The Screaming Woman and Illini Basketball Fandom

If you had the volume on your TV turned on while watching the Illinois-Northwestern basketball game last night you would have experienced the perfect expression of what it feels like to be a Fighting Illini men's basketball fan this season.

The Screaming Woman.

She was a constant presence throughout the game. Possessing impressive lung capacity and an unrivaled one-track mind, she would let loose with the same high-pitched scream anytime the Illini had possession. The scream is barely in the range of sounds a human ear can detect, just slightly above a dog whistle. The tone and volume of said scream never alter. It was so consistent throughout the game that I'm not sure it was a conscious decision by this determined woman. For all I know she may have a condition that compels her to unleash this sonic weapon anytime she is indoors with a decent-sized gathering of people.

If you're prone to melancholy and thoughts of despair, as I am, and a fan of Illini basketball, as you probably are, the scream, as it surges through your brain and wraps around your medulla oblongota, can take on a mystic quality. If you're not careful, it can come to represent the uremotion of this Illinois basketball season.

Who among us wouldn't find catharsis and just a hint of relief upon releasing such a scream? When considering the play of our team up to this point -- the 4-11 record, the 0-4 start in Big Ten competition, the god-awful loss to FAU, the Disappearance of Trent Frazier, the impotent motion offense, the defensive breakdowns -- who could fight the urge to unleash what is surely a primal expression of fear and misery?

Especially during the game last night, as our team failed to make a single three-pointer, as senior Aaron Jordan failed to take a single shot, as all but one starter failed to reach double digits, as Northwestern carved up the Illinois defense for what seemed like 150 straight dunks and layups, how did you not scream? How did you not tear out your hair and look for inanimate objects around your home to smash?

Instead, and ironically, the piercing siren was not a result of the fear and loathing of Illini fans, but was deployed as a weapon against us, by a Northwestern fan with a singular, undying purpose who happened to be sitting entirely too close to a microphone. (To add to the confusion, the scream was most noticeable during Illini free throws, which is the only area in which the team excelled, hitting 22 of their 27 attempts.)

Interestingly, and possibly counter to what I said above, the scream, surely intended as a distraction against the Illini players, felt almost emotionless. The pitch never went up or down, its volume never fluctuated, its purpose never seemed malicious, it was just the same shrill vocalization, over and over again, regardless of its success or impact. It had a numbing effect. And in this way it best symbolizes the plight of the Illinois basketball fan this season.

The Myth of Sisyphus is perhaps the most overused literary comparison there is, but I can think of no better way to describe The Screaming Woman and, in turn, the fans of this team. Just as this woman continues to scream this monotonous scream, so to do we show up to support this basketball team each game, experience the disappointment of a lackluster performance, only to start back at the bottom again at the next tip-off.

Can this coach, these players, ever complete the task of pushing the boulder to the top of the hill without it immediately rolling back down to the bottom? Can they string together some quality wins and compete in this conference? Can we, as fans, even remotely entertain the thought of a miraculous push towards qualifying for the tournament?

The next time, as you sit in the gloom and quiet of another bad Illinois loss, listen closely. You will be able to hear Camus laughing softly from the abyss.

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