I have been doing this blog for almost seven years if you count to the old origins of the Boilermaker Football Blog (creative, I know) in the days even before Off the Tracks. It's amazing to look back to those pre-SB Nation days with where the Purdue community has come along. Now there is not only this site, but Boiled Sports (which is the Harry's Chocolate Shop to my Class of '50 lecture hall), The Railroad Tie, Boiling Points, and Jumbo Heroes to go along with the GBI forums, Bleacher report, and Rant Sports. When I started, there was basically GBI, and that's it. I built my first audience by basically posting each link in the forums.
All of these are connected by one thing: Loyalty. J Money briefly mentioned the loyalty of Purdue fans on the Handsome Hour last night and I have been thinking about it. Purdue fans are often a minority even in their own state, and nationally the reputation often comes off as a private school. Still, the loyalty carries over. In my travels across this country I have often heard a "Boiler Up!" randomly when someone spots my Purdue hat or shirt. I've also noticed something similar rarely happens when a Notre Dame fan comes across an ND fan, or a Duke fan across a Duke fan.
I asked the guys about this loyalty, which is quite fierce, and I wanted to know if it came from that mentality of being outnumbered. Let's be honest, Purdue has very few bandwagon fans and we rarely give reasons for there to be bandwagon fans. Sure, if Robbie Hummel's three with 12 seconds left drops on Sunday night we might be experiencing our first bandwagon rush because of his story, but for the most part, every person that is a Purdue fan has a connection to the school because they either went there or are related to someone who went there.
I see the opposite all the time with Miami. If Mrs. T-Mill and I are out and about and we have Miami gear we'll occasionally get a comment about it, but if the conversation progresses to her status as an alum, most people are surprised that she actually attended the school. In the Midwest they are known as The U, and their reputation stems from Unle Luke, The Swagger, Football, and the famous documentary.
We don't have that with Purdue. The only documentary you could make about our athletic teams are, "how to deal with a crippling ACL injury" or Everette Stephens and Kyle Orton in "I just had that ball a second ago."
As fans of the Boilermakers, we are linked by the University itself and seemingly unending heartbreak. That is why we cherish the precious few moments where things actually do go our way. If Brees-to Morales happens for Ohio State it is another great play in a long line of success. At Purdue, it takes on almost mythical proportions. Drew Brees, Chris Kramer, and Robbie Hummel have modest accomplishments compared across the whole board of college sports, but at Purdue they are revered and adored because they are one of us, causing moments like Sunday to happen, when an entire fanbase was heartbroken for Rob. When there is success, Purdue people talk about it in reverential tones:
"I was there, in row 5 of the student section for Brees-to-Morales. The ball just hung there."
"Oh yeah, I was in section 24 and I felt time slow down."
We cherish these moments because we love our school and the connection we all formed with it no more than other people with their schools, but they have more moments to share. Most people have no idea who Seth Morales is, but he can walk into Ross-Ade Stadium and get a standing ovation from 60,000 people by his mere presence.
The numbers tell the story. Purdue has the fewest varsity teams of the 12 Big Ten members (18), the fewest NCAA championships (three), and the fewest Big Ten championships (69) of any team that was in the conference before Penn State and Nebraska joined. Hell, the University of Chicago hasn't been a member in almost 70 years and they have more Big Ten championships (73) than Purdue. Can you blame us for grabbing tightly a hold of any winner whatsoever?
A full third of our Big Ten championships have come in men's basketball, thus making it our sport of record, and that's where the second part of our attitude comes from. No matter how much success Purdue has we will have to deal with those damn five banners from the south until we win five (or more) of our own. Each time we come up short, be it because of a critical gaffe (1988), bad luck (Glenn Robinson straining his back in 1994), or even injury (Robbie Hummel in 2010) gives the loudest voices of our biggest opposition cause to say, "See? Same old Purdue," as we grumble to ourselves about what might have been. I know this. I've been there for about a year and a half as this year and their current run happened.
As I said on Sunday night via Twitter, I hold on and become even more loyal, doing things like this site, because I know that every moment like Sunday's loss will make the eventual triumph that much sweeter. I have to believe that it will come, otherwise there is no point in doing a site like this. That's why I don't understand why people verbally berate fans of other programs so much. I hear this today:
I am always unsure of what I am supposed to do with this. Am I supposed to be like, "Yes, you're right! I have been blind all these years and that statement clinches that my faith in an athletic team is misguided and cursed forever. Please, direct me to the nearest outlet where I can buy a ‘We're Back' shirt and teach me the hymns of praise to Cody Zeller."
Of course that's not going to happen. Like most of you, I walked Purdue's campus. I have been sledding on Slayter Hill. I have
drank myself half blind at Harry's studied for hours in The Village. I've had a meal at Triple XXX. Our loyalties are no different than other schools. Castigating us for our loyalty is like getting on a Penn State grad for blind loyalty to Joe Paterno, or getting on an IU grad about playing Sink the Biz at Kilroy's. If you actually went to a school you have a deep connection that cannot be broken.
Purdue's loyalty comes from dealing with stuff like the bandwagoners for other schools that give them a bad name almost every day of our lives. If you're a big-time Purdue fan I am willing to bet you have all heard similar attacks hundreds of times from friends, co-workers, strangers, etc. If you're like me, it makes you hate a team not for the jersey it wears, but because of the ignorant people that follow them. This year's Indiana team is a prime example. It's an excellent team that plays a fun brand of basketball, and from a completely objective standpoint I don't mind watching them play. I'd rather drink Drain-o, however, than wish them success because it only gives the idiots like the dipshit that created a profile based on my dead cat only to insult myself and Robbie Hummel, joy. These idiots come at me all the time since I have a very visible internet presence.
I recognize not all fans of the opposition are like that. Many have been incredibly complimentary of this site, what I do here, and of some of our great players like Rob. I enjoy that kind of mutual respect, but it feels like for every one person that shares that respect there are dozens of durrrrrr PURDON'T! HEY, I'M CLEVER FOR THAT durrrr fans.
In closing, I'd like to see some of your thoughts on Purdue loyalty. I see the loyalty that comes from a very small bandwagon as very fierce, almost bordering on defensive to outsiders, but that is just my observation. A bandwagon can mask the loyal fans of other programs (most notably related to us Notre Dame and Indiana) to outsiders and cause unfair generalizations to happen, but I don't see that with Purdue.
We only have totally loyal fans with no bandwagon, and we're committed to each other's defense. I see it on Twitter with past Purdue athletes like Carl Landry and Brian Cardinal actively cheering for the basketball team, as well as current athletes supporting other sports. I see it on Twitter when readers come to my defense to some attacks without asking. We have a big family mentality.
So what are your thoughts?