Tale Of Two Cities XI: Charlie Be Quiet

Nov 20, 2022

I've been listening to a lot of Charlie Puth.

You read that right. Me, Mr. Uppity Classical Music Guy, listening to pop sensation eyebrow guy. Or maybe I should say me, Mr. College Football Lunkhead Guy, listening to pop sensation eyebrow guy. Here's the story.

A lot of sites/apps are trying to get us adults to do what the kids do on TikTok: scroll through quick videos one after another. That's how your nephew uses his phone, and that's how they want me to use my phone.

It worked. I was watching a YouTube video (some comedy video - I think it was Mark Normand) and I see more Mark Normand content further down the screen under "YouTube Shorts." I click on that clip, which immediately feeds into another clip, and suddenly I'm 40 clips deep into whatever the algorithm is feeding me. Some comedy, some music, some college football, some aviation, some disc golf. The YouTube algorithm thinks I'm a funny, disc-golfing pilot.

One day last week - I think it was Wednesday morning - I woke up pretty early. Maybe 5:45 or so. As soon as Lucy notices I'm awake, she's ready to get fed and head outside to hit the bathroom. She'll stand right next to the bed staring at me until I get out of bed. (Important information: Lucy is my dog, not my wife.)

I let her outside and sat on the couch, fairly groggy. I open the YouTube app to finish watching a video from the night before. Soon thereafter, I'm 35 videos deep in YouTube Shorts.

And for whatever reason, YouTube is feeding me Charlie Puth videos. I believe they're TikToks which are put on YouTube to widen the audience. I watch one of the videos three times, and I think that tells the YouTube algorithm that I really dig these Charlie Puth videos so it starts feeding me more.

They're videos of him re-creating his artistic process. I say "re-creating" because they're made to look like real time but are obviously pieced together afterwards. I'm not mad about that. I'm not saying it feels "staged" or something. TikTok is its own medium and I allow for that level of "re-create authenticity."

Here's one of the videos. It's for a song on his latest album. Warning to olds: this goes beyond music you used to call "teeny-bopper" and borders on "what is all this electronic NOISE??".

I'm all in. I just wrote about this when talking about the country song Record Year (who the hell AM I anymore?) but when I see your creative process, I'm in. Believe it or not, I actually downloaded Charlie Puth's entire album. On the train on the way up - again, all of this is 100% true - I listened to the full album at least four times. I'm the suckeriest sucker when it comes to the creative process.

The song that has stuck with me (probably because of everything I just wrote above) is Charlie Be Quiet. I started out at "that's fascinating how he took a song with 'quiet' in the title and bounced back and forth between very quiet and crazy loud" and then moved to "I really enjoy the concept behind these lyrics."

Here's the full song. It's only two minutes long (something something damn kids and their attention spans). You don't have to listen, but... it's what the rest of this article will be about.

That was college me. OK, that was post-college me as well. This was absolutely my internal dialogue in my 20's. A constant, never-ending "slow down, don't say that, stay quiet - if you show too much enthusiasm, you'll scare her off." I was the product of parents who met on a Sunday and got engaged on Friday (true story), so I was That Guy who let his emotions get the best of him early in any relationship.

(Side story: I did this with my wife as well. Knew she was the one immediately but didn't want to tell anyone because I needed to keep every ounce of that hidden for as long as I could. So I decided there was only one person I would tell. I drove to the cemetery and "told" my dad that I had met my wife. It's True Story Day, and that's another one.)

As a full grown man in his 40's (for another month at least), I'm still that way-too-emotional guy (have you heard?). It's not centered around relationships anymore, but I still have "Robert be quiet" conversations with myself. All the time, in fact.

Robert be quiet, don't make a sound
You've got to lower the noise a little bit now
If they know where you stand, they're gonna run, run away-ay-ay-ay

It's the same concept, really. I write words on the internet. You're used to what words on the internet look like. If I stray too far out of bounds, or if I "too much, too soon" some topic, you're not going to like my internet words. And I need people to like my internet words if I want to make money.

