FANTASYLAND — Last year’s New Year’s resolutions were a bigger disaster than the Illini football season.
I allowed my glass to remain half empty, couldn’t give up swearing, didn’t stop ridiculing Chicago, got too emotionally involved with the Cardinals ... and let my depression show over the 2-10 UI football campaign (I’m running out of time, guys, for you to get this fixed).
So the resolutions for 2013 will be more reasonably achievable. Let’s start with Illini-related issues.
No. 1: Let’s step back, take a deep breath and see if Tim Beckman has the stuff to revive a spiraling operation. OK, we all know that football attendance will be down and Illini rivals have a huge head start. No point in harping on it.
No. 2: That means leaving the Vic Koenning bandwagon. Vic is now a North Carolinian. Sure, he was the main factor in Illinois finishing seventh in team defense in 2011 and in winning bowl games against RGIII (Baylor) and UCLA. But that’s history, so let’s turn the rearview mirror in the other direction.
No. 3: Turnovers happen. And Brandon Paul makes his share. But no more fretting about them. Count turnovers as a minor deficit in an otherwise-positive output. The John Groce ever-positive approach — you catch more flies with honey than vinegar — is working.
No. 4: Henceforth and forever, Illinois shall be deemed an underdog against Purdue. The Boilermakers have won seven of eight football meetings and seven straight in basketball (22 of 33 since 1996). Wednesday will mark my 42nd basketball trip to Purdue. The Illini have won 11 and lost 30.
No. 5: If Mike Thomas is spending 75 percent of his time raising money for the Assembly Hall renovation, let’s wait and judge him on his primary job ... and not fret about callers with parking complaints (Illini parking is the best in the Big Ten). As for hiring coaches, Thomas’ three major hires at Cincinnati — Brian Kelly, Butch Jones, Mick Cronin — are currently on fire (33-4 this school year), and the UI’s two new basketball coaches are proving to be legit.
No. 6: There’ll be no criticisms when Illini athletes turn pro, as has happened so often in football and baseball, and with Meyers Leonard. No criticisms because, if we were given the same opportunities, most of us would do the same thing.
No. 7: Let’s all understand our relationships in the world of forums, texts, blogs and email, and resolve to be more kind to each other. It is the job of fans to be unreasonable supporters. It’s the job of the media to eliminate emotions. We should accept our opposing roles.
No. 8: There’ll be games when the treys won’t fall for Groce’s athletes. Let’s agree in advance that, based on the talent available, the Illini will win more games by unleashing bombs than if they don’t.
Thoughts beyond the UI
No. 1: Watching NBA action when there isn’t much else on Christmas Day reminds how great these athletes are. I resolve to watch more Bulls games, especially when Derrick Rose returns, even if I have to force myself.
No. 2: My most tuned-in and exciting time each week is when George Stephanopoulos gets his panel heated up on Sunday morning. Replays of “Homeland” are close, offering proof that I don’t know the difference between real life and fiction.
No. 3: Never give up on the Bears, even when they hit a 5-for-6 slump. As long as they can create turnovers, they have a chance. Who’d have thought the Vikings ...
No. 4: If spending Christmas with family and at “Les Mis” (delayed after hitting sold-out show) was that much fun, let’s do it more often. We should not allow work and personal priorities to rule the day. As for “Les Mis,” it was wonderful. But those magnificent lyrics and score, and particularly Russell Crowe’s part as Javert, are better handled by the great stage voices.
No. 5: Isn’t it time to stop rooting against Albert Pujols? After all, the Cardinals are better off spreading his salary around and not being obligated to eternity. Good luck, Albert. The Angels are now my West Coast team ... I think.
No. 6: In judging preps, we must avoid forming conclusions on a single sighting, whether it’s Centennial’s Michael Finke scoring three points in one game and 29 the next, or Simeon’s Jaylon Tate missing four free throws Friday and hitting 10 straight in the Curie showdown Saturday. All these guys are in the developmental stage.
No. 7: Don’t count teams out so quickly. If Arizona State can win eight games after a dismal 2011 when the Sun Devils lost at Illinois and dropped their last five, and if Syracuse can finish so strong against No. 9 Louisville, Missouri, Temple and West Virginia, quick turnarounds are possible (or the opposite: Southern Miss went from 12 wins to 12 losses).
No. 8: And furthermore, I resolve never to let Bruce Pearl enter my life, even if I have to turn off basketball telecasts that I’m interested in. And when the time comes for Illinois to travel to Rutgers, I promise to stay near my refrigerator and watch on TV.
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.