It's The Hope That Kills You

Nov 8, 2020

You have currently viewed 1 story this month.

IlliniBoard now offers two free stories per month, for more please subscribe.

I have a new religion. For the last month I've been attending the Church of Ted Lasso. When I'm elected President in 2044, the first season of Ted Lasso will be required viewing for all Americans. My wife and I are now on our fourth viewing of the first season. I'm not joking. I'm not setting up another paragraph here. We've legitimately watched the entire season three times in a month and have started in on a fourth.

Why? I'm not exactly sure I can explain it. "Just end 2020 already" is part of it I'm sure - the quarantine and our general disconnectedness as a society. Personally, the move to Champaign is part of it as well. We left all of our family and friends in St. Louis to start a new life here in our late 40's.

I'm certain that things that happened this summer absolutely have something to do with it - the high of our son getting married and the low of my wife's father passing away four days later. And I'm sure the general "what if we just put all vitriol on display?" American political climate plays a big role, too.

For whatever reason, for us, this show delivers the calm of a perfect summer evening. It sounds silly - if you saw the Ted Lasso ads on NBC in 2014 you're saying "a show about THAT?" - but yeah, a show about that somewhat rescued 2020 for us. It's not going to be for everyone, so this is not "everyone go watch it because it's perfect". Some will love it, some won't get it, some will find it sappy. That's fine. Art is art. For us, though, in 2020, it's perfect.

I won't spoil any of it here, but I will talk about some of the themes. Especially the theme of the season finale. The show has the same premise as the commercials - an American football coach from Kansas is hired by a Premier League team and is significantly out of his element (they even use the same "ref how is that offsides?? No seriously I don't understand offsides can you explain it to me?" joke as the commercial). The show is basically the plot of Major League - an owner, hoping the team fails, tries to sabotage the team by hiring an in-over-his-head manager and messing with the roster.

The title of the finale for season one is "It's The Hope That Kills You". It's a phrase used by soccer fans in England and the writers found it to be the perfect theme for a season finale: an American, full of audacious hope, struggles to understand why the Brits seem so resistant to the concept. The finale is basically the prison lunchroom debate between Andy Dufresne and Red in sitcom form. Is hope dangerous? Or is it maybe the best of things?

The show is much more complex than that, and where they went with it might surprise you, but I don't want to spoil a single thing here so I'll just leave it at that. The reason this post is titled "It's The Hope That Kills You": Ted Lasso. Streaming now on Apple TV Plus for only $4.99 per month, first week free.

Tonight, I think I agree with the Brits. If it weren't for this silly Americanized hope bouncing around in my head these last few years, I'd be feeling so much better right now. Giving in early is so much better than hanging on too long. Invest little, lose little. There's so much to be said for the critic's mind. Movies lie.

For me, though, I've always gone the other way. There's many reasons for that, but the simplest explanation is probably just "it's who I've always been". I've said before that I probably chose this school because the song said "we're loyal to you, Illinois" and that fits me like a glove. Ask any single person who knows me and they'll tell you I'm overly loyal to everything and everyone.

And that's not a good thing. Friendships are difficult for a guy like me because I'm all-in while everyone else is smartly reserved. If you've ever had a conversation with me in person, that "yeah?" thing I say after every ninth word of yours is the thing you thought about when I walked away. I'm guessing you went over and told your buddy "he's a nice guy and all, but man, I felt like he was right in my face while standing three feet away". I can be a lot.

Loyalty and hope are connected, I think. Take my dog. She's fiercely loyal and wildly hopeful. She loves walks, and every shoe being put on every foot means a walk is somehow possible, so my wife and I won't even put shoes on around her. If she even spots you putting on a shoe, it's immediately "oh my God is it happening? I think it's happening." And it only "happens" about once out of every 10 shoes.

Sound familiar?

I've been so incredibly hopeful that Illinois Football is about to take me for a walk. I swear I just heard the sock drawer, and if I hear the sliding door of the closet with the shoes, I'm going to lose my mind. Was that it? Are the shoes going on? Is this really happening?

Wisconsin 45, Illinois 7
Purdue 31, Illinois 24
Minnesota 41, Illinois 14

In this sense, hope is the worst of things. There's a much easier way to go about things: skepticism. I believe that we will win? No - I'll believe it when I see it.

Stay there and you're safe. Stay there and I guarantee you'll be a much better sportswriter. Stay there and you might be able to see that the coach you're thinking is about to rev the engine has been leaking oil all along.

Yet I can't ever stay there. I don't know what that says about me, but I know that it's true. The hope does kill you, and it makes moments like this much more painful, and the people spewing anger my way on Twitter today are all soundly asleep in their beds right now while I'll be up most of the night wrestling with this, but I just can't make myself go there. I'm driving to Rutgers and I'm driving to Nebraska and I'm going to hope that the season can be salvaged right up until the moment it isn't. And even if it's not I'm going to try to find something, anything, to cling to. Isaiah Williams? Deuce Spann? I'll keep looking.

