Friday afternoon of Grand Prix Weekend 2012. It's 45 degrees with a steady downpour and I'm standing on my neighbors' covered patio. My buddies and I have talked for days about playing a pickup game of basketball at a park nearby, and Friday afternoons usually work the best for us. But as Mother Nature would have it, not one of us bothers to check the weather this morning.
The wind begins to pick up and I am shivering in a t-shirt and jeans, hung over from our previous night's shenanigans. One of my friends insists on playing a different day. Another reminds us all that we won't meet again until the weekend is over.
Finally, we come to the decision of playing in this cold rain. I sprint across the adjacent parking lot to my apartment and throw on a few layers of athletic gear. Ten minutes pass and my neighbors are at my door. We walk the three soggy blocks to the park and throw our coats down on a bench.
As we start to play, I can quickly see what a mistake we've made. There is a clear layer of water lining the court. Thus, the basketball becomes slick and impossible to dribble. With nearly every jump shot I take, the ball glides out of my hands with an awkward prematurity that takes me back to my grade school playground. On another occasion, I slip and do the splits right under the basket on an open layup attempt. Now I understand why basketball is always played indoors.
As heroic as it may feel to play in these conditions, I swear passersby must think we look like fools. Instead of beating up on each other like we usually do during pickup games, my friends and I end up getting our butts kicked by the elements. It ends up being quite a funny scene. An irony powerful enough to knock you down, scrape your elbows and build some character inside of you.
When the game is finished, I let out a hard, well-deserved laugh--mainly because it hit close to home for me.
My lifelong experience with sports has been full of character building moments.
Being born a third generation Boilermaker to two Chicagoans, I practically came out of the womb a Chicago and Purdue sports fan. I like to tell people that growing up a die-hard Bears fan has prepared me immensely to be a full-time Boilermaker, with all of the ups and downs and wide range of emotions I normally have to endure with both teams and their administrations.
To give you a glimpse, just recently the Bears picked up Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins, in hopes of quelling Jay Cutler's cries for help after being sacked 110 times in his first 41 games with Chicago (that's no lie, look it up). To many Bears fans, including myself, this seemed like a major building block towards establishing a dominant aerial attack in Chi-Town.
In that same month, the Bears also managed to franchise tag stud workhorse Matt Forte and then sign free agent RB Michael Bush to a 4 year, $14 million deal.
And then not long after these incidents, I remember reading a Lovie Smith quote. It was something to the effect of, "We [the Bears] are still committed to the power running game." And then I had to remember to breathe.
I couldn't believe it. After all that the Chicago Bears have invested in Jay Cutler, they continue to drop the ball with helping him reach his full potential by putting the proper, like-minded talent around him. To hear the head coach of my team say that he still wants to run the football first after picking up Brandon Marshall for Jay Cutler is absurd. Even more absurd is seeing the Bears deny Forte--who on average accounts for over half of their offense--a long term contract, and then sign a much less-proven back to a hefty, long term deal. It is these sorts of things I experience as a Bears fan that regularly drive me insane.
But, I don't find being a Bears fan entirely excruciating. Heck, Chicago has had its moments in the past few years. Since 2006, they have appeared in one Super Bowl and two NFC Championship games--which is much more than most other NFL teams have accomplished in that time span.
And that is where I immediately see comparisons between my Bears and Boilermakers. Purdue Football is classically an above-average program in the Big Ten, yet they constantly appear to be on a roller coaster. Sometimes they are red hot and other times they downright stink.
Some highlights of last year's roller coaster ride include: a narrow win over Middle Tennessee State to open the season at home, a stupefying loss at Rice off a blocked field goal, a thrashing by Notre Dame in Ross-Ade, home upsets of the ranked Illinois and Ohio State, another narrow escape in Bloomington against the 1-11 Hoosiers to recapture the Old Oaken Bucket, and finally a win in the Big Ten's final qualifying bowl game against the second ranked MAC team.
When all of these outcomes occur in the same season, some differing and wild emotions might fly around. Don't get me wrong. I was very proud of the football team last year. And I was more than ecstatic to see Purdue finally back in a bowl game. But last season seemed to be the epitome of what the Boilermakers typically deliver. Every time I seemed to be excited about the football team's accomplishments, it wasn't too long before they started giving me a headache again.
And being a Bears and Boilermakers fan for years now has convinced me that this is what builds character as a sports fan. I love my Boilermakers with all of my blood, sweat and tears. And if anything proves that, it is the many successes and failures I emotionally experience with my sports teams.
With every blow my teams take, I am standing right there with them in a sense, taking a shoulder pad to the chin. And every time I get knocked on my butt, I pick myself up, wash the blood off and get ready to knock the other guy in the mouth next time. This is what being a Boilermaker has taught me: to be tough, and to learn to take the receiving with the giving.
Now, I may not be a professional athlete with god given talent or some old analyst with a lifelong intelligence and wisdom of the game. But I am a guy who loves and knows sports, has a soap box to stand on and has one hell of a character.
And I have my Purdue Boilermakers to thank for that every day.
My name is Myles Madey. In the future, I look forward to delivering to the many fans of Hammer & Rails my honest and unforgiving opinions and insights into all things Boiler Nation. I truly think Boilermakers are the greatest fans in the world, and as such I can only deliver to the readers of this blog my very best.
Here's to the many colorful posts and discussions related to Purdue Sports that I hope to deliver.
In ending my first H&R post, I suppose I should ease the getting-to-know-you phase by listing more of my experiences and opinions within sports:
- I grew up a Bears fan in Wisconsin. I can take crap from anyone after all of the crap I get from Packers fans back home.
- The criticism of Jay Cutler after the 2010 NFC Championship game was crap. If you disagree, please see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8k4sM4U8yI
- As I noted earlier, Jay Cutler has been sacked 110 times in 41 games for Chicago. The Bears need to draft an Offensive Lineman next Thursday. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn't know jack.
- My mom is a Cubs fan, my dad is a White Sox fan, and I am a Brewers fan. Baseball season is weird around my house.
- It is the firm belief of both my father and I that the Cubs will not win a World Series until Wrigley is demolished and a new Wrigley is built elsewhere. Why, you may ask? Because the goat is buried somewhere in the outfield.
- Derrick Rose will eventually win the Bulls a seventh NBA championship, but only when he learns to play a less aggressive, more controlled game.
- I don't think LeBron will ever win an NBA championship. He seems to lack the clutch gene when it matters most--in the NBA Finals.
- I find the possibility of Purdue Football having three active and formerly starting quarterbacks this coming season to be very intriguing. It should be a tight race between Rob Henry, Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve all through spring and summer camp. That being said, I think Marve will begin the season as the starter. But, I don't think he will retain that post for very long.
- My prediction for Purdue Football this upcoming season: 7-5 with losses to Notre Dame away, Michigan at home, Wisconsin at home, Ohio State away and Iowa away. Purdue will qualify for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas as the Big Ten's #6
- Purdue Basketball's success next season hinges majorly on upcoming senior D.J. Byrd's leadership and production.
- The incoming recruiting class for Purdue Basketball has the potential to take the team to unfamiliar heights. Between Ronnie Johnson, A.J. Hammons, Raphael Davis and Jay Simpson, I think at least one Elite Eight appearance in the next four years is in order.
- I like both Rick Reilly and Bill Simmons. They are excellent writers and their rivalry is stupid. There, I said it.