Kevin McCarthy says “ta-ta” for the year

By Kevin McCarthy, Columnist

Over the course of the last year, a few of my readers have so kindly told me to eat the words I’ve written in this column. I must confess that I have always found it to be a wholesome diet.

Was I wrong about a couple of things over the last year? Maybe — probably not — but maybe. If there was one thing I was definitely right about, it was the broken record I played many-a-time: “Illinois is going to turn this thing around.”

I hate to toot my own horn — or to toot at all; my mother tells me it’s inappropriate, especially at the dinner table — but I was right.

Even when I asked “What the Sam Hill is going on in Champaign?”, or when I analogized the fall semester to the time I puked all over my Dad’s aloha-floral-silk Tommy Bahama shirt on vacation, I always urged Illini fans to keep their heads up. Along the way, I quoted Winston Churchill more than any 20-year-old kid should.

My message?

Optimism.

It was just a few months ago when the Illini had an interim athletic director and an interim head football coach. E.S.Neither one instilled confidence in the Illini-faithful.

If I were allowed to write in this space as a 16-year-old girl, the conversation would have sounded something like this four months ago: “Illinois is literally the worst school in the entire world. I am literally dying. OMG. What the heck. Insert more text acronyms and so on and so forth. OMG. Literally, why. Ugh.”

Yeah, something like that.

Since then, the program has established a vision and is taking legitimate steps towards achieving its goals. Lovie Smith has brought a much-needed buzz to the football team. After a year in which there were more empty seats than ones filled with Illini butts at Memorial Stadium, it will be refreshing to see what the place looks like when it’s striped in orange and blue.

The on-field success is yet to come, but the future that used to look bleak is now brighter.

Josh Whitman wants to win. I believed it the first day I met him, and I’m increasingly confident of that today. I don’t say this because I’m some kind of homer, although I was a big Simpsons fan growing up–I say it because Whitman’s desire to return Illinois athletics to prominence is genuine.

So, class, what have we learned? When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Josh Whitman is one of those tough guys. I think he’s reliable, too. As my father would say, he’s a “fox hole buddy.” If you send him back to base for food or ammunition, he’s coming back. Bottom line: you can count on him. If you’re in the metaphorical Illini fox hole, be glad that Mr. Whitman is in there with you.

The last year has been a war for Illinois athletics. They lost their fair share of battles — OK, maybe more than their fair share — however, they did not lose the war.

Along the way, many non-revenue-generating sports competed for national championships: men’s golf, men’s gymnastics and wrestling, to name a few. Things were better than they seemed.

As for the Illini basketball team, the town’s favorite team, that’s a conversation for another day. They’ve got problems. And that might be a gross understatement. See what I did there?

So, take a look at the big picture: things are getting better. That feels good to say.

A closing word…

Yes, just like you, I’m disappointed that I was never hired to be the athletic director or the head football coach.

But, if it cannot be me, Josh Whitman and Lovie Smith seem like pretty good alternatives. And I think I’d rather be a writer, anyway. I know I’m not Bill Shakespeare, but I think I’ll be alright.

I’m frequently told I’ll end up eating a steady diet of government cheese while living in a van down by the river, but I envision something slightly better. If not, cheese is okay with me.

It’s been a fun year getting to write these silly ol’ columns. Thanks for reading them along the way. I look forward to joining you in your living room, on your bus ride to class or when you’ve tuned out of lecture next year. Nine months ago, I wrote an introductory column saying that my weekly columns “would never fall short on fun.” I certainly had fun. I hope you did too.

Ta-ta for now. See you in the fall, Champaign. And if the Kevin McCarthy empire lives to be a thousand years, men will remember that this was his finest hour. Just kidding — my columns next year will kick even more ass than this year’s.

Good day, lads and lassies.

Kevin is a sophomore in Media

[email protected]

@KevOMcCarthy