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John Groce Owns The Night

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As I mess around with the regular weeknight business, John Groce plays the role of superhero—the one Champaign needs, but does not deserve.

The Champaign Room

Tuesday afternoon:

As I was typing, with only Illinois basketball on the mind, my Microsoft Word acted up and shut down. This happens occasionally, annoyingly, but never unexpected. When it rebooted, a column of other autosaved documents appeared on the left side of the window—other documents that fell victim to Word shutdowns. I scanned through them, deleting what needed to be deleted: old college papers, half-written garbage, and tons of one-word documents. The one-word documents come to be when my mind’s vocabulary hits a wall. I type one word, click it, scan the listed synonyms, usually find nothing helpful, continue on with whatever I’m doing.

Proving my computer’s Artificial Intelligence and that the world adores coincidence, here was the first one worded page that popped up: "Infatuated."

Infatuated. I don’t need a synonym because infatuated is damn right.

Monday night:

My favorite song on the new Arcade Fire album, or at least the song most gone back to, is "You Already Know." All I really need of it is the first 30 seconds, although I enjoy it all. A faux live performance, it starts with a mumbled, echoed voice of an MC introducing the band, speaking unintelligible words, then unintelligible softer pitched words, then, with an accent, "Arcade Fire!"

The band kicks off before he can finish the "-ire"—appropriately, as this theater of the mind has no room for ire and only room for delight. Only in two places would Arcade Fire be introduced by a British man, greeted by moderate applause, and begin playing without so much as a half-second lull—Jools Holland and a dingy stage in a dive bar. I picture the latter. The MC dangles a lit cigarette in his hand and Arcade Fire is happy to be there. I’m happy they are here, too. It’s always a pleasure to enjoy a tune too good for its setting, which this song most definitely is.

I listened through this album falling asleep last night, refusing to let my eyes sleep until the record finished. After three summers of miserable early morning labor following evenings of warm weather and cold beer and jokes, I adapted the mantra that I wasn’t going to miss out on the fun for the sake of being rested for no-fun work. The morning hurts every time, and hurt it did, but the Old Style belly aches proved consistently worth it. The mantra carried over into college nights, although a bit more responsibly, and now they’ve carried into post-grad nights where I listen to music by myself. I can’t decide if it’s my worst trait or my best, but it’s mine nonetheless and I’m smitten with it.

Embracing next day exhaustion, I sat up and enjoyed Reflektor immensely. Arcade Fire was my favorite when I first heard them as a freshman in high school and they’re my favorite now as a freshman in big person land.

During the listen, the rest of my mind was empty. Because another favorite tune, also too good for its setting, works off the radar.

Tuesday morning:

I slept a bit later than usual before being kindly woken up with two cell phone beeps: A news report…

"Class of 2015 top 50 recruit D.J. Williams commits to Illinois"

And a text message from an Illini friend:

"John Groce walks around like he’s got an S on his chest."

Right now:

The man neither sleeps nor slows down and might literally consume Illinois basketball as his source of daily nutrition. My "little sleep" equals his comas, if he was susceptible to those things, which he is not. The Superman comparison fits in the sense that Groce is unequivocally super, but misses in the sense that Superman garners attention and finger pointing. "It’s a bird, it’s a plane…"

Not Groce, although if you point to a plane in the sky, there’s a good chance he’s on it. Superman’s act needs an alter ego. John Groce is always John Groce, except for when steps up a half-level to John F. Groce. He is a night prowler, a D.J. Williams pick pocket. He sits down at your lunch table, makes small talk, then points to the door behind you and yells, "Look over there, it’s Cliff Alexander," as he snatches the ham sandwich off your paper plate.

Where a month ago, Illini faithful fell to pieces over the Quentin Snider and Leron Black commitments, now we take on Williams—a similarly ranked recruit--with only subtle celebration, as though it’s business as usual, because it is. My business is goofing around with good music. Groce’s business is conditioning the humility right out of Illinois. And when the day-in-and-day-out business becomes this good, it’s hard not to fall in line.

At this rate, when Groce decides to coup d’état Champaign-Urbana and set up the Groce World Order, he’ll face plenty of obedience and little opposition. Which is okay.

JFG deserves the city.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room. You can follow Jack Cassidy on Twitter at @JCassidy10