By Tony Hooker
This week’s column will be a brain dump of some of the things that have been rattling around in my skull cavity lately.
The Illinois basketball team
My guys in Orange and Blue are an enigma wrapped in a riddle this season. We are about as inconsistent a team as I can recall, at least when it comes to making shots. According to Illini Inquirer’s Jeremy Warner, we missed eight layups and two dunks, along with eight free throws in a two-point loss to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament. If we make shots, we’re really good and can play with anyone. (Thanks, Mr. Obvious!) We always defend well which keeps us in games, but there have been too many blunders down the stretch from guys who shouldn’t be making them, to the point where anyone betting on the Illini, either for or against them, has more intestinal fortitude than this humble scribe. It wouldn’t surprise me to see us make the sweet sixteen, and it also wouldn’t surprise me if we laid an early round egg. Why do sports fans do this to themselves?
Major League Baseball
After a 99-day lockout, the longest work stoppage in their history, the owners and players finally agreed to get the season started, without losing any games. The vote by player representatives from each team was resoundingly in favor of the deal, at 26-4, but what I found most interesting was that the eight members of the union’s executive committee were unanimous in their votes against the new deal. Basically, the players who were closest to the negotiations felt that they could gain more by continuing to hold out, while the rank and file essentially said that they just want to play ball. At any rate, those who suffer the most, the seasonal employees at the stadiums and we, the fans, can once again look forward to the games. As a baseball purist, the universal designated hitter isn’t something I’m on board with, but if it means that a certain tough hombre who wears jersey #5 can retire as a St. Louis Cardinal, then I guess it’s more than ok.
Easing of Pandemic Restrictions
Hard to believe that it was two years ago this week that the world as we know it stopped turning. Parkland was on spring break, so as we left that Thursday for a three-day weekend, none of us knew that we wouldn’t be returning to our office for months, if at all. Last week, the mandatory mask requirement was lifted, and on March 28, we will no longer be required to show proof of negative test/vaccination to enter the building and all entrances will be reopened. It finally feels like we’re returning to whatever normal is going to look like from now on. It’s hard to fathom, but some good has come out of the COVID-19 days. It’s forced all of us to evolve the way we do business. The use of online meetings, something that I wasn’t wanting to do with my students before the pandemic, has become a useful tool that allows me to have conversations that would not have happened in the past. It’s also taught me to enjoy each and every day, because it can all go away in a blink. Carpe diem, friends.