So there's this constant struggle in my head to tone everything down. To not write what I really want to write. If I had called-it-like-I-see-it with my first college girlfriend, she would have broken up with me in the first week. And if I call-it-like-I-see-it with yesterday's game, a lot of you will want to break up with me.

Let's break up.

I had another one of my "try to find the press conference" adventures yesterday. I don't need to give you all the details - just know that I didn't get there. I was given good directions, and I thought I was well on my way to making it there, but I paused to double-check at one door to see if I was headed to the right place and just so happened to ask the wrong person. I got bad information. I even double-checked with that person: "I'm looking for the Illinois press conference, not the Michigan press conference" and they gave me a "yes, I understand, go here". They sent me to the Michigan press conference.

So by the time I found my way to the Illinois press conference, it was over. Probably a good thing. Watching video of it now (and given what I wrote last night), I would have matched Bret Bielema's anger with questions like "you were on the other sideline at one time - do you believe there's been a grand conspiracy against Illinois for 40+ years?" (or something similarly dumb of a reporter to ask a coach). So it's a good thing I wasn't there.

After seeing I missed the presser, I went back into observation mode. I stood for maybe 25 minutes watching the Illini players leave the locker room and head to the bus. And the whole time I had to put myself in "Robert be quiet" mode because I wanted to console every player I saw. Hug. I wanted to hug everyone.

Listen to me. I'm the only human who observed all of this so listen to me now. This was as painful a moment as I've experienced covering this team. Their expressions ranged from broken to completely devastated. I greeted a few players, and I observed a few player-parent interactions, and I shared a few words with a few coaches. Here is my takeaway. I was not told any of this, but this is my overall observation of the scene:

This team, deep down, wanted to win this one for Marilyn Bielema. They believe in this coach, they saw his pain, and they wanted to give him a gift. They got nearly all the way there and came up short.

The task was impossible. Are you listening to me? Impossible. It would have been a top-5 win in the history of the program. We have exactly one win over a top-3 team in my 49.9 years on earth, so next to Ohio State 2007, this would have been the second-best win of my lifetime. Michigan might lose next week at Ohio State and still make the playoff. They could end up this season as the national champions. And we were one fourth down flag away. One fourth down flag away from changing the national playoff picture. One fourth down flag away from these players giving their coach a game ball and telling him they did it for his mom.

THAT'S what was taken away. It's why the last four calls (or non-calls) the officials made hurt so much. Yes, they were afraid to be the officials who kept Michigan out of the playoff, but they also took away that game ball. It hurts me so much just to type those words, thinking of their goal and how they almost got there.

So when I tweet I'm so damn proud of my team and you respond with this?

...I cannot process your approach to college athletics. A 7-3 Illini football team is playing the #3 team in the country on the road and loses on a field goal with 10 seconds left, moving us to 1-16-1 against top-3 teams in the last 40 years. An Illini team with a preseason over/under in Vegas of 4.5 wins does THAT, and those coaches are "embarrassing" and "didn't give the kids a chance"? What else could you possibly want?

Just picture my exact experience. I'm standing by the tunnel where the players are heading for the bus. I see the expressions on their faces and I'm broken. They got 99% of the way to the biggest Illini win in 15 years but fell ten seconds short with four calls (the holding, the non-call on fourth down, the PI call on Spoon, and the third down "catch") going the other way in the final three minutes. They wanted to hand that ball to their coach and they couldn't do it. Warriors, all.

And then the Illini band is marching up the tunnel and out of the stadium. So I have to move over to the brick wall there to let the band through. I flip through my phone, and I see:

Robert be quiet, don't make a sound
You've got to lower the noise a little bit now


To everyone who has asked me "what's with this crusade against the 'uniquely negative' side of our fanbase?", this is my answer. I'm simply reporting on my experience. I look up and see broken players and I look down and see "losers".

And no, that screencap right there is not just an isolated tweet from a random nobody. It's my entire experience the last dozen years. I could literally give you thousands of examples. No, it's not something that happens everywhere - not to this degree. Go back and read my dozens of articles on this very topic. I've studied it since October of 2011.

