*This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.*
This is more than a post made just because I am getting paid for it. Sure, EA Sports has provided the impetus for this by agreeing to pay all the college football bloggers at SBNation if we make these posts, but they can be something more. They can be the origin story for each of us. With the topics that the Editorial staff has chosen for this week there is plenty of open space for discussion about our origins as fans and some of the great teams and players of the past. It should be a fun week.
Or, I simply sold out because someone offered to throw a check my way for a few minutes of work. It's your choice as a reader. I'll queue up Reel Big Fish if you'd like.
Today's focus is how I became a Purdue fan. I would love to hear your stories in the comments or as FanPosts, but here is mine.
I write here because I strangely have the gift to write and I want to be the voice of the fans for Purdue. As a part-time professional journalist I have long been taught the adage about not cheering in the press box. Unfortunately, that too often carries over to the coverage of said team. My goal since starting this simple blog has been to write with the passion of the average fan. That's all I want to do. Really, all I am is a fan that has been blessed to have this outlet that continues to grow beyond my wildest dreams. I want to keep that, even if it means barely containing myself while courtside at the Big Ten Tournament. As I explain below, it is in my blood.
I have pretty much been a Purdue fan from birth. My dad is a 1975 graduate from the School of Pharmacy, so the genes are certainly there. He has never been as big of a sports fan as me though. Mostly it was my mother and her father that allowed me to grow up as such as sports fan. I used to watch the Cubs almost every summer afternoon with my grandfather, while my mother started taking me to high school basketball games before I could walk. Since my beloved Kokomo Wildkats play in one of the best high school gyms on the planet and have long been one of the better teams in the state, the love of basketball came easily.
But Purdue is in my blood. I came home from the hospital after being born in a small Purdue outfit. Almost 31 years later rarely a day goes by that I am not sporting Purdue gear, be it a shirt, hat, or well worn basketball shorts. It is quite common to see me in Indianapolis running along the canal in Purdue shorts and an old, ratty T-shirt.
While my dad is not the sports fan I am, he has always had season tickets to Purdue football. His motto used to be, "I get to see a lot of good football, unfortunately none of it is Purdue. I get to see Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame..." As part of their honeymoon my parents went to the 1978 Bucket Game. Only two events have really caused them to miss a significant stretch of games: My birth in October of 1979 and my sister's wedding in 1994 when they "spent too much on the wedding to get tickets". At 14, I wasn't really happy about that.
For years they used to go to games and leave me with my grandparents. In 1987 they ended up getting a third season ticket and taking me along. I still remember my first game at Ross-Ade, a 22-22 tie with Louisville on September 19, 1987. I thought I was the envy of my second grade class because I got to go to Purdue games now. Unfortunately, that was also the dawn of the Fred Akers-Jim Colletto era. It would be 10 years before I would see a winning season.
I am not sure why I became such a fan in those years. I think it was because of the atmosphere. Purdue was in a stretch where they would beat a MAC team, Northwestern, maybe one other Big Ten foe, and possibly IU. That would be considered a good season in those days. Even so, going to games was an event for the young me. It was fun to get up on a Saturday, have breakfast at Cracker Barrel with my parents, and experience the college atmosphere. My older sister never liked to go, so it was often just me and my parents.
By the time I was in high school I was missing some games due to band competitions and such, but when I was a senior there was an event that helped solidify my college choice. On September 13th, 1997 my parents were out of town and I had no commitments, so my brother-in-law, his brother, and I used the three tickets to go to Ross-Ade. That was the day the Tiller Era took off as Purdue upset Notre Dame 28-17 in perhaps the biggest shock I have ever seen in person. That game, as well as last season's Ohio State game, are the only times I have gone to Purdue where the last thing I expected was a Boilermaker victory. I think it was a bigger shock than the Ohio State game because of the 12 years stretch of losing seasons beforehand. Seeing the way the campus reacted after the win made my choice for me. I wanted to attend Purdue and experience it all as a student.
While my major of Communications at an engineering and agricultural school was not among the smartest choices I have ever made, I wouldn't trade the fan memories for anything. I got to experience the entire Drew Brees era, culminating in the Rose Bowl. I got to experience the last great Gene Keady team and near Final Four berth. I got to experience a women's basketball national championship and near second title two years later. It is silly, but being in the student section for Brees-to-Morales remains one of the happiest moments of my life.
To close things, I go back to my father, the non-sports fan. He always promised us that we would go to the Rose Bowl if Purdue ever made it. My mom and I never believed him. In 1997 I told him that Purdue was good when they got back in town after beating Notre Dame. He still didn't believe. After going to the Wisconsin game that year he started to believe a little, but we still came up short. I still didn't think we were going until Purdue beat Indiana to clinch that berth on a chilly November night in 2000. Once I met my parents after celebrating on the field dad told me to look up flight information while they drove back to Kokomo.
He booked the reservation the next day.
It was even better than it looks.