It was a spring Tuesday in 2005. In fact, it was April 5, 2005. I had school that day, but that’s the last place I wanted to be.
If I went, I’d have to face that depressing music that trumpets a fan in mourning. All those quirks of my fandom that my peers had come to love would turn on me when they asked for my reactions to the game.
So I hopped in the shower and didn’t get out as my mind unraveled scenarios where Illinois didn’t lose to North Carolina in the 2005 NCAA basketball championship.
Mostly, I wanted a large-scale NCAA investigation of the officiating that night (probably my first exposure to NCAA incompetence). Maybe Roy Williams had slipped a significant sum of money to a referee with the directive of whistling fouls every time James Augustine was used as a landing pad for Sean May’s Hulk elbows. Maybe the fix was in.
My 13-year-old brain – immature, irrational, possibly spray-painted orange – didn’t know any better. And once my eighth grade classroom beckoned, I gathered myself and attended school, wearing my Deron Williams jersey despite our school’s stringent dress code.
It’s easy for fans to remember the best moments in rooting for their respective sports teams. Those are the ones we suffer to experience. But it’s harder to pinpoint when you reach the cliff with your team, then tumble down said Cliff. When the claws of fandom reach under your skin and hook you for life.
That morning after the National Championship loss, somehow, the Iliini beast grew within me tenfold, not unlike the Grinch discovering the joy of Christmas. I’m staked to this team for life now. The great thing about the Illini fanbase is that there’s a lot like me, and I know that most of them could spin a similar Illini yarn.
That’s why I introduced myself to you guys as such. I’ll be an assistant editor and a contributor at the Champaign Room, and we're going to endure this Illini life together.
Let’s rock ’n’ roll and piss orange and blue, folks.