It's Saturday morning, almost April, and it's snowing outside the kitchen window. At the same time, birds chirp up a storm. Maybe they see what I see - beautiful, graceful heavy flakes landing softly on a heap of leaves I gathered to take to the curb. Either that or they're pissed too. Everyone's tired of cold feet.
Yesterday was especially trying. We needed to download an update to Xcode on Shamari's computer. Bru Burger Bar's public wifi was slow, so we used my phone as a hotspot. We waited, watching the number slowly rise toward the 9.9 gigs needed for the whole download. 1.1 g.... 2.4 g.... 7.3 g.... We worked on other stuff as the number kept growing. At 9.6 g - when it said there were three minutes remaining - it all of the sudden went back to 1 hour. That's when I got the text from Verizon. Here it is:
Your 5g smartphone has used up its 15 GB Mobile Hotspot allowance. You'll have speeds of 600 kbps until the next billing cycle
We had waited an hour and two minutes for nothing. We tried to switch back to Bru Burger's wifi, but we lost the download and were told to start over. We laughed at our own foolishness, ordered a brownie with ice cream, and called it a day.
You would think that the failed download would be the biggest disappointment of the day. Not by a long shot.
I drove back up I-65 and arrived home just in time for the tip off of the Purdue game. It was the round of 32. Purdue, a three seed, was heavily favored over 15-seeded St. Peter's. You know what happened. Purdue lost 67-64 to make it a gut-wrenching Friday evening. I've been a Purdue fan since Dr. Underwood first spanked my ass in St. Elizabeth Hospital in 1962... ironically not far from where Shamari and I spent 3 hours and 42 minutes yesterday.
You may be thinking that this is a thoroughly depressing time for me. Sure, I would have loved to see the Boilers move on to face North Carolina in the sweet 16. But I didn't expect it.
Purdue basketball, you see, has been disappointing me and many others in the middle of the country since Johnny Wooden took the Boilers to the national championship in 1932.
March, 1969 - I remember laying in bed listening to Purdue play UCLA in the championship game. It was in Louisville and must have been on a school night. I was sent to bed but given permission to listen to the entirety of the game (on WJOB, which I now own). Purdue lost 92-72 to a team coached by Johnny Wooden. Herm Gilliam, Billy Keller and Chuck Bavis were hurt... but still Purdue still had George Faerber. Didn't matter. UCLA had Lew Alcindor.
March, 1994 - Purdue was a #1 seed in the tournament and had the best player in America - Glenn Robinson, who went to Gary Roosevelt. Alexis and I were in Orlando staying at my grandma's. She volunteered to watch our young child so we could go find the game on TV at a bar. We did. And the entire time the people next to us cheered loudly for Duke and Grant Hill. Ultimately, I threatened to punch a guy in the face if he didn't shut up.
"You can't act like that every time Purdue loses," Alexis said as we screeched out of the lot.
"Yes I can. It's Purdue."
March, 2011 - By this time, Alexis and I owned WJOB for seven years. Since we've been broadcasting Boiler games since the 1960s, we got media tickets right behind the Purdue bench for the round of 32 at United Center in Chicago. The media spread was outstanding, with a chicken parmesan to die for and a tomato-mozzarella salad as good as Rosebud on Taylor Street. As a matter of fact, it might have been by Rosebud on Taylor Street.
Since you're not supposed to drink in media row, I bought a Coke, poured out the contents, and drank beer out of the Coke cup. By the time tip-off came, I'm quite sure that coach Gene Keady could smell my Bud Light breath - we were that close. Expectations were high. Purdue had JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. VCU was seeded 11th. You know the rest. VCU 94, Purdue 76. Alexis and I walked around the rainy west side for a while then drove home in silence.
March, 2019 - The rules for media changed. To get media passes for the sweet 16 or the final four, you had to cover the early rounds. So Alexis and I flew to Hartford, Connecticut, where 3rd-seeded Purdue plodded through the first couple of rounds of the NCAA tournament behind Carson Edwards and Ryan Cline. By the way, it rained the whole time in Hartford, which is, as far as I can tell, one of the most unattractive cities in America... along with Tallahassee, Florida, and Louisville, Kentucky.
Sweet 16 was held in Louisville. Purdue beat Tennessee in an overtime thriller in the first game. Up next was Virginia, and you know what happened next. Purdue had the Cavaliers beat at the end of regulation. Then Virginia missed a free throw on purpose, tipped the rebound out to near half court, and Mamadi Diakite hit a three as time expired. The game went into overtime. Purdue lost.
Where was I at the end of regulation? I was courtside ready to rush the floor and jam a camera into the faces of jubilant Purdue players and coaches. I can picture it clear as day. Free throw goes up, tipped - inexplicably - to Diakite, who wildly throws the ball toward the basket. It swishes through. The backboard lights up red. Tony Bennett and his players jump and hug each other. I knew right then that the disappointment that started in 1969 would continue. I grabbed my camera and all of my stuff and went to the media room. I didn't even watch the monitor. After the game,
2022 - Last night, my two daughters and Daniel and I watched the game in the room where I type to you now. We lit a fire, had a couple beers, joked and played with the cats and dogs they brought over. With five minutes left, I went upstairs and listened to Rob Blackmun and Bobby "Buckets" Riddell announce the game on my radio station. I could hear my own voice doing commercials, but I wasn't laying in the dark to hear my own voice. It's simply easier to listen to disappointment than watch it.
You know the rest. 3rd-seeded Purdue fell to 15- seeded St. Peter's. The whole country is behind the Peacocks. I took a shower, put on a clean shirt, and came down the stairs.
"How you doing, dad?"
"Fine. Let's go for pizza."
"What a great idea," Alexis said. We went to Langel's in Highland, where we watched North Carolina beat the only team left in the tournament I gave a damn about - UCLA.
"Dad," my daughter said. "You're handling the Purdue loss really well. What gives?"
"I expected it, Jeanie. I expected it."