Dinner With Coach Bielema
Before we get to the podcast episode, a quick story. Well, I'm not sure I'm capable of "quick", but... here's a story.
As you may know, I lucked into the first-ever interview with Coach Bielema after he was named head coach of Illinois. I'm somewhere between Indianapolis and Dayton on my way to the "bonus" Penn State game during the pandemic season in 2020 when I see that Illinois has hired a new head coach. And that head coach will be at the Penn State game later that day.
Hey, I'll be at the Penn State game later that day. And as the only media member headed to State College to cover that game, maybe I'll get the first interview with the new coach. That's what happened. Here's a (masked) photo of that interview:
Since then, Coach Bielema has been really good to me. I told him my story that night - the whole "I quit my job to follow my teams like they're the Grateful Dead" story - and he's routinely found time to honor my interview requests and seek to make sure I'm getting what I need.
And after the Minnesota game in 2021, he even gave me a nickname. Well, he didn't "give" me a nickname, but he said this at the end of his press conference:
This is what I was talking about. I was late because I was recording From The Stands. And of course the door is at the front of the room so it was like walking into class from behind the teacher. So after last question had been called (and answered)... pic.twitter.com/C8oE2L7Xwy— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) November 6, 2021
Which led to one of my friends making me a new vanity plate.
(Not my actual license plate. But it should be.)
Last May I saw Coach B at the Illini Guardians event in Decatur and I had a few minutes to talk to him. My main question for him: what was with the cryptic tweet from a few days prior with the photo of his father-in-law with a caption that just said "be"?
He didn't even know it was something that he had tweeted. His pocket had simply tweeted a photo from his phone with the word "be" as the caption. I love stuff like that, and I encouraged him to keep it up.
In fact, the Illini Guardians tweeted a photo from the event...
And if you zoom in to the very back of the room...
...you can see me showing Coach B what he tweeted and him looking at his phone saying "I did what?".
His father-in-law passed away unexpectedly in November of last year, one week after Coach B's mom passed away. His mom passed away before the Michigan game and his father-in-law passed away before the Northwestern game the next week. I can't imagine something like that for one family, especially during a football season.
Last night, I wanted to let him know that I love that the "be" tweet exists. As he explains in the recording, that was from a special trip that he had taken with his father-in-law (which would be their last fishing trip together). And I'm choosing to forever let that tweet be a reminder for all of us:
So if you're expecting this podcast to be an hour-plus of football talk, it's not. We do talk football, but we talk life as well. And I'm very grateful that he was comfortable enough to open up about some of these things.
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