I have to be reminded about the nine-year win streak against Mizzou because that memory hasn't stuck with me. If I dug deep enough, I could scrounge up some evidence in my mind that it happened. A brief glimpse of a TV and the idea, "Just gotta win and get out of there," maybe. But mostly it's just the recent disaster, where we never win or get out of there, and I remember every bit of it.
Even in the deep pool of other awful Illini memories, the Mizzou thoughts float up to the top and fester. They rot. Relive the last six minutes of every loss, and you end up watching remakes of the same movie--dog fight, tough, scrappy, back-and-forth, then Mizzou slowly edges away, then Mizzou wins. The score never seems to tell the story, but it's the story Mizzou fans are sure to retell as they spit their shit talk and patronize you to death.
Last year, I watched it with my brother, Matt, who goes to Mizzou and who I only dislike for one night a year. We watched it at home. I had a few Illini friends join me at my house because I needed a support group. Matt watched it by himself, occasionally texting other Tiger fans, but for the most part, taking in the game while remaining calm and collected, like a crazy person. Like the Mizzou-Illinois game is fun.
The Mizzou-Illinois game is fun when you aren't too close to be smothered by it. It's fun for the casual fan, who can enjoy each side's top level of passion without having to exert too much energy of their own. It's fun when it's over and you won.
After the effort Illinois showed against Oregon and the wins Missouri piled up to move into the AP Top 25, Saturday promises to be another one of those days. The first 34 minutes will be what they always are--awesome, tense--and that's not something we can pretend to avoid. It's nothing to shy away from. In fact, with the intention of flipping the script, we'll spend this week reexamining the past four years.
Embrace the shame, Illini fans, because the win streak starts again on Saturday.