Who’s on your Short-list?

Even if Illini Nation didn’t need any more evidence, yesterday’s abject 27-7 loss to lowly Minnesota must have sealed it.  The Zooker’s time is done.  Let’s move on.  Failing to get above .500 with one of the most favorable schedules in school history, dropping six in a row, horrid special teams, lack of offense – these are your on-the-field-reasons.  Recruiting woes, the inability to fill Memorial Stadium more than once, and general apathy among home-staters provide additional motivation.

Yesterday on WDWS (Flagship Illini station), Jim Turpin and Loren Tate discussed the situation at length on the Saturday Sportsline.  They spoke about sealing up the borders (never gonna happen), getting recruits, building excitement and energy around the program.  They discussed the need to just get some wins, to build some consistency.  And what it comes down to is getting the right guy to captain the ship.  This will be new AD Mike Thomas’s most important and perhaps defining task. Continue reading

MLS Cup: Fitting Finale

L.A. hosted the cup, and the Galaxy hoisted the cup after beating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 last night.  The result was fitting on many levels – and not just because it gave the league the dream finale, complete with David Beckham riding into the sunset as a champion.

Most importantly, L.A. were the better team, playing well, manufacturing chances and getting a quality goal from Landon Donovan after a smart header by Beckham and a quality lay-off from fellow Designated Player Robbie Keane.  The Galaxy played Arena-ball to the T, as they have all year, countering quickly, maintaining their defensive shape, and taking advantage of just having better players in key spots.  Coach Bruce Arena set this team up to take advantage of Donovan’s and Beckham’s strengths and his own philosophy and last night was a perfect example. Continue reading

Youtubery: Do or Do Not

Do talk to your kids about Star Wars.  It’s important to them, to you.  Think about how you will approach this.  Have a game plan.  Know your sequence and your preferred editions.  And if you need assistance, consider this public service announcement…

Do use the power of cheap video editing and the inter-tubes to mash-up cool scenes that didn’t happen, but perhaps should have…

Do not mess with Chuck Norris – even on Endor…

Chuck and Yoda agree:  there is no try.

Hoopster Time


This evening the Fighting Illini begin their 2011-12 basketball season against Loyola-Chicago.  It’s the first in a series of games against lesser opponents with the goal of building confidence and cohesion on this young team.  The schedule is weak – not Syracuse weak – but soft enough to pile up some wins before the Big 10 begins.  And this makes sense because  the two Mikes, McCamey, and Bill Cole have graduated.  Jereme Richardson, who might have been the leader this year instead finds himself in trouble and out of basketball.  Because Bruce Weber knows he needs to somehow get this team to the NCAA tournament –  both to show well for the new AD and to impress upon important recruits that the program is headed in the right direction and can be a national contender again.

If you look at the schedule you can see a roadmap to 22 or 23 wins and an upper division conference finish.  Win a game or two in the Big 10 Tourney and you’re looking at a mid-level seed in the big dance and the chance to make some noise in March.  That would be the ideal.  You can also see the team struggling, losing games they should win (especially if senior guard Sam Maniscalco can’t go) and fighting to get above .500.  So the question becomes – what has to happen for these Illini to succeed? Continue reading

Magic in Prime Time

We’ve been watching a couple of new TV shows with firm contemporary fantasy roots:  ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Grimm.  They are similar in that they juxtapose well-known fairy tale characters and stories in the really real world, feature reluctant non-believer protagonists, and have intriguing bad-guys in the mix.

Once upon a Time takes place in the town of Storybook, Maine, where skip-tracer Emma Swann has arrived at the request of her 10-year old birth son, Henry, to investigate his claims that she’s the one who can the curse.  What curse, you ask?  The one cast by the wicked Queen (of Snow White’s tale) on the denizens of the magic kingdom, causing them to all forget who they are while transporting them to a ‘horrible place’ (i.e., Maine).  So, in the context of the story, the wicked Queen is now the control-freak Mayor with a thing for apples, Jiminy Cricket is Henry’s Shrink, Snow White is an elementary teacher, etc.  So far the show has balanced on the crux of Emma believing in Henry’s explanation and playing along with him for the sake of his therapy.  However, we know she has a part to play because we also know she is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, the only person who can break the curse and send everyone home. Continue reading

DeMerit’s Story

Now in theaters, Rise and Shine:  The Jay DeMerit Story.  This is a documentary about DeMerit, stalwart World Cup defender for the U.S. Men’s National Team, veteran of English Football’s top two divisions, who now plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS.  This is the story of a dude from Green Bay, WI, who after college soccer at University of Illinois-Chicago (and a low-ball/non-existent offer from MLS), decided to strap on his backpack and head to Europe to try to land a pro soccer contract.  Jay and a college buddy, both of whom had no real money, working side-jobs as bar-tenders, playing in a semi-pro pub league, and basically hopping on trains and buses to try to attend try-outs.

They did have a video camera to record some portions of the journey.  And Jay, as it turns out, has some game also.  If you tuned in to last summer’s World Cup, and watched him mark Wayne Rooney out of the game, you already know that.  DeMerit eventually caught on with Watford, in England’s second division, where he played for years.  Now he’s back on this side of the Atlantic, and some enterprising film-makers used some of that video footage, game footage, and series of interviews to do this documentary.

Of course, it’s in limited distribution, but if you check the website you may just find it at a theater near you.  Don’t miss out on this great American soccer story.