t go 3-9 in two years time. our locals, our core fanbase has largely learned to bail out at the first sign of trouble

Birkhead the 6-0, 0-6 season broke me

Thumpasaurus: 2009 broke a lot of people. so much that 2010 wasn’t very well attended even though the team was decent. then 2011 was just a fucking gut punch

Birkhead: but i still think illinois football can make something of itself. and my take is about as optimistic as you can get

Thumpasaurus: oh yeah, but you can’t blame someone whose freshman year was in the gary moeller era for being like “alright, four decades of this has led me to believe that success is largely a fluke and to always believe in the program’s ability to return to losing every conference game.” dude the longer we go without those uniforms not being revealed as an elaborate hoax the deeper the abyss gets for me

Birkhead: They did some things really well with them to be fair. The colors are waaaaaaaay better. But just generic as fuck.

Thumpasaurus: well except...why is the fucking blue on the orange jerseys different than the blue on the blue fuckin jerseys? specifically, is nike going to forbid us from wearing the best color combo? why nike why did you do this to us. like. i’m so nostalgic for slant illinois now. i never thought it would come to this

Birkhead: NY Giants font lol

Thumpasaurus: lol i KNOW. it was so dumb! but at least it was definitely illinois for fucks sake

Birkhead:The Illinois branding has always been garbage tbh

Thumpasaurus: lol brandon. with one. glaring. exception. :chief: :chief: :chief:

Chapter 2: Correspondence with MNWildcat of Off Tackle Empire

thumpasaurus: dude i think i’m a fucking paranoid psychotic. i am totally unable to deal with this illinois football uniforms thing. it’s just driving me fucking crazy

MNWildcat: There was a lot of spleen all over the floor today, that’s for sure.

thumpasaurus: the worst part is that there’s supposed to be basketball uniforms too. which means they might take away our throwbacks on the grounds of “you guys haven’t made the tournament in 5 years, you have to look like a mountain west team now”

MNWildcat: if you could be any mountain west team which would you be? i call wyoming

Chapter 3: Correspondence with CreightonM of Off Tackle Empire

thumpasaurus: remember when illinois made the worst coaching hire of all time? and i, like other people who watch too much illinois, lost my mind and went “well this rules, now three seasons of nuclear winter ensue.” i was assured that i was overreacting. as it turned out the whole “at least three years of nuclear winter” scenario was really just a perfectly accurate prediction.

Creighton: I would call George O’Leary and both Charlie Weis hires worse. But no you were right be upset. Wait were people actually excited for Beckman? Also are we talking about Beckman? Because Illinois has had a lot of bad hires over the years

thumpasaurus: no i’m talking bill cubit: head coach

https://www.thechampaignroom.com/2015/11/29/9813646/illinois-doesnt-care-about-football

Creighton: oh. OH. Yeah. Yeah that’s the worst one by far. I always forget that was a real thing that happened

thumpasaurus: my uniform hell rant is ready to go

consider yourself lucky that iowa had established a consistent winner before this uniform thing took off. because now you get to look like iowa for the rest of time. while we get to look like fucking Create A School. i didn’t put that in the article and now i need to lol.

Creighton: Illinois finally got a nice thing: unique and aesthetically pleasing uniforms. But the laws of Chambana dictate that no nice things are allowed. I’m not gonna lie, I loooooove having a classic, instantly recognizable look that will never and needs never change

thumpasaurus: well i mean like...i thought slant illinois was kinda lame. but. i’d take it back in a heartbeat over this. if we had managed to not be a fucking trainwreck for 50 years, our uniforms would look like this right now

http://www.illinoisloyalty.com/i/20080906-illinois-illini-football-eiu/illini-football-throwback-uniforms-127.jpg

that would just be what we played in. and people would be like HARUMPH HOW OUTDATED

but they’d be drowned out by people going BUT CAN YOU IMAGINE THE FIGHTING ILLINI IN ANYTHING ELSE? THEY’RE THE FIGHTING ILLINI, THAT’S WHAT THEY WEAR. i was at this game (with the throwbacks). i didn’t know these unis were coming. the crowd went fucking CRAZY when they came out of the tunnel. one game. that’s all we got. instead of that, the team doesn’t wear the school colors on homecoming.but my worry is that we will never ever have a look. i feel totally betrayed by nike for this. i had no idea it was coming. because now the suppliers have way more control. they just realize that with schools whose stuff sells, you don’t fuck with something successful. people will buy the jerseys. but they gotta trick fans of shit teams into buying new merch. fuck, i fucking hate this, because for some reason over the last couple weeks i’ve just been going over the whole history of how all this could have been so different

