200 Things To Do In Illinois – United Center

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018. To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities.  Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We kick things off with one of the entries from the Sports category: United Center, from Chicago, IL.

Seeing the stars of the Bulls and the Blackhawks go to battle in the Madhouse on Madison is thrilling – or infuriating, depending on how the teams are doing.

But no trip to the Near West Side stadium is complete without genuflecting at a trio of statues commemorating former Chicago hockey and basketball greats Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Michael Jordan.  You’ll find Hull and Mikita outside, while His Airness is enshrined in an atrium that opened last year.

I’ve been to the United Center 10 times, for 4 Bulls games, 4 Blackhawks games, a 2011 NCAA tournament game, and a concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  My first two Bulls games came in 1997, a month or two prior to Michael Jordan’s return to the team.  My only game during the championship years came in November of 1997, when I saw Jordan and Bulls defeat the Hornets.  3 of the Blackhawk games came during their lean years, with just one coming during their championship runs.  The NCAA tournament game saw the Purdue Boilermakers fall to VCU in a surprising upset.

 

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Fighting Illini Basketball

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018. To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities. With the state still shut down due to the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We kick things off with one of the entries from the Sports category: Fighting Illini Basketball, from Champaign, IL.

Get swept up in Big 10 school spirit at the University of Illinois’ recently renovated State Farm Center.  The space-shiplike dome contains an intense student section, the Orange Krush, created at the urging of former coach Lou Henson in the mid-1970s.

Decades later, the Krush conyinues to put the squeeze on opposing teams with an intimidating sea of orange and trademark cheers.

I’ve attended 2 Fighting Illini home basketball games, one in 2016 and the second this past January.  In both cases, I’ve left the State Farm Center disappointed as the Illini managed to defeat my beloved Purdue Boilermakers.  With Danny now committed to Purdue, there probably isn’t a reason why I’d need to go back to Champaign to see another game.

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

Earlier this afternoon, Major League Baseball suspended the remainder of spring training and delayed the start of the season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.  Instead of the March 26th openers, the earliest the season would kick off would be April 9.  Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said he had talked with owners of Chicago’s major sports teams and asked them to cancel games until May 1 or play without spectators.

This follows the suspension of the NBA season last night following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for the virus prior to the team’s game in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.  On the college scene, the Big Ten Tournament was cancelled earlier this morning, followed by the entire NCAA Tournament.

Personally, this means I won’t be going to opening day for the White Sox in two weeks or the Cubs home opener the following Monday.  It also puts my trip to Boston the following weekend in doubt, as the White Sox v Red Sox tilt at Fenway Park will not be taking place and Angelina may not be back at school.

The Decade In College Sports

The 2010s have drawn to a close and its time to take a look back at the previous decade.  Today, we are wrapping things up with college athletics, specifically football and basketball.  On the gridiron, this was not a particularly successful ten years for the boys in gold and black, with only 4 bowl games, none of which were particularly prestigious.  Things were considerably brighter on the hardwood, with 8 appearances in the NCAA tournament, including 2 losses in the Sweet Sixteen and 1 Elite Eight appearance.  Not to mention 2 Big Ten regular season titles.

I only managed to take in 3 football game over the past 10 years, all at Ross-Ade Stadium.  The home team managed to win only the first of those, and were frankly somewhat embarrassed in the other two.

Team Records
Team Won Loss Winning Percentage
Northern Illinois Huskies 1 0 1.000
Illinois Fighting Illini 1 1 0.500
Purdue Boilermakers 1 2 0.333

Things were a little better on the basketball side.  I made it to 9 different contests over the course of the decade, at 5 different arenas.  Of those 9, 4 were tournament games.  Purdue was involved in 8 of the 9 games, mostly against the Illini.

Team Records
Team Won Loss Winning Percentage
Virginia Commonwealth Rams 1 0 1.000
Northwestern Wildcats 1 0 1.000
Butler Bulldogs 1 0 1.000
Purdue Boilermakers 5 3 0.625
Illinois Fighting Illini 1 3 0.250
Vermont Catamounts 0 1 0.000
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 0 1 0.000
Iowa State Cyclones 0 1 0.000

16 Left Standing

We enter the Sweet 16 without the major upsets of last year, but also without the Cinderella team for the nation to rally around.  My Boilermakers are still alive, thanks to their thrashing of defending champion Villanova last weekend, which makes me cautiously optimistic about their chances this weekend.

Things look pretty good in the East, with only one of my Sweet Sixteen picks already out of the running.

Things aren’t looking so hot here, where I only have 2 picks still alive and none of them picked to pass through to the Elite 8.  On the plus side, this may mean an easier road to the Final Four for the old alma mater.

Continue reading →

Time To Go Dancing

It’s that time of year again, as the nation’s attention turns to the college hoops scene for the next few weeks. I’m down to just one pool this year; one at my mom’s work.  Without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s selections.

I’m not seeing much in the way of upsets here, with overall #1 seed Duke my pick to make it to the Final Four.

Purdue finds themselves the #3 seed, playing the first weekend in Hartford.  Given Virginia’s historic poor showing last year, I don’t see them doing much with the #1 seed, so I expect quite a few upsets in this region.

Continue reading →

Keep On Dancing

As we enter the Sweet 16, brackets across the nation are busted thanks to upsets galore, including the first ever 16 seed knocking off a 1 seed.  Thankfully, my Boilermakers are still alive, and thanks to my trip to Vegas this week, I have some money riding on them to win the whole thing.  Crazier things have already happened in this year’s tournament.

I’m in trouble here, as only 1 team I picked heading in to the Sweet 16 is still alive.  Virginia, the overall #1 seed, lost in the first round to the upstarts from UMBC.  Exciting times all around.

I’ve got 2 out of the remaining 4 teams still alive, and my final four slot here is still in play.  Hopefully I lose that, though, on my way to paying off the Vegas bet.

Continue reading →

Dancing Days Are Here Again

It’s that time of year again, as the nation’s attention turns to the college hoops scene for the next few weeks. I’m down to just two pools this year; one at my mom’s work, and one run by a friend, as the work pool died due to lack of interest.  If it weren’t for my upcoming trip to Las Vegas, I’d likely be heading to Detroit this weekend to cheer on the Boilermakers.

A couple of upsets make up my first bracket, with the #2 seed, the Bearcats of Cincinnati, being my pick to advance to the Final Four.

After some late season stumbles, Purdue winds up as the #2 seed.  Villanova is the early favorite to win the whole thing, and, using my head instead of my heart, I’m picking them to come out of the East.

Continue reading →