Illinois Basketball: An Open Letter to the Illinois Basketball Team

It pains me to write this letter to the Illinois basketball team, but after watching the game last night against Purdue, I feel compelled.

Dear Illinois Men’s Basketball:

What the hell is going on?  I’m sure you aren’t oblivious to the chorus of voices calling for your coach’s head.  That may not be fair and it might not even be the real problem.  But everyone can tell that something is wrong.

So, we the fans ask you, what is it?  And more importantly, when are you going to figure it out?

Before I continue, let me preface the rest of this letter with this: You might not care what I think.  In fact, I kind of hope you don’t care.  I would argue that you shouldn’t care about my opinion.

I mean who am I?  I’m just a blogger.  I have a full-time job and a normal life outside of this. Every one of you could destroy me on the court blindfolded and with one hand behind your back.

I write about you because I am a big fan.  I write for other fans.  The other ones like me who just cannot get enough about their team from the real journalists.

The fans want to see you succeed.  We need to see you succeed.  We are rabid.  We are, after all, fanatics.

We know you aren’t going to win every game.  But at this point in the season, with so much still on the line, we cannot understand why you aren’t competing in every game.  And that is the rub.

Don’t get me wrong, we would have loved to see you beat Purdue, Maryland, and Indiana.  We understand, though, that you will lose games.

But why aren’t you fighting?  Where is the passion?  Why is it that the only thing we are hoping for at the end of a game is that you don’t lose by 30 points?

I’ll be fair.  It isn’t like that every game.  We’ve seen you play with a great deal of passion and energy this year against quality opponents. We know it is in you.  But we don’t know why we aren’t seeing it every night.

I am not putting this on your coach at this point, though I have been wondering for a long time.  I will not write anything trashing Coach Groce or you, the players.  Like any passionate fan, I will occasionally question what appears to be bad decisions on the court.

I will be critical of some of the play calls by the coach.  But, despite the many people who want me to join them in publicly calling for his head, I am not going to do that.

I frankly don’t know that Coach Groce is the problem, and neither does any fan, really. There are very few people who actually know what the problem is.  But you do.  You’re in that small group who actually know.

You also know that Coach Groce’s job is on the line.  Fair or not, that is how these things work.  Coach’s take the fall when their teams play poorly.

Also, fair or not, in my estimation (and that of many others) you need to get to the tournament this year to keep that from happening.

Some will say that I shouldn’t put that on you.  But I am not putting anything on you that isn’t already there.  It needs to be acknowledged and confronted.

And again, it isn’t that you have to win every game (though that home game against Maryland, you should have had that).  Rather, you need to be in every game.  You need to give yourselves a chance and compete in every game.  The victories will follow from that.

So, I’m not putting this on Coach Groce.  I am putting it on you, the team.  You’re an excellent team.  You have demonstrated the ability to compete against very good opponents this year.

But you don’t show up on some nights.  And that is just a fact.  You need to figure it out, and soon.

There are many games left to play.  Don’t give up on yourselves, your coach, your school, and your fans. Work it out.  Show up.  Grind out the necessary wins this year to give yourselves a chance in March.

If your coaches are doing their job, they have told you not to read this kind of crap.  And I sincerely hope you are taking their advice.  But I have the feeling that is part of the problem.

So, unless the game plan involves getting blown out by double digits, listen to your coaches and focus on righting this ship.

Play with passion, like everything is on the line.  Because it is.

Finally, I’ll ask you the same question I asked last year.  Your fans bleed orange and blue.  Do you?

We know the answer.  So, just prove it!

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