Record Year

Oct 30, 2022

I'm not a country music fan but I will fight anyone on this: Record Year by Eric Church is one of the greatest songs of all time. Not "greatest country songs of all time" - greatest songs of all time. It's a work of art.

It is on my "inspiration list" - a list I keep on my phone of things that inspire me. Sometimes, before writing about outside linebackers, I'll need to feel inspired. I'll go to the list, watch or listen to something from the list, and then I can find the words.

If you'll indulge me, I'd like you to watch the full video. And then I'd like to give you my thoughts. And then I want to write about the team that might be 12th when the CFP rankings debut on Tuesday.

Here's the video:

It starts with art at the start (#startart). That little guitar lick with the syncopated clapping sound? The one that's made to sound like a record player that skipping? It's incredible. Only those of us who have had vinyl records understand a record that's skipping (and that's pretty much limited to "people older than 40 and hipsters"). But it's the perfect start to Record Year.

The song does what so many country songs will do: plays with two meanings to the same phrase. You know how that goes. An example: the guy finds out he's going to be a young father and exclaims "there goes my life". And then his daughter is grown up and driving off to college and he exclaims "there goes my life". The country music thing. You know the country music thing.

The country music thing with this song: I'm havin' a record year (I'm setting some records this year). I'm havin' a record year (I'm listening to a lot of records this year because she left me).

But what makes this song even greater is the imagery in the lyrics. He talks in music terminology ("quarter notes and Hank's halftime"), he references albums (Songs In The Key Of Life by Stevie Wonder), and he even plays with "needle" imagery since he's talking about record players:

Your leavin' left me goin' crazy
I'm countin' on a needle to save me
I drop it in the groove
And we go 'round and 'round
And down in a spiral

And don't get me started on the video. The 1:40 mark - where the vinyl records placed on the bar represent the exact graphic equalizer spikes for that portion of the song - should have won awards. I don't throw this word around very much, but it's absolutely brilliant. I'm so inspired every time I watch that.

I guess I just love the entire concept of the song. She broke his heart. He turned to music. It got him through. And you know what, he concludes? Maybe the pain wasn't such a bad thing.

I guess I really oughta call and thank you
I rediscovered Red Headed Stranger
Got down with old James Brown
And found New Grass Revival

If you find your way back, I owe you a beer
For my record year

I just feel so romantic about Illini football right now. All of those "how can you not be romantic about baseball?" tweets? That's more or less what I'm feeling right now. I even made a playlist of Illinois songs on my phone this week.

It wasn't a long playlist. I just put several songs on a playlist that made me think about Illinois. Some of them obvious ("Illinois" by Dan Fogelberg, "Illinois" by Brett Eldredge), some of them a bit more obscure ("Long Hot Summer Day" by Turnpike Troubadours). I was in Idaho last week and feeling romantic about the state where I was born.

Like, this is a STATE thing for me right now. I find myself excited when I see the state outline. It's hard for me to explain how much this photo I took at the renovated Ubben Basketball Facility makes me excited:

That's a great looking state, no? It's one of the best states. Majestic, even.

And that feeling has me listening to songs about Illinois. I get so excited when "Long Hot Summer Day" gets to the "we dropped a man off in Beardstown" part and then concludes that thought with "gonna get off down in Alton." I'm always "Alton! That's in the county where I was born!"

This is just where I am right now. We're having the season I've always dreamed about, and because I spent so much time telling myself that if it ever happened again, I would enjoy it, here I am, enjoying it. I'm debating our CFP ranking with friends. I'm hanging out with wife and kids and also my college friends. I'm getting I-L-L'd from every direction. I'm flipping through my phone trying to find every single thing every single national college football writer has said about Illinois. And I'm singing along to "it looks like you're gonna have to see me again... Illinois" with Dan Fogelberg.

I'm havin' a record year.

+ At first the Art Sitkowski thing was fun. But now I'm wishing I had never played with the whole Startkowski thing. Anything that takes the tiniest little thing away from Tommy DeVito is a bad thing. We're going to remember this season for a long time.

He was injured early in the Iowa game, so let's look at the stats from his last three full games: Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin:

Nebraska: 20-22, 179 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 INT's
Minnesota: 25-32, 252 yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 rushing touchdown, 0 INT's
Wisconsin: 18-24, 167 yards, 0 passing touchdowns, 3 rushing touchdowns, 0 INT's

It's amazing what this offense looks like with a quarterback who you trust to not turn the ball over. It makes things so simple. "Let's see if we can get the run game going, but if not, we'll make the connections we need to make to move the chains in the passing game. And if we need a third-and-eight throw, we have a quarterback we trust to make a tricky third-and-eight throw."

Play solid defense. Have a great running game. Have a trustworthy quarterback. That's it.


+ It's so nice to have that game where a bunch of The Little Things go wrong but we still pull away. I documented them early in the second quarter:

We were playing well, and we were the better team, but we were losing because of so many Little Things. The timeout (and then the false start) took three points off the board. It looked like DeVito had a clear first down but he stepped out of bounds short of the sticks. One DB goes for the INT and one DB makes a lazy tackle attempt and Nebraska turns a nothing play into a long touchdown.

