All Too Well

Nov 23, 2021

I'm trying to scroll through Twitter to make sense of things (impossible) and Twitter is like "you once paused over this one tweet that means you probably like Taylor Swift here's some Taylor Swift news put directly in your feed do you like it?" No Twitter, I don't want to hear about Taylor Swift right now. I'm in complete shock and I'm trying to process all of this.

Basically, I just pulled up Twitter to see what national media are saying. I just needed to know, you know? When we're a national laughingstock, for whatever reason, I have to take it all in. I feel like I need to read it all and once I read it all it will sink in. And then I can write an article about how we're just not very good right now.

I go to the "explore" tab to search for something and there's Taylor again. Twitter wants me to know that All Too Well is now the longest #1 hit of all time. And I'm all "wait, a Taylor Swift song has been at #1 longer than that one Boys II Men song?" I don't think I could even identify the song All Too Well. It's now been at #1 the longest?

So now I'm 100% completely sidetracked. I don't care an ounce about any of this music stuff, but give my brain a chance to say "there's just no way" and off I go. I click the, I don't know what it's called, news feed (?) on the "Explore" tab and I'm off.

The first thing I learn: it's not the longest time at number one. It's the longest SONG to make it to number one. Apparently it's 10 minutes long. So Boys II Men can keep their spot. (I realized I'm probably wrong there as well so I just looked it up - Old Town Road passed Boys II Men as the song with the most weeks at #1 so that's not even true anymore). I still don't think I care about any of this but I'm not feeling the awful feeling of "what if this isn't even a Tournament team?" anymore so I'm gonna keep going.

Twitter next informs me of this:

So now I'm starting to think this through. Radio stations are playing a 10 minute song? I guess that's not really all that crazy. Stairway To Heaven was eight minutes long. Billy Joel's "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" is probably eight minutes long. What's two more minutes? And does "radio play" even factor in anymore when looking for #1 songs? All of this is preventing me from realizing we might lose to Mark Smith and Bruce Weber tomorrow night, so I decide that I should watch the entire 15-minute video. 99% certain I've never heard this song but let's do this.

The video opens with a Pablo Neruda quote: "Love is so short; forgetting is so long." PREEEAAACH, Pablo. Right now it feels like I'll never not feel this current feeling. "My team is not what we thought they'd be" is just the worst feeling.

I should pause here to tell you something: I don't think this post is going anywhere. I don't have some grand plan to come around at the end and be all "which is why Illini fans know this feeling ALL TOO WELL" or anything. I'm in my hotel room trying to distract myself from the debacle I just attended and I'm transcribing my brain in real time. Don't worry - I made the post click-free. No one reads anything after losses like this anyway, so I figured I'd explore the space tonight.

Oh, and while I have the video paused, I'd just like to note (from my Twitter explorations before Taylor distracted me)... Is it ok to ask Here's What Underwood Needs To Do Twitter to stand down for a bit? It was all good and fine when we started 4-12 with Ayo and Kofi in 2019-20 but this is a damn early season crisis and we just don't need your expertise right now. I feel like I want to declare a curfew or something. We get that you could have this team fixed by tomorrow night but please, everyone, stay in your homes and lock your doors. Curfew is lifted at 6:00 am on Wednesday and then you can resume coaching the team.

OK, now back to Taylor Swift. This video has, my God, 45 million views in 10 days. I find myself thinking that Illinois basketball matters, and then Illinois basketball highlights will get 1,600 views on YouTube and a Taylor Swift music video gets 45 million views in 10 days.

It just hit me that I need to write a So How We Doin' tonight. You know what? I'll bury it right here.

So, How We Doin'? Kansas State
by Robert Rosenthal

You're telling me that I have to go back to that arena tomorrow, for the early game on ESPNews, and I might have to watch Mark Smith and Bruce Weber beat Illinois to send us not only out of the polls but down to "not even a single vote in others receiving votes"? That's what you're telling me I'm facing tomorrow?