These players are the biggest warriors I've covered in 13 years of doing this. They've lost by three on a touchdown with 23 seconds left, by 8 when the final drive stalled 27 yards from the endzone, by 7 after a failed onside kick, and by 2 on a field goal with nine seconds left. That's Illinois football doing that. 22 losing seasons the last 27 years Illinois football. We've begged for "just a competitive team" for two and a half decades and have been gifted something better than that. And now we're finding out that everyone was lying about just wanting a competitive team.

Yesterday, after their coach lost his mom, they upped the "warrior" thing to a level I didn't think was possible. Chase Brown - the guy who limped past me in a walking boot - nearly carried us to an upset of #3 Michigan. This team, meaning every player on the field yesterday, gave the best effort of any team I've covered. This staff, meaning every coach on the field yesterday, developed the roster they inherited to maximize our chances of knocking off a top-5 opponent better than any staff I've covered. Every coaching staff all the way back to Tepper, even my beloved Lovie Smith, would have lost this game by 20+. Lose by two and it's on the staff?

I get back to the hotel and check my own Slack Channel. "Has this defense gotten a stop all year when they needed one?" (actual quote). I write about the officials and the first comment shrugs it off. It's a national story today, and our coach is going to get fined for his comments/tweets about it, but me writing about it isn't "convincing" - this loss was apparently on the playcalling on the final drive? (A drive where the officials called us for holding forcing third and 18.)

At a certain point, I just get "same old sorry Illinois"-d to death. I went to sleep bludgeoned and woke up like that. The only thing that helped - watching videos of my granddaughter over and over (yet another true story). I'm a feeler - a "sensy", as someone aptly called me today - and the disconnect between those devastated faces coming out of the locker room and "Illini football are losers" was too much for me to take.

I wish I could end this with "I'm better now", but I'm not. I wish "who cares what others think?" was available to me, but it's not. I wish "just don't read your mentions tab" was possible, but I've found I cannot write without it.

So all I can do is be loud. I've chosen "Robert be quiet" in the past and I've gotten stuck. So this fall, I've chosen volume.

These players are warriors. This staff has done phenomenal things in less than two years. The four questionable calls all going Michigan's way in the final three minutes is a national story because even non-Illini fans felt like the officials were scared to stand in the way of Michigan winning. This is our best season in 15 years and I'm going to keep yelling about it.

I'm damn proud of my team, and it's time to turn up the volume.


raleighIllini25 on November 20, 2022 @ 01:45 PM

I love this team and the coaching staff. It’s easy to bitch from the stands. We all make mistakes and we all can get better. This team and staff have made multiple adjustments during the year and during games. That’s way better than in years past. Amen Robert.

Tolkien73 on November 20, 2022 @ 02:37 PM

The players did their job. The coaches did theirs. If there was any justice in this world, we would have left Michigan with a W. People whine about the coaches, but if that ref had done his job and thrown the flag on the OPI, no one would care about conservative offensive playcalling in the last four minutes of the game.

Ghrvol on November 20, 2022 @ 03:29 PM

Best played and coached game of the season. Stolen on that 4th down no call and other blown calls. The Illini won that game, period.

illini67 on November 20, 2022 @ 03:50 PM

I was fortunate enough to be in school when Dick Butkus and Jim Grabowski were playing. That Rose Bowl team was wonderful and fun to watch. I have had season tickets since the early ‘70’s and drive a minimum of three hours one way for each game. While living in Pennsylvania, we never missed a home. I have seen good teams, bad teams and many in between teams. I am one who has asked for us to be competitive. We finally have that and I am so proud of them.

This is undoubtedly the best staff we have had since probably Mike White. They have taken the players they inherited and turned them into not only a competitive team, but a winning team. I am proud of each and every player on our team. I am proud of every member of our staff, including the student managers. Are they perfect? Heavens no. But they are fun to watch and fun to root for.

Those people whom you have quoted are not fans. They are mercenaries who have their own agenda that in my opinion is not healthy for anyone, especially those espousing the these repugnant thoughts.

