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My New TV Jinxed the Team

Robbie Hummel sidelined after his season-ending injury. (AJ Mast/Associated Press)

I did something very, very bad on February 24. I bought a TV, a 37-inch Vizio, high-def and all that.

The very same night the reason I bought it came crashing down. I should have known not to tempt the fates.

I haven’t watched TV since 1986. This makes me very weird, but it’s also made me a happier guy. Just think of all the commercials I haven’t seen—1.3 million of them.

Not watching TV is one of the best things a person can do for himself. I am now completely averse to violent images, and I only buy things I really want.

So what made me change? Purdue basketball, which I’ve followed since I was 7 years old. Purdue’s got a great team this year, ranked in the Top Ten all season long. I told myself, This could be the year we win it all.

Just once in my lifetime I want to see the Boilermakers win the National Championship. And if this is the year, I thought, I don’t want to miss it. So I broke down and bought a TV. It’s very nice, as TVs go. I called the cable company, which carries the Big Ten Network as well as ESPN; the cable was installed Feb. 24. At 8pm I sat down to watch Purdue play Minnesota, so excited I could have jumped out of my skin. About 9 minutes into the game, Purdue’s star forward Robbie Hummel blew out his knee and is gone for the rest of the year.

I’m very, very sorry, Robbie. I should never have broken the string. Your team would probably be getting a #1 seed tomorrow in the NCAA tournament if it weren’t for me. I’m hanging my head in shame. I apologize to Purdue people everywhere.

After all, I didn’t watch Drew Brees win the Super Bowl; I listened to the Saints beat the Colts on the radio and cheered my lungs out.

I listened to all those Purdue hoops on the radio; why couldn’t I have just waited until you made the Final Four? Why didn’t I just save my money and drive 30 miles to the nearest sports bar? I saw Purdue beat West Virginia there on New Year’s Day.

As it turns out, Purdue beat Minnesota that night after Hummel left the game, although the Boilers went into a total swoon after he left, and only pulled the victory out in the last minute. Since then, Purdue’s gone 3-1 to finish out the season, until this afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal—against Minnesota.

I sat in my big chair and watched; the Boilers scored all of 11 points in the first half. With less than 10 minutes to go in the game, the Gophers led by 30 and I hit the button, Power Off. I needed something more pleasant to do, so I scrubbed the kitchen floor on my hands and knees.

Hey, it’s Lent, I’m supposed to do penance.

March Madness (the NCAA basketball tournament) is my favorite time of year. I fill out my bracket online and consistently beat 95% of The New York Times sports staff year after year.

So much for madness now; I’m mad at myself for screwing it up. There’s only one consolation in all this misery; Hummel’s a junior. He’ll have all the time he needs to rehab that knee (a torn ACL is a horrible, painful injury) and be able to come back for his senior season with his running mates JuJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, the trio who’s responsible for that Top Ten ranking. Hope will be reborn next year. Chris Kramer, the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, won’t be around, and he’s the #1 reason I wanted Purdue to win it all this time, but the one consolation is we’ll get another chance.

In the meantime I guess I’ll enjoy my sparkly clean floor.++

Purdue’s Kramer Up for Senior Class Award

Chris Kramer, the Secretary of Defense.

Tonight, one of the most important annual events in my home state occurs, as the Purdue men’s basketball team travels to Bloomington to take on that hated Other School.

(I laughed, typing that. The fans do hate each other, but right now my dog Luke is sleeping under his IU blanket. It is, of course, fit for a dog.)

The Boilermakers, ranked 7th in the country according to the coaches’ poll, are expected to beat the hapless Hoosiers, but it will probably be a knockdown dragout battle. You can catch it on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. Eastern. I’ll be watching at the Colonial Inn downtown.

Both teams feature homegrown talent. Seven members of Indiana’s squad are in-state products, while Purdue boasts ten local boys—among them Chris Kramer of Huntington, who’s a finalist for the senior class award sponsored by a chain of home improvement stores. The winner is partly determined by fan voting; go here.

Kramer’s profile details a lot of things I didn’t know about his community involvement. He’s active with the Boys and Girls Club, an after-school agency for kids at risk. That means something to me, because it’s the favorite charity of my fictional hero Kent Kessler, a former Major League Baseball player. Boys and Girls Clubs provide sports and recreational opportunities to kids, as well as academic tutoring and mentoring, a chance to succeed. Sometimes the B&GC makes a difference in whether a kid stays in school or drops out, gets a decent job or turns criminal; a kid needs someone to take an interest in her, and Chris Kramer does.

He’s also active with the Southside Community Center (child abuse prevention, youth development, food pantry and family support) and Special Olympics. He majors in Organizational Development and Supervision at Purdue and carries a 3.12 cumulative grade point average.

He may not be that thrilled to be featured in a Gay Spirit Diary, but tough luck, bud. He’s awfully cute; this is not my fault. Best of all, he epitomizes what Purdue basketball is all about: tenacious defense, clutch shooting, self-sacrifice, teamwork, all while cutting it with the books.

I’m proud of him. I hope he has every success.

And let no reviewer on Amazon criticize the choice of a smart, principled, athletic hero; such men do exist, despite the all-pervasive culture that tries to drag them down. Every one of the Lowe’s senior all-stars deserves our accolades; Kramer’s just one of nine outstanding players who are becoming outstanding men. “Classroom. Community. Character. Competition.” — That’s the slogan for this website that hopes to do something good.

Go, vote for Chris Kramer or anyone else who strikes your fancy. In this age of horrible dehumanization, take a minute to reward some young guys for doing good. Text M7 to 74567.

Every photo I’ve ever seen of Kramer shows his tongue hanging out. I mean, what’s not to like? GO BOILERS!++

Kramer jogs off-court past Minnesota coach Tubby Smith after Kramer's halftime buzzer-beater. (Brent Drinkut/Journal and Courier)