The only coach I've ever gone full-on "fire this man right now" might beat us? I might sit there and listen to him say things like MARK SMITH YOU PROMISED and MOOOVE, KAOSI and then watch him walk off victorious? That single moment that played out in my mind over and over and over where Bruce Weber ran on the court and shoved DJ Richardson in the back, telling him to go to the other wing for the play he had called - I might watch that happen as he out-coaches our coach leading to our third consecutive loss?

I don't know if I can do that, you guys. I'm not sure I'm capable. I knew there was the possibility of playing K-State in this Tournament, but I thought it would be because they upset Arkansas. If this is going to be the second loss of a Thanksgiving tournament that sends our heads spinning (like 2009 or 2016) then I cannot handle it coming from Bruce Weber. I just can't.

The dread I'm going to have when I wake up tomorrow. I'll be sick to my stomach all day. Honestly, there's probably a 20% chance I won't even go. It's just too much to ask. All that Weber stuff plus the potential of "Mark Smith never lost to Illinois".

I need a prediction here and I'm putting zero thought into this. I cannot picture a meal with my family on Thursday where I have to talk about back-to-back-to-back losses to Marquette, Cincinnati, and Kansas State, so there's no way I'm predicting a loss. We HAVE TO win this one.

Illinois 74, Kansas State 67

Back to Taylor Swift (why?). Let's see what this video is all about.

Actually, it's a short film. 15 minutes long. Maybe this isn't the kind of thing I can live-blog. I'll just take the next 15 minutes and watch it. And no, I've never heard this song before.

~15 minutes go by~

I'm not sure what to say next. Now this is all going to feel like a set-up. Like I watched this video last week and decided to use it for this article tonight. I swear that I just watched it for the first time, and I swear that I landed on the video because of Twitter's algorithm thinking I'd be interested in it tonight (I guess I was).

That... was so incredibly helpful for me. I'm not gonna lie - I was absolutely reeling when leaving the arena tonight. Dark, scary "but then does this mean..." thoughts. And this dumb journey in front of this laptop screen to land on a freaking Taylor Swift video really, really helped. Allow me to issue the largest "stay with me here" I've ever issued and try to explain why it helped.

The song, and video, is about a relationship (like most songs and videos). Girl and a guy, everything is great at first, and then it starts to crack and eventually falls apart. The lyrics and the story don't really matter here.

What matters here: the song, especially at the end, repeats the words "I was there" over and over. She's singing about a relationship the fell apart and she's forcing it back into actuality. He can dismiss it all he wants. But it happened. She was there. He doesn't get to decide that it didn't matter, or that it wasn't real, or that it wasn't, at one time, magical. "It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well".

I feel like I really need to face that tonight. After Marquette I clung to "yeah but Kofi was out", and now that we lost (by 20, to a likely bad team) with Kofi out, my brain keeps searching and searching and searching for somewhere to land. The entire trip back to the hotel was a bargaining session. Desperately trying to find somewhere to put this.

This song, crazy as it may be that I landed on it tonight, forces me back to actuality. And probably even clears up some Loyola stuff, too. See, ever since Kofi returned to Illinois, I've been softening the Loyola blow. When all of the "might Illinois be... better?" articles came out around the time of Big Ten Media Day, I basically reduced the Loyola loss down to "yeah well see it's just like when Virginia lost in the first round in 2018 and then won it all in 2019". Part of a bigger picture where the lessons learned in Indianapolis in 2021 could be used in the 2022 Tournament.

But that's just bargaining. Which is dangerous. The best thing I can do right now is to stop trying to combine 2021 into part of 2022's bigger story. That's just a way to make the Loyola loss irrelevant. But it happened. I was there.

2020-21 - Ayo a first-team All American, Kofi a second-team All American, Belo the Big Ten 6th Man of the Year - was a magical thing. It ended abruptly and horribly. But it wasn't part of some "and then, the next year, even though Ayo was gone..." story. That's just something I've been trying to create to make "abruptly and horribly" feel better. It was its own thing and I simply need to accept how it ended.

And now 2021-22 is its own thing. And it has started horribly. The road in front of us is frightening, beginning tomorrow night. A loss there plus maybe losses to Notre Dame or Arizona, sends this season off the rails before Christmas. There are frightening moments ahead.