What do we immediately do after I tweet that? Completely dominate every facet of the game until the final whistle. We grab two more interceptions, turn them into points, and ballgame.

Every team goes on the road and struggles with The Little Things. Just when Ryan Walters calls a blitz, the home team calls a screen to that side and it's a 50-yard play. We've watched those Little Things turn possible wins into blowout losses for so many seasons.

So to watch us just shrug them off and dominate? I could get used to this.

+ The thing from today that I keep going over and over in my head: interceptions.

I've written that yearly article for more than 10 years. I've tracked how bad we are at intercepting passes. Each year I've tried to come up with new ways to say "you don't understand how much this hurts us."

And now here we are leading the nation with 15 interceptions. Here's the stat I was tweeting all day:

Interceptions (by the defense) since 2007:

2007 - 17
2022 - 15 in eight games
2018 - 15
2011 - 13
2019 - 12
2010 - 11
2015 - 10
2021 - 9
2017 - 9
2020 - 7
2016 - 7
2014 - 7
2012 - 7
2008 - 6
2009 - 5
2013 - 3

Just incredible. 2013: three interceptions. 2022: fifteen on our way to... 20? 22? Absolutely incredible.

Havin' a record year.

+ I just want to note how happy I am that I'm sitting in the stands for most game this season. For this game, my youngest son (the one from Friday's podcast) sat with me. And we were directly behind my friends Carmen, Myles, and Jason. The two-row block of fans at a road game (a road game with 80,000+) is just such a fantastic experience. High fives for days.

Side note: I'm a firm believer that four season tickets should be two in one row, two behind, not four in one row. Since you're going to be getting season tickets again next year (YOU'RE GOING TO BE GETTING SEASON TICKETS AGAIN NEXT YEAR), go for the two in front, two behind layout. You're welcome.)

My youngest son has probably attended the most games with me (of our boys), so getting to sit with him while we dominate Nebraska was a special treat. We spent 16 hours yesterday either driving or trying to fix his overheating truck, so this was a great reward. Finally, the Illini fandom I forced on him is paying off.

+ If you didn't listen to From The Stands I'll say it again: this is our first season with seven regular season wins SINCE 2007. And we're going to get to 8, 9, 10, or maybe even 11. ELEVEN!

+ I'll close with this:

I'm just so happy. And I owe it all to you. You guys agreed to this "we'll pay you some money and you go cover the games" thing, and now I get to be here, in this Lincoln, Nebraska hotel lobby at 12:56 am, writing about OUR #17 (soon to be.. #12?) Fighting Illini football team. Thank you so much for partnering with me.

The best part: we're not done. We can now wrap up the Big Ten West by winning the next two home games (seriously - Indy will be wrapped up if we win the next two and the results of the Michigan game and the Northwestern game won't matter). The tailgating in Champaign on the next two Saturdays will be epic. And you're paying me to be at all these games. I love you guys. If you bought some tickets last week and are headed back to Champaign for the first time in a long time, come say hi in Lot 31.

A better way to put that:

If you find your way back, I owe you a beer
For my record year


Chief4ever on October 30, 2022 @ 01:45 AM

Love it.

DSpitze on October 30, 2022 @ 02:36 AM

True story.

My wife and I are on our first trip to Hawaii. We're in Hanalei, Kauai, which is about as far off the beaten track as you can get (it's not the end of the earth, but from there you can see the end of the earth).

Watched part of game on my tablet, then listened to the rest walking around Hanalei or sitting at the beach. I sure wasn't getting into the water until the game was over.

Have dinner, then decide to have dessert at a shaved ice stand. Ordered mine, then went and talked with my wife until they called my name.

Walk back to stand. See a couple, and the guy has a blue shirt with the orange block I. I'm beginning to chuckle. About as far west as you can go in America (save somewhere in Alaska), and I stumble upon two fellow Illinois graduates (wife says she wore her Illinois shirt earlier but changed because it was too sweaty).

Their son is a grad student at Illinois now, my two sons graduated from Illinois.

Of course the subject is football. Guy predicts GameDay will be at Champaign in two weeks. I tell him we are seven games away from a national championship. I think all of us are in a state of shock.

As we are getting ready to leave, I walk up to the couple and say, "There's only one thing left to say. Ill" and I get an Ini.

Efremwinters84 on October 30, 2022 @ 05:57 AM

Not only a true story.........but a GREAT story. ILL !!!!

WeatherfordForMVP on October 31, 2022 @ 01:29 PM

I went on a walk with my wife around the neighborhood a couple hours after the game. Wearing my orange Block I pullover. It's a pretty decent neighborhood but near a metropolitan area so I try to always have my guard up a little. Car rounds the corner, slows down, window rolls down. I'm hoping he's asking for directions or something, and as he leans out the window:


I just chuckled and shouted back the "I-N-I!" response. Made a great day even a little better.

mdonsbach on October 30, 2022 @ 05:34 AM

It’ll sound corny but I’m up at 6:30am holding back tears because it’s articles like these that make me glad you don’t put out “breaking” articles every 4 hours for clicks.

