2022 NCAAT I - We Begin

Mar 17, 2022

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Zoom in on that photo. There's a cell tower worker at the very top. You can see that they're strapped to the tower, so I'm sure it's "safe", but that would never feel "safe", right? Somehow they had to get from down here to up there. I guess it's possible that the crane lifts them to the top, but they probably climbed up.

No thank you.

I took that photo somewhere along I-70 (safety first) on my way to Pittsburgh. The man or woman at the top of the tower was signaling to the crane operator (waving arms) and it caught my attention. I know that every single antenna at the top of every single cell tower was attached to that tower by a human person standing atop the tower, but still, seeing someone standing way up there was shudder-inducing.

And it made me immediately think about the post I wrote before the Loyola game last year and the song by David Wilcox that inspired it. Here's your snippet:

I don't want to play this game. I don't want to go to bed because I have to wake up tomorrow and that's when the game happens. Just get me to 2:30 EDT tomorrow and tell me the score. Seriously, sometimes I hope I completely oversleep and wake up after the game is over.

Thought of a song that describes what I'm thinking. Farther To Fall by David Wilcox. It's a song about relationships. When they start to get really serious, it's more exciting but also more frightening. And he relates it to walking along railroad tracks, balancing on the rails, and then you get to a tall bridge. It's not harder to balance on the rails - you just have farther to fall. Some lyrics.

Balance is no harder after all
Out across this bridge so tall
Balance is no harder
It's just that you've got farther
Now you've just got farther to fall

Yeah, that's totally it. That's how I feel about tomorrow (and, should we win, will increasingly feel about the four games after that). It's not any harder. We just have farther to fall. I think I'm now afraid of heights.

It's been a year, but the trauma of that loss is still very real for all of us, I think. We fell so incredibly far. And the free-fall was almost worse than the impact. Now, here we are again, facing our fear of heights. Friday or Sunday could be so incredibly painful. Or, by Sunday night, we might be at our highest point as a fanbase since the Rose Bowl in 2007.

That's what is laid out in front of us. If we climb the tower, hook up the new antenna, and return to the ground safely, we'll have the thrill of the accomplishment (and some decent money in our pocket). If we slip and fall again... I don't even want to think about it.

There's a church right by my hotel, and the bell in the church tower rings every 15 minutes. It just rang for 5:30 pm EDT, which is the time I assigned myself to check the score in the Iowa game. Give me a moment.

OH MY GOD. The only clue I had with this game was that when I checked something on Twitter like an hour ago there was a tweet from a national college basketball writer that was just a spider emoji followed by an eyeballs emoji. So I figured that meant that Richmond was hanging with Iowa. I didn't expect them to WIN. Holy crap.

See, this more or less cements my point here. In fact, I need to go tweet that I'm not going to say a single thing about the Iowa loss. It can happen to anyone. The tumble that Iowa fans are feeling right now - on top of the world seeing all of these "I have Gonzaga and Iowa in the final" tweets the last three days, and now it's over before the sun goes down on the first Thursday - is just so horrific.

Man, no one is going to want to win the Big Ten Tournament ever again.

Back to my point. Seeing that worker atop the cell tower today was one massive GULP for me. As I begin my writing journey with the 2022 NCAA Tournament - I'm gonna blog it like it's Camp Rantoul in 2010, and I don't know if I'll get to roman numeral VII or roman numeral XXXVII - I just want to start there. It's early evening Thursday. By early evening Sunday, I'll either be at my most satisfied fan moment in 15 years or I'll be completely and totally devastated.

I should take that a step further. Say we do get to the Sweet 16 and we face Arizona in San Antonio. That regional is Thursday-Saturday. So one week from right now (this very moment) we'd be close to tipping off in the biggest Illini basketball game since 2005. One week of my life. And I could be at the greatest moment by next Thursday or one of the worst tomorrow night.

Those are the stakes. I wouldn't trade them for the world, and the stakes are what would make the feeling of next Thursday so amazing, but there's a lot at risk here. As Iowa fans are finding out right... now as all of this begins to fully sink in.

My room service is here, so time to eat dinner. And watch some college basketball because I'm no longer at risk of accidentally seeing the Iowa score. Much more tonight, and tomorrow, and hopefully for several weeks. I'm not sure I even know the roman numeral for 50 but let's try to get there. (Wait - it's L. Super Bowl. Duh.)

Just have to walk out here on this beam and grab the antenna that the crane operator is swinging my direction while the wind blows me around and I try to keep my balance up here 200 feet off the ground......


1978fan on March 17, 2022 @ 11:11 PM

Hang on Robert! I understand it does get really windy at higher elevations.

We enjoy celebrating the victories and dread the losses. I’m not sure both emotions are worth our efforts.

Win or lose, your wife and kids along with mine, they’ll still love us!


jpbrown on March 17, 2022 @ 11:41 PM

I sincerely hope there are a TON more of these. I stumbled across the “Tyler and Robert Loyola Loss Therapy Session” last March when I and the rest of Illini fans were trying to process what had just happened in the Round of 32. That hour plus podcast was both incredibly therapeutic and utterly depressing, for obvious reasons. Been a huge fan ever of Robert and IlliniBoard ever since. Finally I am a subscriber—I know, took me long enough—but I truly enjoy everything y’all put out about our beloved teams. Here’s to a long run of Robert’s ramblings; a vast majority of the time I am thinking and feeling the same things.

IlliniJoe81 on March 18, 2022 @ 02:08 AM

I think every Illini fan knows there is a real chance we lose the game tomorrow.

I thought we brought our A game against Arizona at home and we lost, so I'm just hoping for Sweet 16.

With Houston, all the analytics say they could be a title contender. On the other hand, they are a mid-major with two injured stars who lost to every good team they played. So they could be a low-possession cheat code for KenPom and not be any good. Who knows?

I have zero idea what is going to happen. We do have a Big Ten Championship already banked for this season. I also think we're in the NCAA Tournament again next year. So let's just roll the dice and see what happens.

I'm not as nervous because I think Underwood will have us here again and again. Eventually we'll break through.

ClassOfDeeDeronJames on March 18, 2022 @ 03:58 AM

Hope the BoardRoom crew took a break from the anxiety of tomorrow to enjoy Iowa and Indiana going down in flames today. Was great to hear that discussion in the latest pod.

Then the cherry on top, Calipari, Chin, and Antigua's Kentucky Wildcats lost to the Saint Peter's Peacocks. This is a thing that happened.

No matter what happens tomorrow, looking forward to living it vicariously through you.

ktcesw on March 18, 2022 @ 11:54 AM

Sorry to hear about Iowa and Indiana. That takes money out of our pockets and undermines our B1G Championship.

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