If you're thinking that I'm going to finish this post with some big lesson on how the season finale of Ted Lasso teaches you that "hope wins in the end", I'm not. Because that's not where the show takes it. Quite the opposite, really. Sometimes, you just have to deal with the reality of a situation.

What's our current reality?

  • The defense, somewhat repaired last year, is broken.
  • The effort, a staple of the 4-game win streak last season, is completely gone.
  • The discipline is nonexistent and penalties rule the day again.
  • The program feels directionless, mired in a six-game losing streak after we (or maybe just "I") hoped the corner had been turned.
  • The football, in all facets of the game, is bad.

Year five, coming off a bowl, nearly everyone back, horrific football. That's the cold, harsh reality.

And also the reason I'll struggle to sleep tonight. Everything inside me wanted this season to be what Indiana fans are experiencing right now. I wanted all of the "let's just start over" rebuild efforts to lead somewhere. I wanted a firm foundation so that even if this coach doesn't take it anywhere, maybe the next coach can.

I've gotten none of that. I've gotten a 2020 team that probably loses to the 2004 team. We've seen this part before, and it sometimes gets really, really ugly from here on out. Except this time I have a front row seat. I'm scared to watch.

At the end of the game, I was obsessed with Deuce Spann getting in. The game was obviously over, and there's no burned redshirts this year (everyone gets a free year), so I saw no reason not to play him. When Coran Taylor came out for the series after Minnesota made it 41-14, I was beside myself. If I can't have any fun at all, at least let me put my hope in my favorite recruit.

Finally, after we punted with 5:30 to go, Spann got the headset to talk to the coaches in the booth. And then he went and grabbed his helmet and began warming up in earnest. Finally I'll get to see my guy.

NOPE. Minnesota, despite a holding penalty and 1st-and-20, picked up first down after first down and ran out the clock. My "at least just give me that" request was denied as well.

Which is probably good for me. I need to stay focused on the big picture (this isn't working - at all) and not get wrapped up in the 19th freshman quarterback I'll put blind faith in. Yet that's all I've ever known, so there I was, begging for a third down stop just so Deuce could run two plays. NOPE.

It's the hope that kills you? Probably true. I just wish I had the ability to turn it off.


mmyers74 on November 8, 2020 @ 05:35 AM

All so true. Painful.

(And Robert, all respect to a kid who I'm certain has worked hard and deserved his shot... all I wanted, all day, was Spann in the game.)

Lovie helped improve (but not save) recruiting. He is a poor game planner. An even worse game manager. And a downright abhorrent clock and challenge manager. He hired names, not "educators/teachers" and thus you feel the uptick in recruiting, but don't see the growth and development in the players once they arrive, that you should.

The worst part is that I'm rooting for Spann to come into the game and overcome ALL of that... and then for Whitman to realize it, and while we are winning games we shouldn't, make the change and keep the momentum.

Oh. Wait. I just described last year.


Nashvegas Illini on November 8, 2020 @ 07:43 AM

Robert. I need to know why. The talent is better but nothing. Is this Lovie's inability to adapt to college? Is this his play calling being to predictable? What happened to the offense. We had a running QB that couldn't get going running?

I need nerd stats and people smarter than me to tell me why is it so bad...

Duce20 on November 8, 2020 @ 08:15 AM

No it’s simple. It’s Lovie Smith. That’s it.

IlliniOrphan on November 8, 2020 @ 10:04 AM

Yep. It's Lovie Smith and his cast of incompetence. That's it.

ktal on November 8, 2020 @ 08:07 AM

Hope is a choice and, a smart one at that. But every last shard of it has been systematically extinguished under Lovie's stewardship. Which is agonizing. Alas, what's done is done and now there is much to do. We'll get it next time.

Chop wood, carry water.

Duce20 on November 8, 2020 @ 08:16 AM

Ted Lasso is the best thing on Television and it’s not close. How you can be sappy, funny, sad and complex all at the same time with such an element of ease is exactly what you said, Art!

Nabor568 on November 8, 2020 @ 08:40 AM

Keep the faith man.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on November 8, 2020 @ 09:40 AM

I like you Robert. Always have always will. Ever since the day in 2012 (2012????) where we met in the East Balcony, and you told me how to spell "ALionEye" and you told me no way was Koenning staying in C-U unless he was the head coach. . .

You lay bare the things that nearly all of The Seventeen feel, but aren't gifted enough to put into words in a meaningful way.

Its your curse and our blessing I guess. Thanks for everything you do.

The Olaf Rules on November 8, 2020 @ 12:34 PM

If Whitman makes the change at the end of this season, the new coach will inherit a better situation than when Lovie started. Let’s hope he pulls the trigger before this spirals into a black hole.

