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Stream Of Consciousness – Braggin’ Rights Edition December 21, 2012

I’m in one of those places again. Where I type a bunch of stuff, read it, realize it’s not good enough for the standards I hold for this blog, and delete it.  I… guess this is what writers block looks like?  All I know is that what I had was crap.  Hey, it’s the Christmas season – I’ll share what I threw in the trash.

It was a post comparing Illini fandom to the English Premier League.  How I had chosen Aston Villa as my EPL team and they tanked immediately.  Yes, really.  Here’s a snippet:

Aston Villa, of course, tanked as soon as I picked them. The first two years of my fandom they finished 6th in the EPL, but since then, straight south. Last year they just barely escaped relegation. And this year started there before a little run these last few weeks pushed them up to 14th. It’s just like an Illini football fan to be thrilled that his team is in 14th, yes?

THAT was something that I thought you would find interesting. And I chose the best paragraph. It got so much worse from there.

So today, I’m breaking my No Blogging At Work rule. I’ve carved out 45 minutes. Any time I’m blocked like this, I’m avoiding talking about something. And I have to stream-of-consciousness to get it out. Here goes.

As most of you know (or, those of you who are new to the site may not know), I don’t attend nor watch the Braggin’ Rights game. I quit in 1999 and haven’t watched since. If you want the long story as to why, just go read this post.

If you want the short story, it’s this: Braggin’ Rights day is my one day of fasting from Illini athletics. 364 days per year I obsess over all things Illini. I pay a little attention here and there to my professional teams, especially if they’re in the playoffs and I can coat-tail my way to some high fives, but for the most part, if it’s May with nothing happening or if it’s November with both sports having a game on the weekend, I’m just thinking about all things Illini.

As that other post says, I chose Braggin’ Rights day because it used to ruin my holidays. It became a little too important.  I focused on one thing – BEAT MISSOURI.  So I quit.  And, honestly, it’s been great.  I’m obviously nervous for the game, but I wait until exactly two and one half hours after tipoff (in case it goes to overtime), check the score, and it’s over.  For the last 12 season, it’s been a simple, concise way to process the emotions from a game that used to dominate my thoughts.

But this year… this year it’s hard to not let it dominate my thoughts.  #10 Illinois. #12 Missouri.  The rebound from the Weber era has happened faster than any of us thought, and it’s been impossible to not get wrapped up in it.  We were Illinois Basketball? We ARE Illinois Basketball. We’re BACK, baby. But…

At some point, a reality check is coming.  This is the deepest Big Ten in 20 years.  I still think we’ll lose a minimum of eight games this season, if not nine or ten.  We’re not going to ride this magic carpet forever.  Which leads me to one very sobering thought that has dominated my week and not allowed me to write anything else:

What if it’s Missouri that gives us that wakeup call?

Watching the game or not watching the game – this thought will be impossible to avoid.  The last 12 years, I’ve avoided the game and been mostly happy (I mean, we won 9 in a row) and still decently OK when we lost.  The stakes weren’t really that high for any of those games.

This year is different.  If we can beat our third top-20 team in the non-conference season – none of them in Assembly Hall – that probably means we’re legitimately legit.  That I should probably stop hedging with “we’re still going to lose eight games”.  That if we beat Purdue on the road and Ohio State at home to start the Big Ten season, our ranking will reach ridiculous levels.

But if we lose – especially if we get blown out – the bubble bursts (not the Bubble, just the bubble).  Those last four sluggish games at home were warning signs.  Without those two threes against Hawaii and Gardner-Webb we’re “others receiving votes” and 10-2 heading into this game.  I have to hold off on declaring us back.

Which is why this week has been the toughest run-up to the game I avoid in the last 13 years.  Sure, we could make a statement, but we could also be exposed.  By Missouri.

So in the early evening tomorrow, while I’m avoiding the game with a movie or a shopping trip or an intense game of Bejeweled on the iPad, I’ll likely be 43% less happy about my decision to never again watch this game.  What has been a great “Illini football and basketball are important, but they’re not THAT important” avoidance will be put to the test.  I really want to see a win when I log on to check the score. I just don’t want to be exposed by Missouri.

But if we win?  A Merry Chirstmas indeed.  Wait, why am I doing this again?

bkenny December 21st, 2012

Very odd that you don’t watch one of the biggest games in Illini sports each year. It basically sounds like you’re afraid to watch them lose. Part of being such a devoted fan is taking the joy, the anguish …all the ups and downs. You’re missing out on that each time you don’t watch. Not to mention just watching and analyzing each game, which you do more than anyone. I cried on my way out of the dome in 05 after we lost to UNC, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be back if we make it back to that point. I have no idea how you could watch a movie during that game. These are the games you live for as a fan, couldn’t imagine just checking a box score.

Digger11 December 21st, 2012

Dude. You are crazy. But it’s awesome.

