Lori Bjork sounds-off in another weekly BasketBlog entry.
Jan. 6, 2006
Throughout the season an Illinois women's basketball player will post her thoughts on fightingillini.com in a weekly blog. This week, freshman Lori Bjork discusses the surprising trip to Rhode Island and her `homecoming' in Iowa City.
Women's BasketBlog - January 6, 2006 - Lori Bjork
In advance, let me warn you that I am writing this column at five in the morning as we leave the hotel for the airport in Rhode Island. Therefore, I am not responsible for any errors or misrepresentations herein, because I am not wholly cognizant of my surroundings at this time. Here is what I do know: we eked out a win at Rhode Island, we need to play better than that to win in the Big Ten (so you caught me, I have only played two conference games so far, but from the drift I'm getting, I think I am right about this), and if I ever go on a family vacation again, perhaps Rhode Island is the place to go.
I have always been proud of my geographical knowledge (I challenge anyone to try to stump me on a state capital; I can spell them, too, thanks to my social studies teacher in fourth grade), but for some reason it never occurred to me that the reason the state is not just "Rhode" is because parts of the state really are surrounded by water. I thought some greedy settler-turned-real estate agent just added "Island" to spice things up a bit. Before the team's trip, the only thing I knew about Rhode Island (other than its capital, of course) is that it is the smallest state in the Union. Armed with this one fact, I felt secure in crossing the state off my list of vacationing hotspots (how could I possibly spend a whole week so confined). I failed to remember that my home state of Iowa has never even appeared on such a tourist list, thus avoiding the indignity of being axed off said list. When we landed in Providence, I half-expected everything and everyone to be pint-sized versions of what I am used to, as if they were squeezing all of Americana into this tiny area. However, I found that nothing was shrunk (except maybe the number of people in the crowd at the game).
Last weekend was a homecoming of sorts for Stephanie Chelleen and me, although it could be more accurately described as an "as close as you're going to get to home-coming." The team traveled to Iowa City to play the University of Iowa, which is about two hours from the Des Moines metropolitan area where we are from. Most people in Big Ten country probably assume that I grew up consumed with the Hawkeyes, but the Des Moines area should never be confused with the college town in eastern Iowa. Des Moines is a heterogeneous mixture of fan loyalties. Hawk fans form a plurality in central Iowa, but face a minority challenge from Iowa State fans (Ames is 45 minutes away) and a small group of Northern Iowa and Drake fans. In this environment of twisted and fragmented loyalties, I grew up rooting against the Hawkeyes, so I had no qualms about facing off against them as an Illini.
The opportunity to play a road game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was something I had long-anticipated - but I never imagined that it would happen with me wearing the bright orange jersey of Illinois. Needless to say, no music or motivational speeches were needed to get me ready to play. Unfortunately, the game did not quite play out as I had practiced it on my driveway as a kid (in the real game you do not always get to redo every shot that you miss). But I was thankful for the generosity of Danielle Gratton, Tori Arndt, and Erin McCarthy, as they allowed me to use their tickets for my family and friends. Not wanting to be disappointed, I had hoped for a modest showing of support, but by golly, I guess the stories about how Iowans go the extra mile for others really are true. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came the extra 120 miles to support not only me, but also the entire Illinois team. The presence of high school teammates and their parents, high school coaches, and family, will be forever appreciated.
While I may seem to be quite a cynic in my writing, even at this ungodly hour, I can honestly say that I was truly touched by the support I received. With the deepest gratitude, I now set out justify and repay that support. Thank you.
#20 Lori Bjork