Fear and Loathing at Memorial Stadium

Craig MessnerContributor ISeptember 9, 2008

Clenching my ticket in both hands like the last margarita on a week-long cruise, I crawled forward, the mud weighing me down with every step. 

No wonder all those poor boys in Vietnam came back as vegetables.

Luckily, there were no punji traps here awaiting a place in my internal organs. Still, I had to be on my guard, there were threats all around me.  To my right sidles in a laughing jock, pushing his way through the milling crowd.  He flips his hat rakishly to the side, and takes a swig from a disposable plastic water-bottle stuffed in his low-slung madras shorts.

By the smell of it, and his wavering gait, it's certainly not water. He moves ahead, and is quickly replaced by an octogenarian, clad head to toe in Chief. He belches, scratches contemplatively, and wastes no time positioning himself ahead of me in line.

What a godawful sunny day.

I make up my mind, and push my way through. Swear as they might, no one has the moxie to stop my charge to the front of the line.  I surrender the dignity of my satchel to the probing hands of a student worker and I'm through.

Truly this is the promised land.  Led here by the prophet ZOOK, I have come to worship. The I-block is full of fellow pilgrims, stuffed like olives in a jar, yet still clamoring to see their Gods do battle.  The deep old one himself, the one they call Ditka, even deigned to come before them once more.

With no more adieu, on to the immaculate turf they run. The masses make ritual motions describing their joy, as the divine Illini go to work vanquishing the Panthers of Eastern Illinois.

By the half, I have seen enough. Watching Juice run over those defensive backs again and again is almost as blandly repetitive as the sea of polo shirts at frat row on a friday night.  I can scarcely vacate my seat before it is snapped up by an opportunistic spectator, trying to get just 10 feet closer to the action.  For the Illini, the day is won.  I too have emerged unscathed, though unlike them, I can claim no ranking of 24.

After it all, I am simply glad I can still claim my life.

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