By Tony Hooker
No real clear topics this week, so that means it’s time for a potpourri, and I’ll just ramble about different things that jump into my muddled brain.
Move in day
Took the youngest spawn to Carbondale for the next chapter of her life’s story. This was my first move in day experience, and it went about as smoothly as could be expected, given that around 2000 kids were moving into three residence halls sitting side by side. I was an oak during the entire experience (her mom was more of a willow, so I had to be the strong one, for a change) and it wasn’t until we got back to the river city that it hit me that if all goes according to plan, she’ll never be living with us again. She might be back for summer visits, but her permanent residence may never be in our house in bucolic VG again. Dang.
VG Fall Sports
In less than a week, the Blue and Gold will hold their annual scrimmage of the same name. It’s a great tradition that includes all the fall sports teams, including the JFL. It’s always been my belief that involvement in sports and other activities can serve as a deterrent to the siren call of the seedier side of teen life. It’s not always the case, of course. Every year there are cases where kids with tremendous athletic gifts waste them in pursuit of more earthly pleasures. I like to believe, however, that there are some whose lives are changed by being exposed to hard work, camaraderie, and the belief that the team is more important than the individual.
Illinois Fall Sports
In less than two weeks, the Bret Bielema era kicks off for Illinois football, and the prospects for success aren’t that bright according to national pundits and prognosticators. SP+, a creation of ESPN journalist and Analytics director for SB Nation Bill Connelly, has Illinois plugged as the number 81 team in the country. Connelly bases his numbers on three factors, returning production, recent recruiting, and recent history, so it’s easy to see why the computers aren’t big fans. In the last 30 years, the Illini have managed to finish over .500 just eight times, with the last being in 2011. 2011 was also the last time Illinois won a bowl game. I’m sure you all remember that one, right? Derek Dimke kicked a couple of field goals, Nathan Scheelhaase hit A.J. Jenkins for a 60-yard td, and Terry Hawthorne, who is the current UIUC football Director of High School Personnel and Illini Relations, had a 39-yard pick six as the 6-6 Fighting Illini defeated the 6-7 UCLA Bruins in the only bowl game ever to have two interim head coaches. Are the Illini in on some dubious records, or what?
Illinois Volleyball, on the other hand, isn’t accustomed to seasons such as the COVID shortened 2020-21 campaign. Their 7-11 season record was just the 9th time since the program’s beginning in 1977 that the squad lost more games than they won. An incredible run. How rich is UI volleyball history? Consider that two former Fighting Illini, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley and Jordyn Poulter, were stalwarts on the USA Olympic team that just won gold for the first time ever. Or that one of the Assistant Coaches, Erin Virtue, who serves as offensive coordinator for the USA National team, is another UIUC alumna. So yes, a losing record for the Fighting Illini VB squad is kind of a big deal. I have confidence, however, that Coach Tamas and the crew will get back to their winning ways when they return to playing in front of a packed house at Huff Hall this season.
Ha-ha, I fooled you. No way I’m touching that topic, other than to say that I’m amazed at the outpouring of support that the family of fallen officer Oberheim has received since his tragic and senseless murder.