Here at OTE, we’re very good at hate. Nearly everything we do devolves into it. Fanposts, team previews, SMCD, even our discussions in the OTE clubhouse can lead to arguments over the littlest thing and hate. So imagine my surprise when Grahammy Graham came strolling in wearing his finest pink velour pimp suit while MNWildcat was diligently trying to get everything in order and told him that we were replacing the hate with love. Needless to say it was not well-received. Thankfully for everyone, we had Illinois up first and I was more than happy to step in and provide some love to our friends from Chambana.
And what better place to start than with the “cities” themselves? I’ve made a few trips there over the years to take in a Gophers game against the locals, and I’ve never once left without feeling a great appreciation for the fact that I was going back to Minnesota. It is truly a great power they possess that I’m always looking forward to an 8 hour drive after visiting. And I’ve never been hungry on the drive thanks to the impressive collection of fine dining establishments located along the freeway.
But the place doesn’t make the program, friends. Illinois has been B1G from the beginning, staying in the conference and playing football for the entire span of the league’s existence alongside just Minnesota and Purdue. And they’ve got a storied history! The 15 conference titles the Illini have earned are only bested by Michigan, Ohio State, and the Gophers. Heck, that’s more than Penn State, Nebraska, Rutgers, Indiana, Maryland, and Chicago combined! In a conference that values tradition and history as much as we do, few programs can look back and say “Look what we used to be!” as well as Illiniwek’s squad.
One of the things I admire and respect most about Illinois is their consistency. I can assure you that it really cannot be easy to focus on the future year after year as well as they do. The ability for that giant to remain sleeping as long as it has with only six trips to get up and take a piss in a bowl game since Savage Garden released their debut album is one that I, personally, am jealous of. I hope that someday my program can convince itself to be a sleeping giant as well. I would say to ignore the fact that Illinois has a Rose Bowl an a Sugar Bowl appearance during this time, but that wouldn’t be fair. Illinois somehow won enough games to earn* (with some assistance from tOSU being in a national title game) a prestigious bowl game to “represent” the conference. What really matters is that they did it, and it gives hope to every other program. Because the fact that since both Ron Turner and Glen Mason were hired in 1997, the Illini have gone 92-159 overall and 4-12 against my beloved Gophers (including a loss to favorite son Tim Brewster!). That is incredible.
So my friends, I want to leave you this fine Friday with this thought: If the University of Illinois, playing football in the middle of fucking nowhere in a town where you’d need to be sentenced to stay 4-5 years of the prime of your life where you’ll more likely than not get your brains beat in by everyone across the conference (and outside of it too, if we’re honest) can make it to a Rose Bowl, we should all believe we can. Even you, Rutgers. Illinois Football is a force of good that can provide hope for us all. The Illini are an inspiration, and for that we love them. Thank you.