Proud to finally be a (fair-weather) fan

I have only been to two Illini football games my entire college career. The first one was my freshman year — I don’t remember much except that it was a zillion degrees out, I dropped my hotdog on the ground and we lost. My sophomore year I went to the Dads Weekend game with my dad and sister — all I can remember from that is feeling as if my face would never move again due to the cold and again, losing.

As a member of the Illini Women’s Soccer Club team, I miss nearly all opportunities during the fall season to go to the games.

We have games on the weekends, usually away, and so I have never bought season tickets. And for my first two years, I never thought I was missing out. I have always been an extremely sore loser, and no amount of tailgating in the world would make losing game after game sting any less.

But this year is the first year I find myself feeling as if I’m missing out on something. It’s the first year I don’t have to look down and mumble something about how there’s always next year to my cousin — a die-hard Hawkeyes fan. It’s the first year I’ve seen our campus collectively celebrating rather than commiserating on every Saturday in September.

We’re 4-0 and if I’m being honest, I can hardly believe it. I won’t pretend to be this bleeding orange and blue believer who knew all along we could rise to Big Ten respectability. I’m not. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that I finally get what it means to be proud of your team. Sure, I’ve always rooted for the Illini and I always want them to win — but I never let myself get too upset if they didn’t because it’s what I came to expect after two shaky, less-than-stellar seasons.

Now it’s a whole other ball game. Instead of pulling an orange T-shirt from my closet because it’s the only clean thing I can find, I want to wear it. I want to dress up and paint up and do the silly cheers and yell and scream until my voice becomes as hoarse as if I were just at a Coldplay show.

Though I’m sure the devout fans, who would follow Illini Football into a winless season, will balk and call bandwagon on me here — but I’ve realized I’m alright with that. Because that’s what I am.

I’m the fair-weather fan who just jumped on the bandwagon, but that doesn’t invalidate my pride. Maybe it doesn’t have as strong a foundation as those Block-Iers who have come before me, but it’s there now and I have a feeling it will be for some time.

So if you’ve just hopped on the bandwagon too, I welcome you. If you’re still debating the move, I’ll save you a seat.

_Emily is a junior in LAS._