Time for a change at the top

When Jamar Smith arrived on campus as a green freshman, I had a certain mental image of him that formed as a result of a couple articles I had read about him shortly after he had his break-out game against Memphis. The image was of a kid who was so determined to become the best basketball player he could be that he spent hour after hour, night after night, shooting jump shots in a rec center gym. He displayed a track record of discipline, drive, and determination. He hadn't been a highly-recruited high school player, yet he turned himself into a success story: all of a sudden, against immense competition, he couldn't miss a three-point shot. He was showing that he could raise his game to another level. So, how did this kid turn into such a mess in a little over a year? That's the question we need to find an answer to right now. While everyone debates what his punishment should be, I'd rather focus on how this basketball program has fallen from grace under Bruce Weber's watch.

I'm all for second chances. But in the case of Jamar Smith, his second chance needs to come at his hometown Bradley University, or some other college. He needs to lose his UI scholarship. No ifs, ands, or buts. He's out. Now.

The sort of unhealthy behavior Jamar demonstrated has been infecting this Illini team for some time, as we all know. From the burglary to the previous DUI to spitting on bouncers, this team has been spiraling out of control for some time. Of course, significant blame resides with the players. They are ultimately responsible for their actions. But what concerns me isn't that a group of college kids have made considerably poor decisions -- that's to be expected. It's that there doesn't appear to be a culture surrounding this team of helping each other to learn from mistakes and steer clear of trouble. For that reason, I blame Weber. The kids aren't responding to him, and he isn't making his point clearly. (Case in point: McBride's six-game suspension for a DUI -- a mere slap on the wrist if that -- doesn't lead to better behavior from the team; instead it leads to another, more serious, DUI.) Leadership begins at the top, and clearly Weber needs to increase his effort in this regard. He needs to get control of his team. Now.

Additional details from the police report indicate that multiple players are also at fault in this particular incident. It's quite possible that fellow Illini players were also drinking at this party, might have supplied the alcohol, and also made significantly poor judgments in both allowing Jamar to drive, and how they responded to the wreck. (Update: other Illini members were likely NOT drinking, but did make poor decisions post-wreck. Chet Frazier has been named.) If any of that turns out to be true -- and I'm down suspending my gut feelings on matters of UI basketball -- then those players need to be outed by the school and basketball program, before the police do Weber's job for him. Those players need to serve lengthy suspensions. Not during next season's pre-season schedule. Now.

I'm tired of the leadership of this program sending mixed messages to the team, as well as the fans of all ages who follow the team. Stop taking this shit too lightly, and start making lasting impressions. How did a gym rat with little trouble in his past end up with two felony charges on his record? And what is Bruce Weber going to do to change the culture that helped to create such a situation? Is he the right man to make such a considerable change? These are the questions we need to address. Now.

P.S. Fuck the Chief discussion. Let's concentrate on a real issue that matters, instead of the end of a dancing white kid dressed in fake feathers.


Ready for some baseball?

I am! And this is the perfect video to wake me from my off-season slumber. Thanks for passing this along, Tandy.


Yacht Rockin' in the snow

The only thing better than a Yacht Rock party when there's snow on the ground ... is Yacht Rock itself. If you're not in the know, you best be learning.


Obama 08

M and I and CM and L'felter got up early this morning to drive to Springfield and attend Barack Obama's presidential announcement. Wow, was it ever cold -- in the low single digits when we arrived. I haven't had frostbite on my toes since I was a wee lad. But it was worth it when Obama finally took the stage for a brief, 25-minute speech. His speech was what we've come to expect from Barack -- a message of change in our political climate, and what we've come to expect from our politicians; a message of ownership of America, of energizing a nation of despondent folks so that they may realize the true meaning of citizenship; a message of a country living up to its true potential, instead of accepting where its chosen to settle.

The big announcements: 1) Obama wants universal healthcare in America by the end of his first term; and 2) He wants to bring home all troops -- and give them the proper homecoming (medical and otherwise) they deserve -- by March of 2008. Neither of those messages necessarily separates him from Hillary -- I think she "shares" a similar viewpoint as we speak -- but in Obama's delivery one senses a sort of invigorating immediacy that's hard to resist. He also spoke bluntly of a need to accept our failures -- instead of blaming them on "the other party or gay people or immigrants" -- and seek to correct them, and the fact that no amount of U.S. soldiers in Iraq can resolve that country's civil war and age-old political power struggle. Hear his whole speech at his site, U2 introductory music included. (His closing music -- classic r&b like Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" -- was a much better choice.)

I have no idea how many were in attendance, as it was hard to get any sort of vantage point that would allow me to take in the scene. But for a wild guess I would say 25,000 people. If anyone has read a more accurate number online, please post it in the comments. The turnout was impressive -- even in his home state -- considering how bitterly cold it was outside. Here's my snapshots, including a photo of the security detail that were atop most of the buildings surrounding the old Capitol building.


Snow days are back!

Woo-hoo! We trudged through the snow to eat sushi, then tossed snowballs in the park. (Well, actually I tossed snowballs and M complained.) And the apartment was toasty warm upon our return.


Prince gets...

...a big thumbs up on his Super Bowl performance. "Purple Rain" was quite appropriate and a great set-ender. Plus it totally made up for the Foo Fighters cover (coming out of "All Along the Watchtower" no less). Bold choice to do so many covers, but I liked that, as well as the marching band appearance (which reminded me of Outkast on the Grammys a couple years ago).


Heaven to me...

...is when form and function combine to give me the best set-up I've ever had for The Records Room.