Efremwinters84 on November 8, 2020 @ 01:18 PM

I believe we're already in that Black Hole.

IlliniOllie on November 8, 2020 @ 03:55 PM

We are Andy Dufresne, spending years in prison, trying to hammer through the wall a bit at a time, and swimming through a mile-long river of s**t... only to find that Warden Norton put a metal grate over the end of the pipe.

ahamm445 on November 8, 2020 @ 06:38 PM

Our offense's inability to sustain drives is the reason our defense looks so atrocious. Could you imagine having to bring the wood for 25/30 minutes in a half? I think you even talked about it after the Wisconsin game.

Douglascountyillinifan on November 8, 2020 @ 07:40 PM

Great Odin's Raven, what happened to our o line? I know Rod's play calling is hamstrung because ot the qb situation, but wow we don't get much push. And I'm holding out hope that in my lifetime I'll see an illini defense stop an rpo.

16th&mission on November 8, 2020 @ 07:42 PM

How old are you?

ItsTBaggins on November 8, 2020 @ 10:40 PM

Not young enough

Groundhogday on November 8, 2020 @ 08:03 PM

As it turned out, a super laid back coach who didn't put a ton of effort into recruiting, stuck to a defensive scheme that hasn't work for a decade, and made a slew of dubious staff hires--couldn't win at Illinois.

Who could have thunk it?

Mr Cool on November 9, 2020 @ 12:19 AM

I am surprised anyone had hope. When you lose 63-0 in year 3, and the high watermark is a 6-7 season in year 4 that required a couple miracles to even get there, and it’s now year 5 what exactly are you hopeful for? There has to be reasons for hope. Is it recruiting? Recruiting has been bottom of the Big 10 and it’s not getting better despite aesthetic improvements to buildings. Is it on field play? We don’t have any scheme advantages. We been consistently pushed around on the field yardage wise, and our only advantages are punting and turnovers. What program is built on punting and turnover margin? God Bless Blake Hayes he’s the best player on the team but you can’t build a program around that.

Are you all in on any product Illinois football puts out there, or are you all in on winning? I’m the latter so it’s easy for me to turn the page on this regime, declare it dead, bury it, and move on to the next coach. And that doesn’t kill me. That is what gives me hope.

Robert on November 9, 2020 @ 07:37 PM

My HONEST response to that:

I'm all in on any product Illinois football puts out there.

skibdaddy on November 9, 2020 @ 11:18 AM

This is great writing ... and it encapsulates how so many of us are feeling right now. I didn't watch the game (it was too beautiful outside, & we stinks). I think next Saturday around 11 I'll be watching Ted Lasso instead of the beloved.

skibdaddy on November 9, 2020 @ 11:23 AM

Also Robert, I want to encourage you to keep your hope alive. Perhaps it's not warranted for this football team, but keep your hope in how this website is doing.

It's much more than just football my friend, it's about community and common struggles, and you're bringing it and we thank you.

blackdeath on November 9, 2020 @ 12:49 PM

You're 100% correct: Ted Lasso is the best thing on TV, incredibly enjoyable and satisfying.

Illinois football, not so much. Maybe we can get a Premier League soccer coach to take over for Illinois Football. I'd watch that.

Rkile05 on November 9, 2020 @ 03:03 PM

I just listened to your "from the stands" after the loss on Saturday, and decided to finally pony for my first IlliniBoard subscription. To spite covering a horrible football "program", you fill a valuable niche for those of us who tune in every football Saturday with low expectations and high hopes (even though deep down we all know better) thank you for that.

With regards to the Lovie Smith Era, its over. Fans know its over. Whitman isn't stupid, he knows its over. Writing has been on the wall for years with this staff. I get that recruiting is difficult with Illinois' recent history and we're in the bottom half of B1G teams talent wise (probably being kind there). But every year in college football we see better coached teams beat out more talented teams, because they've been in a PROGRAM. They know their assignments after five years in a PROGRAM. The complete lack of discipline from the players (looking at you #87 and #93) and lack of accountability by the coaching staff is appalling.

On a personal level Lovie seems like a genuinely good man. But in spite his credentials, he is a fish out of water in the college game and has completely failed to surround himself with strong enough college football minds to cover his blind spots (its hard to believe that 3 years ago we were worried about losing Rod Smith to a head coaching vacancy!!!). As a result, Lovie has failed to developed a PROGRAM at Illinois.

Keep doing you Robert. We all appreciate the work...its never been more difficult. There are brighter days ahead...there just has to be.

tnovak on November 10, 2020 @ 08:41 AM

Watched the first 5 episodes of Ted Lasso last night. Thank you Robert!

Speak Your Mind

Please login or register to post comments on the IlliniBoard.

Post Preview