This Is Why I Watch Sports
Feature image from @PurdueSports
Purdue football has 4 wins and 3 losses, seven games into the 2018 season. Jeff Brohm has 11 wins as Purdue’s head coach, Darrell Hazell had 9 wins as Purdue head coach, and I’ve been writing for Boiled Sports for all 20 of those wins (and all…well…dozens of those losses).
I got to Purdue at the same time as the Baby Boilers, and got to see every single one of their 122 wins from 2007-2012. I got to see E’Twaun’s Red Button game and the Ryan Kerrigan game in person, both versus OSU.
Talking purely gameplay, my most memorable game as a fan has to be the 2007 Colts/Pats AFC Championship.
None of those came close to how I felt on Saturday, as Purdue destroyed #2 Ohio State with Tyler Trent in attendance.
Sports are a weird thing. When it’s bad, it can get really ugly. But when it’s good…man, when it’s good, it can bind together people that have nothing else in common, it can create otherwise improbable bonds, it makes for a wonderful excuse to see (or group chat) people that you love and don’t want to lose contact with.
For me, time and time again, sports established a trust and foundation for close friendships. It gives an excuse for me and my brother to randomly text each other, or for my mom (a Purdue grad and Butler professor) to chide me every time our Boilermakers lose to the Bulldogs during the Crossroads Classic.
My family would take yearly trips to India to see our grandparents in the 90s, and nothing would make me more furious than seeing an endless amount of Chicago Bulls #23 jerseys (and, later, LA Lakers #24/#8 jerseys) worn by people who couldn’t point to Chicago on a map. In retaliation, as a 7-year-old, I made the conscious decision to make that 24+ hour international trip wearing a bold Reggie Miller jersey over a Purdue t-shirt, just so that the state of Indiana got its international representation.
(I’ve now switched to a much more mature Martin Vintage Purdue shirt, because we’re all adults.)
Sports have given a common language for me, the 6’4” son of Indian immigrants that sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of ruby-red Indiana, to form a bond with my community. Nothing disarms people more than wearing a throwback Purdue shirt and talking about any team between the Three Amigos and the Swanigan Boilermakers, from lamenting the Akers years to celebrating the highs of Tiller and Brohm, or bonding over the Reggie game winners and Colts comeback wins over the years.
Sports have given me a community, a language, close friendships, and invaluable memories I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
And I haven’t talked about a single score, a single diagrammed play, a single scheme or trick play.
Tyler Trent reminded me of that on Saturday. A win or loss didn’t really matter, at least before kickoff. Seeing Tyler achieve his goal of attending the Ohio State game at Ross Ade in person brought immeasurable joy, while sitting hundreds of miles away from West Lafayette. (And I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that feeling.)
I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Tyler over Twitter during the last couple years, when he was simply an exceptional Exponent sportswriter who had beaten cancer once and had a Boiled Sports sticker on his laptop. After his roller coaster 2018, and after finally meeting Tyler at the Mizzou game, I wanted nothing more than to see him enjoy Saturday’s Ohio State game in person.
An entertaining game? A win? All of that was secondary.
Because that’s the point of sports. Sports bind us together unconditionally, especially for a team like Purdue where dozens of conditions are necessary to maintain sanity. Purdue fans stick together, because nobody randomly decides to be a Purdue fan, because all Purdue fans have a connection with Purdue. Which means all Purdue fans have a connection to each other.
That’s why Tyler’s story has resonated so strongly with the entire fan base. He’s one of us, one of the best of us. So why wouldn’t we band together to make his fight an iota easier, even if just for a day?
Brohm’s Boilermakers made sure that Saturday night was a truly special one with their exceptional play on the field. And Tyler was watching in a Ross Ade box seat, on the sidelines with the Big Bass Drum, and in the locker room getting the game ball.
This is why sports matter. It’s not the actual gameplay, which are children’s games with arbitrary rules. It’s the community that surrounds the sport, it’s the way Tyler pours himself into Purdue athletics, it’s the way we all rallied around him to give him and his loved ones a memorable night.
In the end, it’s what we do for each other that matters. And if the way we love and support each other is through sports, then sports do matter. For us, for our community, and for Tyler.