Busch Braggin' Rights: The Most Wonderful Night of the Year

For some, Christmas means sharing a meal with some loved ones, giving gifts, and sitting around the hearth (whatever the hell that is).

For me, Christmas means Busch heavy gold tops, orange tees, and profanities. Busch Braggin’ Rights, baby. The Tuesday before Christmas, like clockwork, allows the rednecks from Illinois and Missouri to get blackout drunk and cheer their respective asses off, rooting for a school which they more than likely did not go to. It is, without a doubt, my favorite day of the holiday season. It’s the most wonderful night of the year.

And while there may be a little bit of hyperbole and delusions of grandeur in that last paragraph, it is mostly true. A lot of my favorite holiday memories have come from the Braggin’ Rights game, whether it was in 2002 when bad travel planning on my part had me not flying home until two days after the Rights, and I spent one of the most exciting contests in this storied rivalry’s history in North Carolina, drinking heavily and alternatively yelling at myself and into my cell; or watching my buddy Joe stand up on the bar and demand a round of Busch for everyone watching the game at Donnelly’s in 2003 (in hindsight, I’m not even sure if they serve Busch at Donnelly’s). Sure, they’re not “traditional” or “healthy” holiday memories, but they’re there and I treasure them as my own.

And we’re all set for another round of memories to be made tonight. The Rights game is finally here.

After last years 32 point Illini thrashing, we may even have a contest this year. Most of the talent from Illinois’ 2004-05 monster squad is gone (although Dick McBride and Warren Carter, in what must respectively be their 9th and 12th years of eligibility, are inexplicably still on the team); and while I wouldn’t classify Mizzou as being “good,” they are definitely better under Mike Anderson than they were last year under Quin Snyder (less coked up, too).

While I most certainly miss watching players as talented as Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, James Augustine, and Roger Powell, following this years Illini squad is enjoyable simply because the guys on the court all remind me of Illini players of old:

Shaun Pruitt, Marcus Griffin. Chester Frazier, Dee Brown. Jamar Smith, Sean Harrington. Warren Carter, Lucas Johnson (not really. I just wanted to mention Lucas Johnson. I miss that guy.) Marcus Arnold, Victor Chukwudebe. Brian Randle, Damir Krupalija (again, not really. Krupalija is just fun to say.) Thankfully, there isn't a Nick Smith in the bunch, but to be honest, I could use a Robert Archibald. Gigantic Scotts are always fun.

Sure, this years Illini squad isn’t as “good” as some years past, but some times the teams without all the talent in the world are just as fun to follow, if only for the ability to name said ham-and-eggers years later in drunken bar room arguments.

So the Illini aren’t quite up to par and Anderson’s “40 minutes of hell heck” has the Mizzou faithful rejuvenated in matters basketball related. If the Tigers can turn up the heat and force some turnovers (and from what I’ve seen so far this year, a 7th grade team could force the Illini into about 20 turnovers. Sloppy!), we’re all set for a barn burner. In fact, if I was a betting man (and I am), I would actually put my money on Mizzou to beat the 4 ½ point spread.

Now, I’m not saying that Mizzou will win their first Right game in (literally) this millennium, but it should be close. In the end, I would like three things to happen: Bruce Weber to get his 100th win with Illinois, to not get punched in the face by a Mizzou fan, and to get rip roaring drunk.

After all, that’s what Braggin’ Rights are all about.

[It should be noted that I will be attending my first ever Rights game this year with noted Mizzou apologist and good time Jones Roommate Neighbor Matt. Since the winning percentage of the teams I root for is flat out terrible [/Bill Walton] when I am in attendence, I hope to generate some good Karma for the Illini to counteract my own unluckiness by drinking all the Busch beers in the world. Wish me luck.]


Good luck tonight, always a great atmosphere down there.
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