I have been a Purdue fan all of my life. No kidding, for as long as I can remember I have cheered on the Old Gold and Black. Why? I’m sure it had something to do with 3 older siblings attending Purdue University for college, as well as earning my own undergraduate degree from the West Lafayette campus. The allegiance was built early and runs deep. I can remember in elementary school wearing a different Purdue shirt every day of the week. My teachers even commented on my regular Purdue attire. Hey, it made getting dressed easy!
During the mid to late 70’s (my formative years) Purdue had a pretty good run in football and basketball. I remember Walter Jordan coming to my youth basketball camp (I still have his autograph somewhere). My sister Phyllis, then a Purdue student, would cut out clippings from the sports page of The Exponent (Purdue’s campus newspaper) and send them home to me. This was my pre-internet fix for Boilermaker sports news.
I attended my very first game in Mackey arena on Joe Barry Carroll’s senior day, compliments of my brother Tom. I can still remember Joe Barry (7′ tall) giving his mother (maybe 5′ tall) a dozen roses as he was introduced and honored prior to that game. His team would go on to play in the NCAA 1980 Final Four – the last time the good guys made it that far. The next year Gene Keady would take the helm as coach, serving a 25 year tenure. I would have student season tickets in the early 1980’s and enjoy cheering on the Boilers in person. Keady had some good teams, and was a natural fit, helping to further establish the Purdue way – working hard with student athletes who fit the Boiler ethos.
My first Purdue football game was as a freshman on campus. John Elway brought the Stanford Cardinal to Ross-Ade Stadium to face Scott Campbell and the gridiron Boilers. Unfortunately I hit a bleak football window as a student on campus that was post Jim Young & pre Joe Tiller as coaches. It would be good preparation for the post Joe Tiller years! (Thank goodness for Jeff Brohm – things are looking up!)
I like to think cheering for the Boilermakers builds character. We are not one of the nation’s blue blood basketball or football programs, racking up elite recruiting classes, “one and dones”, or prime television exposure. We are more of a blue collar, four year, under-the-radar, get your degree program with a loyal and educated fan base who appreciate tradition, and good hard play. With Purdue Pete as our mascot, we’ve cheered on players (and coaches – Keady) who seemed to embody him – Jim Rowinski and, more recently, Isaac Haas, come to mind.
Which brings me to my motivation for writing this blog post. Purdue fans know our share of heartbreak and disappointment. We still grieve what might have been the year Big Dog Robinson took his team to the Elite Eight, only to injure his back. We can’t help but wonder what could’ve happened if Robbie Hummel had not blown out his knee and the baby boilers could’ve stayed together through their storied chapter. And now – now, the big guy in the middle – who appears to be just as nice and kind as he is huge – big Isaac has gone down with a fractured elbow. An enjoyable season, seemingly filled with such possibility, may not end as hoped.
But that’s life, isn’t it? It sure has been my life. And no matter if the good guys beat Butler and move on to the Sweet Sixteen or don’t, I’ll be a Purdue fan the next day and the day after that, and every day that follows. Being a Purdue fan has taught me patience, perseverance, and perspective. Through Purdue I met the woman I would marry and received an education that has served me well. So, with thanks to the likes of Hermann, Everett and Brees; Scheffler, Robinson and Cardinal; a nod to 200 Russell Street, the Quad and Chauncey Hill . . . . I say, “Boiler Up!”
Ever Faithful, Ever True . . . . .