Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Programming Note, and a Vindication

I won’t be posting any lengthy diatribes this evening, or any lengthy anything, because against my better judgment the wife and I will be getting together with some friends to watch all or a portion of something called the (ahem) Texas Bowl,” featuring my star-crossed Fighting Illini (who, at 6-6, are “bowl-eligible” only because I’m not in charge of things) and Baylor University, the alma mater of former record-setting-helmet-smashing Bears linebacker (and recently dismissed 49ers head coach) Mike Singletary. Baylor is a Big 12 school – the Big 12, of course, is the conference that will have ten teams next year, while our conference, the Big 10, will have twelve – and that doesn’t bode well for the Orange and Blue. Truth is, bowl games, generally, don’t bode well for the Orange and Blue: They’re 6-9 all time in bowl games, and every one of their nine losses occurred since I started following Illinois sports as an undergraduate in the 1980s.

In fact, the Illini haven’t won a bowl game this century (having lost to USC in the 2008 Rose Bowl and to LSU in the 2002 Sugar Bowl). The last time my Illini won a bowl game was just about 11 years ago, when they crushed Virginia 63-21 in the “ Bowl” (I kid you not) on December 30, 1999. Seems to me, that’s right around the time they started eschewing any pretense and started naming bowl games directly after their corporate sponsors. But I digress.

So, anyway, I don’t expect positive results tonight. But at least the scoreboard won’t look like this when the game’s over:

Probably won’t, anyways.

So don’t expect any lengthy dissertations tonight while I’m watching the potential disaster that is the 2010 Texas Bowl.

One final note, however. That picture at the top of this post? That’s called: Vindication.

A couple of years ago I was heading down our alley on my way to pick up the kids from school, and I was quite certain that I saw out of the corner of my eye a feral parakeet dart out from a bush near our house. That’s right. A wild parakeet here in Chicago. In the dead of winter. I’d heard that there was a colony of wild parakeets in the area – they’re called Monk parakeets – and, specifically, that former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, who died in November 1987, was quite fond of a group of Monk parakeets who lived in the trees outside his Hyde Park apartment building on Chicago’s South Side. After Mayor Washington died unexpectedly in office, I recall reading literally hundreds of column inches in the local papers about his life and accomplishments, but the thing I found most touching – and surprising, because I had no idea parakeets could survive outdoors in this climate – was his fascination with the Hyde Park parakeets. It was such a sweet thing, really; an incredibly human thing, in the nicest sense of the word. Here was a guy who seemed to live at the center of a political maelstrom, Chicago politics being particularly bare-knuckled in those days; yet he loved these birds living in this completely incongruous setting. There’s some deeper meaning there, to be sure, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Anyway, the point is, after I saw that bird a couple of years ago I never saw it again, and I was beginning to think I was mistaken. I began to think that maybe what I saw was not a Monk parakeet, but a female goldfinch (they have greenish feathers on the back and tail, while the males are bright yellow); but the memory was fairly striking: I swore I saw green and blue tail feathers, and a flash of yellow too. And it turns out, I must’ve been right all along – because this afternoon my wife stepped out of her office, which is about a mile or so from our house, and she saw not one but nine Monk parakeets in a tree behind her building. The picture at the top of this post shows six of them, and here’s a close up of a few more:

So who knows. Maybe I’m not crazy … and maybe, just maybe, my Illini won’t embarrass me tonight, either.

Hope springs eternal.

© 2010 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

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