Thanks for your comments Robert. Glad you are no longer quiet!

Dan Allen on November 20, 2022 @ 06:01 PM

Amen, Robert. Thank you for being you. Thanks for saying what needs to be said.

Dan Allen on November 20, 2022 @ 06:02 PM

Amen, Robert. Thank you for being you. Thanks for saying what needs to be said.

BananaShampoo on November 20, 2022 @ 06:03 PM

I would "thumbs up" this article and every one of these comments if I could. There are plenty of sensible people out there who see this all from the 30,000 foot view and realize that what has been accomplished this season is amazing, and that we are on the right trajectory. Of course, there are also those reactionary, entitled "fans" who think anything less than perfection means they have to immediately find someone to blame - usually the players, coaches, or whomever. Don't let those people get you down. They are the real losers.

J-W on November 20, 2022 @ 07:48 PM

Thanks for sharing this perspective. Nice reminder.

WPtoWG10 on November 20, 2022 @ 08:10 PM

People are crazy. We came closer than any other team this season to beating Michigan. At Michigan and big underdogs. I’m disappointed that we lost but not disappointed by our players or coaches.

Dr. Chim Richalds on November 20, 2022 @ 08:59 PM

You're absolutely right that the team were damn warriors yesterday, and they and the coaches deserve an incredible amount of praise and respect for what they've done this year.

I have no idea what it's like to write or tweet publicly, and how frustrating it must be to get those kinds of responses. It's enough to drive anyone to the brink of insanity, surely.

I will always love this site and following you Robert, and I fully support you, so please don't think this is one of your haters commenting. I just want to note that this year of us having our best football team in over a decade has been a bit of a bummer for me reading the site, because every other article is turning into a commentary on people that yell at you on twitter. There's a couple things that I think are worth noting:

  • There are going to be negative sports fans, and also fans who move the goalposts. It's not right, but they'll be there.
  • The fans that are the loudest posters do not represent a majority of fans. They're just the loudest, and being loud most often goes hand-in-hand with not thinking through things much. They're hurt that the team lost, they want someone to be mad at, and that gets directed towards the coaches or the players or you. That does not mean everyone or even most fans agree with that.
  • You are not going to win a war with these people. It's really tough watching this site turn into an effort to do that.

Just my two cents - I miss the days when this article would have been about how proud you are of the team, and their fight to win it for Bielema's mom, and how they deserved that. This year it's sort of an article about that, but more of an article about how people on twitter yelled at you for trying to say that. I'll always read this site no matter what direction you choose to take it, but that's a bummer, to me at least.

Beat Northwestern.

Illiniboat on November 21, 2022 @ 10:46 AM

Robert seems to increasingly feel that the nature of our fanbase (and the anger is well documented) is going to hold back the improvements he believes are coming with Bielema. He wants this massive fanbase to get behind and push instead of throwing their bodies in the way. That might be Quixotic, but that's kind of his thing, I think.

Robert on November 22, 2022 @ 02:53 PM

I've never felt more seen.

skibdaddy on November 21, 2022 @ 11:34 AM

I agree with this take. Robert, you should get off twitter entirely... who needs that kind of hate to sift through every day?

The "us vs them" mentality should be "the lesser teams (Illini) vs the chosen few (Mich/OSU/etc.)" not "good Illinois fans vs. bad Illinois fans"

Robert on November 22, 2022 @ 02:55 PM

Look deeper. Really investigate the question "why would he do this?"

IlliniJoe81 on November 20, 2022 @ 09:07 PM

Can't it be "all of the above?"

