There are some days you just know God hates you a little more than others.
Saturday was one such day for me.
I know you’re probably sick of hearing it, but I’m an Indiana University alum and still live in the bustling metropolis that is Indianapolis, otherwise known as David Lettermanville.
On Saturday, I was sent to West Lafayette, Ind., home to my bitter rival Purdue University, to cover an all-day high school basketball showcase inside Mackey Arena.
Now, truth be told, I never really had a great disdain for the Boilermakers while I was in college. We always stunk in football, so it didn’t matter they beat our brains in, and we got the senile stage of Gene Keady’s career, so their basketball team blew (though Kenneth Lowe will always have street cred with me).
I’m not a native Hoosier. I’m a transplanted South Floridian. I grew up with ‘Noles, ‘Canes and Gators. What the heck was a Boiler? Or a Hoosier for that matter?
I graduated, what is it now, about four years ago (ugh), but my hatred for the Boilermakers is slowly brewing.
There are a number of reasons for that, one being that one of my closer friends here is a PUke and he’s reveling in their return to prominence under hoops coach Matt Painter.
Compounding that fact is the embarrassment Kelvin Sampson, a bona fide asshole (trust me I’m speaking from personal experience, though that can be a post for another day), brought on the program. Last season’s implosion, rampant drug use, NCAA infractions, failing grades, player dismissals and potted plants thrown. It was a mess. And I had to hear this PUke tell me about it everyday.
It’s not much better now. Sure, I love Tom Crean and think he’ll do a great job. But it’s no fun hearing the laughter when I check the score of the IU-Lipscomb game. It hurt so bad, in retaliation I told my buddy I’m going to hit on his younger sister in front of him.
Plus, it didn’t help that an article ran in The Indianapolis Star regarding Purdue’s stellar collective grade point average. Whereas, a week earlier we got to read Eric Gordon going on the record with what everyone already knew – drugs ruined the 2007 season. It’s tough times for us Hoosiers fans. Thank God the Blackhawks kick ass.
But back to Saturday…
It’s a balmy 62 degrees at the end of December. It’s a fluke. The day before it was 30 and Sunday is supposed to be in the high 30s too. That’s the way the damn Indiana weather is, I’ve been told. Hmm, a nice reprieve seeing as my 2000 VW Jetta with bald tires isn’t so good on this snow and ice stuff.
I drive by a billboard near mile marker 151 on I-65 telling me to “Boiler Up!” Gag.
I initially have trouble finding Mackey Arena. I’ve been to Purdue before (don’t go if you haven’t). All you see is dreariness and brown buildings. It’s gross and depressing. And it smells. The moment you step out of the car, it hits you. Hot dog water mixed with baby shit. It’s almost as bad as Champaign, Ill., on a hot spring day with easterly winds.
But there it is. From the outside it looks no bigger than a high school fieldhouse (its built into the ground). Technically speaking, it’s a dump. John Feinstein, who made his name with “Season On The Brink” (you’re welcome by the way John), listed Mackey Arena as one of the top 10 places to watch a game. John must have been trying to get his son laid by a girl from Purdue (all two of them).
I pull into the parking lot with my crimson-colored car sporting an IU license plate. Before I get out of the car, I touch the 25 air fresheners that hang from my rear view mirror for good luck.
I open the door and wait for it. In comes the air.
“Hmm, that’s interesting. No smell.” I don’t want to vomit. We’re off to a good start.
I walk into the back door of Mackey Arena. I don’t burst into flames. A pleasant woman meets me with a sign in sheet. I walk right down to the court. No hassle. I take my seat on press row and watch the second game of a seven-game showcase (the first game was a girls’ game and I don’t watch girls’ basketball. I kid. The teams weren’t in my coverage area. Calm down feminists, who I know frequent this blog for no other reason but to imagine what my voice sounds like).
I scan my surroundings. Black and gold everywhere. That raised court, those puny banners celebrating everything but Final Fours and National Championships. That vomit feeling starts to creep up a little.
The first game ends and I head back toward the locker room. While I’m waiting to interview coaches and players, Matt Painter strolls by.
“Hey, how you doing?” he asks.
“Just living the dream,” I respond.
He forces a grin and punches the code into the door to his office.
Game No. 2 features a 2010 Purdue commit Travis Carroll (Danville, Ind.). Rivals.com ranks him as a top-20 power forward for his class and this was my first glance at him.
I return to my seat at press row. About five feet behind me, a number of the Boilermakers file in to catch a glimpse of their future teammate.
Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson and other scrubs laughing, signing autographs, winning and loving life. Ugh. It’s a good thing I only had a Chewy Chocolate Chunk granola bar and Sunkist that morning.
(They saw a hell of a game. Two of the top teams in the state with two of the best players – the other being N.C. State signee Scott Wood from Marion, Ind. Carroll finished with 29 and Wood put in 32 as his team won 54-52.)
At halftime, I talk with Hummel about Carroll and stand in the backways of Mackey as Kramer jokes around with one of the team managers. Everyone laughs.
Kramer’s wearing a boot on his left foot. Nice, a slight consolation.
I return to my seat for the second half. Painter is sitting next to me, so I asked him if I could ask him a few questions. He tells me NCAA rules prevent him from talking to reporters while there is a high school event going on, but that I can call him later that night.
“When’s your deadline?” he asks.
“Not until Monday morning.”
“Alright, well just give me a call. If I’m not there, leave a message. I’ll get back to you.”
He didn’t call on Sunday. Understandable, considering his 10th-ranked Boilers had to fend off a feisty Valparaiso team.
Then Monday morning, the phone rings.
“This is Matt Painter. Did we make deadline?”
“I’m about to file it in 30 minutes, I’ll just add you in here,” I answered.
“Fantastic. What do you need?”
Damn Pork Chop, why do you have to be so nice?
Why did the players have to be so nice? Why did their recruit have to ball out and be such a good kid on top of it? Why are people so happy in Mackey Arena while they are miserable in Assembly Hall?
The Hoosiers have lost back-to-back home games to Northeastern and Lipscomb! We’re bad. They’re good. And I had to sit there and talk with delightful young gentlemen and a coach who keeps his word? What gives?
The Big Guy Upstairs just drop-kicked my in the junk and he’s slowly digging his heel into Testiclees-R. Testiclees-L is going Feb. 21 when the Hoosiers, who will most likely be 0-13 in conference play, travel to West Lafayette.
I know two things about that Feb. 21 match-up. The Boilers will win by at least 25 and that smell of shit will rear its ugly head back onto the PUkes’ campus. This time, though it’ll be us that stinks.