We got this one.

zt December 21st, 2012

bkenny. Read Robert’s blog post from 1999 about why he doesn’t watch the game. It will make sense. It especially makes sense to those of us Illinois Alumni who grew up or live in the St. Louis area.

uiucfan1 December 21st, 2012

stream of consciousness means prediction. come on Robert :-) Illini win this one 86-79. seniors bring home the trophy

Lou-a-villini December 21st, 2012

Yes, please read the 1999 post before you question Robert.

Duce20 December 21st, 2012

Has Joe John been conspicuously absent?

Illinigrad December 22nd, 2012

Robert, you definitely deserve a day off ONCE a year from college sports. To be honest, I would have a hard time going to see a game with the memory of my Dad passing. Since you are the most avid Illini fan I know, or the most avid who intelligently blogs, one can hardly criticize you for not watching the St. Louis game. I went to two of the fall FB openers and got totally fed up with the incredibly crass MO fans. They are worse than IA fans. Much worse. I had beer thrown on me from an upper deck after an Illini TD. Take consolation that Vanderbilt beat MO in FB at MO this fall. It was one of the most enjoyable sporting events I have ever watched on TV. You could just see the MO fans sitting in total disbelief, unable to realize and comprehend that they were beat by the former “dore”mat of the SEC. Now, MO is the SEC doormat, along with the U. of TN. Back to BB. I am confident that IL will beat MO. Anybody who gets blown out by Louisville can’t be THAT good. And, our boys in orange will be really up for the game, especially the seniors who have never beaten MO and really want to do so. Enjoy your day off Robert. I hope you find some nice presents.

STLIllinifan December 22nd, 2012

I’ve been reading your blog for a while and finally got the courage to comment.

First, I, for one, would have LOVED to read more of your thoughts about being an Illini football and EPL fan! I’m an Everton supporter and, since I’ve been following, they’ve been playing very well (Top 6 so far this year, finished with a flourish last year to reach 8th). Needless to say, I hope the similarities that you applied to Aston Villa and Illini football don’t prove true for the Blues in the future. :-)

Concerning your main point about the Braggin’ Rights game, though, I’m in the exact same boat. There are VERY few games I want to win more than this one. I can’t stand Misery and the thought of them handing us our first loss genuinely makes me sick. So, even though it shouldn’t feel like a gigantic letdown if we lose, it probably will.

That being said, I have all the faith in the world that Coach Groce will have our team prepared to play. It’s really nice to be able to say that with confidence! Enjoy your diversion of choice, Robert, knowing that, no matter what this game’s outcome may be, this program is in good hands!

wizardofoz December 22nd, 2012

I don’t know of any other writer, other than Robert, who is secure enough to admit tha what they have written is unworthy to be posted. This is exactly why I find Robert so fresh and compelling that I can hardly wait to see the next day’s post. Robert, you’re the man!

Hoppy December 22nd, 2012

This game is intense…if we could have a few buckets drop we’d be up by 10.

loyalillini December 22nd, 2012

Groce needs to try line up options without Nana. He was explosed tonight for all his minutes.

Joe John December 22nd, 2012

Well Illinois gets clobbered on the boards and loses.
Maybe Robert can write actual posts instead of pontificating about hypotheticals?

Harry Lime December 22nd, 2012

Thanks Duce.

You guys could try supporting West Ham if you think you have it bad.

LongLiveTheChief98 December 23rd, 2012

Joe John, you’re alive! We were all worried…well, you know, since you were all but missing around here during the team’s 12-0 start.

Joe John December 23rd, 2012

I let Robert revel in a land of unicorns and rainbows during that start.
Now its over.
I look forward to legit analysis that I can disect.

GrogsBBQPepperoni December 23rd, 2012

Ah yes, SuperIlliniFan JJ, true to his colors. Because a real fan removes all joy from the good times and then gets fired up to disect other commentary.
Right, land of unicorns and rainbows. We won the Maui tourney and never even trailed at all in three games. In that, we beat Butler who upset Indiana and we beat Gonzaga on the road. What a douche you are.

ATOillini December 23rd, 2012


Seriously. What joy do you derive from criticizing Robert? Last time I checked it’s his blog. He freely admits to being a homer (without using that specific word). He (like most of us) actually wants the Illini to win. He’s not paid to be an objective reporter. He’s a big fan. What’s wrong with that?
You have without question pointed out several things over time that I actually cannot dispute. But to use this solely as an “I told you so” forum is just childish. If we actually won a national championship in hoops it seems you’d be out within 5 minutes of cutting down the nets discussing how horrible we were going to be the next year.
Please. Give it a rest.
FYI…..great to see the fight back in the Fighting Illini.

Illinigrad December 23rd, 2012

Who would want to criticize Robert? He is one of our last hopes for expressing good thoughts about Fighting Illinois FB and BB!

LongLiveTheChief98 December 23rd, 2012

I think Grogs’s last sentence sums it up perfectly. Some people will just never take joy in anything.

chilliniguy December 24th, 2012

How can Robert analyze this game if he didn’t even watch it? Did you even read the post? Go feed your unicorns JJ.

Harry Lime December 24th, 2012

I always questions one’s ability to do what one cannot spell. I refer to dissect.

Harry Lime December 24th, 2012

I guess I can’t question, by my own standard.