Smile Politely

“Stripe the Stadium” actually a good idea

This Saturday, Illini football fans will wear blue to the game. Unless their seat is in an odd numbered section. In that case, they’ll wear orange.

A 20-billion pixel camera will take a picture of everyone in the stadium, to commemorate the moment when we all came together, in our various stripes.

Each fan will be able to find himself in that picture, unless he bends down to fetch his peanuts at just the wrong moment.

This is a simple idea. And I love it.

Illini sports promotions have been comically bad for a few years running.

It began with the World’s Outdoorest Basketball Practice. Fives, possibly even tens of fans looked over their shoulders on the way out of an inexplicable loss to Tim Brewster’s awful Golden Gopher football team; while stampeding toward the exits, said to their husbands or suite mates “hey, I think there’s something happening in the south end zone.”

The next year’s basketball event featured dry-ice machines and a light show which helped obscure eight to ten thousand empty seats. Wisely, the DIA chose to downsize last year, hosting the season’s kick-off event at Huff Hall. Recruits said they enjoyed it, but also felt uninhibited to name drop the schools they’d really like to attend. That night’s star visitor was Chasson Randle.

The football team’s mass publicity events usually involve spine-chilling militarism. Like Leonid Brezhnev in the old days, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad more recently, the DIA has relied on displays of WMD to impress its faithful.

It’s easy to trip into Godwin’s Law when recounting massive, choreographed public events, marching in formation and arrays of aerial fighting machines. Perhaps this plays to the base, the Illini fans who trek to town for games but don’t have much truck with all them liberals up dar t’university.

Attendance is down since the Chief’s last dance. Is it just the economy? Is it our football team’s wretched record through the naughties, and our basketball team’s consistent, predictable 14 loss season? Could it be that former season ticket holders (like Prof. Stephen Kaufman) never again felt encouraged to participate? In a nutshell, are liberals welcome at Illini games?

That’s why “Stripe the Stadium” strikes me as a huge leap forward. Instead of dictating the program, it allows the fans to be the program. All of us, in two distinctly different colors.

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