Opinion: Drinks are on you, Blago

By Chris Kozak

“The people of Illinois and Pepsi welcome you.”

This could be the new sign that greets motorists as they cross into the Land of Lincoln from one of the five states it borders. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is considering a proposal to sell the rights to our state name to a yet-to-be-chosen beverage company. This company then would be commissioned to create an official state drink for Illinois.

Supporters of the proposal believe it has the potential to generate millions in revenue for a state with an income statement that recently has seen a lot of double-underlined red numbers in parentheses.

But forget about economic stimulation from corporate tax cuts designed to keep and create jobs in-state. An official beverage apparently is this state’s cure-all. Illinois already has an official state bird, fish and mineral. We even have an official state fossil – and surprisingly, it isn’t Hugh Hefner. As much as it pains me to say this, I do need to give Blago a tiny bit of credit. He finally is trying to generate revenue instead of trying to cut costs – most notably after he went Lorena Bobbitt on the University’s budget last year.

One of the main problems with this beverage idea – other than the state selling out or because the plan probably won’t solve any economic problems – is that this proposed “beverage” will be non-alcoholic.

A non-alcoholic beverage? I can’t even remember the last time I drank one of those. If Blago wants to have any chance of generating some revenue, he needs to get some kind of liquor in there. If people willingly pay $5 for a bottle of Bud Light in Chicago, you’d think they’d be happy to shell out seven or eight bucks for an official state drink laden with some type of rum, vodka or tequila. Now there’s a potential cash cow.

Let’s suppose this official non-alcoholic drink idea becomes a reality, and the state sells its naming rights to a beverage company. The question we’d all then ask is: What exactly will be the drink’s ingredients? If this drink is going to be distinctive to Illinois, I’ll probably have to start spending more time in Wisconsin enjoying its official beverage: cheap, watery beer. The reason for this trade is because a distinctive Illinois beverage, in my mind, would consist of some type of soy-based liquid mixed with corn kernels and a splash of Chicago River water. Eat your heart out, Coca-Cola.

While this odd combination sounds downright disgusting to most people, it almost assuredly would be hailed as the newest and best organic-food product by freaky guys who wear ponytails and hang out at the Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant.

Thankfully, the probability of my imagination being the basis for the official state beverage is quite miniscule. However, the entire proposition by the Blagojevich administration is bizarre – and has an equally miniscule chance of working. Has our state exhausted all other alternatives of generating revenue?

If Illinois obtains an official beverage, what’s to stop Blago from creating an official cold medicine, airline or car? I think “IllinAir” has a nice ring to it, but when you split it into three words – Ill-In-Air – it might more accurately describe your state of being while in flight. With regards to an official state car – would we all drive 1993 Geo Prizms? I certainly hope not. Traffic already is bad enough without everyone operating a car with a top speed of 55 mph.

Who knows, maybe Blago actually is onto something. I am still in doubt, however, and hereby propose a friendly wager. If the state goes through with the plan and it succeeds, then I’ll go to Springfield, buy the governor a bottle of this yet-to-be developed concoction and live with the humiliation of being wrong for the first time ever. If his plan fails, the next time he visits Champaign, he must buy me a bottle of our state drink – and a can of Old Milwaukee to chase it with.

Chris Kozak is a senior in LAS. His column runs Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]