Die-Hard Illini Fan Dies Hard

Last week’s Braggin’ Rights game notwithstanding, fans of the Fighting Illini know a thing or two about choking.

In basketball, no team has more NCAA tournament wins (40) without ever winning a national title. The last time the football team won a bowl game on New Year’s Day, Jeff George was considered a promising future star in the NFL.

Normally though, it’s the players that choke during the big performance, not a fan choking before the big performance has even begun.

But that’s exactly what happened to 86 year-old Johnny Orris, a lifelong Fighting Illini fan, and winner of a Howard Stern radio show contest called, “I Want to Get My Grandpa Laid.”

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You see, Orris (center above), won a threesome at a legal brothel in Nevada with these two working girls, Caressa Kisses and Vanity (your guess is as good as mine).  According to reports, on the eventful night, Orris was in such a hurry to claim his prize that he choked on his steak dinner and died.

Rest in peace, Johnny. You came closer to a threesome than most sports bloggers ever will. No idea what was inscribed on your tombstone, but here’s a reasonable guess:

orris-tombstone

Postgame Show Caller Profile: The Obscene Phone Caller

Postgame radio call-in shows are much more than mindless filler between the final buzzer and the return to “regularly scheduled programming”. It’s our chance to hear what our fellow fans think, live and unedited. And any time you let a random jerk off the street opine, you never know what you’re going to hear.

Typically, callers fall into one of the following categories: doom-and-gloomers (“The sky is falling!”), Stepford fans (“We should just blindly support everything and everyone associated with the team no matter what like mindless sheep.”), uneducated rubes, attention whores, and finally, a tiny smattering of normal people.

Oh wait, I left out one category: the obscene phone caller. These are the people that hang on the line, sometimes for 30-40 minutes or longer, waiting to say something only a person with the maturity level of a third-grader would find funny (i.e. me). Case in point, this caller, who chimed in following a recent Fighting Illini basketball game:

Since the opponent on this night was Penn State, it’s difficult to tell whether the caller was going for some kind of Jerry Sandusky-related joke or he was simply compelled to blurt out a random ‘cock and balls’ on the air. Either way, good show. This is one obscene phone call that would make even Rockwell proud.

It’s one thing for such chicanery to be broadcast live, but it’s also interesting to note that the ‘cock and balls’ were not edited out of the resulting podcast. Nope, instead these ‘cock and balls’ were left untouched, and thus available for all of us to enjoy. Not really sure what that says about the show’s producer (or the person that wrote this last sentence, frankly).

Contest to Replace Illiniwek Proves Offensive to the Eye

Attend any Illini game live, or tune in on TV, and you’ll see him everywhere. On shirts, hats, and pretty much any other orange-and-blue-clad paraphernalia you can think of, you’ll see him.

Chief Illiniwek may be gone, but he has definitely not been forgotten. Six years since the University of Illinois was forced to retire the symbol or face an NCAA postseason ban, just about the only place you won’t see him is on the court. Or the football field.

You’ll also see him featured prominently in the student cheering section (a.k.a. the Orange Krush). Even though many of these kids weren’t even in high school at the time of his exile, Chief Illiniwek remains steadfastly popular among the overwhelming majority of students at the U of I.

However, another registered student organization, known as the Campus Spirit Revival, recently asked students to come up with a new symbol, and 46 submissions were received.  An open vote among students ended February 1, and the top five reportedly will be presented to university officials for consideration.

My guess is this consideration will last all of ten seconds. Campus Spirit Revival posted the submissions on Facebook for the rest of us to see. A few of them are tolerable. Most are downright laughable. Submitted for your perusal are some of the most interesting (read: absurd) examples:

the-worst

Entries like these make you wonder if this was a serious contest or a cry for help for a larger grant for the art department.

From left to right we have Rabid the Squirrel, followed by Colonel Kernel, Trouble the Tractor, and Mr. Twister. Although they would make for an outstanding 1980’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup, we’re not so sure about their viability as a symbol of a flagship state university.

Our favorite among these nightmarish monstrosities is the good Colonel because, well, after all there is a lot of corn in Illinois. Here’s another that’s at least somewhat representative:

pissed-off-illinois

This entry best embodies how I feel after driving three hours and paying money to watch the Illini football team. It could also double as a symbol for the state’s budget negotiations. Therefore, it has promise, unlike this guy:

illini-panthers-leopards

Yeah sure, we’re the Illinois Fighting Panthers…or Leopards, whatever man. Some sort of jungle cat. Just pass me the bong.  I know, how about the Tigers! Nobody’s using that one are they?  Wildcats?

