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Purdue Football: I Forgive You

It’s a leap of faith and it’s time to take it.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

I forgive you. I don’t care what any rom-com says, those are the most powerful words we as humans can give to one another. It’s not I love you. Loving is easy. But willingly choosing to forgive someone for doing you wrong takes real courage.

It’s not easy. Trusting someone again. Trusting someone who hurt you.

But it’s so tempting the first time. We’re human. These things happen. You don’t want to waste your investment. You forgive them.

Then they hurt you again.

Up until about a month ago, I hadn’t ever really been betrayed. I know at 29 that makes me one of the few. That if anything I’m lucky it happened at an age where I understand the disposable nature of relationships. We love and then we move on and do it again. That’s the benefit of being a single guy without kids. There’s no real collateral damage, but that’s also the curse. There’s nothing anchoring me to hold me down against the storms.

It gets bad and I leave. I’m incredibly stubborn. I’m not good with giving second chances.

It doesn’t matter how many pretty words they find. It doesn’t matter how many different ways they try to tell you this time will be different. That pain you feel when someone hurts you, and I mean really betrays you, is a pit. Those words are just stones and the void is too large. It can’t be filled.

Can you start to see the metaphor?

Hope was the first betrayal. An honest mistake. He was a local guy. He knew the colors, he knew the landscape, he had that fire, that pep. It made sense. Tiller had lost his fastball late, but it still seemed like there was an edge of glory still waiting for Purdue to hang onto.

But Hazell was unforgivable. I told myself I was done after his second year. He was awful, a constant reminder of Purdue’s Athletic Department letting us down and sticking with it. There was no excuse for it. We didn’t even get the full measure of it until much later. It wasn’t just that he wasn’t a good coach. He didn’t seem like a good leader. He wasn’t even giving the effort. He stopped recruiting. (In this metaphor I really want to compare Shoop to a baby born out of wedlock, but that’s unfair to babies. At least babies are cute and could grow up to be more successful at almost anything than Shoop was at calling plays.)

But then Purdue fired Hazell. And I’m reminded again of real life. How quickly the anger seems to dissipate when you step back. Once you get away from the black cloud, you start to see the openings in the sky where light shines through. She’s got a great laugh. Saturday mornings used to be so much fun when there was a game. You should at least respond to her text. You can still be friends. Isn’t it time you stopped punishing her? You should at least go to a game, tickets are cheap or possibly free. What else are you going to do until basketball season? You used to love this stuff. They’re both trying to be better.

Purdue hired Jeff Brohm to not just change a program, but to resurrect it. That’s where Purdue football is now. It needs to be shocked back into life. But I’m wary. You’re probably wary, too. I’ve been promised changes before.

But that’s the thing. We’re smart enough to know when real change occurs.. The stories have started to leak out on just how terrible that last guy was. That he wasn’t active. That there was a total lack of cohesion. Practices were sloppy, players were held unaccountable, and we’ve heard from numerous sources that an alarming numbers of players felt like Hazell didn’t care. There was no connection. He was just going through the motions.

It doesn’t feel like that now. Brohm isn’t just more active, he’s everywhere. He’s rebuilding pipelines that had rusted. He’s making phone calls and showing up at events. He’s holding players accountable. He’s got his guys in the places he wants them, coaching his style with his purpose.

Here’s the hardest part about moving back to something that’s hurt us. It’s almost impossible to slip off the baggage. Yes, we will be bad this year. College football programs can’t be changed in one year. There’s culture to be crafted.

But you and I as fans, we can’t hold onto the old relationship’s sins as we move forward. We can’t blame Brohm for previous transgressions. That’s no way to incite happiness in the relationship. That’s no way to reward him and this program into the work they’re doing.

We have to forgive them.

This is all a little silly and convoluted, I get that.

But Purdue football will get better this year. It will get better the year after that. That’s just a matter of replacing Hazell with an even remotely competent replacement. But if Purdue football is to find its glory again, it will take us buying in as well. Not after the fact, but during. We need to invest now to build up the future. We need to start talking again like friends because she used to matter so much to you. We need to start buying tickets. We need to cover Ackerman with tents and rv’s and tailgate ourselves into frenzies. We need to start caring again.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s attainable. One Saturday at a time. Who’s with me?