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Back to Work

Big-Ten-helmets.jpg

Just as posting tends to slow down in April, it picks back up once football begins, which means this weekend was our last bit of free time. Of course, other sports have already started, and that's what brought me up to West Lafayette this weekend. Here are some scattered thoughts from the day and a half I spent on campus, plus a little NFL stuff for those of you waiting for Labor Day weekend to come and go. (Four-day weekend!)

  • My volleyball season-ticket buddy, a fellow Boiler, joined me for the trip north. We drove straight to the lot, parked, and walked down to Holloway. Just past the Block Party pizza event (if they had advertised women's volleyball with free pizza outside and AC/DC and Metallica inside, I would have had season tickets 30 years ago), we ran into none other than CMP himself. I'd like to say that I figured the chance of him recognizing zlionsfan was low enough that it wasn't worth the effort to ask him a couple of questions, but actually it was more like "what the heck would I ask him on the spur of the moment anyway?" I'd never cut it as an on-site reporter. (The best part was my friend not recognizing him at first - remember, we're old enough that we had student tickets when Painter played.) We just traded hellos and went our separate ways.
  • Volleyball looks good again this season. Brooke Peters had an immediate impact at DS, and with Alexa Smith contributing at OH, Shondell should have two quality freshmen to help fill the gaps left by the graduation of Kiki Jones and Val Nichol. Unfortunately, paper-thin depth remains; with Lydia Dimke out for unknown reasons with a concussion (H/T boxercr in the comments below), the Boilers had just one active S. Five MB and two S seems an odd balance, particularly with Danielle Cuttino's firm grip on the #1 MB spot and plenty of experience behind her (Faye Adelaja will get a lot of playing time; Kaisley Fisher looked healthy, so it wouldn't surprise me if Blake Mohler and Shavona Cuttino - Danielle's sister - both redshirted). I saw Peters was an early enrollee, so I suspect that had something to do with her ability to jump right into the lineup. Well, that and the absence of anyone to stop her ... can we talk about depth again? With Burgundy Price gone (transfer? ineligible? nobody seems to know) and Linnea Rohrsen out, there are just three DS to share time alongside Amanda Neill.
  • Best new intermission game: Puccini's Challenge 2 - serve a ball from the line onto a pizza box set roughly in the center of the back court. I'm fairly sure that with about a thousand people watching, that box is about the size of a pea. The guy they selected did not win. I'd love to see someone try this by rapid-firing overhand serves.
  • The concession stand at Holloway finally takes plastic. This is the kind of thing that makes me sad about Purdue athletics: you'd think that they'd already have tried to maximize revenue from the roughly 2000 people per match that volleyball draws, yet it's 2015 and they've just now set up that stand with a CC reader. (I'll also guess that they haven't stocked the stand with concessions to match the higher volume they should be doing by accepting credit cards.) Same deal with the limited concessions in the annual match in Mackey: why not open another stand and bring in extra revenue? You're not expecting people to pack Mackey and bring their own food and drink, right?
  • On the other marketing hand, we walked into Mackey after the Saturday morning match and checked out the bigwig seats. (Something had been held there earlier in the day, or maybe was going to be held later, so they didn't have the usual old guy at the gate closest to the ticket office to keep out randoms like us.) This is something I think they're doing very well: the kind of person who can shell out $3200 for club seats is the kind of person who'll pay that extra 1.5% on the PSL next season (roughly $40), and that gives Purdue a way to increase revenue without putting the squeeze on the average fans. The lowest-level seats sure are nice, but I don't know about paying $9400 ... although they probably have personnel assigned to keep anyone from obstructing the view of those fans. The downside is that the seats are so comfortable, it'd be hard to get up and make noise, but then the JPC members who can afford them aren't the ones making noise anyway, right?
  • Speaking of noise, I told my friend that in this section at Holloway, we clap. Of course by "we" I mean me and maybe 2-3 others who will clap only after I show them it's OK, so now it's me, my friend, and 2-3 others. The participation percentage hasn't changed over the years: the vast majority of fans seem content to sit and watch except maybe when Hail Purdue is played. As we have said so many times in this space, fan energy is a thing, players are motivated by it, and that's why they prefer to play at home. At the very least, clap when the student section claps? It's not hard. Look for the person who leads them and do what he does.
  • The flip side to adding premium seating is that you get situations where the rest of the sections are crowded, but there are gaps in the fancy seats, and ushers have to explain why you can't sit there. Holloway's not always that vigilant, especially when it's near capacity (which makes you wonder how many general-admission tickets they sell ... most of the gym is reserved seating, so I wouldn't be surprised if they do the airlines thing and oversell), but all I ask is that if you're going to move into the fancy seats, make some noise. Do better than the people who couldn't make it.
  • Before the Saturday evening match, we went up to the team store on the north side of Ross-Ade, and I talked to one of the employees there about the jersey thing. (My long-term goal is to own every jersey from 1-20; Shondell usually has 16 players, and there are 16 home matches, so I'd wear every player's number once.) I'll paraphrase, but he confirmed they are limited in what they can offer because the NCAA is run by a bag of ... anyway, they can't allow schools to offer every number because then they'd be even more screwed in the ongoing lawsuits (clearly making money off players without giving them any). However, there's apparently a pilot project going on where schools can have a personalization setup similar to what NFL teams and online stores have, only mostly the opposite: while NFL custom jerseys have to match current players if you choose their names, NCAA jerseys couldn't match current players (except if you're a direct relative; AIUI those people are allowed to wear them, no doubt an accidental oversight on the NCAA's part). For now, they wouldn't be able to print the names of retired players anyway (same lawsuit); I expect that will change once the NCAA is done for, but in the meantime, school stores would have to screen out potential problem names. Still, the opportunity to buy a licensed jersey with any number on it (and no names! I don't need names!) is a huge, huge step up from where we are today. They're hoping to have that system in place later this year, but if the bag of you-know-whats has its way, it'll probably be next year.
  • Also, I picked up a Big Ten mini-helmet set, the set in that image at the top that has 12 helmets in it. EAT IT DELANY
  • It was nice spending time in a BWW that had Purdue memorabilia in it. (Indianapolis is not a neutral city.) Got some good trivia in, watched some exhibition football, some baseball, some CFL stuff ... you know, the usual late-August fare. It's fun watching people trying to analyze exhibition games. (Until it's time for your fantasy football draft. I did manage to end up with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton in my auction keeper league, so I should be OK.) I'm surprised at the number of two-point conversion attempts: teams seem to either do none at all so that they can unveil a trick play when they need one (which of course won't work because they didn't practice it), or they do too many and end up at a score that could make overtime possible. (Nobody wants overtime during the exhibition season.) There are few secrets in the NFL. Run the plays you want to run, show other teams possibilities, and then make them guess wrong.

OK, enough rambling. Are you ready for some football? Bring on Sunday and Marshall, Marshall, Marshall.

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