Return of the Chief

The highlights of Saturday’s gameday were twofold:  Spending time with the Ohio-based Beemsville clan, and participating in Chief Illiniwek’s ‘Next Dance’.  As for the former, they weren’t too smug after OSU won the game, and I can even forgive the cousins their indiscretions in teaching my youngest to say, “Go Bucks!”  I don’t really blame him:  we’re all disappointed and tired of this mistake-prone Illini team.  As for the latter…

Since that ill-fated day in 2007 when the NCAA strong-armed the University into retiring the Chief from athletic events, many of us have wondered if that was it – was that the end.  As far as the University Administration was concerned, it was (except for all the $$$ they continue to make off the Chief logo and merchandise).  But a group of determined students as well as many of the former Chiefs decided to exercise their rights, and lo!  With new regalia and an alumni band, the Chief returned to the Assembly Hall Saturday afternoon.

I was happy to sit through the speechifying.  I was more than happy to pay $5 a seat for my family to help with the cost of opening the Hall (the remaining money went to charity).  It was emotional to see the Chief again.  This is something other people just don’t get:  this is a tradition for Illinois people – not just UofI alums but anyone who grew up coming to games and always had something extra to look forward to.  It’s about respect, dignity, loyalty, and tradition.  It was never about which people did what to whom.

My four year old has asked me a dozen times the last two years at halftime:  “Where’s the Chief, daddy?”  He’s still there.  Many of us can still see him at halftime when the band plays, though it’s just a ghost we see in our heads.  Now maybe we’ll have a little more.

They should do this every year.  They should do it after the Homecoming game.  Charge a little money, mention the good works of the student group, and keep the tradition alive.  Who knows when the political reality might change again – when those of us most affected by the 2007 decision might actually have a say again…


2 thoughts on “Return of the Chief

  1. The rental of the Assembly Hall was $5,000. With 16,589 seats in the Hall, if it were full they would have had to charge .30 cents to break even. At $5 a head they only needed 1000 people there. How many would you say were there?

    One other side note, the University did try to shut this thing down about two weeks ago citing copy right infringment, then they tried again at the 11th hour on Friday evening sometime. Fortunately for all of us, a judge ruled that they didn’t give the group sufficient time to respond etc.

    Last, but not least I did hear on the radio a young lady named Svetlana something Eastern Block, who was among a small group protesting against the perofrmance. This lady said she was there to represent everyone. She then paused and said that she wanted to make sure that none of the Illini Indian tribe felt offended and that she just wanted them to know that there were people that cared about them. This is completely laughable as we all know there haven’t been any Illini Indians around for a looooooong time. Bravo to the radio station that had the gumption to broadcast that little sound bite. Either Bravo or shame for the reporter not knowing the facts about the Illini Indian tribe.

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