Friday, February 02, 2007

Hail to the Orange, Hail to the Blue!

Big 10 Medley Socks
Originally uploaded by spinnity.
Hi knitters! It's been three great weekends of birding, and Bill and I have seen 151 species of birds in January, with plans to add a few more "year birds" tomorrow in Marin county. To get to 151, we visited locations in Santa Clara, San Benito, Solano, and San Mateo counties. Those long drives can only mean one thing… socks! Portable and forgiving, socks, make an excellent project for rainy, muddy, dusty birding trips. So may I present the "Big Ten Medley Socks", using a pattern by Jeni the Knittist. (The pattern is still being edited, so don't ask for it just yet.)

Why Big Ten Medley? I guess you aren't all college basketball fans, so listen up for a lesson in team colors from the midest. From cuff to toe, we begin with green for the Michigan State Spartans, then blue for the Michigan Wolverines, orange for Illinois, gold and black for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and maroon for the Minnesota Gophers. You can tell that I've mellowed as an Illinois fan in my 12 years in California, because I'm willing to allow Spartan green and Wolverine blue into my Big Ten concept sock. In the olden days... well... we weren't always so open-minded. And I know the folks back home will look askance at the idea of representing for anyone other than Illinois in the NCAA tournament in March, but this is how we mellow and change away from home. (Special link for Big Ten fans: Sports tunes a-plenty, including a marching band rendition of the Big Ten Medley. Ah, to hear the Men's Glee Club sing the medley once again!)

Truth be told, the yarn was a mistake from last year's dyeing classes at Nancy Robert's Machine Knitting to Dye for workshop. [PLACEHOLDER - I'll have some photos of the desired yarn in a sec, but blogging from flickr makes it hard to add the link to the second photo. EDITED to add the photo of the "Socks that weren't to be"] You see, I had intended to produce a very different colorway -- which should have been easy to do, since I had NOTES from my first class and was trying to follow them carefully. Well, notes or no notes, I messed up nearly every color in the sequence. The orange is "okay", but the colors I wanted were sort of "tennis ball green", a true blue, a richer orange, gold and brick.

What I got instead is college sports jersey colors. I sure earned a lot about watching/assessing the colors during the dyeing process, because these colors were clearly wrong when I painted them on. And they didn't get less wrong with time!

Making the best of unintended yarn, I quickly decided that these should become my "NCAA Tournament Socks", honoring the Big Ten and my midwestern roots. Even though my beloved Illini are teh suck this year, and unlikely to make the tournament, there's always next year. And with these socks, I will be able to cheer the whole Big Ten to victory over the Evil Dukies of the ACC. Beating Duke is definitely worth the trade-off of cheering for *shudder* Michigan State.

It is a little weird that I am a sports fan. I mean, I was quite a hippy flower child in high school -- in the 80's mind you, when being a hippy was in no way cool. We're talking bellbottom jeans with heart shaped patches. Indian cotton print skirts. Peace signs on my notebooks. And hippies, we know, are not really into organized sports. Didn't really care. And it wasn't just me. Parents didn't really care, either. Brothers didn't care. Hippy friends sure as heck didn't care. I continued not really caring right through the first 4 years of college, even though Illinois produced several high-flying, showboating basketball teams in those years. Too busy singing in the opera chorus and napping on the quad to notice.

In about 1990, when my husband was in grad school, we started going to games with some friends from the CS department for a way to hang out together. It was a pretty fun scene, if you like tame, non-alcoholic sports fandom. I don't remember ever buying a beer at the stadium. We usually walked to the games. November through February, the weather in Champaign varies from crisp to fuh-REEEEE-zing. We would grab the appropriate jackets, scarves, boots and meet up at someone's apartment to walk the 2 miles to the Assembly Hall, yell like crazy for two hours and then walk home, all in the dark, since games never started before 5 pm. I still love walking at night on cold nights. Just being outside in 40 degree (uh - 5 degree C) weather, with the moon peeking through a light cloud cover, maybe a little wind blowing the clouds around, fills my heart with happiness.

We went to the games faithfully until the year we moved to California. Out here, it's much harder to root for a Big Ten team. During the season, tip off is often at 4 or 5 pm -- and we're not home. And then for some strange reason, the local TV feeds are carrying stupid Pac 10 basketball, instead of the games I want to see. And the tournament is the WORST. After 5 minutes of a game you care about, the announcers break in with "and while Maryland struggle against a stinging Illinois offense, we'll send our west coast viewers out to Phoenix for the regional action, with Western Oklahoma vs UTEP. Stay tuned!". GAHHH! It wasn't until someone clued us in to Old Pro in Palo Alto that we found a location to reliably watch Illinois, since they tune in every single regional feed. That's something to see. 30 or more screens, each with a sign hanging underneath: 1:40 - Gonzaga vs Seton Hall. 4:10 - Illinois vs Texas 7:30 Stanford vs Princeton. Sign me up, baby!

So despite the unwanted colors, these socks are worming their way into my heart as a vital badge of sports fandom. I plan to wear them at home to watch Illinos games (you know, like lucky underwear, only on your feet). I will most defnitely wear them to the Old Pro to watch the tournament. And, bringing it all back around, these socks born in the field are destined to become my primary birding socks, at least for the rest of the spring. Hail to the orange. Hail to the blue. Hail Alma Mater!


Blogger Emy said...

Hey, I've got some lucky Virginia Tech socks, so I totally get that. :)

I'm also really amused by the idea of the whole conference in a sock. Brilliant!

February 02, 2007 10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll need to wear those socks faithfully during Fed. The claim is we have to win 5 of the last 7 games to be considered for post season play. Go ILL-INI!! (We need all the help we can get!) Mom

February 03, 2007 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's Feb, not Fed. Duh! Mom

February 03, 2007 8:02 AM  

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