We have a great team this year with fantastic character. The playcalling when you desperately need a 1st down or TD stinks. We played a heck of a game against Michigan and deserve a ton of credit for that. An L is an L and we're on a 3-game losing streak. This season has been an amazing accomplishment and we're well ahead of what anyone could have expected. The defense has surrendered leads at the end of games and we've lost a bunch of winnable games.

orangeandblue on November 20, 2022 @ 09:57 PM

Robert, You’re not wrong. I think our culture in general has gotten pretty ugly online. I totally resonate with “Charlie Be Quiet.” We could have a long conversation around that. I don’t get the hate around the team. I didn’t have a lot of expectations this year. I figured down year and then Bielema will get us in a bowl in Year 3. Even though we haven’t been good, I always have some kind of long term thought process to how we’ll end up good. Anyway, this year has been a blast. I loved watching games and chatting on Slack. We’ve lost four games and really could have one all of those. What?! I don’t won’t to invalidate anything you said. Speak loud friend. I’ll just that you have way more football knowledge than the average person. True story: when you do CTT it’s like reading a different language for me. I skim it and mostly look at the summary at the end. I say that because I think I’m more the norm. So someone says, man the defense sucked and they just don’t know. Then there’s emotions. We all want to win. For most of us sports is an escape. The win extends the escape. The loss…. Emotions come out. For the life of me I don’t get why those emotions get posted online because I’m all “Charlie Be Quiet!” But others don’t have that internal voice. Or a filter. So when someone says something angry online I try to remember the escape and have empathy. Keep holding Illini nation to a better standard. And when the voice says be quiet, trust your gut and tell the voice it will be ok. Thanks for writing Robert.

IlliNYC on November 21, 2022 @ 05:14 AM

Social media is toxic—negative comments/replies are not something that is special or different Illinois fan base (or any fanbase). It’s everywhere in politics, entertainment, High School, corporate America—everywhere. It’s endemic to the medium, at least as it’s currently set-up. Illinois’ fan base is famously online—is there a poll/online vote we ever lose?—but I’m not sure that means there is more negativity in the fan base.

ATOillini on November 21, 2022 @ 07:00 AM

Well, this is fascinating. I see you posted it Sunday afternoon. I’m seeing it first time on Monday morning, and it’s totally relevant to last night as well. I made the “mistake” of checking Twitter a few times after our hoops loss. It’s unbelievable how people go after not only the team, but individual players.

I can’t imagine what it’s like for the coaching staff to try and manage this toxic social media nonsense. Even if you banned players from using Twitter, they would still get screenshot text messages etc. Five games into a season with massive roster turnover and already seeing “tired of moral victories” posts. What?

uilaw71 on November 21, 2022 @ 07:30 AM

Illini67 and I are from a similar vintage, and I dare say may have known one another or at least been on some of the same AA sponsored trips. But as sweet as the 63 season was football wise, we also suffered through the Slush Fund and its aftermath. To have stayed the fandom course through those years (including the Big Ten crapping on Dave Wilson) allows us to be critical. In fact, when interviewed by a Chicago TV station at LAX when awaiting the AA charter back to CMI after the ‘84 Rose Bowl debacle, I said what was in my heart and felt by the majority of our cohort - that I was disappointed in the team. That happened to be both a heartfelt and an informed reaction. I was actually present for their final practice, and observed the fire and determination that was sorely lacking on game day - in stark contrast to what we saw from the team Saturday in A2.

So from the 30,000 feet POV, Robert, what you’ve written in this post indeed represents why I will continue following you and subscribing. To the extent your thought process in creating the Slack channel was to have a safe space for like-minded folk, in my view you succeeded. My only criticism is what I posted there Saturday when you were interacting - spend game time there, not on Twitter.

And as a famous Illinois pol of yesteryear said, “I don’t care what they write about me, as long as they spell my name right.”

ScubaFarms on November 21, 2022 @ 10:35 AM

Hang in there, Robert. We appreciate your work and passion. For those of us with an even longer past association with Illinois football, these are the best of days since Mike White, as Illini67 said. I love Bielema's pissed off comment....we have the right guy. Let's beat NW and celebrate. This is a happy thanksgiving!

jdl on November 21, 2022 @ 12:42 PM

People deal with losses differently, some get sad, some get mad. The sad can't understand the mad and vice versa.

IlliniBobLoblaw on November 21, 2022 @ 01:31 PM

I seem to have fully passed through the "heard of them, don't care" (Harry Styles, Lizzo, ...) phase of middle age into the "who?" (Charlie Pugh) phase.

