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Sports Fan’s Dilemma: Cable or Satellite?

Robbie Hummel, Valpo schoolboy.

It’s December, and the 5th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers are on a roll; 7-0, having vanquished Valparaiso Wednesday night, looking forward to an away game at highly-regarded Alabama on Saturday. Should I finally, finally, finally hook up my TV?

I don’t want to miss this season, the first since 1994 when some experts predict Purdue to make the Final Four of college basketball. Dickie V, everyone’s favorite sportscaster, is among them. I should watch!

Unfortunately I hate TV, so I’m not hooked up.

Not watching TV is one of the great blessings of my life. I wouldn’t call the medium evil, but it’s close to it; do not let advertisers assault your senses with pictures of hamburgers that look a lot more delicious than they actually taste.

You can glamorize anything on TV, including “tea-baggers,” Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. These are not good for the nation or the world.

So I’m a holdout—but I’m weakening; what if Purdue actually wins the National Championship this year?

Once in my lifetime I want to see Purdue win it all; just once, I’m not greedy. What if this is the year?

I should refuse to watch them win it because I don’t like McDonald’s commercials? What?

I much prefer Burger King. It’s the condiments, stupid; I love sloppy Whoppers.

Tee-hee.

Do I think Purdue will win this year? Well, no. They have a very good team, led by a bunch of Indiana schoolboys including Robbie Hummel (Valparaiso) and Chris Kramer (Huntington), the Secretary of Defense. And this year’s crop of freshmen is really pouring it on, led by Kelsey Barlow (Cathedral, Indianapolis) and Ryne Smith of Toledo, Ohio. Barlow’s raised a lot of eyebrows in these cornfields; we don’t expect such production out of a freshman. But he’s doing the job, and so are a lot of other frosh. It’s exciting!

Still, I remember former Coach Gene Keady saying about his 1994 Elite Eight team, which featured Glenn Robinson (Gary Roosevelt) and Matt Waddell (Tipton), “To win the National Championship you have to have three NBA-calibre players.” Robinson was a first-round draft pick for the Milwaukee Bucks, but Waddell, one of my all-time favorites, is now a pharmacist. Robinson was a dominant player and Waddell fed him the ball with elegant athleticism. But one professional player is not three, and the Boilers didn’t make the Final Four. It was a bit heartbreaking; my mother was dying of cancer that year, and I used to lie down with her and watch Purdue basketball. We won all over the nation that year, but couldn’t crack the Final Four.

My mother is the whole reason I cheer for Purdue. She was a clinical pharmacist, like Matt Waddell. Oh, how we loved that boy, knowing how hard it is to get a degree in pharmacy.

As for this year’s team, whose signature win came against #9 Tennessee, they have only one professional prospect, the center Ju’Juan Johnson (Franklin Central). He hasn’t yet come into his own. At times he’s dominant, at times he’s absent. So far he’s not the Glenn Robinson of 2009. There was only one Big Dog, and Johnson ain’t it.

So what to make of Dickie V’s prediction? What the Boilermakers stand for is The Whole Team. That’s where the excitement starts back up. None of these players are total standouts, but as a group, they’re starting to be feared.

Does a team outweigh 3 dominant players? That’s what we’re about to test.

It is so hard to win the National Championship, in the face of elite programs that always attract NBA-calibre players (Duke, North Carolina, Kansas). Success breeds success, and it’s very difficult for even a top Big Ten team to overcome the talent-magnets. You can do it if you’re Tom Izzo at Michigan State, who has never had a graduating class that didn’t go to the Final Four; but what about Coach Matt Painter and his Purdue squad?

Well, we won’t know until the season plays out—so I’d better be watching this year, of all years.

I want Purdue to win because I want my Mom to win. Since I was 7 years old, that’s the bottom line. Just once in my lifetime, I want my Mom to win.

Once is sufficient, though more will certainly be welcome!

In 1994 the Purdue women’s basketball team won the National Championship, behind a brilliant shooting guard named Stephanie White (Seeger, just down the road from me) and her fabulous point guard Ukari Figg, now an assistant coach at Purdue.

Mom got to see that championship, and God, were we thrilled. My mother was an athlete in golf, and Purdue’s won championships in that sport too.

Still, this is Indiana, and the men’s championship is the top dog around here. Just once in my life, just once before I die…

I’m not going to count this year’s Purdue men out. I’m going to watch them compete. Mediacom here I come, if only to see Robbie of Valpo and Chris of Huntington, Ju’Juan of Franklin Central and Kelsey of Cathedral. One or two teammates come from other states, but by and large these are Indiana kids. One’s even from West Lafayette, Bubba Day. How he got that name I can’t begin to describe. Bubba from West Lafayette? Hello?

I graduated from West Lafayette High School. I do not appreciate Bubba, except I do.

In the end it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. What matters is having a school to cheer for, because the academics matter above all. It takes incredible brainpower to earn a pharmacy degree; try doing that while basketball’s your fulltime job!

Waddell was just awesome. And since there is no Pharmacy School Super Bowl, cheering for him in the NCAA Tournament was the next best thing. These kids are students.

Just once in my lifetime I want to tell my Mom that her school is the National Champions, and by extension she is.

Just once, that’s all it takes; once, boys, so bring it home.++

Chris Kramer, the Secretary of Defense.

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