Smile Politely

Reunion of Old Soldiers

Robert Archibald and Richard Semrau, Kenny Battle and Romero Brice, Dana Howard and Chris Green.

These are pairs of alums I encountered along the concourse that wraps around 100 level seating at Soldier Field. For anyone who thinks the “Chicago Homecoming” was anything less than a smashing success, these guys prove you wrong. It was a great party. Old friends rekindled relationships. Old soldiers who rarely make it back to Champaign (Brice, for example) remembered why they should make the effort to get back with the Illini family. Brice also collected a promise of a highlights/game DVD, which will remind him that his era (John Mackovic) really was great.

Party central, for basketball purposes, was the south end zone. The whole Illini team came out for the game, dressed in matching warm-ups. They met with fans and posed for pictures. They cavorted with recruits at the concession stand.

It was a good deal, especially for the coaching staff. It’s a recruiting period, for NCAA purposes. That means the staff needs to spend all waking hours hunting lanky teenagers. “Chicago Homecoming” allowed them to socialize with the youngsters while also enjoying a day out with the family. Dustin Ford brought Abbie and Marcie. Jamall Walker came with Braylon and Rebekah. Paris Parham came with his mom Mabel, and Little Paris (who’s going to need a new nickname before long).

Allison Groce was around somewhere too, with the kids. But she left her husband alone, to do his thing.

Other semi-unexpected faces in the crowd included ex-Illini beat reporters. Chris Hine and Herb Gould covered the game, for the Tribune and Sun-Times respectively. Chris inherits the Illini football beat from Vaughn McClure, who took over for Shannon Ryan, who’s covering other teams this season. Vaughn is moving to ESPN. As for Herb’s retirement, it seems like it’s off to a terrible start: He got only two games off before being sucked back in. Loren Tate might tell him how hard it is to get out of this racket.

Paul M. Banks is back at 100%, with a full head of new hair, after a year of successfully poisoning cancer cells. He looked much better than the 20,000 Husky and Illini fans who were unsuccessfully poisoning themselves with alcohol. (Only two were successful in that pursuit, as far as I could glean via intercom solicitations for medical assistance in the ladies room.) The other 30,000 people drank moderately, or not at all. I bartended for years, but I’ve never seen as many shitfaced people as I do at exempt college games.

As for those recruits: Michael Finke (and his whole family) joined Aaron Jordan and the Simeon boys team in the first row at the 30 yard line. The Simeon crew left their seats at halftime for that aforementioned cavorting in the south end zone concourse. Once again, St. Rita’s Charles Matthews and Simeon’s DJ Williams were attached at the hip.



Ahmad Starks says he expects the NCAA to reach a decision on his waiver application in the next ten days. He’s optimistic that he’ll be playing this year. He might be right. The NCAA just granted Michael Dixon a similar waiver, and reversed its bizarre decision on Kerwin Okoro’s application.

That’s all I’ve got for the moment. You can now get back to refreshing Cliff’s Twitter feed.

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