The game wasn’t on teevee, so most people have no idea how it played out. You’ll have heard that Mike Tisdale led the team with 25 points and 10 rebounds. But that tells you nothing. This game wasn’t at all what you’d infer from the box score.

Illinois beat Chicago State 89–50. Lots of times you’ll hear, “but it wasn’t that close,” which means the losing team scored a bunch after the winning team stopped the beating. This time, it wasn’t that far. The Illini had the game well in hand before they suddenly didn’t. It was so dull for a while that another press row regular and I bantered thus:

Q: “What are you writing about?”
A: “Anything but this game.”

headlightpic.jpgFor just one, well two towns, Champaign-Urbana sure has a lot of music in and around its borders. Countless shows have been played in clubs, bars, churches and basements these past twelve months from a countable but large amount of artists who call this place home. A lot of it, thankfully, has been outstanding.

Bands like Common Loon and Organic Flow put on some of the best sets around town this past year and Smile Politely is eagerly awaiting their 2009 releases. “Commercial Paper” by Casados and “Landlocked” by Elsinore (both on their respective Myspaces) are also pretty good indications 2009 will be a good year for local music.

But since it’s still 2008, here’s a small sampling of some of the best stuff put out by local artists this past year. Enjoy.

And then, when we woke up, we noticed something odd. With 12 minutes to go, it was a three-possession game. Or maybe that was a dream, because this morning we could swear the final was Illinois by 39.

Dominique Keller likes Jesus.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Mike Tisdale started again. I think that’s good. Even when he’s playing below his potential, there’s no reason to stop trying. Establish him early, if possible.

It worked, too. And were it not for three messy exchanges between Chester Frazier and Demetri McCamey in the early-going, it might have worked even quicker. Tisdale scored on a pair of hook shots. He scored on put-backs. He scored on short jumpers. It was as if the tallest Chicago State starter were only 6-foot-7, not a banger, and playing for one of the worst schools in Division I.

But it’s unfair to lament Tisdale’s performance versus absent players. He dominated those present, at least offensively. The considerably shorter Cougars got most of the rebounds.

Mike Davis asked out at the 14:45 mark. Perhaps he had pulled an all-nighter. It’s finals week, you know. Still, that’s pretty early in a ballgame to get fatigued. No one seemed phased by it. But if it’s conditioning rather than end-of-semester weariness, the Big Ten looms ominously.

Davis, and the rest of the weary, got help from the officials. Referee J.D. Collins aspirated through his whistle Wednesday, frequently interrupting live action. Everyone has to breathe, but most people can do it without causing frequent stoppage in a major spectator event. J.D. does not like it when people touch each other. This mindset is common in the largely Lutheran upper-Midwest. Garrison Keillor speaks of it frequently, and at length.

Despite the aspirating, no heavy contact occurred until the second media timeout, when two contestants for the Gameday Sports $150 shopping spree decked one another in midair. Neil and Will were not sure who’d won. Accounts differ. Even the judges were confused. Perhaps both contestants deserve a spree. And perhaps the Dead Ball Events Coordinator should consult a personal injury attorney before continuing this tradition.

The game continued. Calvin Brock made zero free-throws in four attempts from the line. The crowd aspirated. This time, it was more of a defeatist gasp. The poor foul-shooting continued. This was last year’s Achilles Heel. But at least last year’s awful team could rebound.

And yet, it was no big deal. The Illini padded a lead which grew to 19 points by the 5:22 mark. This allowed Richard Semrau to spend most of the game on the bench, napping. Semrau hadn’t had much sleep in the last couple days, on account of all the papers, presentations and finals.


For a long time, Illinois continued its lackaday rebounding. Not content to get blown out on the boards for only two straight games, The Illini hunched, squatted or hung out at half court. Whatever it took to let the other team pull down caroms.

Chester Frazier and Jeff Jordan tag-teamed CSU sharpshooter David Holston. Afterwards, Holston said both Frazier and Jordan were hard to beat. No relent. Together, they held Holston 11 points below his average. And although some notable bits of Holston offense occurred with Jordan on the floor, you can’t really blame Jeff. He had to fight through a few Carl Montgomery picks that were both firm and ambulatory. These happened during the time when J.D. Collins’ whistle became so gobbed up that it couldn’t make noise.

