Illini basketball

Air, Jordanless

I threatened last week that you ought not read this space, this week, if you didn’t want to hear more about Rob Jordan.

It’s even more poignant to me now, given the last 48 hours of technical ineptitude.

Rob Jordan worked in tech. And although he had a big, if faulty, heart; he knew better than to trust any human based system. Rob Jordan was the guy who made sure things went right.

I’m sorry Rob didn’t live to see the onset of impeachment proceedings. I saw, in his Twitter feed, that he’d allowed himself to speak his mind, once Aaron’s eligibility expired. He was engaged in an argument with a John Wright, who couldn’t have been a member of the John Wright family known to local Illini fans. That John Wright wouldn’t have been arguing against “government regulations,” as he enjoys breathing clean air, and prefers to drink & bathe in water free of fracking effluent.

I planned to write this Rob Jordan remembrance on the Peoria Charter to O’Hare. But then my website crashed. If you’re interested, read the following paragraphs. If not, scroll down to the picture of Rob Jordan.

WordPress has a security flaw which allows spammers to comment on pictures, bypassing the Disable Comments plugin.

So I spent the entire ride deleting spambot-generated comments. There were 257,000 of them. Another WordPress bug prevented me from deleting more than 100 at a time.

To install the Delete All Comments plugin, I have to update to a new version of WordPress. But WordPress can’t update because my GoDaddy PHP is outdated. Can I update my PHP? No. Why not? Because your site is migrating. And sure enough, when I look in my hosting page, I find the scroll bar is still at 60%. It’s been at 60% since September.

Maybe GoDaddy called to tell me about it, but it’s hard to say. They’re notorious for upselling, and they leave lots of automated voicemails, so nobody pays attention to their messages. But I usually glance at the text translation, or subject heading, and I don’t remember a message about technical problems. 

So I called them.

GoDaddy told me they couldn’t finish migrating my website until I eliminated tens of thousands of “inodes.”  I had surpassed my limit. Can you delete them for me? I asked. One hold later, I got the answer. No.

It’s 2019 firfuksache. WordPress and GoDaddy combine to host millions of webpages, and they haven’t figured out how to defeat a simple bot.

Now I’m aboard Frontier flight 1427 to PHX ($88). I have an hour before we land. Enough time to say my piece.

The author, with his friends Rob & Romelda, in Winston-Salem

When I get to the arena tomorrow night, it will be the first time in years that Rob Jordan won’t be there to greet me. 

Romelda didn’t miss many games. Rob didn’t miss any. His Southwest miles topped Jaylon Tate’s grandmother, Bonnie, (who flew free because her significant other, Terry, was an employee).

Rob was, bluntly, a sports fan. He went to the football games too, and (as you’d guess from reading his online accounts) never lost faith in his team.

Rob wasn’t an Illinois alum. He and Romelda met at Savannah State. Most of their family was still in Georgia. But he adopted the school and its sports teams.

Rob was the basketball team’s unofficial fifth recruiter. He was the one who worked the parents during games. He was also the chief heckler. Any officiating lapse unleashed a torrent. If you criticized Aaron online, you probably got a message from Rob. He nearly ripped my head off for asking AJ, during a press conference, to describe a defensive breakdown after a home loss. He didn’t hold that grudge for more than a day. (I think he was mad at Jeremy Werner for a month straight, once. I got off easy.)

You might have thought that Aaron’s matriculation would mark the end of Rob’s attendance. That might be true for some road games, but probably not all of them. Rob had a knack for scheduling business travel to coincide with Illini basketball games. There’s a lot of fiber optic infrastructure that still hasn’t been laid.

I have a feeling that he might have found a contract in Phoenix. The alternative would be giving up Illini basketball cold turkey, and I don’t see that happening.

It was reassuring to know Rob would be there, with a rental SUV, because I normally walk and/or public transit to away games. I like it that way, but it doesn’t work so well in a freezing rain. After the game at Wake Forest, Rob and Romelda drove me back to The Historic Brookstown Inn.

They also saved my Thanksgiving last year, when Illinois’ Maui collapse landed the final game in a time slot so unlikely, I just booked a flight despite it. If it hadn’t been for them, I would likely have missed that flight, and the incredible spread my sister Susanna presents annually in Chicago.

The Lahaina Civic Center is a few feet from the coastal highway, and the roads around it are reserved (during the tournament) for team/fan motorcoaches, which shuttle incessantly to and from the resort hotels in Ka’anapali, just up the road.

I realized there was no sure way to get to the movie complex in downtown Lahaina, whence the local transit system runs a bus to the airport. (Pro tip:  it’s two dollars instead of seventy.)

There was no guarantee that a cab or a Lyft would be available at that time of night, and neither had a place to alight, because of the tour bus loop. Picking up on the side of the highway is probably illegal and definitely dangerous. I spent the afternoon scouring the island for short term rental bikes, scooters, skateboards … nothing.

Rob Jordan

So Rob and Romelda waited around for me. After watching Illinois lose its third game in three days, they probably wanted to sip a tropical highball and look at the stars, on the beach. Instead, they sat in their rented SUV, in a makeshift parking lot, on the side of a hill, with a Klieg light blaring down on them.

I was inside the Civic Center, recording post mortem thoughts from the coaches and players. When I finished, I ran up the hill and they drove me to the bus stop.

Now, it worked out for them. They hadn’t realized there was a thriving little town just down the road from the resort hotels (where things get sleepy after 9 p.m. because everyone is there for sun worship and golf). Rob was pretty excited by the prospect of nightlife.

I remembered that on the last road trip of the season, at Penn State. I’m usually the only Illini media in State College. Everyone else thinks it’s too expensive. They’re crazy. Peoria Charter to O’Hare, Spirit to LaGuardia ($31), Megabus to PSU ($1) and a night at the virtually unknown Hotel State College ($45), which is right in the middle of campus, on their version of Green Street, has a restaurant on the ground floor and a bar in the basement, with live bands!

Rob liked beer and music, so I texted him about it that afternoon, the Saturday before the Sunday early game. He was sort of interested, but doubtful that he could get there in time. I’m not completely sure that he had a confirmed flight at that moment.

As it turns out, he got a midnight flight to Pittsburgh. He rented his SUV, drove to State College, parked, and reclined the seat for a couple of hours nap. When I finally got a hold of him again, he was just waking up in the Bryce Jordan (no relation) parking lot.

After the game he drove back to the airport. I don’t think he actually got any sleep that weekend. His commitment to Aaron’s games was immovable.

That might have been the last time I saw him in person. Surely he attended the B1G tournament in Chicago. I just don’t remember talking to him there. When Aaron tweeted the details for his memorial service, Heather and I made plans to go. We dressed up and got in the car. We almost made it out of Urbana before the hail and lightning turned us back. A hundred mile line of storms seemed to have planted itself on top of Route 47, just waiting for us. Storms know Heather is a nervous driver. They follow her. They taunt her, even in the passenger seat.

I’m sort of glad, in a way, that we missed it. I think seeing him in a casket would have made it too real and final. This way, when I walk into the arena tomorrow, I can imagine that my old friend will be there, waiting for me.