Last night before I laid down to go to bed I was surfing the internet as I usually do and when I logged onto Twitter I happened to run into a tweet from Drew Brees saying something about how him and LT go way back, to which I began to respond “@drewbrees I hate you.” Yes it’s true, I’m just an angry Colts fan and I’m well aware that Drew wouldn’t have cared what I had to say. For that and other reasons, I decided to not post the comment and take the high road.
Having had a month to digest this loss, though, it’s not that I’m extremely mad at Brees, Tracy Porter, the Saints or New Orleans. All of them were long overdue for some good news. They deserve it and Indianapolis already has its ring. It’s just a monkey on my back because of all the strange, cruel and ironic parallels that the Super Bowl had to my fanhood.
For one, even though I am a student at Indiana University, the first three quarters of my life were spent donned in black and gold as a diehard member of Boiler Nation. Why have my treasonous ways led me to Bloomington instead of West Lafayette, you ask? Because going to Purdue for journalism is about as smart of a career move as going to IU for engineering – just not wise at all, but I digress.
The peak of my interest in Purdue sports came when Brees was their quarterback. Actually, I just had a conversation with my mom where she reminded me that I still have an autographed picture of him in his Purdue gear wearing number 15. I also have that very jersey somewhere in my basement at home, no doubt fitting me like the skin of a sausage now. I remember the fall of 2000 being on of the most exciting autumns of my young life – the year when Purdue upset Michigan and earned the Big Ten’s highest honor, a spot in the Rose Bowl.
I remember how awesome it felt to have a team in such a coveted game. It still feels a little nostalgic for me whenever I see Purdue’s helmet logo from that game, the traditional italic “P” with a rose strung through it. Much to my dismay, Marques Tuiasosopo had his way with my Boilers en route to a 34-24 victory and the Most Valuable Player Award. He may have won the battle, but it looks like Brees won the war. Tuiasosopo hasn’t seen the field since 2008 in his second go around as perpetual bench warmer for the Raiders.
A decade later, Brees held the Lombardi Trophy, having pulled a second-half, come-from-behind victory that usually Peyton Manning is known for. It just left a very bad taste in my mouth.
And as if that wasn’t enough, that fun fact about my life isn’t even the end of the irony.
Two and a half years ago I stepped onto the campus of Indiana University as a student. You should’ve seen me at my first tailgate, my first collegiate game as a student of the university I was pulling for. I was like a kid in a candy store the size of a shopping mall. Indeed, I was all kinds of happy when fireworks went off all night as I saw my Hoosiers beat up on FCS in-state rival, Indiana State 55-7.
Tracy Porter was one of my favorite players from that team, a team that beat Purdue 27-24 in the Old Oaken Bucket Game to solidify its place in its first bowl game in over ten years. I remember many times chanting “Tracy Porter…Tracy Porter.” He even did this thing where he would face the student section and raise his arms, fingers spread, and then bring his hands into fists as he pulled his arms down to his chest. To this day, IU players do this and I still have no idea what they intend it to mean, but it works. It gives you a feeling of “Let’s defend this house together” and its purpose is to get the students to scream as loudly as they possibly can.
I screamed as loudly as I could for Tracy my freshman year and when he and the rest of the Hoosiers beat Purdue, a few thousand of my best friends and I rushed the field in their honor. We were celebrating the victory and the completed vision of the late coach, Terry Hoeppner, who had died of cancer earlier in the year. He wanted IU to play 13. That dream had become a reality.
Two seasons later, as Porter intercepted a Manning pass intended for Reggie Wayne, simultaneously returning it all the way for a touchdown I thought “Why me?” Not one, but two of my favorite college heroes were enjoying the greatest success an NFL player could achieve at the expense of my team and all I could do was choke down the rest of the Heineken that my friend gave me as a consolation prize and call it a night.
Nearly a month later, despite all the anger and bitterness I’ve mustered, I salute Porter and Brees. Though I wish my Colts had won the Super Bowl, these two athletes made me very proud to be an IU student and a former fan of Purdue.
Not only that, but I just can’t hate Drew Brees. It’s impossible for me. The man held his child after the game in away that would make even a convicted murderer say, “That’s just a really special moment.” Brees gives me hope for humanity in a time when I look at professional athletes that I had so much faith in like Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods. And I truly feel he is nothing like them. I just hope Brees is everything that I think he is – a man of intergrity and honor, a caring and devoted husband and father, a true champion.