Daddy and I both went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We still follow the team during football and basketball seasons. When the girls were little they had Illini cheerleader outfits, which doubled as Halloween costumes one year.
It has been a long, long, long time since either of us attended a football game. We've never attended a home game together, despite our many trips to visit family in the area. We did travel to New Orleans and Pasadena to watch the Fighting Illini lose two bowl games, though.
This year our team somehow, some way managed to hire Lovie Smith as our new coach. It was a shocking hire as the Fighting Illini don't normally reach that high when it comes to head coaches. We've had some good coaches, but a big-name coach? In Illini Orange? We couldn't believe it when the rumors came true.
A few months ago an email showed up offering $10 tickets for the first home game. We bought four tickets and started planning. Daddy's friends had a regular tailgating spot right near Aunt Debbie's family tailgate. We bought the girls Illini temporary tattoos and Illini t-shirts. We were set.
The girls were awed by the circus surrounding the football game. They attended the pre-game Marching Illini concert. They wandered between tailgate parties. They wore their Illini tattoos on their cheeks. We walked to the Armory to watch the Marching Illini parade into the stadium.
We spent a lot of time on our walk to and from the Armory talking about college. We passed dorms and class buildings. We walked by Greek houses. They saw students who looked like them and students in crazy clothes. They wanted to know about classes and roommates. We were walking back to the tailgate when they finalized their four-person dorm room plans.
The football game itself was exciting for them, even if they needed to have the rules and strategies explained. They were awed by the male cheerleaders doing push-ups every time the Illini scored, although they questioned why the female cheerleaders didn't do push-ups. They were so excited when the band performed the half-time show. They had more fun than they imagined.
After the game we went back to tailgate again. We asked the girls if they wanted to come back for another game. They said they wanted to come to the home opener again so they could do all the same stuff. We said, "Girls, they do this stuff every game." They were hooked. We told them that we'd come back to another game soon.
Oh, and the Illini won -- and won big. I guess that breaks our streak of bringing bad luck to the team, so we'll be back.