Creighton: The suppliers have _waaaaayyyy_ too much power. Remember what Adidas did to UCLA? ugh. UCLA had maybe the best looking college uniform of all time till Adidas fucked it all up. They got most of it back, but they never got their old number font back. Remember these numbers? Sploosh https://twitter.com/UCLAAthletics/status/905171170638553090

thumpasaurus: problem was they hadn’t been a consistent winner in football for a while. so adidas was like “alright your brand is now weak enough that we can fuck with it”

Creighton: Hell, even Notre Dame switched from TV numbers to shoulder logos after struggling for a few years

thumpasaurus: if i were your normal “oh football just distracts me till basketball season” illinois fan, i’d just take comfort in the fact that nike thinks illinois basketball is important enough to grace us with the fucking sick flyin illini throwbacks. the 1989 uniforms need to just be our standard uniforms in all colors. they are so god damn good. oh wait. SHIT. i think we were getting new basketball uniforms as well and we haven’t been to the tournament in 5 years. DAMMIT. they are for sure taking the 1989 throwbacks away

god damn nike. i honestly had no idea a uniform reveal would take me to such a dark place. because without seeing the name “illinois,” you take one look at those and you can infer that it’s a school that doesn’t compete for the conference crown often and is one of those ‘other schools’ laypeople forget about when naming a conference, and that they’re probably playing some uninspiring ball right now. and yeah. we know. illinois fans fucking know. there’s reminders everywhere of how shitty we’ve been for generations and how nobody gives a shit and how we’re not supposed to be a fan of this team because it’s just there as a faceless speed bump or potential surprising obstacle in the narrative of the teams that are actually the recurring characters. the writers never intended to humanize illinois and certainly never meant for people to be fans of illinois, and we fans are well aware that watching college football as an illinois fan is like watching a long running tv show while only caring about a one-note character that appears to say his/her catchphrase like once every season or two. but now the team has to literally wear it.

Creighton: Man I really liked these too

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/PCZW0m1mdSV1FxAV6C0gJAX4D6c=/0x0:3600x2395/1200x800/filters:focal(1531x679:2107x1255)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/55747619/456749770.0.jpg

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/PCZW0m1mdSV1FxAV6C0gJAX4D6c=/0x0:3600x2395/1200x800/filters:focal(1531x679:2107x1255)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/55747619/456749770.0.jpg

This was the kind of look that could’ve been one of those recognizable uniforms if the Lovie Smith thing ever worked (works) out. Simple, yet uniquely Illinois.

thumpasaurus: i know, the only thing that needed fixing is the satin chrome finish making the orange appear to not match

......who the fuck are we even playing?

NEBRASKA? FUCKING WHY

Creighton: Lol that’s another Adidas abortion of an alternate uni

thumpasaurus: yeah the 2014 unis were so good. the helmet issue and the grays (oh my god don’t even) could stand a fix. and that wide collar look is kinda shitty and could be modernized

Creighton: The thing I’m really gonna miss? The little soccer style crest on the collar. That’s not on the new ones

thumpasaurus: haha the shield was so underrated. the only reason everyone hated the shield was because everyone was worried it was going to become the primary logo and some people thought it was supposed to replace sunburst chief

Creighton: Those were my exact complaints: the wide collar and the helmets. The satin looked cool but no, it didn’t match

thumpasaurus: well and of course the grays

Creighton: I purged those from my memory. All gray alternates are haram

thumpasaurus: because why do we not wear the school fucking colors on home fucking coming, which WE FUCKING INVENTED BY THE FUCKING WAY.and now our uniforms are screaming at everyone over 25 “fuck you old man your school colors were shit anyway!”

