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Will Leitch Talks Illini E-mail
Written by Big Head   
Friday, 28 August 2009 05:45

As we embark on another edition of the Arch Rivalry, I got a chance to throw some questions to friend of the site, Will Leitch, who holds the titles of New York Magazine writer, Deadspin.com founder, author of God Save the Fan, and most importantly; Illinois alum. Just as he did last season, he lays down the good, bad, and ugly of the Illini.

I know I asked this last year, but maybe the feelings have changed- Ron Zook: Idiot savant, just an idiot, or pure genius.

Idiot savant? More idiot than savant? Mostly he's just entertaining which, whether he's winning or he's not, is more than I can say for most Illini coaches over the last decade or so. (I loved Lou Tepper, but losing while being earnest and dull is so much worse while being crazy and water-skiing.) If he misses a bowl the next three years, I might feel differently, but for now, Ron Zook is a reason to keep an eye, even a wary one, on Illinois football. It has rarely been like that.

The media magicians say Zook is on the hot seat. Rightly so, and if so, how hot? Would any bowl game save his job?

I think if he makes a bowl game, he can miss next year. If he misses one, he'll need to get one the year afterwards. Remember, we're a basketball school: Bruce Weber, no matter how well he does, will always have more scrutiny than Zook. I do think we need a bowl game this year, just so that he doesn't turn into Ron Turner. But, as a rule, we're a fanbase with a high tolerance for football mediocrity.

Is Rejus Benn the best athlete to come out of Champaign in the last 15 years?

Football-wise, I'd put him second, behind Simeon Rice. I had a class with that guy, and he was the biggest, most gregarious, effortlessly charming and monstrously imposing fellow I've ever met. Simeon Rice was just ungodly.

Not to kick you in the nuts, but where were you at when you first heard about the Western Michigan game last year? First thought?

Fortunately, I was at a wedding in Delaware, so I was receiving updates from my phone. If there were ever a football game that deserved increasingly sporadic checkins from an iPhone, I'd say it would have to be Illinois-Western Michigan at a mostly empty Ford Field would be it.

Not that preseason polls count for much, but Illinois and Mizzou both missed out on being ranked in either poll. While I can't speak for Illinois fans, Mizzou fans feel this team should be in the 22-25 range or at least receive more than three votes in the AP. Of course, being Mizzou fans, we are used to being overlooked. Should Illinois be ranked in your mind, and does the Illini fanbase think people are overlooking the Illini?

I think they're overlooking what this team COULD be. I was talking with Tommy Craggs from Deadspin, another Illini kid, about the importance of the Missouri game. An Illini friend of his said, very seriously, "11-1." We laughed and scoffed and all that. Then he said, "OK, 11-1 if we beat Missouri. Otherwise, 7-5."I'd go with 5-7 if they lose to you guys. I don't think Illinois is a No. 22 team. I think they're either a top 15 team ... or 5-7. It's what life with Zook is like.

Props again to Will, and you can check out Will's work for New York Magazine and purchase the updated, paperback version of God Save the Fan among his other works. Read God Save the Fan on a quick getaway vacation, and I'll highly recommend it, even if you read the hard cover.



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Comments (1)
Now this is funny
written by GingerBalls, August 28, 2009
"Remember, we're a basketball school"

I appreciate his stuff, have read his book and all...but that is just a silly reason for not worrying that much about football and not very true.

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