I feel bad for my son sometimes...especially on mornings like yesterday. He's been a Purdue fan since before he can remember, and that's my fault, not his choice. He's been going to Black/Gold games in the spring, football games in the fall and basketball games in the winter since he was in a Baby Bjorn (you younger people might not know or care what that is, but it's the baby carrier that acts like a kangaroo pouch and makes self-respecting fathers and mothers look like tools; yes, I wore one).
I was getting him ready to brave the cold Thursday morning and told him it was gonna be tough...he said, "I know."
I told him not to get defensive, just state the facts- Purdue played poorly...horribly, actually...and tell them that IU is very good this year, Purdue just isn't. It typically disarms people and diffuses the situation, but not always, as many of you know.
There are people out there who might be in my son's class...they're jerks because their Dads are jerks. Heck, some would say my son's Dad is a jerk, and at times they're correct. But, I don't taunt people, even after a big win. Wearing a Purdue hat the day after Purdue beats IU and not saying a thing is enough. One of my son's best friends is from an IU family...I'm sure he had an IU hat on yesterday; I hope he didn't make an ass out of himself with his mouth...he was already dressed kinda stupid (I kid, I kid).
I made the decision to be a Boilermaker, officially anyway, back in 1992 when I decided to go to school in God's country. I loved going to school at Purdue. I was enrolled at Miami of Ohio to study architecture...but after I visited the place, this time as a perspective student, that I had visited 1,000 times as a fan, I knew where I should spend my next four years. It was a great decision.
J caused a dust-up Wednesday night on Twitter by saying Purdue fans and IU fans have one thing and common- neither went to IU. And while he was half-joking, the half of him that wasn't joking knew the people he was talking about.
There are great things about success between the lines- gameday atmosphere is appreciably better, it's always more fun to actually be covered by the national sports media, beating rivals allows you to walk around those people with your head held a bit higher...all good stuff. But, the underbelly of success is it attracts people that view the team as mere entertainment, not part of a university.
Extreme cases of this include PSU fans turning a blind eye to Paterno's problems, or not caring about aOSU players getting paid cars or tattoos...Lesser cases include people saying IU only broke small rules and shouldn't have been punished after getting in bed with a known cheater. Doesn't matter; all those people are maroons.
The idealist part of me hopes that people respect their alma mater enough to want it to look respectable...Sure, alums want to see winning teams, but I hope they want to see winning done the right way.
Back when I was in college, Glenn Robinson's popularity and success attracted a whole new type of fan. Purdue was actually popular simply because Robinson was undeniably good. His popularity led to Purdue gear being sold in national outlets. Eastbay started carrying Purdue gear...and this was before Purdue had Nike uniforms- the national market wanted a piece of Purdue basketball; really just loved Glenn Robinson.
That's all well and good; always nice to have more fans. But, one day, I was watching the news and saw a guy getting arrested for multiple homicides in Chicago...wearing a Big Dog jersey and Purdue hat (kids today would call it an old school snapback); That display was probably not the best representation of the Purdue brand.
Indeed, not all publicity is good publicity- For instance, getting your ass handed to you and EsPN's heads snickering about it isn't ever good...and not all fans are good fans; especially those who love hopping on and off the bandwagon...IU has a glut of those.
Switching from UND football to IU basketball is a badge of honor for many people from Indiana...We all see it as a punchline. It makes no sense to use how someone can remove the school portion of college sports and just see IU's basketball as mere entertainment and switch gears to UND football...but tens of thousands do without a second thought.
Typically Purdue fans are a step away from the university; Dad, brother, Mom or sister went to the greatest university in all the land OR they went there themselves. It's not that the Purdue family doesn't want fans that didn't go to school there, but if you don't have a connection to God's country, it's not always easy to be a Purdue fan...and it's hardly ever popular. Heck, it's so unpopular that the biggest paper in Indiana doesn't even have Purdue dedicated coverage; they farm it out to their sister paper.
More recently, the national media (read this time as EsPN's Dana O'Neil) chose to simply ignore Purdue when speaking of the rich history of basketball in the state of Indiana. One of our readers, Chris, took umbrage with this and wrote EsPN to point out their error:
Dana,I grew up in California, and now live in Oregon, but for 20 years I lived in Indiana. Never have I seen a more hyped up fan-base for grade school, high school, AAU, and college basketball. My daughter played up through high school, and sometimes the overenthusiasm actually bothered me. I’ve been to a standing room only gym to watch Greg Oden take on Jajuan Johnson in 2007, and see Johnson take on Eric Gordon in Hinkle the same year. So, it was nice to see this recognized.
However, I have to say that I was very disappointed in your article by the time I reached the end. In a 4400 word article on the history of Indiana basketball, it had to have been intentional to leave out the following team:· Most Big Ten victories all time· Tied for most Big Ten Titles· 2nd and 3rd most winningest coaches in Big Ten history· Has a winning record vs all other Big Ten teams except one· Has a 112-86 all time record vs IU· Has a 37-17 all time record vs ButlerYes, I am telling you that leaving Purdue out was a basketball crime. The same Purdue that was rated 7th (I think) in ESPN’s all time rankings. I can already hear your come back: “But IU is #3 and Butler is #10, where is Purdue? Purdue isn’t relevant right now.”To that I say, two years ago Purdue had a consensus 1st team AA in Jajuan Johnson, and was ranked #3 just three years ago, but I never saw an article on ESPN even close to this. The bias at ESPN is amazing.
Your historical article would have had a nice pop to it if it was mentioned that 28% of Big Ten titles had come from the state. Instead, the word Purdue was mentioned 4 times, twice derisively, once in a quote by Dakich, and once more when you almost had to when talking about John Wooden’s career.
It’s ironic to write this after Purdue got destroyed last night, but for you to write an article on the history of Indiana basketball and not include Purdue was very short sighted on your part.-Chris (name withheld here)Purdue Grad 1995
Did you catch that? Chris is still fighting for our school's honor in the wake of the worst home defeat ever...because in spite of that awful game, he's still proud of Purdue; as he should be...he even gives facts to why he feels that way.
If you're a Purdue fan, you're probably a bit like Chris and the BS staff- you probably have a chip on your shoulder...maybe it's treatment like this that made you that way or maybe Purdue attract fighters and individuals who just like going against the grain. Whatever it is, we are what we are. Outsiders see Pete as an ugly mascot, I think Boilermakers see the idea of an ironworker as emblematic of the no-nonsense, kinda pissed off group that we are.
Times are tough right now...football has been mediocre for what seems like forever (but our squad still beats the crap out of IU regularly), and is now in transition and the basketball program is in the midst of a painful overhaul. And that IU game was horribly painful...no doubt about it. But if you're anything like me, you haven't given up the ship...not even close.
Better things are coming soon- I love Darrell Hazell as Purdue's new football coach, and still think Painter is the right guy to be leading the basketball program.
But even if both were to fail miserably, I'd still be a Boilermaker. Nothing changes that I loved my time on campus and feel that Purdue has helped shape me in more ways than just preparing me for my professional life. When Purdue loses, I still wear my gear. Sure, I was embarrassed by what transpired at Mackey on Wednesday night...but I'm not embarrassed by my alma mater.
Ever grateful, ever true.