Welcome to The Paignful Truth blog! Thanks very much for stopping by. I hope you find this an interesting and fun place to read about and discuss the sports teams nearest and dearest to the hearts of Champaign-Urbana natives everywhere: the Illini and the Cubs. This is the first paignful truth I will share with you: this town loves the Cubs more than the Cards and way more than the White Sox. This in spite of the best efforts of WDWS and Loren Tate to convince us to let our allegiance wander across state lines to support the second best team in Missouri. We’re not having it. Stay strong, Cubs fans! There are a lot of great people writing about the Illini and the Cubs, and I’m hoping that my perspective as a woman who knows and loves sports as well as a lifelong fan, townie, and historian will enable me to bring something interesting to the discussion.
A little on my background: My name is Annie, and I was born and raised in Champaign. I grew up playing all kinds of sports: soccer, swimming, basketball, tennis, golf, and softball. I was in diving for one practice, but I’m not real spatial, so I pretty much maxed out my talent at front dive/ back dive. My first love was soccer, and I continued to play right through my DIII college career. After college, I came back to Champaign for the incredible ’04-’05 season and then headed to North Carolina to study underwater archaeology. While in North Carolina, I met my husband and started following hockey. The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup that year. After wrapping up that program, we came back to Champaign (because apparently we didn’t want to use our degrees) and started cheering for the Blackhawks. They won the Stanley Cup that year. I decided I needed more school, so we headed to the University of Maine for a few years. The closest NHL team to Bangor is the Boston Bruins, so we started casually following them. In 2011, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. By the time we worked our way back to Champaign, the Blackhawks had won a second Cup, but we were here again for number three. So, you’re welcome Hurricanes, Blackhawks, Bruins, and Blackhawks again fans!
Stanley Cup Fairy was a mildly disappointing super power for me, because as much as I love the thrill of a successful playoff run with any local team, the Illini and the Cubs are closest to my heart. I’m old enough to have very hazy memories of the Mike White era of Illini football. I mostly remember the festive atmosphere at tailgates and throwing the mini football around with my brother in our matching orange and blue striped rugby shirts. (Yeah, my mom dressed us. For years. We were actually fine with this.) On the basketball side, I’m definitely old enough to remember the Flyin’ Illini team. I had never seen my dad so happy as he was when Nick Anderson hit that half-court shot to beat Bobby Knight and Indiana in 1989.
(Was TV this blurry in the 80s? No wonder everybody wore those giant glasses.)
My Cubs fandom goes almost as far back. I converted from an early support for the Cardinals based on my affinity for the color red to Cubbie blue probably around age seven when my uncle – a lifelong Cubs fan from Chicago – joined the family. My best friend at the time was also a Cubs fan, so this worked out well. It was the era of Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace and Greg Maddux, and the Cubs made the playoffs (briefly) in 1989! And then the 90s happened, and I was a kid, so I thought everybody’s team was terrible most of the time. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade a second of loving the Cubs during the down time(s), because it made this year so, so special. I actually feel sorry for new Cubs fans. They’ll never know how it feels to finally – finally – win after generations of waiting and hoping and stubbornly believing in next year. But I’m also ready to embrace the Cubs as lovable winners…
So much for brevity! As to what you can expect here, I’m going to do my best to provide analysis and news as well as commentary and features on Illini basketball and football and the Cubs. I may do some writing on soccer sometimes – I hope some folks out there like Arsenal. Also, Adam may join me and write about food and local culture. We’ll see! We both love the Champaign-Urbana community, and sports (and food) play a big part in bringing us together. I’m looking forward to thinking through and talking about our local binding agents together! Thanks again for coming!