Biggie on November 21, 2022 @ 02:50 PM

Robert I am so so glad you have decided to get loud. You are truly a leader for Illini Nation fandom. Get louder and stay that way.

mark.loula@gmail.com on November 21, 2022 @ 03:11 PM

For the life of me, I don't understand the fan outrage generated during a pretty darn remarkable season. I sure wasn't expecting this level of immediate success when Bielema was hired. Both last year and this year, this team always competes - I don't know how much more we can ask. We've been out of like two games in the last two years - Virginia and Wisconsin last year. and in Wisconsin game last year, we were still in it at half. and to top that, we've had some amazing wins...

Funny thing, we have season tickets and at the Michigan State game in the East balcony, we were next to two vocal, outraged fans. One spent the whole second half calling for Bielema to be fired (when we were still sitting at 7 and 1 and in the game) and another spent the whole game complaining that we went for it on 4th down on the first series instead of kicking a field goal. My son and I were very annoyed and didn't say anything.... until my wife, an Iowa alum and former athlete (and a converted Illini fan with 3 kids having gone to Illinois) finally called them on it. They then both moved, probably seeking out other victims to irritate.

raleighIllini25 on November 21, 2022 @ 06:01 PM

We all want wins. We just don’t have the players yet (especially bench depth, but that is coming as well) for the scheme we want to run. The transfer portal has really helped.

But man we have heart. These kids believe in the staff (same for basketball as well), and they should. These kids have been “coached up”, and it shows. The staff seems to know how to evaluate and get talent and the NIL has given us a huge advantage to this point.

If you anyone said they would have been upset with the possibility of a 9 win season I’ll show you a pathological liar.

Jkatsinas on November 21, 2022 @ 06:43 PM

Robert, I agree with you all the way. Reminds me of the old saying “We’re behind you coach 100%, win or tie”!

BexleyIllini on November 21, 2022 @ 07:49 PM

Bret Bielma is the best coach we’ve had in at least 30 years. This team has its flaws, but they are better than I ever expected. I hope we get our payback in the future.

Chief4ever on November 22, 2022 @ 12:41 AM

YES!! “We've begged for "just a competitive team" for two and a half decades and have been gifted something better than that.” That’s EXACTLY what we asked for and we have gotten so much more IN YEAR 2.
It’s so, so easy to be critical after the fact. Proud of these warriors and these coaches.

neale stoner on November 22, 2022 @ 09:41 AM

Agree with you Robert, 99%. The other 1% is there will always be idiots. Can’t let them ruin your life.

GalesburgIllini on November 22, 2022 @ 11:37 AM

I've coached for the last 15 years. Everybody thinks they have they answers until they are in the hot seat. Best coaching staff we have had in my lifetime.

Had you told us in August we'd have a chance to be 8-4 going into the NU game, even the haters would be excited.

ChampaignSipper on November 22, 2022 @ 07:54 PM

The following in bold is from a Tribune Interview with Illinois Alum and retired Big Ten Referee, Don Capron. I'll link the interview under the bold quote from Capron. In an average Big Ten game with 150 to 200 plays, we might miss four. That includes no-calls — missed a DPI (defensive pass interference), missed a hold, ineligible downfield. A trade secret: As an official, you would much rather have one of those than have a flag that’s thrown that’s wrong. You don’t want to put a flag on the ground unless you’re 110% sure. Bill (Carollo) has a saying: I want you to love your call. If you’re not sure, don’t throw the flag.


Couple of points. When you get ordered to love your call, and millions of dollars are on the line IF the ref gets one of the four flags wrong and Michigan is out of an undefeated matchup with Ohio State and possibly a playoff berth, you can see why ALL of the calls went Michigan's way at the end of the game. It was human nature. Secondly, about the flag thrown that's wrong-this is what kills me about the Purdue Back Judge on Spoon's interception. The official was seeing things that weren't there. Ironically, the same back judge called PI on Maryland last Saturday that was questionable-at best-and who did it help? Ohio State. If Capron is right about Carollo, the back judge should not be working.

on July 3, 2023 @ 03:59 PM


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