I don't think I've written anything for a week, which is probably the first time since... a vacation in the Virgin Islands in 2013? Perhaps the best way to cover why I've been missing (plus all of the recent Illini news) is to toss together a Slapdash post. Because when you're not sure what to write about, just start writing.
I've been out of town because my brother-in-law passed away. We received news on Thursday that he had a massive heart attack at work (in Dallas). My wife flew to Dallas from her conference in Orlando on Thursday and I flew down on Friday. They had been able to revive him but he was on life support with severely damaged organs. The doctors tried several different things trying to get his organs (especially his heart) to function on their own, but nothing was working. We made the decision on Monday evening to take him off life support. He was 47 years old.
Just a few words on that before moving on. I feel like I've written about funerals way too much this year (this will be our fifth funeral - third relative - in 2017), so if you want, just skip to the next heading.
I'm not sure I can accurately describe how inspired I am by the love my wife showed her brother this past week. I have a photo I took with my phone of her standing over her brother's hospital bed, staring at the numbers on the machines, a look on her face that read "please let me trade places with you". I had to take a picture because the moment was so pure, so beautiful. I've looked at it several times each day ever since I took it.
My brother-in-law never married and never had any children. He went into the Marines after high school (he could tell you stories of watching Patriot missiles intercept Scud missiles in the first gulf war) and then he worked for different airlines for the rest of his life. He had his work, his cars, and his motorcycles, and that was enough.
Instead of flying back, I drove some of his things (in one of his cars) back to St. Louis. It was an... inspiring trip? I listened to the music he listened to. I stopped at his favorite places to eat. I even dug through his change in the car so that it was his coins I used for the toll roads. I know that probably sounds weird, but I didn't know him as well as my wife and her family (obviously), so I wanted to experience his life a little bit.
Now it's back to the real world. Rest in peace, brother-in-law. Thanks for meaning so much to my wife.
It seems odd to segue from that into Illini football, but that's how I'm approaching this Nebraska game. My wife will be out of town for a few days on a rescheduled business trip, so being home by myself, the idea of walking into the stadium tomorrow night feels like one big hug.
I don't really mean that in the "sports give us a break from the difficulties of life" way. That's part of it, but after an exhausting seven days (I am completely, 100% emotionally and physically drained), the thought of a night game in Memorial Stadium seems like an oasis. I really don't care if we win or lose - it's going to feel good. I can't wait.
We all have our things like that. For my brother-in-law, it was probably his motorcycle. For my wife, it's a tent in the mountains. For me, it just happens to be 1402 South 1st Street, Champaign, Illinois.
When I'm there, I feel connected to everything. Sitting with my dad when we destroyed David Klingler and Houston in 1991 (51-7 or something like that?). Sitting with all three sons when we beat Wisconsin in 2007. The blog, the press pass it has afforded me, the memorable postgame interviews like Ben Mathis in 2013, Zane Petty in 2014, Teddy Karras in 2015, and Joe Spencer last year. All the pieces of my life are connected there. So I can't wait to get up there tomorrow.
How will the game go? That's for the SOC tonight.
I need to keep the LOL side of me contained when it comes to something like the FBI investigation into college basketball. I want to point and laugh but I probably need to keep quiet.
Let's take Missouri for example. I laughed and laughed and laughed at the Ricky Clemons scandal years ago. Remember him? To qualify at Missouri, Clemons took 24 hours of summer school classes at three different universities (in three different states, IIRC). Then he was arrested for false imprisonment of his girlfriend, and during the investigation his girlfriend told police that Missouri had been providing him cash and clothing and all kinds of other impermissible benefits. And there were other things too - he was released from jail to a work-study program with a 5 pm curfew but wrecked an ATV at a party at the University president's house at 10:00 pm., blah blah blah, LOL.
So I can get very "yeah, go get 'em" when it comes to this stuff. We're obviously squeaky clean so go get all the dirty programs and give them the death penalty. Rick Pitino was fired? LOLOL HE PROBABLY PAID QUENTIN SNIDER TO FLIP LOL says my brain.
But then I read tweets like this (from a completely unknown, unverified, random "source")...
Schools that are likely to be hit next, according to sources: Auburn, Arizona, Alabama - and Illinois' Brad Underwood
-- Brian Rauf (@brauf33) September 28, 2017
...and I realize that our new head coach might be let go before this is all said and done. This scandal won't touch the program, I don't think (unless Nike was funneling money to get Khalid Lewis to transfer from LaSalle to Illinois or something), but it might get to Underwood. I hope it won't, I don't think it will, but it might. He hired Lamont Evans at Oklahoma State, and we need to acknowledge that there's a chance this costs him his career.
Which means the LOL LOUISVILLE and HA HA BRUCE PEARL AGAIN side of me had better shut up right quick. In short order, we could be looking for another basketball coach and trying to piece together a recruiting class next spring after the current list of recruits falls apart. We're a week away from several recruits deciding, and now we're staring at this giant college basketball scandal which might lash out and grab our head coach.
Now, I'd say that's unlikely at this point. Lamont Evans stayed at Oklahoma State, Brad Underwood left for Illinois, so perhaps it won't reach that far. But given that every college basketball voice I respect on Twitter is saying "fans don't really realize how deep this thing will go", I'm prepared for the worst.
OK, I'm going to stop thinking about that. I'm going to think about the game tomorrow night. Give me a special night, Memorial Stadium.