Smile Politely

Bradley nominated for Pulitzer

I sat next to Brad Leeb during the second half of Sunday’s basketball game. I often sit next to Brad. He’s a photographer, and I play a photographer on the internet.

Brad briefly mentioned his astonishment regarding Sunday’s tornadoes. He’d been dispatched to Pesotum, to capture the horror.

Brad was frank. He’d never seen such devastation.

When I got home, I clicked on to see for myself. Kudos to them, because they got it. In particular, Brad’s capture of wind-shorn pine trees should, if I am not very much mistaken, compete favorably for this year’s Pulitzer. See for yourself.

It’s been one of those weekends. The worst day in Illini recruiting history (hyperbole? I honestly don’t know) followed by a record-setting football loss where the opponent scores 60 points and laments its off-day.

What could be worse?

Oh, I know. What if the the wind decided to blow your house down?  John Groce employed the well-worn puts things in perspective, but what else can you say?  It does put things in perspective.


Cliff Alexander is the latest victim of internet sensationalism, and media sensationalism overall.

Cliff’s hat-trick wasn’t rude. It was cliché. It’s been done before. But you can’t blame Cliff for being like everybody else. He turned 18 the next day.

When I was 14, I discovered I wasn’t wearing the same brand/style of shoes as everyone else. I was horrified. I discovered the mall, and paid too much for those Converse 3/4 tops. (Vans shoes were also popular, and OP for the shirts. This was 1985.)

When I was 17-to-18 years old, I thought 17-to-18 year-old Rob was iconoclastic. I was in a band. We played at bars. I had an ID that looked kinda like me.

In hindsight, I recognize that musically, our material was just as cliché as any derivative 18 year-old’s.

Last Wednesday, at  Michael Finke’s Letter-of-Intent signing ceremony, I asked Michael and his girlfriend Artemis whether local teens still play in bands; whether they still procure fake ID’s and gig at bars, pretending to be old-enough college kids. A&M assured me that it happens, plenty.

Good! I say.

The Illini coaching staff is not as disappointed as you might think about Cliff’s decision. You want to win these recruiting battles, because it puts your name in the conversation. But some aspect of the Cliff recruitment and its outcome left the impression that things worked out, from the Illini perspective, for the best. That was the not on the record but let’s get the message across message.

I don’t doubt the sentiment as of this weekend. In cold hard facts world, it sounds wistful to me. It speaks of heartbreak.

Cliff was hugely—let me emphasize this—hugely respectful of the Illini staff throughout his recruitment, and after his decision.

So despite the sentiment, I’d wager (significantly, if there are takers)  the staff would accept Cliff next year if he changed his mind about Kansas. He has plenty of reasons to change his mind. The foremost is his girlfriend. She’s already playing basketball at Kansas, and was considered a primary motivator throughout his recruitment.

We should wish them all the best, of course. But we all know what becomes of teenage relationships once they get to college. It’s rare that high-school romances flourish past the college years.

Unfortunately for Cliff, he did (according to a Shannon Ryan Tweet) sign a Letter of Intent, about 24 hours after saying he wouldn’t. If it’s true, that was his dumb move.

I’ll end with this thought about Cliff: I approve his desire to get away. He wants to see other things, to broaden himself. He said he’d spent 17 years in the same place. He wants to see something else. That’s what college should be all about.

It’s an unusually mature perspective from a kid that’s been pilloried for his insensitivity, or ego.


The Jordan Family has a lot of great qualities. From my perspective, one of their best qualities is knowing how to Play the Game. I don’t mean anything underhanded, or improper. Just that my pre-game encounter with the Jordans (in the parking lot, outside SFC) was warm and friendly; and they didn’t bat an eye when I completely ignored Ryan Pedon, and he me.

Ryan can’t make recruits accessible to the media, per NCAA rules. To respect this (bizarre?) rule, I avoid social contact with staff when recruits are in the area.

Later, I spoke with Rob Jordan about Things the Staff Can’t Do and he completely understood. He already knew.

It’s great when people understand the bizarre minutiae of NCAA rules. Otherwise, a lot of situations can seem awkward.

DJ Williams still seems shy around cameras. But he too was willing to provide an update, joined by Simeon teammate Saieed Ivey.

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