Then there’s the inexplicable obsession with some sort of mythical squid beast known as The Kraken.

illinois-the-krakens

One of the reasons the creator lists for using the Kraken is that “this beast sends shivers down the spines of even the toughest of sailors.”

Tougher than sailors, eh? Sounds good enough for me.

Then there’s the obvious attempt to cash in on the recent Abraham Lincoln craze. Daniel Day-Lewis eat your heart out.

illinois-abes

As much as I like the idea of portraying Lincoln as a maniacal, ax-wielding maître d’, I think we can do better, Illinois.

Surprisingly, this is one of the frontrunners. Say hello to “Chef Illini”. Not to be confused with Chef Goldblum.

chef-illini

All together now: Bwahahaha. Even if it wasn’t a galactically stupid idea, I’m not sure how an orange, pissed-off sushi chef is any more culturally sensitive than Illiniwek.

Speaking of symbols based on terrible puns, meet the Fire Chief.

fire-chief

Question: Why no face? Is he a ghost? Some sort of alien being? Is this to prevent anyone from possibly inferring any sort of ethnic background? Other advantages listed by the creator include the possibility of a Dalmatian sidekick. He could also put out fires, presumably at halftime or during timeouts.

Sure, let’s set fires inside Assembly Hall, what could possibly go wrong there?

Of course, one has to keep in mind that these submissions are from students. They’re just kids. If we opened up the field to a more mature audience, such as alumni, surely we’d get only serious entries right? Wrong.

farmbot

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the future in fan entertainment enforcement, Farmbot.

The few submissions that weren’t a total disaster were an homage to an offshoot of the term Fighting Illini, as it was sometimes applied to soldiers from the state during World War I.  The football home of the Illini, Memorial Stadium, is also named for these veterans.

Not to just sit on the sidelines and criticize, I have my own idea for a new symbol, which I’d like to present for consideration at this time.

 

 

 

 

That’s right, how about we just stick with nothing. Personally, I don’t want a symbol, or mascot, or whatever, that high-fives cheerleaders, dunks off trampolines, noogies toddlers, or – as cool as it may seem in theory – sets and extinguishes fires. After Chief Illiniwek, the “normal” mascot thing just seems cheap and gimmicky.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this opinion, as the “Chief or Nothing” movement has launched its own Facebook page in opposition to the CSR and created an online petition against such efforts.

At least the NCAA can only force Illinois to remove its symbol, not adopt a moronic new one. At least for now.

The Career of John Groce: A Tale of Triumph and Male-Pattern Baldness

Illinois head coach John Groce spent much of his early coaching career ascending through the collegiate ranks with current Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. As such, viewers who tuned in to Saturday’s intra-conference clash between the Fighting Illini and the Buckeyes were treated to a brief pictorial history of Groce that could have doubled as a testimonial in a Hans Weimann commercial.

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After stints at Taylor University and North Carolina State, Groce joined his good friend Matta for just one brief year at Butler, during the 2000-01 season. Groce still has nice coverage, albeit nothing compared to the helmet of hair on the right.

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A couple of years later, Groce served as an assistant to Matta at Xaiver. At this point in 2003, his boyish appearance still makes him look more like an acolyte than a basketball coach.

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Then in 2005, Groce made the jump to Ohio State. Finally at a big-time program, the enemy’s advancement really starts becoming noticeable. Judging in this picture, it takes the strange form of a reverse Mohawk down the center of his head. Kind of like Manny Fraker from Death Wish 3 – an obscure reference to be sure, but I’m standing by it. If for no other reason than they both do a lot of winning.

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Later in his tenure at Ohio State, the white flag is waived and we see the first appearance of the close-shaven look, otherwise known as the Michael Stipe. However, rather than let this drag him into a downward spiral, an undeterred Groce landed his first head-coaching gig at Ohio University, and after four successful seasons, his own job in the notorious B1G at Illinois.

So it seems that as the hair follicles fell away, the career conversely ascended. With Groce’s Illini off to an unexpected 14-2 start and a No. 12 national ranking, another amazing thing has happened. Twenty year-olds everywhere across the Land of Lincoln can’t wait to look like a middle-aged bald man.

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All in due time. While Groce himself can’t get any balder now, hopefully that doesn’t mean an end to his success. Anyway, it’s a lot better than the alternative.

groce-before-after