Creighton: The new all orange ones remind me of oregon state. Maybe it’s just the lighting

thumpasaurus: well as i point out in my article (originally pointed out on TCR)

(washington state)

Creighton: God that’s Nike’s new basic template isn’t it?

thumpasaurus that’s nike’s “nobody cares about your program” template

Creighton: Haha.Nike loves designing one single default template and hoping nobody notices. That way they can spend time working on dumb ass alternates.

thumpasaurus: yeah this fucking sucks honestly.i’m just glad they will never fuck with the packers. because cmon man that’s everything you want in a football jersey

like...you play final fantasy games ever? your party of heroes looks the same throughout the game. of course they do. they’re the main characters, they sell the game, they have a narrative that’s important, they’re the icons. meanwhile they travel around and in between important climactic battles they fight wave after wave of faceless monsters, sometimes with a lot of palette-swaps, that look different depending on where or when the characters are but serve the same function: to be mowed down by the heroes so that they gain experience points and loot. so it only makes sense that we and programs like us, the detritus of the college football world, have a bunch of different combos of uniforms that are changing all the time. we’re not supposed to be fans of these characters. it’s not designed for us to be fans of them.

i wish i could quit. it’s so fucking stupid. we can’t ever talk any smack to anyone. there’s no stakes and it’s all fucking meaningless now, and after a glimmer of excitement for two players that might make an immediate impact in 17 months, our own equipment supplier saw fit to remind us that illinois football doesn’t matter to anyone but the players, the coaches (now that garrick’s gone) and an ever-dwindling contingent of fans dug in like japanese holdouts after the imperial surrender. the fight’s been over for years, we just refuse to accept it or some of us haven’t heard so we continue just trying to subsist long enough to keep fighting, living off scraps of schadenfreude and crystal balls for underrated three star linebackers

Creighton: Who would’ve known the Zook era would be remembered as the glory years?

thumpasaurus: The 2010 season though...there wasn’t a single sellout and attendance was way down from 09 because we all expected Zook to be fired. So that team was good, won some games and won a bowl but the whole time we were like “yay this is fun! we’re living on borrowed time because recruits don’t trust Zook after 2009 (this is why I hate cj fiedorowicz. Honestly I don’t blame him and maybe I don’t even hate him, I just hate what his flip represents in illini history) and we still should have fired him and our chickens will come home to roost but this is fun while it’s lasting!

Creighton: Yeah i mean his firing was totally justified. It’s just...sad... That _Zook’s_ absence led to such a long dark period. I mean, his loss wasn’t really worthy of causing such a collapse (edited). Or at least precipitating it

thumpasaurus: It’s only because he wasn’t fired in 09. A new coach in 2010 and who knows, maybe we get to have good football jerseys in 2018

Chapter 4: Correspondence with Brad Repplinger of The Champaign Room

thumpasaurus: man i don’t know if i’m just demented or psychotic or what but i seriously can’t deal with these illinois football uniforms

Brad Repplinger: they’re horribly bland. like...Nike didn’t put any thought into them at all

thumpasaurus: and after the great job they did on the 2014 uniforms, i don’t see what purpose this could have. other than to remind us that we’re a shit football school that doesn’t get to have anything unique because we suck. like i feel betrayed and deeply deeply insulted. they made our orange jerseys unwearable. took the one unifying feature across the decades (triple stripe) away from the helmets (i know they did it last year i was pissed then too) and kept the gray uniform

Brad: I mean...I have never been a fan of changing the things that really don’t matter before anything else in the program changes (unis, field/court design, etc etc) and then to do the job they did with these new ones is salt in the wounds. I’m #TeamStripes

thumpasaurus: and then i see the butkus era helmet

uploaded this image: image.png

and it just takes me back through this whole thing where all of this could have been different. illinois could have mattered, we could have avoided raising generations of people in illinois who expect the illini to be an irrelevant joke, we could have had a gameday atmosphere besides “30,000 fans cross their arms and prepare to roll their eyes and sigh audibly.” all this would have reverberated with the university. like when people ask where i went to school and i say illinois, nobody would say “oh where in illinois? like...chicago?” NO THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS YOU SHITHEAD IT’S ONE OF THE BEST PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES IN THE COUNTRY. i honestly fucking hate being a fan of this school’s athletics. i really fucking do. it is a goddamn chore like nothing else.

Brad: back from my coffee break...lemme digest some of this lol. so first off...I’m with you in the “why did we get stuck with THIS team?”

thumpasaurus: Seriously I’d so much rather be a Michigan fan. I detest Michigan and harbaugh’s underachieving but shit, at least you win 8 goddamn games. In the worst of times

Brad: hell...Wisconsin for that matter if you’re staying in the Big Ten West. my thing is that they haven’t tried anything “new” with this football team is so goddamn long. Garrick’s offense was shit, Lovie is here giving his “we’re going to run the ball” spiel. do what the Bears did, and find a young guy that puts the offense as his top priority

thumpasaurus: These teams we play are built to run the ball and stop the run. Fundamentally tho I don’t know that I’m with you on that only because my thing is stop changing everything all the time. I really really hope rod smith’s offense is effective enough to win games, and that we then run that offense enough for it to become our identity. Instead of like...he leaves after 2 years and now the i formation is our base. My entire adult life this team has been a joke