Jordan bounces off people. In some cases, he bounces through people. He has no fear of contact. And it’s his aggressive D and hustle that will keep him on the floor.

Mike Davis passed up a lot of shot opportunities in the first half. Instead, he showed off his interior passing skeelz. Sometimes he caught the ball before passing it. Sometimes, he batted it on. Much of the time, Tisdale was the beneficiary.

Tisdale’s confidence grew with each successful offensive trip. After dunking on Chicago State’s first-ever white guy, Pawel Kielbasa, Tisdale turned to his adversary and growled “SNAUSAGES!” — or something along those lines. (My old chum, the Urbana playground legend, part-time Robert Townsend lookalike and small-time felon Jerry Johnson would be proud.) Tisdale lives in a time of Politcal Correctness, but it was way before his birth that anyone was admonished for picking on Poles.

Davis finished the first half scoreless. In fact, it wasn’t until midway through the second half that Davis started scoring. By that point, the laughter had become no laughing matter. The Cougars had cut a 19-point lead to 48–39. How did Chicago State climb back into the game? You’ll be shocked to find that it was through rebounding. At the under-12-minute mark, The Cougars had a 29 to 24 edge on the boards. Unlike the Hawaii game, though, Illinois had butterfingered the ball nearly as much as its guest — 20 turnovers to 14.

Frankly, when the ball hit the rim, there were a lot of green jerseys underneath it.

And then the bottom fell out. Mike Davis scraped the ice off his fingers and started draining shots. He finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. But that’s only half the story. Illinois had kept their hands on the ball, and nearly caught up on boards, 32 to 29. Illinois had been scoring with relative ease throughout the game. The decisive turn came when Illinois began rebounding.

And boxing out.

And then boxing out even more.

Et cetera.

By the time the Illini lead reached 30, with 5:15 left, they had finally taken the lead on caroms. The final rebounding stats show a slim margin, 44–41 in favor of the Illini.

When Bill Cole checked in at 4:00, he replaced Meacham; further evidence that Cole is not a forward. Although the crowd began chanting for Bubba at this point, Coach Weber left the second team on the floor. SP photographer Travis McDade points out that playing time for Cole is only useful among the regular cast of characters.

Bubba Chisholm did get on the floor, just in time to foul out the Polish Sausage.



Pam Deery found a cozy fleece scarf at Kohl’s.


Grant Henry admires his own corduroy slacks. SP harassed him about how cool his outfit looked. Especially the hat, which came from Bergner’s. The pullover is available at Macy’s … in Cincinnati!


Trent is finishing his first semester as a grad student. His field is Human Resource Education. HR has to do with employment positions — filling them, or emptying them. In a depressed economy, perhaps it has more than usual to do with emptying them.


It was once worthwhile. This year, the Krush can barely be bothered to show up. Wednesday night’s taunting of The Chicago State cheerleaders …

You ain’t got no alibi!

is beyond the pale.

Memo to Ron Guenther:

The author (and not the editorial staff of Smile Politely) thinks The Chief was not what you might call “hostile.” The Krush is a different matter.

They’re outright dicks. Some of the good old taunts were funny and imaginative. Some of them still are. But this latest batch of kids learned its comedy from Adam Sandler and Superbad. Their concept of humor has not been introduced to the realm of the cerebral. It’s crotch jokes.

I’m not in a very good position to criticize anyone for poor taste, but I will anyway. When I write things in poor taste, I hope to have a modicum of tongue-in-cheek and a sliver of clever. Abuse must come in the form of high art — the best satire for example — or it’s just abuse.

How will the University of Illinois represent itself to the outside world? The last time a large group of white people was allowed to yell epithets at a small group of black people in a state-sponsored, co-educational environment, Dwight Eisenhower had to call in the National Guard.

Yes, most of the individuals are really neat, smart, hardworking people. But evidently they don’t have a vocal presence within the organization which garners an ear when it says, “Hey guys, do you think maybe this chant is outside the boundary of good sportsmanship?”