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Illinois out of the gate at 2-0

By Jeff Mayfield          Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 22, 2004]  The Illinois Fighting Illini have started the season the way you're supposed to -- by taking care of business. It's not always a thing of beauty, but if you are like me, you are not looking for style points.

I have uncovered something I am not all that thrilled with, and that is talk of how far this team will go. Pencil me in as someone who would much rather play them one game at a time. While objectives and goals are wonderful incentives, they can also set you up for disappointment and failure. For instance there has been a lot of talk about going, say 15-1 in the non-conference games and 13-3 in Big Ten action -- lofty goals, no doubt.

But what happens if the team stubs its proverbial big toe along the way. Will everyone feel let down? Will the season then be a disappointment? And the league goal is great too, but for crying out loud, it is not even December yet. Could we play a few non-league games before we start jockeying for Big Ten positioning? There has been more hype surrounding this year's team than any since the late '80s.

I remember last winter when all the hype was swirling around the Cubs, and I am sure that that did not work out as the fans had planned. Now while there is certainly a difference between the two sports and the two teams, hype and high expectations seldom result in euphoria.

However, I want to believe… I am just asking you loyal LDN readers to help me in my unbelief!

Take Friday night's first game of the season versus Delaware State. This is a game that probably should have been over at halftime, but it wasn't. The Illini looked like a team going through the motions -- like these guys are on our schedule so we will do just enough to get by. To Delaware's credit, they must have not read the predicted score and came out and gave Illinois more than they bargained for in the "guaranteed" game. Illinois' defense mirrored that of its football counterparts.

LDN staffer Greg Taylor was on hand at the Assembly Hall Sunday afternoon and said just the opposite. He complimented the Illini on how well they looked. "Other than the first few minutes of the second half, Illinois looked like a Final Four team," according to Taylor. That is what I like to hear.

Illinois will get one more test before the Thanksgiving weekend showdown with Gonzaga when they host a pesky and dangerous Oakland team Wednesday night.

Breaking news…

The LDN has learned that Illinois has fired embattled football coach Ron Turner…

Turkey tourney

The Lincoln High School Railsplitters will be unveiled starting tonight in Roy S. Anderson gym. The Railers will play Peoria Manual tonight at 7:30 in their home opener and then tackle Danville on Wednesday night at 8. Friday will see them welcome Chicago Curie at 8, leading to Saturday's doubleheader as they meet Chicago Hubbard at 10 in the morning and East St. Louis at 8 that night.

Come out to the gym, bring your family and a turkey leg, and enjoy high school hoops at its best. The crowds have waned some since the departure of Brian Cook, but for the life of me I STILL don't know what there is to do that can compete with cheering on true amateur athletes in pure athletic competition. I don't think you can beat that for the ticket price.

Same thing for the Lady Railers, who also will be revving up their season. Women's basketball has been experiencing a flood of popularity over the last couple of seasons. Why not come out and support Lincoln's coach Stoltzenburg and her Lady Railers?

Lincoln Lynx Express

I don't know if Lincoln College coach B.J. McCollum and his team saw a preview of the "Polar Express," or if somebody made them mad, or if they have just come together with a sophomore-laden team. Whatever the case, they have exploded out of the station. The Lynx hammered IVCC to capture the Spoon River Classic championship 95-84 and moved their record to a sparkling 6-0. Look out for these Lynx, as they are headed for BIG THINGS!

The Lady Lynx are not too far behind as they evened their record at 3-3 this past weekend.

LCC hoops

Congratulations to new LCC hoops meister Jim Corrona as he led his team to a thrilling 82-80 third-place victory over Davenport in the Marion (Ind.) College Tournament Saturday in Indianapolis.

Come out and support LCC Tuesday night at 7 as they host Principia College; and if you tell the ticket takers that Greg Taylor sent you, they will put the tickets on his tab and you will get in FREE!

The LCC Angels got off to a slow start in Missouri this weekend, but you can see them at home on Dec. 11.

[to top of second column in this article]

Cook update

Lincoln's Brian Cook had two points, three rebounds and one assist in nine minutes of action as his LA Lakers defeated the Chicago Bulls 102-93 Sunday in California.  Next up for Cook and the Lakers is a Tuesday night game versus the Milwaukee Bucks.

Basketbrawl and footbrawl

Many fans and insiders criticized and ridiculed the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals for a wonderful display of sportsmanship after the NL Division Series just last month. Even though it was a wonderful display, people thought it was out of place and shouldn't have happened. That's the society we live in today -- something they should have applauded, they dissed!!!

After incidents in college football and in the NBA this past weekend, we're betting that the NCAA and the NBA wish they had several sportsmanship measures in place.

The sad fact is that the leagues and the TV networks, the players, and the fans are all to blame. The mad dash for the almighty dollar has compromised sportsmanship and the essence of sports. The leagues, we believe, actually relish these moments because it sends their TV ratings soaring. Then they show these incidents hundreds of times and replay them endlessly.

What kind of statement does that make to today's young people? If you run around and act like an idiot, with no manners, breaking laws and decorum, we will put you on TV for weeks! It's beyond sad and disgusting. Things are so out of hand now, we're not sure that control could ever be re-established.

The NCAA and all professional leagues MUST find ways to make sportsmanship the rule, NOT the EXCEPTION! NO ONE is guaranteed a spot on any team with any franchise IF they can not conduct themselves in a proper manner.

Do you REALLY need a several-game suspension to know whether you crossed a line or not? What if some of you did what was done at these games in the work place? Do you think you would get a six-day suspension and than be allowed to return? You'd probably be arrested, humiliated and then watch the key being thrown away!

I don't get this… I don't see it as a complex problem. Some things are acceptable and some things aren't. What these players and fans did was WAY over the line, and they should be punished and penalized to the full extent of the sport AND the law… period!

Bears hammered by the Colts

Don't tell us you didn't see this coming. However, if the Colts don't win the Super Bowl, will anyone ever truly know how terrific Peyton Manning has been this season? The on-again, off-again Rams were buried by Buffalo, and that may be the end of them. They are surely not one of the elite teams in the NFL any longer.

Happy Thanksgiving

I don't know about you, but I'm glad there's a holiday coming up. I need a few days to sort out everything that has happened this year.

One thing I do know is that I'm not nearly as thankful as I ought to be. I have a spectacular wife, a great son, a challenging and enjoyable job, a comfortable house, a drivable car, acceptable clothes, decent meals, a free country to live in, super friends and that's just the preface to a list I could make that could probably span several pages. The problem is that I don't always live like I'm thankful for all of these things.

But I'm gonna try to do better. I know I should wait to place this in my New Year's resolutions page, but I want to start today!

I'm hoping that all of you wonderful LDN readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving and have some time over the holiday to reflect on your blessings.

Have a great Thanksgiving, everybody!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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