My Rose Bowl Shirts Are Fading May 21, 2012
I’m wearing one of my four Rose Bowl shirts right now. Honestly, if you stopped by my house (please don’t) and saw me mowing the lawn some evening, there’s a 70% chance I’d be wearing a Rose Bowl shirt. When not working, I pretty much live in Rose Bowl shirts.
And now they’re fading. And the collar on one of them is splitting. And the long sleeve one doesn’t fit very well any more (it’s shrinking – HONEST). This whole scenario somewhat has me freaked out. What will I do when I can’t wear them anymore?
I had this gray Illini Football t-shirt that I stole from my friend Carmen in Dallas in 1997, and I wore that thing until it was barely there anymore. I nearly wept when I had to retire it. But I soon replaced it with four Rose Bowl shirts – THE ROSE BOWL – and I’ve worn them proudly for the last 4.5 years. I live in Missouri, and I feel the need to personally remind the entire St. Louis metropolitan area that the University of Illinois Fighting Illini were in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2008.
But at some point I’ll need to retire these shirts as well. Which makes me wonder where I’ll turn next (please don’t say Ed Hardy). After you’ve become That Guy Who Always Wears A Rose Bowl Shirt, you can’t really be seen mowing the lawn in a Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl shirt, can you? (Swear-to-God sidenote: as I type this, I’m drinking a glass of milk out of my Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl coffee mug. I wish I knew how to quit you, Illini Football.)
My point. I want to go back to the Rose Bowl. I’ll purchase 11 shirts this time. I’ll buy extras to put in those vacuum bags you see on TV, and I’ll store them (under the bed or behind the dresser!) for a few years until I need to replenish. I’ll think ahead this time, I promise.
But how long will it be? We went there in 1983, almost went back in 1990, missed it on a technicality in 2001, and finally returned in 2007. If we have to wait 24 years again, it will be, what, 2031? I DON’T THINK I CAN WAIT THAT LONG YOU GUYS.
Maybe I’m setting my sights too high. And, really, I’m not setting my sights at all. I’m not expecting a Rose Bowl this year or next year or even in the next 4. Tim Beckman just arrived on campus, he’ll be implementing his systems and developing relationships with high school coaches and recruiting to his systems, and hopefully, after years of building it, we’ll get to the point where we can seriously challenge for the Leaders Division title.
What I mean is, maybe I don’t really need a Rose Bowl shirt per se. I think a Capital One Bowl shirt or even an Outback Bowl shirt will do. Really, it’s the opponent that matters. The opponent and the name. When I’m standing in line at Target, I want people to be impressed by “Illinois 41, Auburn 28, 2013 Capital One Bowl”, not “Illinois 33, East Carolina 20, 2014 Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl”. The first says “yeah, we have a seat at the table”. The second one sells lawn equipment.
So yeah, maybe and I’m saying is that I need another January Bowl. Cap One, Outback, Gator, Rose. I’d prefer Rose, but just give me one of the others. I’m pretty sure I can stretch these shirts for 18-30 months, so if I can just get a January 1 bowl at some point in the next three seasons, I’ll be good.
And we can probably do that, right? Sure, recruiting fell off in Ron Zook’s final three seasons, so we’re probably looking at a bit of a talent dip the next few years, but on the flipside, special teams mistakes and field position failures (and non-conference scheduling) probably won’t cost us 2 wins per season any more. Take the 2010 season, replace Missouri in STL and Fresno State in Fresno with two winnable home games and we’re in the Outback Bowl that year. Don’t finish so low in every special teams category and maybe we could have stretched that to the Cap One Bowl. There are four bowl shirts that would suffice and only 12 Big Ten teams. We’d have to almost try to be bad enough that we’d miss all of those bowls for years and years, right? It will happen soon, right?
It needs to. These fading shirts are a sign that the Rose Bowl, which still feels like it happened recently, was 1,603 days ago. We Illini football fans kind of pride ourselves on our “losing record, winless, losing record, losing record, BCS BOWL, losing record” history (we’re one of only 27 teams to go to multiple BCS bowls), and if we’d like to keep that reputation, we need another out-of-nowhere season soon.
I guess what I’m saying is this: these Rose Bowl shirts have allowed me to brag for four years now. ”What’s that Michigan State fan? You haven’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1987? BAM – 2007 Rose Bowl baby.” And “sorry that your resurgence hasn’t led to a Rose Bowl, Iowa fan. At least your last trip was in the 90′s. Even though it was more than 20 years ago.” I enjoy the smack talk that wearing these shirts communicates. And they’re fading. And we’re Illinois, the team of surprising BCS runs. So I want to do it again. So that I can brag. So I can buy 11 shirts.
There. I’ve wandered through all of this and come to the conclusion that only a BCS t-shirt will do. I’ll have to start rationing my Rose Bowl shirts until that happens. So there you go, Tim Beckman. There’s your goal. Get us back to a BCS Bowl so I can purchase shirts and brag about my team with my clothing. We’re That Team With Surprising BCS Runs. Let’s do it again.
For the shirts.