Yesterday, my day started with hope. I agree with the SiriusXM sports announcers who say it is the greatest day in all of sports – Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament. It’s Christmas morning and the best birthday you’ve ever had. You wake with that anticipation. Swelling music should follow you around. You’ve set your bracket. You start the trash talk. You watch all the videos March Madness has to offer. You relive dunk shots and swats, and those perfect 3-pointers. You recall the stats and heights of players who are preparing for battle. You learn about campuses that never existed in your brain before. You are full of the madness. I was full.
My bracket probably looked a lot different than yours. At the center of 64 was my alma mater – PURDUE – written in capital letters and highlighted. #boilerup scrolled on top. #hammerdown written beneath. A loyalty bracket, they called it. Mine looks the same every time, in the years when I’m lucky enough to see that name in the group. Fellow alumni may have chosen North Carolina or Kansas again. I can’t do that. Call it delusional. Call it stupid. I don’t care. I call it faith. I call it hope. I see the world through gold and black colored glasses.
I am an all-weather fan. It comes from sitting in Ross-Ade Stadium during the Fred Akers years. It comes from the hope that, if you could just beat iu, that it would make the whole season okay. My first football game, freshmen year, was Purdue vs. Miami of Ohio. I sat there with a couple hundred of my closest friends, sweating in black, wool All-American Marching Band uniforms, when the skies opened up. I think it rained four inches during that game. Lightning hit the field. That should have been a sign. But week after week, for four years, I sat, marched, and played through those games – sweating, freezing, hoping.
I always hope.
Yesterday too. I felt it. I didn’t even consider that they wouldn’t win that game.
I was elated at the half. I loved watching the dog fight. I yelled their names and threw my fists in the air. I hopped up and down and clapped with joy. And then … and then … Double OT was what I got for loving the dog fight.
And then …
You feel pain differently when you go from hope to heartbreak. Those damn colored glasses.
And then …
Negative internet commenters are the drudge of the earth. You hide behind your anonymous Twitter profile and slam a 22-year old who misses a shot? You call for firing the coach? You use words like “hack”, “choke”, and “pathetic” to describe a team that could have just as easily given you a metaphorical blow job with one more basket and a stronger 3PT%. You sit on your couch and you run the world. But you are not there. You are not them. You are not.
They were there on that court with talent and pride, knowledge and muscle memory, with training and coaching, and yes, with hope. You can’t tell me RayD didn’t feel the same hope I did. And the joy I felt when AJ dunked was the same as Isaac’s joy. The pride, the loyalty … they were shared feelings across many miles yesterday. The frustration, the disbelief, the heartbreak … they were shared. They are shared.
We’ve been there before, and I have to hope we won’t be there again. I must. After years of heartbreaking situations, I remain ever grateful, ever true.
Thank you BoilerBall. It was a hell of a season. I’m sorry it didn’t go our way. Your way. But I believe in you as players and coaches, as a team, as good men.
I remain proud. I remain hopeful. I believe. Hail Purdue. Boiler Up. BTFU.