Thursday, March 19, 2009

A House Divided

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We see these flags a lot here in Indiana. The image can also be seen on license plates attached to the front bumpers of cars.


She went to Indiana for two years but graduated from Purdue. My son graduated from Purdue. I went to art school in Chicago but my basketball allegiance is with The Indiana Hoosiers for many reasons. We are a house divided.

While she was at IU her roommate was dating one of the starting varsity scholarship basketball players and the two eventually got married. He graduated in '75 and missed playing in the perfect ’76 season and on the eventual national championship team. From ‘75 to ’76 the Indiana Basketball record was 63-1. From then on I watched religiously as IU, coached by the great General himself, went on to enjoy one of the best Big11Ten basketball eras of all time. I am still a big fan and follower of Hoosier basketball.

Many of my friends attended IU so I spent a lot of time on campus during weekends and in the summer. It was as if I went to school there without going to class and paying the tuition. Bloomington has so much to offer for a college town, it’s a beautiful campus and the surrounding area provides numerous opportunities for off campus activities such as limestone caves to explore and abandoned limestone quarries in the wooded hillside areas to swim in. Lake Monroe was good for bass fishing and we rented houseboats there for weekend parties. If you've ever seen the movie Breaking Away you know what I mean. And did they know how to party in Bloomington!

In contrast Purdue was a bit on the boring side. Today there are a lot more bars and clubs near campus but back then there was nothing to do off campus anywhere near Lafayette, IN beside detasseling corn or cow tipping. Boring and flat. Back then Purdue was similar to the University of Illinois with a far better engineering school.

In October of 1987 (the season after the Indiana ‘87 NCAA championship Keith Smart three-point buzzer beater) while working on a marketing campaign for Pratt & Lambert I suggested using The General to endorse their new wood floor care products. The idea sold. My partner Larry and I spent a classic autumn day on campus with the coach along with a professional photographer and a video crew taking promotional photographs and filming trade and instructional videos with him.

Coach Knight was a true gentleman and even took the time to give me pointers while I shot from the three stripe on the Assembly Hall floor, which we had all to ourselves until practice started at 5pm. The coach could shoot for 3’s as if he were a 21 year old missing very few shots. Here’s a photo of the three of us that day. My old partner, Larry, is on the left.


The only time the coach raised his voice was when we first met. He looked at me and very firmly asked, “so why the fvck aren’t you wearing a red sweater?” Thinking quickly after noticing I was wearing a gray sweater responded, “It’s in honor of your playing days at Ohio State, coach”. He smiled and said,"bullsh!t!"

On my shelf in my office is the personalized autographed souvenir basketball that Coach Knight gave me. I have a few Bob Knight stories from that day. Maybe around final four time I will write about them. The man you see unjustly demonized on television is definitely not the man I spent the day with.


We created brochures, specification sheets, sales material, print ads and my favorite, life size cut-out displays of the coach that were used to promote the Fabulon line of floor care products that appeared in home improvement centers. A few years later while visiting Bloomington I saw some of these (obviously stolen) displays in a bar and at the campus bookstore.

During all those years Purdue was one of the few teams close to challenging Indiana for the Big11Ten conference championship. Kentucky was the big rival and Purdue was the Big11Ten rival. I attended a few Indiana Purdue conference matchups at both Assembly Hall and Mackey Arena. One most memorable was in ’75 at Mackey when Scott May broke his arm and went down for the season, crippling the team for a run at the title and losing to Kentucky which went on to the final four.

All that being said (I honestly can’t believe I am doing this) I hope Purdue does well in the NCAA Tournament. I will be pulling for them to go farther than the other Big11Ten teams. The reason? Purdue forward Robbie Hummel is a Valparaiso kid. Everything I see on televised games and what i read and hear locally tells me this is one good kid and a hell of a player.


This kid is only a sophomore yet stood up to the best the Big11Ten had to throw at him in the season ending 2009 Big11Ten tournament. He was named MVP of that tournament. So Go Robbie!

And Go Purdue!

There. I said it.
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14 comments:

Dan from Madison said...

Gah, Purdon't. Crushed us in the Big Televen tourney. Hope they lose in the first round, as is my wish for every other Big Televen team...except mine.

Good Bobby Knight story!

Gerry from Valpo said...

You know, I thought that by writing this it would jinx them. They had their hands full with Northern Iowa but prevailed in the first round.

Carl from Chicago said...

Great photo of you and the general.

Dan from Madison said...

Serves me right for trying to curse other big ten teams. Illinois goes down with a resounding thud.

Brian from Chicago said...

"Unjustly demonized" - written by someone who can overlook all of the megalomaniacal and egotistical men who have walked the face of the earth. I try not to be an overly-sensitive dope and believe everything written by sports writers, but come on - his heavy handed ways and not to mention mentoring one of the biggest toolbags in Big 10 coaching history in Steve Alford (see Pierre Pierce story) do not make we wonder why he was vilified by many.

Gerry from Valpo said...

Opinions such as the one above from Brian are common of those who "never played the game". I'm not surprised by the comment.

Hey Brian, don't be a such a pussy.

Brian from Chicago said...

Spoken like a true Hoosier dumbass. Congrats to you and your ability to rationalize everything Knight has done to running a great basketball program and to throw out the proverbial reply to the mass stupid.

Gerry from Valpo said...

It appears that Brian should seek some anger management therapy.

johnnyj said...

Haha...

Great post Gerry...It appears that WE have a 'game' today...

Go ahead, 'divide the house' and cheer for the UW HUSKIES!

Gerry from Valpo said...

Yes Johnny, we have a game. But I am not a Purdue fan. I just like the kid from Valpo so it would be nice to see him get some W's in the tournament

johnnyj said...

Gah, Booooooooo Huskies...Way to go Purdon't...

johnnyj said...

Also, I'm glad that I didn't propose a "gentleman's sixer" on that game!

Would you have "bit" Gerry? Prolly not...

Gerry from Valpo said...

I would have passed jj. Too close to call that game and it turned out that way. Wash played well to the end.

Ozzie fron Venezuela via Chicago said...

Hey Brian, Chew bleepin cub fan, I gotchew down for a Tree pm appointment wit my anger management DR. Bobby Kanight. He'll straighten you bleepin' bleep out. You complain an den git bleepin' more bleepin' den who you complainin'
'bout you bleepin' bleeper! Go back unner yo bleepin' bridge! Besides, who da dumbass fo payin' Illinois and Cook county taxes.HA! Bleep u!