In the falling moments of another April day, Bloomington looks like any other Midwestern college town. The students pool to their cafeterias, crawl from their bars, and stalk the first few hours of warmth to its dark demise. But despite its population, its beautiful skylines, those carefully sketched arches, lying underneath all that etched conceit and art are the bones of the ghosts who haunt all who have affiliated itself with the awful wonder of cream and crimson.
A blood orange sky holds in the far horizon, but God with his brush, starts to turn to tenebrism with his canvas. The darkness is coming. It has been here for 28 years.
This darkness has a home - Assembly Hall. To this day, thousands upon thousands gather together under its roof to try and coax the darkness back into the ground and climb those stairs to glory. For 28 years, that darkness has held strong - encouraged by the egotism of the once great Knight, inappropriately called into prominence by Sampson's touch, and revered by the Davis disciples.
Of course, one does not need to recite these years like an old pagan chant, but instead the school's followers have created something of a hymn, a specialized school song that is as easy to memorize as it is to find the rhythm. It is a simple song. One sang ad nauseam, thrown out there like a bomb when everyone else is trying to use words and logic to debate the finer points of a sports argument. An example: Wisconsin's recent, consistent success has made it the second best basketball school in the conference behind Izzo's Spartans. A reasonable, if not arguable statement. One that you might not immediately agree with, but as a perfectly reasonable adult you would not find anything particularly offensive about the statement. Now, imagine the scenario where this statement is said and an IU fan walks past at just the right time to hear all of it.
Imagine then, the look on that followers face. His mouth opening dumbly, eyes pulling together and then bulging out, a stupid hair cut on top of his head, his tiny Trump-like hands balling into a fist at each of his hips as he turns with all the fury of a storm at this reasonable adult trying to have a reasonable conversation with his other reasonable friends. It is then you will hear the IU fight song. It will be sung with a trembling bravado, a hoarse sound, with the same level of shamelessness and volume you'd hear from the male in the final scene of a porno movie.
It goes like this:
BANNERS! BANNERS! BANNERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRS!
And it is with this knowledge that I offer you these tales of Indiana Basketball's coach Tom Crean and his search to become the next coach to replace the Knight. I do not tell you these things as an enemy, but as someone with sympathy. Someone who understands that with each passing year this fan base - these ruthless banner-hangers - grows hungrier for another one to be hung. Someone that understands how the appeal of dark magic could pull Tom Crean into the shadows.
And if we've learned anything of Tom Crean, he does not know when to stop pulling.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
It does not echo. The quiet of the sound makes it almost disappear before you can turn your head, before it registers, this other person in the hallway. It is ominous but you are not sure why. At 6 foot 5 inches with a near 7 foot wingspan, you don't know fear like most people. Your chest is broad, the lines of your muscles easily defined and discernible like a character in a Micheal Bay film. You don't easily fear the shadows, physical assault from the unknown, and certainly not here. In this hallway that you've taken for the last three years at exactly 6 a. m. every morning.
Every single morning. Except that time when you were in the hospital after that unfortunate late-night order at Taco Bell. Or that time your mother insisted you go with her for the weekend to visit your grandparents. And, of course, all those weekends away on the AAU circuit, when you first started to get noticed for all the work you started putting in at 6 a. m. every single morning.
There was that week in summer, but you don't count that, try not to be too hard on yourself about it. You were in love. She was beautiful and devastating and demanding and she didn't understand the time- No, you tell yourself, stop making excuses for her still. She was 17 and you were just 14, but already so tall and you were in love, but...
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
It's weird, standing there, looking towards the hallway. The darkness does not usually hold so tight to the walls. You can normally see where the hallway separates into a right or left choice. As you approach the door left open for you, bag hung round your left shoulder, ball swallowed by your hand on your right hip, there's a feint red haze replacing the normal burning yellow of old halogen lights as you take your left towards the auxiliary gym.
There's a certain fog to you still from the 5:45 wake up, and so the taps, the colors, they all seem vague and ancillary, still part of a dream you haven't quite shook out of your head. But there's no denying the figure against the wall on the other side of the gym as you lay your bag down and the ball falls by your feet, bouncing lightly away from you.
The figure is in red, seems to be emitting the color, but you know then that it is not really red but crimson that is flooding the place. You walk towards the figure, its parrot's beak for a nose looming threateningly over a smirk that leaves you feeling touched in places that you don't feel comfortable with sharing with anyone.
On its head, a receding hairline, but not really a hairline of balding. The hair is dark and full, but it's parted and combed in a way that makes you feel like it is actively trying to lean away from the unquestionably creepy look on the face below it. The way one would lean its head back from a particularly bad smell at his feet.
You fear then, for one of the first times, what someone much smaller could do to you alone, but you can't stop walking. In the same way the hallway was filled with all that crimson, you feel its noxious gas and color leak slowly into your bones all the while the smirk rises prominently on Coach Crean's face like a sun pulling up from the East.
Behind him, the off-white of the wall has been transformed into a canvas of moving images. Basketballs bouncing, falling sunsets, pin-strip pants, obscured faces of fans cheering, of Assembly Hall, and the camera ascends up and up and up and up until it stops, resting, unfocused and then crystal clear.
Banners. You understand. You feel it inside of you, a yearning, a deep, dark awakening as Coach Crean starts to reach for you...
Your alarm screeches.
But despite your waking, despite your breathing, despite the recognition that it was all just a dream.
You swear you hear a faint tap-tap-tap-tap-tap in the distance.
As you sit up in your bed, through your curtains peaks a reposing darkness, in it's a place you swear a burning crimson stains.