It's the last day in March. It rained all night so for a person used to waking up at 4am, I slept til 8am. It doesn't feel right. I feel a little off. I'm in unfamiliar territory.
Oh, I feel rested. Yikes.
to bed without
a hum. The roar of the
cosmos is not enough.
I need some noise.
Alexis is showering so we can get in the car to drive five hours to Louisville, Kentucky, to watch Purdue play Virginia for a chance to go to the NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis. Last weekend, we were in Hartford, Connecticut, where Purdue beat Old Dominion and defending national champion Villanova.
On Thursday, Purdue barely beat #2 seed Tennessee. I actually thought that Purdue had lost and that the game was over. It was so loud in the YUM! rena that I couldn't hear the whistle of a foul called right at the end of the game. It gave Carsen Edwards three foul shots. So, in a sense, I've already lived the agony of defeat.
And the thrill of victory. Purdue came back and beat Tennessee in overtime. That was late at night. Afterwards, I drove five hours home in a driving rainstorm. I-65 was closed in Lebanon, which is, as maybe one of the three or four of you know, the home of Rick Mount. As you drive south down I-65, look to your right. There's a huge grain silo right next to the road -
Lebanon, Indiana - Home of Rick Mount, 1966 Mr. Basketball.
I interviewed Rick Mount a couple of times. You'd think that Purdue's 1969 loss to UCLA in the NCAA finals would be one of his biggest disappointments. Not even close. The one that sticks in Rick's craw was a 1966 loss to East Chicago Washington in the Indiana high school tournament. I don't know if it was in the Lafayettes semi state or the actual finals in Indianapolis.
Evidently, Mount went up to shoot with a couple of seconds left in the game and got fouled hard by an East Chicago player. Instead of the refs blowing the whistle, they ran off the floor. Mount insinuated that they were somehow friends of legendary East Chicago coach John A. Barato. I didn't expect such hostility from Mount in an interview talking about something that happened 50 years ago. But he's still pissed.
The roar of a
arena on a cold
night is beautiful, raw
I remember lying in bed in 1969 listening to Purdue games on WJOB radio, which I now own of course, as the Boilers wound their way through the NCAA tournament. Each game, they barely won, with a couple of them won right at the end with a Rick Mount heroic shot.
Part of the reason I remember it clearly is that my dad had to cajole my mom into letting me stay up late in bed listening to the games. I have always been a radio junkie. Often, well past bedtime, my mom would stop at the bedroom door and listen - is Jimmy's radio on or not? Most often it would be.
"Turn that damn thing off and go to bed. You've got school in the morning," my mom would say.
But during Purdue's 1969 NCAA run, I did not hear this admonition. My dad intervened -
"It's Purdue in the NCAA tournament, Jeanie. Let him listen to the damn thing."
That's how I remember the final game of the NCAA tournament in which Purdue lost to Lou Alcindor and the UCLA Bruins, who were coached, of course, by a former Purdue guy. John Wooden led UCLA to a ton of championships at UCLA. When I went to summer school there one year, I would spend hours looking at plaques of Wooden and reading the literature. He was a legend in Los Angeles but at his core he was an Indiana guy.
Speaking of Wooden... one time I watched an interview with his son. It was soon after Wooden's wife had died. The son said that they were trying to stop their dad from doing a rather odd thing. John Wooden, according to the son, would lay out his dead wife's clothing next to him on the bed every night and sleep right next to the garments. He did that until he died. What a love story or what a horror. You decide.
Speaking of love stories... thanks to Jason, the manager of the Purdue ticket office, for allowing me to buy a single ticket for my bride of nearly three decades. Over the years, she has become as big - if not bigger - Purdue basketball fan that I am. I know that the three or four are thinking - "that can't possible be true." But it is. Every once in a while, I fall asleep during a Purdue game in the middle of February. I am awoken to screaming -
"Oh my god. What a horrible f---ing call. These refs suck." In this household, and the household of my youth, Purdue should get all 50-50 calls.
Sometimes I lay
down in the love.
Not the best bargaining
position, but the final
buzzer is near.
What happened in 1969? I remember the score clearly.
UCLA 92, Purdue 72.
Rick Mount shot horribly. Herm Gilliam and Billy Keller, both of whom wound up playing in the NBA, kept the team together... but Lew Alcindor was just too much. He got a ton of rebounds and Purdue wound up second in the NCAA.
Today, #3 seed Purdue plays #1 seed Virginia to see who goes to Minneapolis. Virginia is favored. I am prepared to take a Purdue loss, just as I was prepared 50 years ago for a loss against the vaunted UCLA Bruins. I just hope it doesn't happen. Talk to you later.