Brad: just score some goddamn points man...the last 3 seasons they haven’t cracked a 16pt average (AVERAGE) for the season. and I’m with you with Rod Smith. There’s some promise there, but now there’s a need for talent. if the coaching staff has their shit together, the right talent will show...honestly I’ve never really gotten too hyped up about recruits. or #Littyville lol

thumpasaurus: I’m conditioned to expect this to fall apart. And again, the most hopeful I’ve been (outside of immediate Lovie euphoria) since I graduated has been after the 2014 season when I thought “maybe earnest doofus Tim Beckman stumbles and bumbles his way to six wins a year for a few years!!! We might have found a poor man’s Glen Mason dressed as an idiot!” And even that was far too much to ask for. I’m a football junkie. But then basketball...like...I still haven’t been back to a home game. I want to take my fiancée but I don’t want it to be like...us getting shitstomped by a .500 northwestern team, I want to show her the REAL Illinois basketball home game experience. You know, the one where we’re ballers and everyone knows it and it fuckin rules. Ugh. The best home football experience I’ve had since then was a 25 point loss

Brad: thing is...I don’t think the basketball is ever going to be that way again

thumpasaurus: And the high point was the home stretch of the 2014 season with three wins that were all very much “wow we sucked all day how the fuck did the opponent give us that one?” That’s the best Illinois has been since I graduated

Brad the Cincy game was outstanding

thumpasaurus: That was pretty great

Brad: when Munchie Leggaux’s leg exploded [Editor’s note: we’re pretty sure nobody thought Munchie’s leg was the thing that was pretty great]

thumpasaurus: First game I ever took her to.The unc game in 2016 is how I wish every Illinois football game could feel to attend. For the first time in years I went to Illinois and it felt like real college football like you watch on tv.

The fans around here are MSU, UM or OSU. It feels like they’re all fans of AL Central teams, and then I jump in the conversation to talk about my beloved toledo mud hens

Brad: hahaha seriously, that’s a great analogy

thumpasaurus: I want to have a real college football team where it’s fun to go to the games and it doesn’t have to be life or death against ball state

Brad: man...even the 2009 season was fun. and we only won 3 games

thumpasaurus: You are wrong. There were fun parts to the 2009 season. But that was the first time I was really broken as an illini fan. God that Michigan game though

Brad: so. effing. fun. that crowd was outstanding

thumpasaurus: Yeah we sold out the stadium for a 1-6 team coming off a 5-7 season

Brad: that’s what I mean...the fanbase was still there

thumpasaurus: I think not firing Zook broke a lot of the diehards. Because the whole pulse was “zook’s gone after this 1-6 bullshit, so let’s just see if this can be any fun”

Brad: eh...2010 and the start of 2011 saw attendance average increases though

thumpasaurus: Oh yes, but attendance was still less than 2009

Brad: I’m still in the camp that hiring Tim Beckman is what broke the diehards

thumpasaurus: There’s no one thing IMO. But a repeated pattern of failure lead people to trust that Illinois will always default to the worst possible thing

Brad: Beckman accelerated everything, then hiring Cubit for 2 years put a nail in the coffin

thumpasaurus: The long slide from being good under Mackovic to Tepper slowly suffocating the program. 0-11. A sudden resurgence. Big ten title on top of the world only to go 1-11 two years later TWO YEARS. TWO FUCKING YEARS.

Brad: oh yeah...that fact that Ron didn’t do anything with the 2000 or 2002 teams is garbage. he ALMOST did (Michigan in 2000 and OSU in 2002)

thumpasaurus: new coach, recruiting excitement, rose bowl out of nowhere, this team still has insane talent. 5-7, so close, but now there’s experience and talent everywhere and Senior juice is the big ten mvp. 3-9. Aright, new head coach, let’s try it again.

NOPE.