But they're 2021-22 moments. They have nothing to do with last season. I'm basically talking to myself now, but Loyola wasn't some necessary awful thing that would open the door to climbing the mountain the following season. It was just... a painful loss to a small school from Chicago that destroyed our championship dreams.

I mean, just look at the preview. I wrote that whole section about Ayo lifting Curbelo's chin at the end of the Loyola game and how that could be the moment that would catapult this season forward. I'd now take it back if I could. 2021 was one thing. 2022 is another.

2021-22 has now started 2-2. As 11 point favorites we just lost by 20. There's no flow to the offense so points feel impossible right now. As soon as tomorrow night we might put ourselves in "gotta at least go 10-10 in the Big Ten because 14 losses probably doesn't get in" territory. These are very scary times.

But we do have the potential to be a great defensive team. And if we start there, maybe we can tinker and figure out the offense. The assistants are all new, the scheme guy (Gentry) is gone, and Brad Underwood is probably hovering his hand over the "go back to the spread offense and pressure defense" button. A lot will happen before the first of the year.

And all of those things will be 2022 things. I think I finally just reached acceptance with 2021. It doesn't feel good - acknowledging that it happened and that it was real always feels worse than pretending like it was just minor hurdle on our way to something great - but at least I'm no longer fooling myself. And I guess I am going to "come back around at the end with All Too Well" after all.

2022? I am now scared to death.

2021? It was the Covid season (it was rare), I was lucky enough to be one of 75 people in the building at most games (I was there), and, unfortunately, it ended with our masked heroes losing in the second round to an eight-seed.

I remember it all too well.


ktcesw on November 23, 2021 @ 05:46 AM

Robert, keep your spirits up. We have a lot of talent! We simply have to learn how to use that talent. Kofi is great but, we don't have to look to go to him every time down the floor. AC has to understand that sometimes, he only has half a second to make a pass and when you miss that short period, the defense recovers or you throw a shooter out of rhythm. Many teachable moments if the player is willing to listen.

thumpasaurus on November 23, 2021 @ 05:58 AM

On the contrary. I first found your stuff trying desperately to make sense of the 2009 football team imploding right out of the gate. I’m much more likely to read your stuff after a loss like this.

Certainly didn’t think we’d be BETTER this year, but man. My freshman year was fall 2007 and that was my intro to Illinois sports. I’ve only ever known Illinois basketball as “perennial NIT 2 seed with the talent to get in on the bubble but lost too many important games.” I pounced on the opportunity to see the ILLINOIS BASKETBALL I’d always been promised and they’re gonna fall all the way to unranked before I can even get there for a December 3rd game.

I was really hoping Kofi would steady this, but man, we really have no way to score reliably besides Kofi and threes. Ayo and to a lesser extent Feliz gave us a third dimension on offense that was difficult to deal with and opened up the other two avenues.

I’m not ready to go back to the 2010s yet

orangejulius on November 23, 2021 @ 01:11 PM

Agree. Brad didnt become a poor x's and o's coach overnight. Ayo Adam and Giorgi were huge losses and I am not seeing adequate replacements at this point with the most glaring need being a scoring guard. I think Brad recognized this and tried to fill the hole with a transfer but struck out.

NTB on November 23, 2021 @ 06:09 AM

IlliniBoard is now a Taylor Swift stan site . . . and I am here for it!

ATOillini on November 23, 2021 @ 07:23 AM

Back on October 6, I happened to be watching 4-1 Texas destroying #10 and 5-0 Oklahoma 28-7 after one quarter. The Texas offense looked unstoppable. When that quarter was over, what would a Texas fan say if you told them on November 23 the Longhorns would still be sitting on 4 victories?

Why do I even mention the above? Well, things can change quite a bit from what we think we know/see. Sometimes it’s for the worse, but other times teams figure things out, the ship gets righted and better days are ahead.

I’m obviously hopeful it’s the latter.

