Smile Politely

Furtive masturbators invade Champaign tonight

Illinois plays Penn State tonight at 8 p.m., after the very young have been put to bed.

And thank goodness for that. Every single one of these Nittany Lions is a secret masturbator. I wouldn’t bring this up, normally. But I must prove a point.

Last year one of my most celebratorily juvenile Poetrys in the Motion went on and on about Stanley Pringle’s public onanism. For some reason, no one called me out on it. Maybe that’s because 92% of you do it, and the other 8% refuse to admit you do it.

Someone should have called me out. I ridiculed an opposing player. I ridiculed him about personal, intimate shit. And it was totally hypocritical. Frankly, I am all in favor of people working out their own problems.


Ed DeChellis dropped by the Ubben this fall to steal all our plays. The joke was on him, of course. We don’t have plays!

He also watched Joe Pa’s squad in its gameday routine, and its gametime pummeling of Zooker et al.

DeChellis is a thoroughly decent man. He was kind enough to avert his eyes from the slaughter long enough to provide thoughtful responses to all my stupid questions.



I generally don’t respond to comments about basketball stories. Once I’ve said my piece, I think it’s fair that others have the opportunity to state theirs.

I think I make it fairly clear what I think. I’m willing to answer questions.

Yesterday a comment advised me to return to the lighthearted style of last year’s columns. I don’t know that my style changed. But I will tell you that last year was funnier.

Expectations were both low and exceeded for a likeable hodge-podge of scrappy players.

This year’s expectations were higher. I don’t think that’s fair, but it’s true. People anticipated Our Magic Freshmen class to walk on water.

The tendency to prognosticate future glory is pandemic. It’s not just us. But while false hope is lifeblood to the hopeless — and the only thing you’ve got if you’re an Iowa or Indiana fan — our Illini cause is not hopeless.

This team has shown it can win any game. It can lose any game too. And because the team’s weaknesses are fairly obvious to even casual observers, it’s perfectly fair to criticize the guy in charge when mistakes become repeated mistakes.

I never criticize the assistants or the players. There’s no indication to me that they aren’t doing everything in their power. Only Bruce Weber has the power. And I probably wouldn’t even bother criticizing him if he hadn’t made it clear that he’s open to criticism, to new ideas, to doing things differently.

I have no patience for fans who see only the future. It’s like anticipating Christmas.

Yes, dreams are better than reality. But this Illini team can be very good. And yes, I do know better than the head coach who makes a million dollars. That’s because I’m a journalist. We all know better than he does.

And as we continually tell him how he can do better, he seems to be getting the hint. He’s inserted Jeff Jordan and Bill Cole, just like I said he should. He’s drawing up set plays at the end of tight games, just like I said he should.

I tell you, this Bruce Weber is corrigible. But you have to stay on him. If you let up for just a minute, he’ll revert to his old ways.


One of my favorite posters on, MountainManMitch, thought me meanspirited for digging in to vertically challenged Iowan Little John Lickliter. Mitch is an earnest, caring human being. If the world were populated exclusively by Mitch types, we’d have no need of weaponry or even social programs. Everyone would just help take care of everyone else, while also doing his part.

As Sam Harris pointed out, an entire town of pacifists could be eliminated by one knife-wielding psychopath.

I don’t really have anything against Little Lick. I’ll even give him credit for his 15 minutes.

If no one had ever pointed out that he’s stubby, short, slow and only on the team because of his dad, I might have left him alone. But of course, I’m far from the first. Iowa fans especially have noticed. And that’s the point. As the Supreme Court pointed out in Hustler v. Falwell, celebrity makes anyone an open target.

I don’t really have anything against (Iowa Head Coach and) dad Todd Lickliter, either. I rather enjoyed his professorial remarks as he reclined his chair and waxed philosophical about running a losing program.

But here’s the thing: I’m an Illini beat writer. I cater to a particular niche. Almost all of the people who read my column have one thing in common: They are fans of Illinois basketball. Fans of Illinois basketball are emphatically not fans of Iowa basketball.

Here’s another thing: I am a fan of Deon Thomas. I think he’s a thoroughly worthwhile human being. He’s smart, gentle. He smells good. He’s also the top scorer in Illini basketball history.

Here’s a third thing: I am a fan of Lou Henson. He’s one of the most gracious gentlemen I’ve ever met.

And here’s my point: When someone emblazons the letters I-O-W-A accross a jersey and steps on to the Assembly Hall hardwood, I consider him fair game, even if he’s in all other respects a warm, kind-hearted human being who does unpublicized work helping the poor and enfeebled.

Finally — and especially to those who wish I’d not muddle my polysyllabic witticisms with vulgarities — I say this: Fuck Iowa.

Their basketball program clearly lacks institutional control now, or else they wouldn’t suck so heartily. They clearly did not wield institutional control over their basketball program then. Rather, a roommate and friend of our chief inquisitor Bruce Pearl, a smileball named Mike Slive … oh for shit’s sake, Google it for yourselves.

I write a weird basketball column. One of the rules of weirdness is not doing what people tell you to do.

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