Full disclosure, I was born in 1985. I don’t think I know anyone who was alive and can remember Purdue’s last Men’s Basketball National Title from 1932. Yes, I understand it’s a Helm’s Title and there was no NCAA Tournament yet, but a man dying of thirst doesn’t turn away non bottled water. If you actually remember the 1932 season of Purdue basketball that means you’re at least 94 years old but probably older. What I’m trying to say is that the average Joe on the street has never seen Purdue win a National Title. Hell, I wasn’t alive the last time Purdue made the Final Four (1980). The farthest I’ve seen Purdue get is the Elite 8 and the only thing that happens during the Elite Eight is heartbreak. Or that’s how it seems. Glenn Robinson’s back. Brian Cardinal and Wisconsin. That other game that’s too close in our minds to even discuss.
We Purdue fans are a jumpy bunch these days. I can’t speak to how it was pre-internet but what I can speak to is the current nature of the fan base. Anytime one of our writers looks ahead to the conference schedule or a big game that maybe is two games down the road we get scolded by a certain segment of the population to take things “one game at a time”. Well, folks, I hate to be the one to tell you this but none of the writers on this site, or the commenters as far as I know, are on the basketball team or the staff. We can look ahead to the 2025 season if we want to. It will have zero impact on this year’s team.
But I get it. We’ve been burned too many times. We’ve lost hope only to regain it the next year and then be crushed once again. In addition to those Elite Eight losses there are injuries from Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson, Robbie Hummel, Isaac Haas, and of course, Robbie Hummel that derailed or set back Purdue seasons.
As this season has progressed and Purdue started out unranked Purdue fans settled into their preferred spot as underdog. That’s what we like, that’s where we’re comfortable. We don’t like the attention or the spotlight. If we’re in the spotlight we wait for the other shoe to drop (mixing metaphors!) and the spotlight to immediately fade. It happened last year when Purdue was ranked #1 for the first time in school history only to lose to Rutgers on a desperation heave. It happened again this year when Purdue was ranked #1 and lost to...Rutgers...again on a three with under 30 seconds left. It left like Purdue missed their chance. But then, something different happened. Purdue regrouped. They found their way back to #1 and just became the unanimous #1 team after they kept winning and those below them lost including Tennessee last night.
So why not us? That’s the question fans always ask. Why not us? Why can’t Purdue win the National Title this year. What’s holding them back? Is there some dominant team out there waiting in the wings that Purdue should fear? Duke? Purdue beat them already. Gonzaga? Same. What about the great offense of Marquette? Purdue beat them too. What about a plucky underdog like Hofstra? Purdue beat them as well. Sure there are good teams out there that Purdue hasn’t, and likely won’t face, like Kansas and Kansas State, Tennessee, Houston, Arizona. But, to paraphrase Watchmen they don’t realize that Purdue doesn’t just have to play them they have to play Purdue. They have to slow down Zach Edey. They have to contend with an offense that has numerous weapons. They have to beat a team that can grind out a win or win in a shootout.
Is Purdue the dominant team this year and we just can’t see it from our position as fans? That’s something that makes even me uncomfortable. But again I ask, why can’t it be us? When Smack Apparel sent me the above pictured shirt it hit me that this shirt could be out of date in two months. This shirt could have no meaning to anyone else but a Purdue fan in just two months. Instead, maybe they’ll create a shirt that says “We Partied Like it was 1932”. I don’t know, I don’t design t-shirts.
Right now Purdue is in an unusual position. A clear #1 team. A team that, should they continue to play as they have been, will surely receive a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will hopefully be able to play close to home. That means big Purdue crowds, that means Paint Crew members, that means with just a short drive you could see Purdue play in the NCAA Tournament and even an Elite Eight game to get to the Final Four in Houston. If Purdue gets there you can bet that I’ll be in attendance. I’ll find a way to Houston to witness Purdue playing in the Final Four for the first time in my life. I’ll wear my Smack Apparel shirt under my professional Hammer and Rail clothes and hope that in just a couple days it becomes obsolete.
Purdue fans have waited a long time for a season like this, maybe since 1932, and I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy it. Each time I put on that shirt I’ll be reminded of the loss, the heartbreak, the injuries, but also the hope that each season brings and the idea that maybe, just maybe, we can all party like 1932 in just a couple months. I’d only change one thing though. 1932 was the height of Prohibition and if Purdue gets to the Final Four and wins it all a celebratory drink will surely be in order.
This is a sponsored post.