1974-2004: Not the sort of streak you want to continue
A neighbor of mine was digging around in his basement last weekend and he unearthed the following artifact of a seriously bygone era:
1974. What a lousy year for America, and for Purdue. The "grand diversion" in Vietnam was still in the process of collapsing in on itself. Nixon pretty much accomplished the same with the Oval Office. And football players had to wear tinpot helmets like these. What's a self-respecting linebacker to do? Go all communist and quit the team?
Turns out the early 70s weren't exactly the glory days for Purdue football -- at least not as spectacular as you wanted to believe, as we did in a rose-colored glasses way, when the Boilers hit rock bottom in the early 90s. Purdue's Rose Bowl team of 1967 was just a memory (and so was the frantic running game that Leroy Keyes brought to town) and the "Cradle of Quarterbacks" didn't offer a new star until Mark Herrmann in 1978.
However, 1974 is important to Boiler fans for one reason that matters today, and especially tomorrow. It's the last time Purdue left South Bend with a win. That's right -- The Brady Bunch wasn't even in syndication when Touchdown Jesus took a Saturday afternoon off against his in-state rivals.
So am I hoping that my neighbor's housecleaning discovery is some sort of good omen? Shoot, of course I am. I wouldn't be an American sports fan if I didn't assume the outcome of the contest didn't somehow hinge upon a token happening or ritual in my life. Do I expect the game to be close and maddeningly frustrating at times? Absolutely. The field there is pitched so that penalty calls roll down in the direction of the visitor's bench. Plus there's all that Lucky Charms hoodoo-voodoo floating in the air. But you have to believe. Your team is finally better, and it's built to stay that way. You have no option to think otherwise. Waver for even a second and that pipsqueak in the green vest is all fangs at your jugular.