2004-5 edition of the Illinois Fighting Illini seems to be in tune
with that old song. And after watching some of the abuse this No. 1
team has had to endure, it's amazing they haven't reverted to the
pout and dance routine.
for instance Saturday's game at Purdue. The ardent student of the
game realizes that no team, and the nation's No. 1 team is no
exception, will march into Mackey Arena and waltz away with an easy
win. But there's a memo I'm contemplating sending to the Big Ten
home office in Wahoo, Neb., or wherever it is needs my words to help
it look itself in the mirror over some certainly overlooked facts.
When your league's No. 1 team in the nation is playing on national
TV, do you really want to send your C or Z team of officials to
preside over the affair? I think not. But stuff like this is
happening routinely and it's not pretty. Fans are taking notice. I
was out of state while all of this was going on, and fans not
friendly to the Orange and Blue were even commenting on the
outrageousness of the situation.
Now don't get me wrong. Some accuse
my friend Greg Taylor and me of overanalyzing this aspect of the
games -- that perhaps we're saying that the refs made Illinois lose
in the past when they lost. That's not what we're saying. We simply
have tried to be a reminder that officials are there to officiate
the games, not to be the spectacle themselves. Too many college
basketball officials seem to be auditioning for Hollywood these days
instead of being concerned about calling a quality game. To be fair,
there are several hardworking officials who flat out get it done on
both the collegiate and the high school levels; we're not talking
about you, here. I've written articles in praise of YOU men before…
and I will do it again. I will also call as I see it when it's not
getting done… and recently it's not been getting done.
The great thing is that so far the
Illini players haven't taken the bait. And falling nine points
behind the Boilers Saturday afternoon gave them plenty of reason to,
especially if you consider how the deficit was formed. However, the
Illini didn't pout or cry. They didn't come out for the second half
saying, "We're getting hosed in Mackey today, so let's just fold up
our tent." They came out with resolve and purpose and overcame
everything in an 18-point reversal of fortunes.
However, this game was at Purdue…
What happens if the same scenario repeats itself at Wisky or at the
Breslin Center…? Herein lies the rub.
No matter, we're STILL No. 1… and I
hope we're taking a championship boxer's approach to the whole
situation. If someone does beat us, they will have to knock us out.
The next contenders are Penn State
and Northwestern… Beware of the Wildcats…
Lincoln's Railers continue to do
what they do, and that's simply win. The victims this past weekend
were Southeast and Jerseyville. However, the meat of Lincoln's
schedule is just around the corner, and then we'll be able to see if
this undersized lot can do as much damage as we'd all like to see.
teams are dangerous
One of the reasons I have lobbied
against .500 teams getting into the playoffs on virtually every
level of sports is because they can be so dangerous. I believe
winning a conference or divisional title should be rewarded; being
the sixth-best team in your conference shouldn't.
Take the Vikings and the Rams. You
get them in the playoffs, and now they have to go on the road.
But... they go on the road without all of the usual pressures. This
time NO one expects them to win, because the playoffs usually favor
home teams. But now they can play loosey-goosey, and when you're
playing that relaxed, the stage is ripe for upsets. Again, I submit
the Rams and the Vikings for your perusal. Now the Rams get to play
at Atlanta… I'm not saying they're going to win, but I do think it
is a favorable matchup for them. They are a turf team playing in
another turf stadium. If they can find some way to contain Vick,
they may just find some way to win.
[to top of second column in
How about this for more fodder for
my theory: If the Vikings find some way to upset the Eagles and the
Rams win, they would be HOSTING the NFC Championship game a week
from Sunday under the arch. While I would love to see it, there is
really something wrong about rewarding mediocrity.
I'd also like to see the Colts get
by the Patriots, but then they'd probably have to follow that up by
beating the Steelers in Pittsburg… That would be a most difficult
road. And don't forget the Jets… Now they become dangerous too.
Outside of college hoops, NFL playoff playoffs are hard to beat.
another Lincoln athlete making good
Ryan Bast is yet another Lincoln
athlete who is making good on the field. In fact, that's not just
the opinion of his family or of those of us here at the LDN. His
coach, Steve Bell, called Bast "the best cornerback in the league."
Bast led the Monmouth College
Fighting Scots to a 9-1 (8-1 in the Midwest Conference) record as
one of the best small-college football teams in the country. He was
also an outstanding kick returner for the Scots again this season.
Bast had several outstanding games,
but two immediately rise to the top. On Saturday, Oct. 9, 2004, Bast
did everything but park cars as he helped dominate Grinnell College
24-0. He managed two huge interceptions and a Deion Sanders dance
for an encore that led the Scots to victory. A few weeks later, Bast
returned a punt 35 yards that set up Monmouth's first touchdown and
led the team with 10 tackles as they humbled Carroll College.
Bast played both basketball and
football for the Railers, and it is nice to see yet another Lincoln
kid making good on the collegiate level. And for those who have
doubted Lincoln's prowess on the gridiron, we present Ryan Bast as
further evidence that our football program is on the rise! This week
the LDN salutes Lincoln's Ryan Bast… Congratulations and continued
It's hard not to pick the No. 1
Fighting Illini for this award every week (did I mention that they
are No. 1?), but this week I had to go another direction completely.
I followed a snowplow all the way to
Clinton last Wednesday night on my way east, and it made me think of
all the hours these men and women put in salting and sanding roads
and pushing snow and ice out of our way with our safety in mind. I
thought about how many nights they are out there all night and in
the wee hours of the morning away from their spouses and the warmth
of their homes to make our roads safe. I just have to tip my cap to
all of you for the tremendous work and service you provide.
This week the LDN salutes all the
snowplow drivers of central Illinois and anywhere there are nasty
roads to clear. Nice going… and keep up the great work!
That's it for me, kids. Have a great