I’ve been a Purdue fan my whole life. I grew up in a Purdue family with a dad who graduated from Purdue and three older brothers who went there as well. When I was little I remember taking numerous two hour drives to West Lafayette to attend football and basketball games. We went to far more basketball games than football games, I did grow up in Indiana after all.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always thought Purdue can and will win a national title in basketball, and in my younger and more naive days I thought Purdue could win a national title in football in my lifetime. There’s a part of me that still believes that. Before Purdue can get to either one of those mountaintops there’s one thing standing in the way, the Purdue Mentality.
We’re all friends here. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend is be brutally honest. If you’re friend is about ready to marry someone who is an awful person/cheated on them at some point you’ve gotta tell the friend right? It might hurt initially but at the end of the day it’s going to be good for them. Well, consider me the friend who knows the secret. Are you ready for the hard truth? Some Purdue fans are holding Purdue back.
I know it’s not a popular opinion but so many Purdue fans are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always waiting for the star to get injured, always ready for the late game collapse, or the third quarter collapse in football. Because of that it seems to me that a lot of fans don’t go all in on their team. We may love our team but do we believe in them? I’m not asking for blind loyalty, I’m just asking for belief.
I’m just as guilty as anyone else with this as well. During the end of the Tiller years and the entirety of the Hope and Hazell eras I was just hoping for six wins. I was just hoping to be competitive. I wasn’t hoping to contend because I thought I was being smart. I wasn’t being smart, I was being cynical (and kind of realistic). Being a cynic doesn’t make you smarter than everyone else, refusing to buy into a culture change doesn’t make you the cool kid at school. To me, there’s nothing wrong with believing in a team even if in the end you’re wrong. It’s all just a game anyway and if you don’t buy in it’s not just as fun.
I’m an optimist by nature and I think that has served me well throughout not only my fandom but also my entire life. As far as my sports fandom goes I’ve needed that optimism to keep me going. I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. I’m a Tampa Bay Bucs fan. I’m a Purdue fan. None of those teams are particularly known for greatness yet I’m still here day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year cheering them on. Even this season when the Reds were absolutely terrible I was excited to see when they were on TV just so I could check in on them.
Purdue gets mocked quite a bit by other fan bases for having a little brother syndrome. We constantly view ourselves as the underdog not getting respect and not getting the love of the national media that we feel we deserve. As much as we fight back against that charge there is some truth to it. I don’t mind being categorized as the underdog. In fact, I embrace it. The problem becomes when you let that mentality consume you, when you let it overtake you and it becomes your identity.
Purdue CAN do great things and this new staff under Jeff Brohm has already shown a drastic improvement in wins and losses and just effort. That renewed spirit of optimism can be seen in the increased attendance that we’ve covered here on the site. You can see it if you follow the comments on our website, on Facebook, or if you logon to Twitter and just see the general excitement from Purdue twitter #brohmsquad. That excitement is contagious. That excitement, even if the team doesn’t go to a bowl game this year, will have a positive impact on the team for next season and beyond due to the recruiting bounce.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college sport and lately Purdue has struggled in that area. Jeff Brohm injected this school with excitement when he was hired and now he has just continued to pump excitement directly into the veins of the fanbase. Riding this wave of excitement Brohm can now go into homes across the state and even the country and point to a groundswell of excitement around Purdue not only at home but in the national media. There are already whispers of people looking at Brohm should other jobs become open and that should indicate to anyone how much of a difference Brohm has made in just one season.
In order for Purdue to continue this momentum the team WILL eventually need to win, but the Purdue fanbase needs to help the team get there. The fanbase has to buy in and stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. For as long as I can remember the eternal heartbreak that has been being a Purdue fan has weighed on the psyche of the fanbase. For Brohm, and Purdue, to ultimately succeed they need a buy in from the fan base. They need the fan base to buy tickets, they need the fanbase to donate money, and they need the fanbase to make Ross-Ade a fun place to play a football game.
If you’re still with me at this point you’re probably saying to yourself isn’t this a problem that the Athletic Department needs to work on? Isn’t this part of Marketing & Promotions and the key leadership in the Athletic Department? If you’re asking that you’d be absolutely right. Purdue fans can’t carry the weight on their own. Purdue fans need the administration to buy in as well. They have. In case you haven’t noticed Bobinski and the Board of Trustees spent a boatload of money on firing Hazell, hiring Brohm, updating facilities, and adding lights to Ross-Ade. Now, they have to keep this up, they can’t allow the facilities to fall behind like they did under Morgan Burke. Like it or not major college sports is an arms race. It’s an arms race Purdue abstained from for too long. With Bobinski and Berghoff calling the shots Purdue has jumped in the arms race head first. Purdue is starting at a disadvantage and has catching up to do but given time they can certainly do it.
In order to reach that next peak, that proverbial next level that Tiller always talked about, Purdue football needs you. We’ve found out athletic director, our Board of Trustees leader, and our football coach. Now, what we need is you.