AGig21 on November 23, 2021 @ 07:34 AM

The announcers made such a big deal out of the Cincy coach and his timeout. All he did during the time out is have his players look at our team. Really look at our team. And then he said, "do you see? Kofi is the only one wearing clothes! The others are all naked!" His players like us had been fooled. Make the other players prove they are wearing clothes.

danny on November 23, 2021 @ 07:52 AM

Robert it seems like your prediction is based on expectations, not reality. Based on performance of the last 45 minutes of basketball, I can’t see this team winning tonight.

Something is not right w this team. The offense looks out of whack and no one seems to want the ball or look to shoot. AC is struggling. I’ll be watching again n hoping Coach Underwood creates change with his team.

sirrah1912 on November 23, 2021 @ 08:11 AM

I felt like I was watching the football team on 3rd & 9 and our receivers constantly running 6 yard routes. It didn't feel like we played poorly or Cincinnati played well. It felt like we suck. Please let me feel different tonight.

HiggsBoson on November 23, 2021 @ 08:59 AM

Honestly, too much Taylor Swift for me to keep reading. I expect another loss tonight and a drop out of the top 25. I don't know what's the matter with these guys, but something sure is. Underwood said they weren't tough or together and were painful to watch. It felt to me like John "Gross" was back. I hope we don't look back on that game in a couple of years and think that was when the wheels came off what Underwood was trying to build. Or maybe he just needs to do another purge. I feel for Trent and Da'Monte. They deserve better than this.

BamaIllini on November 23, 2021 @ 09:13 AM

Just focus on Saturday. We will win the hat, and we will do it with style.

Brave Illini on November 23, 2021 @ 09:28 AM

Could be stars in the players' eyes from so much preseason hype. Old saying - dangerous to believe your own press clippings. I would expect that we will improve now that we know we have to actually play the games and not just go through the motions. Act like we are underdogs and low-rated.

Dix on November 23, 2021 @ 01:08 PM

I will keep ringing this bell--I think it's that + NIL. Coaches have always had to manage high TEAM expectations, but now add to team hype individual player hype with dollar signs attached to it. Not saying they are so busy trying to make money that basketball has become secondary, or that NIL was the wrong decision. But I do think we are witnessing team chemistry issues that could be at least partially the result of a slight focus shift in the direction of individual players in a way we've never seen (outside of the Ayos and Dee Browns of the world). Now every player on the team has the incentive to become at least a local superstar as fast as possible.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on November 23, 2021 @ 09:38 AM

Until last night I thought 2021 Indiana football was the most overhyped preseason pick ever.

Until last night.

Lou-a-villini on November 23, 2021 @ 10:19 AM

Most Tool songs are longer than 10 minutes, and many are quite intelligent & cathartic.

I’m not sure a win tonight keeps us in the Top 25. They need to play p.o.’d.

I’m suddenly more interested in Saturday’s football game. Please, Underwood, get it fixed fast!

PowerGranger on November 23, 2021 @ 12:21 PM

I’m not familiar with any of those songs. It’s great to be me!

HNLINI on November 23, 2021 @ 03:17 PM

Not as surprised by the outcomes as I am about the complete and total lack of mental toughness/grit in our team, which is atypical of the Illini since mid-2019. The season is not lost, but it is not looking promising at this point. We need a few wins, and far fewer excuses from the coaches, players, etc.

baseballslang on November 23, 2021 @ 04:16 PM

It’s very early. But we will find out a lot about this team tonight against K-State. FWIW (Apparently not much) Current Pomeroy Illini 10 Cincy 73 Marquette 76 K-State 87 A-State 179 Jackson St. 285

Sean on November 24, 2021 @ 10:12 AM

A few quick thoughts --

  • Curbelo not practicing because of concussion protocol has hurt the offensive flow with the team.
  • Cockburn not playing with the team early because of suspension has hurt the offensive flow with the team.
  • Frasier's injury to his shoulder might be affecting his shot. I'm not sure.
  • Gentry not running the scheme is hurting Underwood.
  • One of Frasier or Williams HAS to be the leader on the court.
  • The seven deep not named Cockburn have to knock down the wide-open threes. If Grandison, Frasier, Williams, Curbelo, Plummer, and Hawkins make them at a higher clip, we will win a lot of games.
  • As Mike Tyson once said, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Illinois got punched in the mouth. How they play the rest of the games will make the season.

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