I have no idea how to put the feelings I have into words, so I won't even try, but seeing Indiana dispose of Illinois Thursday night reminded me of why I am, after everything, still a dedicated IU fan.
No matter how hard it is to watch your favorite basketball team be royally screwed (I won't even mention his name) over and become the laughingstock of many college basketball fans, I still watch every IU game I can.
It's not easy.
It WAS once honorable to be an IU fan, but now it's almost embarrassing to be one and I still think the respect is there.
But what was once a prestigious college basketball program has been forced to take some serious steps backwards.
When Tom Crean was hired in 2008, no other college basketball coach had as hard as a job as he did. Many of the new players on the teams were walk-ons and because of that, IU had a 6-25 overall record and a 1-17 record in the Big Ten that first year.
This was after a season where IU made the NCAA tournament.
This restructuring was going to take some time—to some people, longer than expected.
The 2009-10 season saw improvement. IU went 10-21 overall and did manage four wins in the conference. It's nothing to write home about, but to IU fans, it was a sign that this program was heading into the right direction.
If there was anything I had to believe in was Tom Crean. We had to be patient. I couldn't let a few terrible years let us get too angry with the head coach.
In some ways, I sympathized with him. To take the job he has takes balls. He's risking his college coaching career if things don't pan out too well in Indiana.
And so, I respect the man and want him to be successful, not only because I am a fan, but because I respect the dedication and the fact that he's taking a risk with a basketball program you can tell he really loves.
Thursday's night win was for all that dedication and the "never give up" attitude Crean has instilled in his players.
Nobody has doubted his or the player's dedication. You can see it in their faces when they play. You could tell they wanted to beat Ohio State and even though it was their best played game in all the three years (besides Thursday night), they still came up short.
That's what these past years have been like: Dedication, but no reward.
Tonight, they got their reward: A victory over a ranked team, an event that hasn't happened in 19 games; the last time was against Purdue on February 19, 2008.
So, IU fans, savor this win. Know that it wasn't a spur-of-the-moment win, but an almost three-years-in-the-making win.
It's things like this that keep that hope alive: of, once again, regaining prestige among Big Ten teams.
I'll see you at Assembly Hall.