Brad: don’t remember, but how was the coaching market in 2009/2010? like...what does the other timeline look like? ^article idea.

https://athlonsports.com/college-football/ranking-new-coaches-2010

thumpasaurus: I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember off the top of my head. Because 2009 Missouri and the subsequent nonzookfiring was really the first time I realized that this program is totally broken

Anyway 2010-11 huh despite shitty recruiting maybe there’s hope? 6 straight losses of fucking course. So they can Zook and hire this up and coming toledo coach. Who embarrasses everyone as soon as he opens his mouth. Well maybe he’s just awkward. Then Arizona state and Louisiana tech happened and trips n dip happened. Illini fans: “Fuck this shit I’m out”

Brad: well they SHOULD have hired the OC that made the Toledo HC look hella good. that AZ St game sucked. Louisiana Tech sucked too

thumpasaurus: 2014 maybe this doofus can actually go back to back bowls in 2015? No, turns out he’s endangering players. Fired him a week from the opener what the actual fuck are we doing? Ok, free space. They didn’t can Thomas, so he’s gonna remain the AD and make the next coaching hire. Would have liked to see a change made but the guy’s not really all that bad at the other stuff and clearly has identified good coaches before...so here we go, let’s have a no pressure season with charming uncle Cubit while we spend three months scouting the next head coach....Mid November Thomas fired.

Um. Are you sure? We have to hire a new coach in two weeks. Do we have a replacement lined up?

We don’t. Alright, after this weekend we can start looking. LES MILES MIGHT BE AVAILABLE. Shit, an interim AD hired jim Harbaugh and pat narduzzi. Why can’t we? Our interim guy once hired Jerry kill. And then 11/28/15 happened and a battered fan base went FUCK THIS. THATS FUCKING IT.

so now like over a generation and a half, illini fans have been trained to expect shitty things long term and also that any success or hope therefore is to be taken with a grain of salt because it can all evaporate in the blink of an eye and we’re back to 2-10. Whitman I think recognized this because the Lovie thing made the fans briefly go WHAT’S THIS? A THING?. Showed up for UNC. After WMU, they went “see I knew this wouldn’t change anything, let’s beat the traffic”

I just want to be able to do college football like fans of real teams. Enjoy the whole experience. Go with a bunch of friends or family and have fun. My sister did grad school at Oklahoma. I saw glimpses of what it could be at Illinois. Why not?

Brad: local market. Oklahoma doesn’t have a pro team, and Norman has a bigger population. and yep...the Illini football experience right now doesn’t really give anyone a reason to go lol

thumpasaurus: My podcast cohost and I could road trip to champaign for a game. That would be cool in theory. But who the fuck would want to do that now? Nobody in my fraternity, not even the alums at homecoming, wants to go with me to the game.

( on oklahoma) That’s not why. I went to an MSU game with my co host. And I tried really hard to like enjoy myself. All I could think is “god this is nothing like Illinois.” Remember the night game against Wisconsin in 2014?

Brad: if you go to party and tailgate without going to the game? it’s fun.

dude...that game was brutal. just like that day game against Purdue where they lost

thumpasaurus: Sorry I think it was 2013. My mom won’t ever go to another game with me because of that game. It’s a night game against Wisconsin, our team has showed promise and maybe we can throw the ball against these guys, run defense was good last year and hey this could be special. Let’s get the fuck loud! First night game for me since the Arizona State game. Took my parents my sister and my friend

Brad: Wisco band was at that one, I remember it

thumpasaurus: Sitting east main 10 yard line like row 20

Brad: East Balcony, 50 yard line

thumpasaurus: Opening drive for the badgers, like 6 plays in some woman several rows in front of us is already giving us dirty looks. I don’t remember if it was their next drive or just red zone for this one. Might have been the first third down of the second Wisconsin drive up 7-0. As a college football fan in this situation of course I’m making some noise. I’m not yelling obscenities or stomping the bleachers, just making it loud like what happens at a football game. This woman starts shushing me and seems to have backup. I’m just like fuck that and continue. My mother is like wtf you’re being rude. So I’m already quite agitated when she expresses this opinion. I’m agitated because we suck again and now this woman is basically telling me “hey, accept that we’re not a real college football team and never will be.” That’s what shushing me in that situation tells me. Right?

