Yes, I went with Dickens for the title because this was a Dickensian day. Shoot, I would even call it a Greek Tragedy. We all know what happened, so there is no need to announce it. This entry feels more like a post-mortem, but as I discussed with Boilermaker Hero Jordan during the 4th quarter of today's Minnesota game, it has almost become a situation of, "where were you when you found out about Robbie Hummel."
I was sitting in my seats in section 128, enjoying the weather and the fact Purdue was up early and looking good. Then the buzz happened. I forget exactly how I first heard it, but once I heard I immediately searched everything I could with my phone. I even had a moment of false encouragement when I saw that there was nothing new on Twitter. Once the evil refresh kicked in (slowly because everyone else was using the mobile bandwidth) I saw this dreadful message:
"@HammerAndRails has 8 new mentions."
All I could say was, "Oh God, no!"
Mrs. T-Mill confirmed it on her phone before I could, but soon we both saw the news. Robbie re-tore his ACL and was done for the season on the first day of practice.
Honestly, I was numb at that point. I couldn't enjoy the rest of the first half and sat there quietly in hell as I heard the news spread around me. Between me wanting to throw the two kids under four sitting in front of me because of their constant whining and lack of parenting, and hearing over and over again from everyone nearby that he was done I felt like I was going to be physically ill. At halftime I went under the stands and even had about a 15 second session of actual tears as the emotion of seeing three years of waiting for this season go up in smoke overcame me.
The rest of the game was a blur, and I don't mean the John Finch, Carson Wiggs, Kris Staats kind. I ran into Boilerdowd at halftime and he was as numb as I. He told me it was the first time he felt physically affected by something in sports. The third quarter went by, then we went to sit with Jordan of the Boilermaker Heroes in the student section in the fourth quarter.
I don't know if it comes from sitting with the students and their youthful exuberance or what, but they finally helped me move past the first stage of grief. Sure, I am still in denial somewhat. I am hoping it isn't as bad as originally thought. Part of me is even still hoping that it is Saturday morning and I haven't woken up yet. It did happen though, and thanks to Jordan we have a few things to remember:
- Thank God it happened now - Obviously, if his ACL was that fragile it was going to happen sometime this year. We were told for months that he was fine and on schedule, even ahead of schedule. That wasn't the case, and he is gone at the earliest possible time. We have a full month before we even take the floor for a real game, and even then we don't have a serious challenge until going to Virginia Tech on December 1st. We will adjust, and we have the time to do it.
- This is not like last year - We have depth now. Sandi Marcius and Travis Carroll need to be the rebounding threats. D.J. Byrd and Ryne Smith need to pick up the 3-point shooting slack. Kelsey Barlow, you now lost the guard part of your guard-forward role. You need to drive to the basket like Robbie did and distribute if you can. Patrick Bade, if the stories of your improvement are true, it is time to show it.
- We still have JJ and E'Twaun - As the Paint Crew said in a Tweet today, we still have two potential first-team All-Americans. JaJuan Johnson has improved and E'Twaun is a fearless assassin with the other Johnsons to back him up and help with scoring. This team can still score, we have more depth in the low post than we did at any point last year, and we still have a lot of talent.
- We're still Boilermakers - You know what that means, right? We're still going to fight like mad bastards in every game. So we have to tie our shoes a little tighter and buckle down more on defense. We're going to get some leadership and if we have to drag teams down into the hell of slugging it out defensively with us, so be it. Remember when the 2007 team did the same thing to Florida in the NCAA Tournament? That Florida team is one of the best college basketball has seen in the last 20 years, and a team with half the talent we currently have dragged them down into a war. We will make every night a 40 minute war and teams will remember they have played us.
- We still have fans who believe - I don't know about you, but I have come too damn far for this team and this season to quit now. As the Paint Crew also said, this train is leaving the station. Are you on it or off? The pissing and moaning about Robbie being done stops immediately with this entry. It is time to buckle down and fight. The Only Colors has been very supportive on Twitter saying we still have a very good team. They should know something about this considering what they had to overcome last year to make the Final Four.
We cannot, and will not quit. That is not our way. I am sure there are some Indiana fans out there tonight beside themselves with joy that our dream season is allegedly ruined before it begins. So we drop from a top 5 team to a top 15 team before the season begins. The last time I checked those early season rankings mean dick. It only matters what you do in the end, and I absolutely will take the cast we have this year to make some noise. Yes, anything short of a National title will now always carry that What If, but imagine if we can still pull it off?
I am going to fight for this team until we can't fight anymore. I don't care if we have to run out a Walk-On WhiteOut, I will support them. I have been ready for months, nay, years to bleed for this team and this season if asked, and I won't let a little ACL get in my way of supporting that. If I could, I would gladly give both ACLs if it meant a healthy Robbie. That's what this team needs to do now, and coach Painter is going to make damn sure we keep fighting.
Who is with me?