If any fan deserves this it’s you Robert! on October 30, 2022 @ 07:07 AM

Robert do you know the song “Hall of Fame” by The Script? It is quite inspirational also. Go Illini!

ATOillini on October 30, 2022 @ 07:35 AM

Also not a huge country fan, but extremely partial to Alison Krauss given her Champaign roots (and her angelic voice). Anyone who’s ever been jilted can appreciate her version of “I Never Cared for You”.

We are clearly the better team, but that dropped, wide open pass by their guy when they were up 3 and their qb was on fire was a gigantic game changer. We immediately regroup and knock out the qb while intercepting a pass. All Illini from that point forward.

Happy Robert much more fun than depressed Robert.

Efremwinters84 on October 30, 2022 @ 07:42 AM

AND of course we all realize that ESPN College Game Day is still alive in two weeks if both Purdue and Illinois win this coming Saturday. The West Division title will be on the line, with the winner likely going to Indy. Purdue closes with Northwestern and Indiana. (Guess I therefore really want Purdue to lose this weekend at home vs Iowa).

San Joaquin on October 30, 2022 @ 08:27 AM

Bravo. Great article to start the day.

WPtoWG10 on October 30, 2022 @ 09:00 AM

Love the Sufjan Stevens “Come on feel the Illinoise” album at the top of the page. It is one of my favorite albums. He also has a great song about Pittsfield, IL, which is where I was born and lived until high school. What a fun season so far!

GalesburgIllini on October 30, 2022 @ 02:52 PM

The title or that entire album is, ‘Illinois.’ Every song is about a town or happening in the state.

Duce20 on October 30, 2022 @ 09:57 AM

Didn’t know where you were going initially. I love the song, one of my all time favorites. It’s a song that made me listen to other music but I was so unclear with what it had to do with Illinois football.

Then you said “I just feel so romantic about Illini football right now” and it hit me dead in the feels! Last night was party rap music for me. We Right Here by DMX was my song for the 2001 team so I fired that up. Today may be some Turnpike Troubadours and Jason Isbell and taking a moment to romanticize on the season we’re having.

Happy you get to do this. Can’t wait to meet you in Evanston.

Eagle on October 30, 2022 @ 10:17 AM

I'd love to see gameday in Champaign, but I think it's more likely to be in Ann Arbor the next week - and I'm thinking about being there.

It's time for Tommy Devito to get the respect he deserves nationwide. It's a nice problem to have when your great QB gets drown out by the best defense in the country and the best RB in the country. Having all three on the same team is just incredible. If we have too much more success, I'm going to have to invest in some diapers because I'm gonna piss my pants somewhere along the way.

Brave Illini on October 30, 2022 @ 11:15 AM

Other reporters and sites feed us information for our heads. What you compose goes to our hearts. Thank you.

Ellisrt1031 on October 30, 2022 @ 11:19 AM

Damn you made me cry again and my wife caught me. Having a record year. Never heard it until today but will go on my playlist.

BigRedIllini on October 30, 2022 @ 11:21 AM

I was wearing my Come on feel the Illinoise shirt for the start of the game until midway through the 2nd quarter. My daughter had a Halloween party that started at 4 and since I was a little gamey from earlier yard work I decided to freshen up and change into my Seventeen shirt under an Illini quarter-zip. I got downstairs just in time to see the Syd interception and by the time I got the radio going in the car Chase had scored. Then it was a 15 minute drive to the party and about 2 min away Chase scored again. All this to say in terms of juice Seventeen shirt >>> Illinoise! GO ILLINI!!!

Boneyard Surfer on October 30, 2022 @ 11:50 AM

"That's a great looking state, no?"

Yup. It's what you get when the majority of the border is defined by rivers and a lake, not by a surveyor.

As for Dan Fogelberg, my girlfriend (now wife) was a server at House of Chin in 1978-9 and she waited on Dan and his family as they ate dinner before his show, probably in Assembly Hall. She said he was very nice and left a nice tip.

Dan Allen on October 30, 2022 @ 11:53 AM

Robert, I hope Old 97s Champaign, Illinois is on that playlist. “Oh, if you die fearing God and painfully employed, you will not go to Heaven, you’ll go to Champaign, Illinois.”

ATOillini on October 30, 2022 @ 12:21 PM

Was thinking of that as well. Great song.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on October 30, 2022 @ 12:33 PM

illi-noise on October 30, 2022 @ 03:59 PM

My username is actually "illi-noise" because of the Sufjan album, so I feel compelled to thank Robert for fulfilling this niche Illiniboard dream...because not even in dreams did I expect 7-1 (!!!)

jfinsocal on October 30, 2022 @ 08:22 PM

Recent Illini FB seasons are analogous to Fla-Ga Line and similar BroCo artists and songs. Compared to these bad efforts, 2022 is certainly a "Record Year".

on July 3, 2023 @ 03:59 PM


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