IU fans, Purdue fans, let's get this out of the way: we've been grasping at straws for a while now.
Sure, the Paint Crew reminds us that "IU Sucks" quite often, which is true. And IU's student section has a few people on Twitter trying to drum up manufactured heat by whatever means necessary. Both sides really want these games to mattter again.
A group of IU's students have made Purdue's 6th man, Kelsey Barlow, the focus of their vitriol. They attempt to mock Purdue by saying "Banner up". Whatever. Much like Fred Glass and his Athletic Department's attempts to create new traditions for their football 'atmosphere', these weren't grown organically and are of little importance...or more importantly, these kids are trying to find something, anything to cheer for that has roots within the reality.
Kelsey Barlow gave the choke sign last season at IU after Verdell Jones missed a few free throws. I thought it was funny...my fellow BSer, J didn't like it. Neither of us thought it was the right thing to do...and neither did the true Freshman, Barlow, in hindsight. But what's done is done.
IU students can't get after Smooge or JJ...probably because they don't want those guys angry because the Hoosiers have no answer for either. Hell, they won't even go after LewJack for the same reason...but get six deep in the rotation- yeah, now you're talking. That's their target.
"Hey, we're not good. But, once you lose your best players, we'll be able to match up with you!"
Atop that, the clever IU fans have chosen to make fun of "Boiler Up!" by yelling, "Banner Up!" Now, I'm not a fan of the 'Boiler Up' chant simply because it's really a derivative of something from the University of Wyoming. Sure, it makes some sense when you put the phrase in the context of a locomotive building pressure to gain speed and steam...but that doesn't mean I like it. At this site, we generally stay away from that phrase. It could be because we were at Purdue before it existed. But, the phrase came into being a long, long time ago...especially through the prism of a college student's vantage point.
So, IU students are choosing to pile on a phrase that's been around for nearly 15 years...because they couldn't think of anything else before 2011 to combat it? Even worse, their comeback is more-ancient as it references relics from before their birth. But that's all they have. To quote ex-Hoosier player and coach Dan Dakich, "Is that all ya got, IU fans???" And it's a fair question...and we all know the answer:
Honestly, like many of you, I'm worried about this game. I don't like when a team has nothing to lose and they're coached by a certifiably crazy person. That's a volatile combo that can end poorly for the team that has won more conference games than can be counted on one hand.
Just like in the grander scheme, IU has no place to go but up. And no level-head Purdue fan can tell you that IU isn't going to get better...not with a straight face, anyway. IU fans tell me that the Hoosiers are getting better. Yet, with four games to play, they still haven't matched last season's massive total of 4 conference wins. They are indeed building something special down there, I guess.
The IU students, Notre Dame football fans, and backwards hilljacks with no attachment to the university are going to pour into Ass. Hall tonight, and will try to do their damned-est to will the Hoosiers to victory tonight against Purdue. But in the end, their efforts won't matter. Their squad has to do the work. And their nervous coach has to scheme those players into a position to win.
Cases in point- Mackey Arena is a tough place to play, just as the Kohl Center. But, those venues are tough for visitors because the teams are tough as nails to begin with...but are edified and empowered when backed legions of ravenous fans.
And until they can not only win, but win with some regularity, this is no rivalry. Rivalry is defined as "the act of competing." Competing is defines as "contending for athletic supremacy." By definition this is no rivalry.
Sure, when you look at it from the IU fans' perspective the last decade of the Oaken Bucket might be a rivalry...but at a 30% success rate? Come on. I think the rest of the world thinks a true rivalry is one in which you just don't know who is going to win. We haven't seen that in this state for a while.
I'm not guaranteeing a victory tonight, by the way. I think IU could win and I don't like a lot about this match-up. But, Matty's a better coach and his team has bought into what he's selling to the point that the sum of their parts are better, regardless of which Boilers are on the floor...And no manufactured anger toward Purdue's sixth man is going to change that.