Talk Of The Town


Robert
Oct 7, 2021
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9 Comments

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This is the first time I've attended Big Ten Media Days. Didn't even attend football media days back in July. I've always answered the "why not?" question with "it's just not my thing." I don't really ever write those articles. I don't ask Brad Underwood questions about replacing Adam Miller and then write "Replacing Adam Miller - Underwood Has Options" articles. I mean, can you imagine me doing that? Me neither.

So about an hour into sitting here listening to Big Ten coaches answer "how do you plan to replace {insert name}" questions, I had already reached "why did I come?". I'm 10 hours into a Check The Tape post that's still not finished and I won't get home until 5:00 so that means I'm up until midnight. And there's a Bret Bielema press conference in 13 minutes that I'm trying to attend because I have a question I want to ask (no, not "how do you plan to replace Seth Coleman if he can't go?"). I also have another (very fun) article I'm writing for tomorrow. What's the point of getting up at 4:00 to drive to Indianapolis in time for Kevin Warren's 8:00 am (7:00 am CDT) opening remarks? Of all the days the last few weeks, I don't have time for four hours in the car today.

But then two reporters next to me started chatting about Illini fans during one of the breaks and now I'm really glad I came.

No, I'm not going to name them. That information goes in the back pocket and then maybe during a moment of bitterness during the season I'll accidentally mention how they dislike Illinois. (I won't. Probably not.)

After that moment, I decided to look at today differently. And once I opened my eyes to that view, it was very clear. At least for today, the Illini were the talk of the town.

Here's how this goes. For the first three hours, it's 10 minutes at the podium for 14 coaches - the men's and women's coaches from Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland, Rutgers, Ohio State, and Michigan. Tomorrow, it's the other seven teams (I won't be here).

After those 14 trips to the podium, there's small stages with players and coaches taking "one on one" questions for the next three hours (in shifts, not all at once). All of this happens on the court at Banker's Life in Indy, now known as Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Walking back in this building was... not ideal.

It was during that session that I began to really notice all of this. And I'll explain all of that when I get back from going into the other room to join the Bret Bielema Zoom.

OK, so, a story. I typed those words, went to take a quick picture, and then came back to grab my laptop and go in the other room to join the Zoom. As I grabbed my laptop, a different reporter was telling another reporter (not the same two as before) "Illinois fans are all over my mentions right now - every time I open up Twitter I see 'ratio'." This only enhances my point.

Let's start with the videos I took. The first session was the three coaches and the three sets of players from Illinois, Nebraska, and Iowa. So six individual "stations" - two Iowa players, then two Illinois players, then two Nebraska players over here; Brad Underwood, Fran McCaffery, and Fred Hoiberg over here.

Yes, part of this is "Champaign is two hours away and there's a lot of Illini media here." And part of this is "reporters wander in and out trying to hit all six stations." But this should tell the story pretty well:

But that's Nebraska, right? If this was Bret Bielema and Scott Frost, we know what the media crowds would look like.

So I went and took a second video from the Fran McCaffery side.

Please note this this wasn't all Illinois media. Lots of national media (and other-Big-Ten-team media) had a heavy focus on Illinois. And then, once that session ended and Michigan was up, well, I'm guessing you saw some tweets about Hunter Dickinson talking about Illinois fans being annoying. Just go to Twitter and search "Hunter Dickinson Illinois" and you can find it all. Everywhere I turned, Illinois was the focus.

I'm guessing you can see where I'm going here. Sitting here and two reporters are casually talking about Illini fans. I go to the Underwood one-on-ones and a national reporter is asking somewhat incredulously "do you actually think this team could be better than last year?" Hunter Dickinson talks about our annoying fans. I swing by to grab my laptop and a discussion between two different media rows is Illini Twitter and "ratios".

I just had this moment where I realized I'd better not quote that reporter without making sure I have the full quote. Let me go listen to my recording and transcribe it.

"You mentioned trying to improve every year and you talked about moving forward rather than going backwards. Do you actually think this year's team can be better than last year's?"

"Yes."

Underwood's answer was more than just "yes", obviously. But I'm not here to talk about this season and last season and whether Illinois can be better. I'm here to talk about how much Illinois was talked about. This was, from my observation, "Illinois plus six other Big Ten teams Media Day."

Ain't it great?

I mean, yes, our fans are annoying. Illini Twitter scares me. I don't even want to look at some of the stuff that was sent Hunter Dickinson's way today. I don't think any Illini fan is "proud" of our Twitter presence.

But I think we're all proud of our voracity. We know what this program can be. We know the size of this state and the size of this fanbase. I make sure to say "30,000 people showed up at Memorial Stadium for our second-place celebration in 2005; only 17,000 showed up at the 22,000-seat Dean Dome for North Carolina's victory celebration" at least once per year.

We remember the frenzy in 1989 and 2001 and 2005 and 2021. We fully understand what this program can be despite Hunter Dickinson's opinion of it. We endured a long journey through the wilderness - a journey which somehow included a seven-year NCAA Tournament drought - and we still bear the scars. It's very fresh in our minds.

And now? After last season?

Now it appears we have everyone's attention.

Comments

IlliniJedi on October 7, 2021 @ 03:31 PM

If other fans and media think we are annoying, it is just that they are not accustomed to actual loyalty.

ATOillini on October 7, 2021 @ 03:35 PM

Hope I remember this correctly. I believe in long ago previous posts you had referenced all those seasons when Illinois basketball was “a thing”. Well, it appears we’re back to being just that.

Bear8287 on October 7, 2021 @ 07:41 PM

... and it's about time, ain't it?

ATOillini on October 8, 2021 @ 09:07 AM

Yes indeed......

neale stoner on October 7, 2021 @ 08:19 PM

Delightful. Your trip was worth it.

Right Rev on October 8, 2021 @ 02:50 AM

I’m guessing the 2-3 reporters at the Iowa station didn’t ask Fran if they were going to be better this season.

Douglascountyillinifan on October 8, 2021 @ 08:40 AM

or how bohannon actually managed to push the dooshbaggery button to 11. :-)

BanTheCharge on October 8, 2021 @ 10:10 AM

Kinda fun to be disliked again

HailToTheOrange on October 8, 2021 @ 11:24 AM

I also feel that some of this is due to the fact that Underwood is intelligent, engaging, personable and pretty open. Fran is a dick and Fred is irrelevant :).

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