Rooting Interests

Rooting Interests

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We were attacked again last week for saying that we were not blanket Big Ten homers when it comes to the NCAA tournament. We’ve been through this before around basketball, and we went through this at the end of football season, too, when it came to bowl games and the fact that after bashing one another all season (or in Purdue’s case, getting bashed all season), we were expected to hoot and holler for Ohio State. Sorry, all, but your BS homies don’t play that. Sure, it’s mainly me and Boilerdowd who hold the line on this one – we’re the crankiest, most old-man like guys on the BS staff. But we’re also stubbornly independent thinkers. No, we’re not saying this makes us superior to you or anyone else. (It’s our vertical leap and suave nature with the ladies that make us superior to you.) You can do whatever you want and basically believe whatever you want, as per the tenets of this great nation. However, by that very same token, we are also entitled to believe what we want and to feel that you’re doing it wrong.

There is this groupthink that goes on during the tourney and during bowl season, wherein a frightening number of Big Ten students, fans and alums agree to fall into line and cheer for any Big Ten team still alive. Hey, your rooting interests and decisions are your own, but….really? Why? What do you get out of it?

Many Purdue fans told us – quite a few rather rudely – that we were stupid or ignorant or “embarrassing” (that one was my favorite) for not cheering on the Big Ten automatically. They claimed that Michigan State winning the title would be good for Purdue, because it helps recruiting. Now…I’ll grant you that MSU winning the title or getting to the Final Four helps Michigan State’s recruiting, but there is no correlation you can really point to that supports it helping Purdue’s.

Do these people honestly think that Matt Painter will go into a living room and say something like this?

“Look, son, you really should come to Purdue. Sure, we’ve had back to back awful seasons…the fans are beginning to turn on the coaching staff and the athletic department and the rich alums don’t fill the lower level seats. But did you see MSU go to the Final Four? How about Wisconsin? Not bad, eh? How would you like to play against them a couple times a year?”

Where is the lure? What kid wants to just play in the same conference as good teams? That’s nonsense, and it’s borne out of people thinking they know what 17 year olds want in life.  I’m not so arrogant as to assume I know what kids want, either, but I have a hard time believing that playing in the vicinity of good teams is what they want.

The exposure argument is the closest you can get. Playing in a successful Big Ten means you’ll be on TV more and thus have more chance to be noticed and perhaps play at the next level. Okay, fine. But did Butler need to be in the Big Ten to be featured nationally? Did Creighton? Does Gonzaga? It’s a global village, folks, and just like being successful in business no longer requires you to be in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, you don’t have to go to UCLA, Michigan or Kentucky to get noticed. Does it help? Sure, if you go to one of the “blue blood” premier programs. But do people honestly believe that Mississippi State (hi, Rick Ray!) got better recruits than they would have after Kentucky won their national title a couple years ago?

Also, it’s not black and white. Very few things in life ever are. Just because we refuse to blanketly root for the Big Ten doesn’t mean we would never want to see a Big Ten team win. Illinois playing Notre Dame? Go Big Ten! Michigan State playing Harvard? Well, I’d love to see Tommy Izzo’s whiny face in that scenario.

How about a real example? Tennessee played Michigan in the tourney, with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. Tennessee’s coach is Cuonzo Martin, one of the more popular Boilermakers of the past twenty years. What did Purdue fans and alums do? Did you root for your conference and cheer for the Wolverines? Or did you want to see your boy ‘Zo continue to advance? If you were pulling for ‘Zo just days after lecturing us on rooting for the conference, you, my friend, are a hypocrite.

What I don’t get is how you can go from the intensity a great basketball conference like the Big Ten creates during the season… to being on the same side. One of the OSU blogs replied to us during our fracas with our own fellow Purdue fans and put it well: “The misplaced conference pride is for losing programs.”

Well-said. This is why mouth-breathing fans of also-ran SEC football programs puff out their chests when Alabama wins it all. I guess in some way they feel better about the ass-whipping put on them by the Crimson Tide if the Tide goes on to win it all…? Hard to follow. But yeah, go conference!

If Bo Ryan (who suddenly everyone loves because he gave a weepy interview) goes on to win it all and you think that’s somehow good for Purdue, then go ahead and enjoy it, I guess. But the reality is that Purdue already has the chips stacked against them. It’s already harder to recruit to Purdue than it is to Wisconsin or MSU or Michigan. How does them getting better and having more success while Purdue flails about at the bottom of the conference going to help Purdue? Hint: it isn’t. It’s actually going to help those schools get better recruits and continue to be good.

Let me ask you this – if the Big Ten was knocked down a few pegs in basketball but Purdue made the Final Four, would you take that trade? Of course you would, unless you’re an imbecile. So then why are you rooting for the conference “to be successful”? It already has its own TV network that pours cash into each school’s athletic department. Or how about this: Do you think UK’s Final Fours and national titles are any less satisfying because the SEC is an awful basketball conference?  I kind of doubt it. (And on that note, the Big Ten only got one team into the Final Four, while the SEC got two in this year – does that make the SEC a better basketball conference? Of course not. But who really cares?)

I’ll admit, last weekend I was pulling for Michigan to beat Kentucky and Michigan State to beat Connecticut – but not because of conference allegiances. I just didn’t want to see Coach Cal advance and I just have never liked UConn. As we’ve detailed before, it’s a case-by-case basis – which, quite frankly, is how we approach many decisions in life. Very few things can be painted with a broad brush and said to “always” fall into that category. Extenuating circumstances abound. Ancillary issues matter more to some people than they do to others. This is the kind of stuff that makes us all unique.

Some of you get the way we think and agree with us. Others get how we think and respectfully disagree. And some of you get angry at us for not thinking the way you think we should think. The first two are always welcome – the ones angry at guys with an opinion site having opinions, well, you guys can show yourselves out.

And take your Big Ten foam finger with you.

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