I think a lot on vacation. My wife starts a new job this week, so we figured we'd sneak in a quick trip to a beach before she has to build up vacation days. Our choice: Puerto Rico. Never been. Will go back. 4.5 Tom Cruises. Really, really great trip.
I kind of unplugged my mind from all things Illini while we were gone (besides, you know, trying to watch the Maryland game on Friday night). Maybe I should start with that story.
Puerto Rico is two hours ahead, so the game started at 9:00 local time. We had taken a ferry over to Vieques for the day and returned to our hotel, exhausted, at 8:30 pm. There was no FS1 in our room, but I figured I could stream the game online. Nope. After staring at a blank screen for a while (thinking the thing was buffering due to weak hotel wifi or something), I finally got to an error code: "we cannot verify that you are in the United States". Puerto Rico being part of the United States notwithstanding, I decided to try the app on my phone (maybe "location services" on a cell signal would tell Fox Sports that yes, I'm in the United States?) I headed out to the beach to try to get a good signal and try the app. Nope.
My wife was already asleep, so I just stayed out there and listened to the game on the radio (streaming online) while watching the lights from a few boats off in the distance. It was quite serene. Listening to a game on the radio - not very serene. Apparently I've gotten to the point where I need stats and I need details and I need the ability to jump back ten seconds and watch something again. None of these are available to me when listening on the radio.
Another quirk: when my team starts the second half 1 for 17, and when the radio station has some sort of mic on the basket that let's you hear what happens to the shot, it's.. not a pleasant experience. At least not with my earbuds in. "Ayo to Frazier who lets go of a three.. (massive DOINNININNNOINNNNGGGG sound) ..and it's no good, rebound to Maryland". When it's been discussed all week as the biggest game in Champaign in (somewhere between) 7 and 15 years, losing sucks. Losing while listening on the radio with my technology-fueled WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW angst is even worse.
I tweeted that sentiment - more on that below - and many people responded with their stances. What do I mean by "stances"? It's my word for a pre-determined way of viewing everything. A filter applied to all inputs. You're an UNDERWOOD GUY, and when I tweet that I found myself siding with Alan Griffin over Underwood during the Missouri kerfuffle, you let me hear it. You're a FIRE LOVIE guy, so when I shrug off the Northwestern loss and say "bring on the season this has all been building towards", you let me hear it. You have a trip wire set up (we all do it), and when I cross it, your alarm goes off.
Here's the tweet I sent:
I hate all losses, but losing the "biggest game in Champaign in at least seven and perhaps as many as 15 years" hurts so much more. This is the old "Lucy yanked the football" feeling.
-- Robert (@ALionEye) February 8, 2020
You can click on that and see the responses. People agreeing with me. People unfollowing. People who believe the season is unraveling. People upset that I'm not staying positive.
All I'm doing there is just stating how I feel about the game. I was ready to run up and down the beach celebrating a win over a top-10 team in Champaign to grab sole possession of first place, and when the air comes out of that balloon, man is it a rapid deflation. But it's really hard to express that and have it taken at face value. Everyone thinks I ~mean~ something by what I said there. I didn't mean a single thing besides "man does this feeling suck".
I guess it's probably hard for people to understand my experience on Twitter. I should probably try to explain that as well. I'm not talking about any of the things I thought I was going to talk about with this post.
I interact with the fanbase through my mentions on Twitter. I'm probably somewhat unique in this regard. Because I'm more fan than media, fans reach out to me during games in ways they probably don't reach out to some beat writer. I don't respond very often, but I do read almost all of them. I've been doing it for so long that it's part of how I watch a game now.
Most people don't realize that this is going on. There's not some tab on your Twitter when you can just scroll through everyone @-ing me or responding to some tweet. I'll say something like "the fanbase is angry today" and I'll get some "how would you know up there in the pressbox?" responses. I'm always tempted to screencap the 17 anger tweets I just received, but that always comes off like putting Twitter followers on blast, so it's never worth the trouble. Just know that... I have a finger on a unique pulse because of people reaching out to me in real time during games.
And that experience has significantly changed of late. Not much has changed about how I tweet during games - I still swing from the highest highs to the lowest lows - but so much has changed in my mentions. Maybe it's because we've gone through the rebuilding years for these two coaches and now we're in the "time to prove it" years, but same high-highs/low-lows tweeting I've always done during games is met with such emotion of late.
There have always been positive and negative responses.There will always be fans who short their team ("if they win I'm happy and if they lose I was right"), and there will always be fans who plug their ears and scream "lalalalalala" when things aren't going very well. But this feels like something different. Everything I tweet must "mean something" now, and I don't understand why.
Anyway, that's what stuck in my head on Saturday and Sunday while relaxing at the pool (or with my wife sleeping on my shoulder on the airplane). Perhaps it's just societal, forced upon us by the current political climate, and maybe that's made me change as well. But my Twitter experience has certainly changed significantly in the past few years. I thought winning might change it, but that has just made the "no negative observations allowed - we're winning now" crowd get even louder.
I just paused to reread and this is such an awful post. "Hey Robert, what say you write something that offends everyone who responds to you on Twitter?" OK! I will!
Let's see... what else? Here's a list of Illini things I thought about on vacation (besides STANCES):
- Feeling really good about my "I think we might go 1-4 in these five games but then make the Sweet 16" take from last week. Big surge with the seven game win streak, then the bottom drops out and we go 1-4 over five games, and then we turn around with a late-season push that carries right through to knocking off a 2-seed as a 7-seed or something. At least that's my hope. (Well, my "hope" is that we don't go 1-4 over these five games. But we're already 0-2 and I'm afraid that will be the case.)
- Illini Softball got off to a 4-0 start to the season, beating two SEC teams in the process (#23 Auburn and Ole Miss). That's quite significant because a lot of seniors graduated last year and the current lineup looks like this: sophomore, sophomore, freshman, junior, junior, sophomore, freshman, junior, junior. And the top three pitchers used so far: sophomore, sophomore, freshman. This is Tyra Perry's fifth Illini team, and I thought it might be a bit of a rebuilding year after a bunch of seniors graduated from her fourth team, but it hasn't started that way.
- On the other side of things, the men's tennis team couldn't be off to more of a disastrous start. The Illini are 1-5 to start the season. This after returning nearly everyone from last year's 15th-ranked squad. Everyone seems to be struggling. Aleks Kovacevic lost in the NCAA Semifinals last year as a junior and finished the season 34-7. So far this year he's 5-6. I know that tennis can be fickle, but for a team that was ranked #12 preseason, 1-5 with losses to three unranked teams is about as bad as it gets.
- I just now remembered that I have a football LLUOI to write. I was mostly disconnected from the world on vacation, so I only briefly saw that we added an unknown recruit on Signing Day. That means there's six scholarships remaining, so all of the focus is now on transfers.
- Just checked the golf scores from the first tournament of the year. As of this moment, Illini golf, currently 45th in Golfstat's top-50, is in fourth at this Tournament, 10 shots back of unranked Texas State. Is there some rule in the Matrix that states that when Illini basketball returns to the top-25, Illini golf falls apart?
OK I think that's it. Time to re-engage with the world. And wish I was back at the beach.