There are many ways to watch an Illini Football Game at Memorial Stadium. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. As a baritone player in the Marching Illini. "Oskee Wow Wow from the Hold!"
2. From the top of the Press Box as an Illini Pride Ambassador. You may just be on top of world up there.
3. Homecoming Day, Listening to the cheers...from the parking lot, as you finish another beer with old friends.
4. 8 months pregnant sitting with your parents 10 rows up from the field because dad knows exactly where every seat is when he scalps tickets.
5. The very first time you teach your daughters the I-L-L I-N-I cheer, the wave, Oskee Wow Wow, and Alma Mater, sitting in the end zone, because the seats are cheap and now you need more of them.
6. And during your very first RV roadtrip...
It was 5:45am in Loami, IL. Why were we awake you ask? This is not normal for Mies's to get up before sunrise. Today, we had commandeered the Larry Richie totally rad 1970's RV and were cruising cross-country (ok, just a few hours east) to Champaign, IL for an Illini Football Tailgate. Who cares about the game, it's all about the pre-game. Previous to our Best Night Ever, this may have been logged as our Best Day Ever.
We rolled into town with plenty of time for Mimosa's, Bloody Mary's, hamburgers, and a parking lot football with random strangers, who all admired our far-out ride. (Even though their RV's were 30 years newer than our ride). Let's get busy making new friends in this section of Illini Nation.
This happened to be Halloween weekend, and in true Richie fashion, Anna had to dress for the occasion. To the stadium she marched in her full-blown tigger costume, accessorized with a Juice Williams #1 football jersey. All the small children were asking for photos and autographs. We had to split up walking in as our tickets were spread out thru the stadium. Once inside we began to hunt eachother down and find nine empty seats together. Amber and I caught first glance of the electronic scoreboard and who should we see but Tigger on the screen! Well, it looks like our seats are in the south end zone! Thanks Tigger! Eventually the tigger costume got warm and it was time to find a relief tiger. Anna turned around and asked the crowd if anyone was interested. A funny little man 3 rows back eagerly jumped up and begged for the opportunity to borrow the costume. Off went tigger the random stranger bouncing around Memorial Stadium for a solid hour, popping in and out of entrances, reappearing on the big screen, and having a grand time. He returned the costume late in the 4th quarter, hot and extremely stinky.
The game ended in an Illini victory over Purdue and we headed back to our sweet ride in the parking lot. This time Calyssa fitted herself into the Tigger costume and enjoyed the extra attention and fan support with the help of her bodyguards, Samantha and Amber.
It's been a few years now since we've managed to travel east for a good tailgate party. Somehow our priorities have shifted to accommodate new schedules. Maybe one of these years we will get back into the tailgate routine. There is a lot of orange and blue blood in our families, surely some of that blood will find its way back to Champaign so that we have an excuse to shift our schedules into tailgate mode again. For today, I guess I will have to yell my I-L-L really loud from 14810 Maxwell Hall Road. Am I loud enough to get a chant started?