Brad: or that the fan base isn’t there to be involved in the program at least

thumpasaurus: So my mother, who has been to an OU football game and knows what college football is, is like wtf you’re being rude. So I’m like NO YOU DONT UNDERSTAND. THIS IS BIG TEN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, I AM ACTING APPROPRIATELY. IT IS THIS PERSON WHO IS WRONG. I’M SORRY YOU WENT TO CONNECTICUT BEFORE THEY HAD SOCIAL ACTIVITIES ON CAMPUS BUT THIS IS PART OF THE EXPERIENCE HERE, WHY DONT YOU WANT ME TO HAVE MY THING

Brad: is Illinois football REALLY big ten football though? like...is that experience REALLY big ten football?

thumpasaurus: My freshman year was 2007. So in my mind, YES. Or at least reality hadn’t sunk in

Brad: but it USED to be Big Ten Football. Is it now?

thumpasaurus: No, it’s not big ten football and hasn’t been. It just briefly resembled it for a couple years. But that was the formative experience of my fandom

Brad: like, I remember 2009 and 2010 and 2011 where the team would be in EVERY game regardless of the team that came to visit

thumpasaurus: Remember the last night game I had gone to was 2011 ASU

Brad: 2011 Ohio State for the Stripe the Stadium game for me...and THAT was Big Ten Football. the anticipation, the crowd, all of it

thumpasaurus: Not a night game. I’m saying in 13 that was my reference point. So anyway I yelled at my mom in public and we didn’t speak for the rest of the game. That’s how fucking fun Illinois football is

Brad: oh yeah, even 2012 wasn’t Big Ten football. And then your experience absolutely crushed the soul of what used to be Big Ten football for you. and I sure as hell don’t blame you

thumpasaurus: I mean my friend I had with me had been there for the fun years and also is a big packers fan and we’d gone to a packers at lions game the year before. The lions are the goddamn lions. They’re professional Illinois. And they packed the place and cheered like hell and forced false starts. So after Wisconsin went up 14-0 I just sat with my friend and talked in hushed tones about what was happening here. It was quiet. Then after Wisconsin has picked all the bones of our carcass clean, the clock hit zero and the fireworks went off while they played On Wisconsin and players celebrated with the fans and then I think MI played a loyalty before they turned on the club music for the Wisconsin party

Brad: as annoying as Robert’s “From the stands” rants are sometimes...they’re all goddamn true

thumpasaurus: That one in particular sticks out to me as the first time I really felt like a visiting fan. Sounds like it was the same for you?

Brad: nah I’ve never truly felt like a visiting fan...I’ve felt more like a doormat. and that Wisco game was A+ doormat material

thumpasaurus: Did you go to the Rutgers game last year though

Brad: nope. thank god

thumpasaurus: That was hands down the worst game day experience I ever had and that is the singular reason I don’t know if I want to go back for any game besides western Illinois...like...ever. At least at the Wisconsin game there were other people around to shush me.

Brad: y u no visit littyville? lol

thumpasaurus: Oh no I went back for homecoming and I will this year. I just didn’t go to the game. Because I couldn’t do it again

Brad: I wouldn’t either man...team stinks, crowd is lame. they’re just going to pump club music to try and get people going, if anything you should try and sneak in after halftime for free

thumpasaurus: Lol my whole section had cleared out (first 10 rows on the east 30. By the fourth quarter. And at some point my friend and I just stand up at the wall and start yelling for the defense at the top of our lungs in a long since decided game, kind of sarcastically. No joke, guys on the Rutgers bench started lookin at us seeing how long we could yell before inhaling after one was like “hey! y’all legit! keep goin!”

Brad: bahaha i love it

thumpasaurus: Thus since that game I’ve finally settled on “Illinois simply isn’t and won’t be the college football experience I fell in love with” and knowing the magic is simply an occasional aberration as opposed to the point of the whole enterprise is almost freeing. If I realize the dragon isn’t real, I won’t destroy myself chasing it. But every now and then a wave of angst crashes on me and I get lost trying to figure out how Santa Claus could have been real. You know how it is. Fighting back against Mizzou trolls and Medilldos and the dismissive tone everyone else takes, the tired memes and lazy punchlines for so long makes it humbling to admit that all those people were right.

I was the one who was full of shit and being an obnoxious moron when I insisted to anyone who would listen that Illinois had the right to someday be respected and that Illinois deserved at least a passing thought. That’s what I’ve learned over the last 5 years. The new uniforms were just another reminder of this lesson and made me want to once again fight for that microgram of respect I felt we were due. But I guess I’m now at peace with this as well

Brad: until they pull together a 9 win season and we fall back in love

thumpasaurus: If they do that, I can at least retire by betting against them the following year.

Brad: there it is lol

thumpasaurus: FYI since I’m too bummed about the uniforms to think of a topic I’m just gonna collect all the rants I’ve sent people over the last week and dump them into an article with no editing or anything. For OTE Wednesday. Only fitting that Illinois week be an indecipherable morass of nihilism, impotent rage and depression.

—fin—