Its Thanksgiving break and all 41,000 students have left the Champaign-Urbana area. Well besides the athletic teams that are mid-season and a whole lot of Asians. FACT: 12% of our student population is Asian. (my)OPINION: That’s a lot of freaking Asians, 4,920 to be exact. It got to the point where I will randomly go up to foreigners and ask where they’re from pretending to actually care. My following question would go something along the lines of, “So how does a person from _____ just look on a map and say I want to go to the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois?” The usual responses include, from what I can understand from their broken English and thick accents are their parents sent them away to school or something about the Engineering program here.
I am then left with a question I ask myself. What’s more popular, the engineering program at Illinois or the Illinois basketball program? It seems like the only difference I have between these people (beside the obvious bodily differences) is that I came here because of the basketball program and they came here because of the engineering program. They heard about their respective school from on the other side of the world as I was a three hour drive away. To answer the question, I whipped out my phone and asked my best friend which one was more popular. Google, who by the way is my best friend, responded decisively with the basketball team. Want to know how I asked him? I typed in “University of Illinois” and its suggestions said basketball before anything to do with engineering. Fail proof way if you ask me. My friend Google has all the answers and if all else fails will be the best man at my wedding. (Hopefully not because his best man speech could be just a regurgitation of my not-so-innocent internet browsing history and nobody would want that.)
Since we as students are on break the school closes the freshmen dorms down in which we live. But since we as athletes are in mid-season form and have practice every day we don’t have the luxury to go home like everyone else. That’s when they put us freshmen in the nicest hotel in the city and give us something we as student-athletes haven’t seen since we’ve been home and in high school: cold hard cash. Per diem is like an allowance included in our scholarship which we get money for our meals that we’ve missed because of various team activities. (Cafeteria being closed, after a game, etc.) You should have seen the look on my face when I received my first per diem money after our first game. I thought someone was playing a joke on me as I made sure the bills I had just obtained from my athletic trainer were of legal tender. (Side note: tender is a funny word to say)
Also on holiday breaks like these, coach tries to keep us occupied by arranging team dinners and bonding activities. It is these activities where I learn so much about my teammates besides basketball. Right now I am teaching my African-American teammates the proper time to use the words “is” and “are” in the correct context. For example, one teammate asked “So when is we goin’ to that movie?” I calmly corrected him “So guys, when are we going to that movie?” Sometimes it’s a grueling process but I have confidence in them as they are making progress. In contrast, my African-American teammates are teaching me the difference in all the words that you can describe a good-looking woman. For instance, my teammates would say, “Damn, that girl is coooold! Look how she workin it! ” While I would say, “Hey guys, look at that girl, she is HOTT, am I right?” Those along with fine, bad, and niiiiice are also words to describe a woman. I think it's funny how such contrasting words can mean the same thing in this situation. (hot/cold, nice/bad) Whatever happened to the words gorgeous, beautiful, or even sexy when describing a young lady?
With my lack of cultural knowledge, sometimes my teammates get annoyed of my questions but I continue to ask anyway. I asked Dominique the other day if people keep the sticker on their hats because someday they are going to return it, or because they now always know the place to look if they forget how big their head is. He couldn’t answer the question and I can't blame him.
In our most recent team bonding activity, Coach Weber had us all go to a movie. We had the choice between witnessing the end of the world 2012, or the most inspirational movie in theatres, Blindside. Obviously, being the rebel that I am I chose the viewing of the end of world. (Give me action, baby) After viewing the movie, I have to say that along with the end of the world, we will also have terrible movies and awful acting in the year 2012.
In a response to my text message containing those exact words, Mike Davis and Bill Cole responded with “haha yeah the graphics are crazy but this whole storyline for the movie is whack as hell.” “LOL they were just making out while the ship was about to sink.” Mike was right, the graphics were crazy good, but as the main characters were franticly driving through the apocalypse, they might as well been dubbed the luckiest family on earth. In the video game like scene, roads were splitting and buildings were falling but never on them. It was always two seconds behind them or in enough time in front of them so they can make some miraculous maneuver to stay alive and on course. Kind of like a James Bond scene where Bond would run across a battlefield of airborne bullets and never get nicked once.
Not looking ahead or anything, but we leave for Vegas as a team very early in the morning on Wednesday. I’m really looking forward to my first road trip and hopefully we can behave ourselves enough in Sin City to get a couple of victories. Until next time,