Months ago, I took the advice of a friend who suggested that I shouldn't bother to read the Internet, the greatest source of misinformation, because it served absolutely no worthwhile purpose.
He was right. Whenever I am tempted, which is rare, I pick up a good Civil War book instead. I don't iss the name-calling, the lack of historical perspective, the misconceptions, erroneous facts, anonymous rants and unsubstantiated accusations.
But sometimes I hear something that can't be overlooked, something that must be addressed, that can't go without a returning salvo.
As a University of Illinois graduate, who spent four years on the Urbana-Champaign campus as a student and four more as a sportswriter for the old Champaign-Urbana Courier, I never cease to be amazed by the paranoia of what has come to be known as Illini Nation.
We don't lose, they cheated. The NCAA and the Big Ten have it in for us. Great athletes don't come to Illinois because they get bought by other colleges. The Chicago media is against us. The slush fund was small potatoes compared to what other colleges are doing.
That has been the mindset since the 1960s.
But they keep looking for more excuses.
An Illinois assistant football coach recently went into the home of a highly rated recruit in the East. The coach began to talk about Illinois and the recruiting process and, somewhere along the way, the recruit mentioned that he had a conversation with recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, whom he had met a few weeks earlier.
The coach erupted. He claimed Lemming was a pro-Notre Dame, always tried to persuade players to go to Notre Dame and didn't like Illinois, among other things. And he even brought up my name. He portrayed me as an anti-Illinois writer from Chicago.
The recruit and his father were dumbfounded by the coach's outburst. Lemming had never mentioned Notre Dame, they told the coach. He had only talked about the recruiting process, what he had experienced for 30 years. Afterward, the father told his son: "You aren't going to Illinois."
I was told the name of the coach. I've never heard of him. I've never met him or talked to him or interviewed him. I hope he does a better job of evaluating talent than he did of checking out my background. Or Lemming's history at Notre Dame. The facts, not the myths.
But that apparently is the way business is being done at Illinois. Coach Ron Zook and his handlers have a "suspended list," a list of media (including me) that are judged to be subversives, people who supposedly never write anything positive about the Illini program, only negative issues.
Zook and his handlers have made it clear to some writers--the Sun-Times' Herb Gould is on their most favored list--that they only want positive articles to be printed and nothing less will be tolerated or approved. If you are on the "suspended list," you won't be granted an interview.
That's the way business is being done in Urbana-Champaign and South Bend. Imagine, Zook and Charlie Weis. Strange bedfellows.
Illinois' goal forever is to catch Ohio State and Michigan, to rise from their shadow and stand on the same podium. But they won't do it until they begin to display a measure of class, perceived or otherwise, the same type of class that took Ohio State and Michigan to the top. Trust me, Illini Nation, you'll know it when you see it.