Bandwagon Sports June 2, 2013
Ask me one month ago today who Charlie Danielson is, and I’m not sure I could have told you. I’d like to think I would have said “freshman on the golf team”, but probably not. If it was a social situation, I probably would have made some lame joke like “don’t you mean Charlie DanielsBAND?” and played my way out of it. Yeah, if I’m honest I probably wouldn’t have gotten “freshman on the golf team”.
But here I am, checking golf scores on the internet. First two weekends ago when we were in (and won) the regional, and now this entire last week. Despite not being ranked in the top-25, we finish fifth in the stroke play rounds. Then we knock off defending national champion Texas in the quarterfinals. THEN we knock off #1 Cal – they of “best college golf team in 10 years” – in the semifinals.
And today… we lost to #2 Alabama in the finals. And I’m left with this somewhat familiar feeling of disappointment and a little shame. Why shame? Because I only knew of Thomas Pieters one month ago today. And I’m disappointed that I only jumped on the bandwagon three weeks ago. Sorry, Charlie Danielsband. You deserved more of my fandom.
I guess that’s the way it goes at Illinois. Especially in odd numbered years. Here’s our track record on the biggest stages:
2003 – Tennis wins a national title
2005 – Basketball loses in the national championship game
2007 – Tennis loses in the national championship match
2009 – Well, nothing happened, but…
2011 – Volleyball loses in the national championship match
2013 – Golf loses in the national championship match
(Gymnastics won a national title in 2012. But since that’s an even-numbered year, I didn’t include it on my list. Still, gymnastics won a national title in 2012.)
These are, of course, incredible feats. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not in any way disappointed in this streak of losing in title games. 2005 was more fun than I can ever remember. Checking scores on my phone at some dinner party to see how the third set of a volleyball match was going two years ago… that was crazy fun, too. Same with this golf run. Refreshing the twitter of some random reporter during Thomas Pieters 20th-hole win to beat #1 Cal was insanely awesome. My heart was POUNDING as if Tracy Abrams was shooting a 1-and-1 with 12 seconds left.
I say “disappointment and a little shame” because I’m SUCH a bandwagon fan if it’s not Illini Football and Illini Basketball. My heart-pounding fist-pump when Thomas Pieters’ opponent missed his putt felt a bit cheap. In the sense that I only casually followed Illini Golf this season, and didn’t jump on board until their great start in the Arkansas regional. Should I really be heart-poundingly refreshing Twitter?
Well, yes. Pieters is wearing orange and blue (well, orange and sky-blue, which was weird, but whatever). When you’re wearing that Fat I on your shirt, I’m totally in your corner. And, as an alum, I feel a connection. My go-to for all bandwagon sports is this: I wonder if he/she lived in Forbes Hall as a freshman?
Seriously – there’s where I go to assuage my “disappointment and a little shame”. I always picture that person living in Forbes 268, hiding a microwave in the same cabinet that I did. (True story: We had this microwave that we weren’t supposed to have, and one day our RA came into the room while we were heating up some Chef Boy-ar-dee ravioli, and my roommate and I, knowing that there was about to be a loud “ding” when the microwave finished, loud-talked in response to our RA’s question to drown out the ding. And it worked. Wait – could I get in trouble for this now? What’s the statute of limitations on dorm room microwaves? Did I say Forbes 268? I meant Forbes 258.)
Where was I? Yes – disappointment and a little shame. I get over it by picturing that person living in Forbes 2-South. Eating meals in the Forbes-Hopkins-Garner dining room. Getting their mail at The Orange (I know they tore down The Orange like 10 years ago – stay with me). That’s the great thing, to me, about cheering for Illinois athletes. At some point, they probably had Rhet 105 in the upper floors of the English Building (where the ceiling is surprisingly low) and they probably bought something at that little convenience store on the corner of 6th and Green. I did the same, so we’re connected like we both have Allstate or something. (Wait – crap – am I about to get a cease-and-desist from State Farm?)
Now, with Forbes Hall being torn down and replaced with a much-nicer, less-odorous dorm, I’m losing that connection. So I’ll have to come up with something else. Probably the low ceiling on the top floor of the English Building. Or the echo spot in front of Foellinger. Or C.O. Daniel’s. Wait, WHAT??
Whatever it is, that’s how I get by with jumping on the volleyball bandwagon in 2011, or the tennis bandwagon in 2007, or golf this year. They’re wearing orange and blue, and I’ll always have a connection. Even if I don’t learn their names until the playoffs.
So fantastic work, Illini golf team. Coach Small, you’re truly amazing. We have to play simulated golf when their snow on the ground, and yet we fought with 27 southern schools to finish second. A disappointing end, but a fantastic run. Congrats. You have no idea how many Illini fans were checking their phones and watching internet feeds this weekend. Thanks for capturing us all.
Now, about that baseball game today… who’s pitching? Ryan Castellanos? Who?