August is almost over, which means all over the country there are children recently christened into adulthood moving into their college dorms. This is terrifying. Not just because every time this happens means I'm one year further removed from when I was shuttling my mini-fridge into Scott Hall's elevator, but because of the simple fact that 18-year-olds are some of the worst people on the planet.
Honestly though, think back to how stupid you were as a freshman.
You were so stupid. So very, very stupid.
I remember annoying the hell out of the very polite lady who helped me sign up for classes by refusing to believe I could cover the entire campus to get from class to class in only ten minutes. I signed the lease for a sophomore year apartment in mid-September while still in the honeymoon period of friendships in the dorm (thanks ridiculous C-U leasing market). I thought I would be able to handle the oddly-required for my Animal Sciences degree Business Calculus class (I couldn't, I suck at math). On the advice of friends (read: people I haven't talked to in six years), I chose to pursue Erin over Alyssa (a choice I still kick myself in the ass about). You're "free" for the first time in your life and it makes you into a complete moron.
Last night a fun idea popped into my head. "I should ask the other writers what the worst thing they've ever done at an Illini sporting event was!"
Tom, Jack, and Brandon are also crazy people to varying degrees, so I figured there would be some stories to make mine seem less ... terrible. Now, either they're all fantastic liars or teenaged Mark was the worst of this group, which I actually don't have a very hard time believing. Brandon swore at Matt Painter. Tom drank a lot. Jack went to a game against Minnesota. These things are normal.
At a very young age, I learned the valuable lesson that if you look like you're supposed to be somewhere, no one will ever question why you're there. This applies to almost every situation, but rarely is it used more fantastically than at sporting events. I never once paid for Block I tickets. As someone who lacks the ability to generate false enthusiasm, I had no desire to sit in a spot where people would make "we're number one!" gestures when the camera panned over to them. Or at least not pay for that privilege. My freshman year was the last year that Block I sat at midfield. I had standard student seats, but every game I walked in early and planted my ass in the bleachers around the 50 yard line about ten rows up from the opposing teams' benches. No one ever flinched.
2006 was not a good season for the Illini. They routed Eastern Illinois in the first game I ever attended. But then Rutgers the next week pitched a 33-0 shutout. Then Syracuse showed up and put the game away in the 3rd quarter. Some mystery team named Iowa won by three scores. But then a bizarre miracle happened and the Illini upset Michigan State on the road. In a game that was for some reason not televised. The only victory against a Big Ten opponent all season and no one could watch it. So the team is 2-3 heading into a week six homecoming game against Indiana to be followed by the final non-conference game of the year against the Ohio Bobcats. There was a very non-zero chance the team could have an above-.500 record halfway through the season for the first time since 2001!
And things started off so well!
Within 20 minutes, the Illini had jumped out to a 25-7 lead. And this was a team that had Juice Williams, Pierre Thomas, and Rashard Mendenhall. Running out the clock never should have been a problem. But this was also a team coached by Ron Zook. The lead shrank to 25-21 by halftime. Marcus Thigpen ran the opening kickoff of the second half back 98 yards for a touchdown. The pretty blonde girl next to me was jumping around, happy as can be. Figuring she was just really drunk, I pointed out to her that Mr. Thigpen happened to be in the wrong jersey. She smiled and lifted up her orange top. There were no boobs to be seen. Just a Hoosiers shirt on under it.
I think this incident is what caused me to dislike the Blockheads. I found a nearby one and alerted them to the presence of an interloper in the middle of what I'd been told all season was a place for the most hardcore of Illini fans. Surely they would remove her. "Sorry man, we can't do anything about it." I protested that if Indiana hung on to win, this would probably end poorly as she would celebrate and this was a very frustrated fanbase.
"Hey man, I told you there isn't anything I can do. Fuck off and watch the game." I went back to my spot next to the Hoosier.
Illinois retook the lead at the end of the third quarter, but only by one point. We're sitting at 32-31 and just praying the clock runs out. The event staff and police began to lineup on the sidelines, which is one of the saddest things I remember. Then again, it had been almost two years since the Illini had won a conference game at home and this was homecoming. The brute squad's presence wound up being unnecessary. Austin Starr knocked home a 33 yard field goal as time expired. Dreams were dashed. I had my first taste of Illini heartbreak in person.
The pretty Hoosier erupted. Jumping around, dancing, singing the wrong fight song, Indiana shirt now fully displayed. This was too much for my fragile (read: stupid) young mind to take. So I looked around and noticed a full souvenir cup of Sprite on a bleacher. I picked it up, walked three steps towards the girl, and dumped it over her head. She turned shocked but then started laughing. I did too. But then bottles and more cups came flying down at her. I had opened the bad behavior floodgates. I was the Gavrilo Princip to her Franz Ferdinand. I will never forget how quickly that girl's face went from jubilation to terror. "Run!" I shouted at her, with the most concerned look I could manage. She took off sprinting up the steps, still under fire from projectiles.
I think of that every time football season is about to start and again during every Illini homecoming game. Though I doubt she'll ever read this, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I was an asshole, pretty Hoosier fan. I'm sorry I incited the closest thing to a riot I'll ever experience.
Football season is right around the corner. Being young and excitable is the best. You only get so many home games during your student career. Don't be an asshole.