How a Winning Culture Affected One Family

How a Winning Culture Affected One Family

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Big Ten TV money has been more than a salve for soft ticket sales and a limping football program. But, the administration of the university...the decision makers above Burke don't seem to understand the peripheral costs of losing, and losing BIG. Sure, the athletic department is making more money than it's ever made. But the value of big gameday Saturdays...and seasons of success to the university, aren't really being talked about, but can't be discounted.

I graduated from Purdue in 1997. Within a few months, I was living in the Northeast, working in my first big boy job...and had to be far from my Alma Mater. Before I left town though, I saw Tiller's first team beat Notre Dame. While living in the Boston area, I watched every Purdue game that I could...and even went to see Purdue get beaten up by Penn State in Happy Valley. I also would come back home for a game or two per football season. My favorite trip back was watching Michael Hawthorne shut down Plaxico Burress...while Drew Brees rained fire on Nick Saban's Spartans. MSU was ranked 14 coming into that afternoon...but they weren't when they left God's Country. [Actually, even better, if it's the same game I am thinking of and was at... #5. And Purdue smoked them. -J]

Joe Tiller, Brock Spack, Jim Chaney, Greg Olsen, Billy Dicken, Mike Rose, Michael Hawthorne, Vinnie Sutherland, Rosey Colvin, Isaac Jones, Montrell Lowe, Brandon Gorin, Matt Light and many others helped change the culture around a fanbase. All of them either believed or made others believe that a new era had begun in God's Country...an era in which no games were out of reach and no opponent was unbeatable. Beating ranked opponents changes minds. Winning a bowl game changes a few hearts. Having players recognized by the national media or mentioned on bigger stages makes believers.

Winning matters. Having a culture that cultivates the belief that winning is important is paramount...and sadly, it's a distant memory for Purdue's football program that has been replaced with the goal of finishing somewhere in the middle of the conference. As Dave reminded us earlier this week, low expectations yield lower results.

But before that culture was dismantled, it had an effect on my family. I can't speak about everybody, but I can tell you the way the culture of success affected us.

The first thing we did, is we changed a few habits. For us, the Spring game was a tradition...and going to a couple games was on the docket. But Tiller's brand of football was fun...Gameday was fun. so my brother and I each bought a season ticket, and got a third that my wife or his fiancé would use, depending on the game. Then it became four, six and finally nine season tickets in our block. At our height of buying tickets, my parents, my siblings and their wives all had tickets.

We didn't just limit our spending to tickets at Purdue. We went to Northwestern three times, Illinois, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and MSU...and a few bowl games. On top of that, our closets were FULL of Purdue gear. An odd tradition sprang up in the early oughts at my parent's house. Each time a Purdue item was opened, we'd sing "Hail, Hail...". It still happens, just not as much as it used to. But as black and gold comes out of a Christmas box, someone starts clapping and on cue, you're kinda forced to join in (whether you want to or not).

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Each season, a few pals of mine would come into  town to visit their alma mater as well. I remember one season in particular, they were so worried about getting a good ticket, that they bought two season tickets to assure that they'd have good seats to the game of their choice. Those two guys founded this very site with me and might or might not be in the photo above.

I can remember when things started changing. Sure, having a baby changes things a bit...having two babies within a few months of each other like my wife and sister-in-law did changes things a lot. My wife, sister-in-law, Mom and sister all bailed first. I remember when Mrs. BDowd said to me, "It's just not fun anymore." She didn't really want to tailgate, didn't want to get a sitter 6 Saturdays each fall...it made sense...But The Boilerdowd men kept going. But as 6-6 seasons became the good ones, our habits slid back and how we spend our money changed again.

Honestly, I still had tickets to about every game that I wanted to go to...thanks to many of you reading. So I went to games...but I couldn't tell you the last football season in which I went to two tailgates or my entire family had tickets to multiple games...and that stinks.

When Nancy Cross belittled the most loyal Purdue fans for not doing enough to help the athletic department...And Tom Schott directly gave me crap for having the audacity to run a fan site and seek a press pass...then the athletic department added surcharges onto the season tickets of the most-consistent ticket holders, my conscience for not buying football tickets eased quite a bit.

The more I read, the more Purdue football I watch, the less guilty I feel about allowing our money to be spent elsewhere. Sure, I still go to about four games a season with my son. My daughter and wife will go to one as well. But I truly miss the magical Saturdays in West Lafayette...when we'd be on campus by 8:00a, watch the good guys beat somebody, then find someplace on campus to catch a bit more football, before heading home to watch even more and hope that highlights of our ranked Boilermakers' victory would be sprinkled throughout the telecasts of other games.

Check out the photo of Brees triumphantly celebrating that TD v. MSU above. That's nearly 70,000 Purdue fans that left the game with exceeded expectations (that were pretty high to begin with)...and days like that feel like light years in the past, sadly. In fact, many of you who are reading have no recollection of the early '00s and everything that came with massive wins.

Big Ten TV money has been more than a salve for soft ticket sales and a limping football program. But, the administration of the university...the decision makers above Burke don't seem to understand the peripheral costs of losing, and losing BIG. Sure, the athletic department is making more money than it's ever made. But the value of big gameday Saturdays...and seasons of success to the university, aren't really being talked about, but can't be discounted.

Young kids make their decision about where they want to go to school based on seasons like 2000. And old guys like myself make decisions about how they want to spend their money and time based on seasons like that. On top of that, big victories just matter to the psyche and outlook of a fanbase both during the season and after. This fanbase needs a winner.

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