I almost jumped back in shock when I opened the Christmas present that my daughter and her family gave me.
It was a Purdue University sweatshirt — gray with black lettering outlined in gold.
I’m from a Boilermaker family. My dad went to Purdue. Two of my kids went to Purdue. My oldest grandchild just finished her first semester at Purdue.
“Hail, Hail to old Pur-pur-pur …”
The p-p-p-problem is that I’m an Indiana University graduate. Purdue is supposed to be the Enemy No. 1 no matter how many years have passed.
And even though I’m a bit of a T-shirt and sweatshirt aficionado, I’ve never worn one piece of clothing from Purdue in my life.
I don’t really hate Purdue like some I.U. fanatics. I grew up a fan of the Boilermakers (“Griese finds Keyes in the open!”). I actually went to nursery school on the West Lafayette campus when my dad was finishing up his degree.
That gives me the chance to say to Purdue folks that I received all the knowledge that Purdue could offer me when I was a 4-year-old and then moved on to other schools, eventually I.U.
Purdue might as well be Darth Vader and the Evil Empire as far as some of my I.U. friends are concerned. They have silly and dirty jokes about Purdue. Of course, one of their sayings is “My two favorite teams are Indiana and whichever team is playing Purdue.” Trite but true.
They would be aghast if I ever wore Purdue across my chest in their presence. They would either taunt me, shun me, or console me for what only could be my penalty for losing a bet.
Certainly a wardrobe malfunction.
While in church, one diehard I.U. fan even gave me a coffee mug just before the Old Oaken Bucket game in November. On one side, it reads, “Indiana.” On the other? “Boiler Up Yours.”
Not that a lot of Purdue fans are any different. “I see you’re an I.U. fan,” one of them might say. “Yeah, how did you know?” comes the reply. “I saw your school ring when you picked your nose.”
But back to my sweatshirt situation. I figure The Madster, my granddaughter now at Purdue, proudly picked out my gift at a West Lafayette bookstore. Of course, she will want to see it on me.
She is my Golden Girl …. but gee whiz. You can only ask so much of an I.U. alum when it comes to Purdue.
So yesterday, we finally got together with our son Tom for Christmas. He is an I.U. grad like me. And also like me, he was a sports writer at the start of his career, which may give him a little more objectivity when it comes to sports fandom.
As we sat at the table at my mom’s home, I told him of my gift from his sister and family.
“What do I do with it?” I sort of moaned about the sweatshirt. “To be honest, I kind of like it. But will people think I’ve switched allegiances, spitting on my alma mater?”
“Everybody knows you like T-shirts and sweatshirts for presents,” he said. “I’ve seen you wear T-shirts from universities in Wyoming, Utah and Maine. I’ve seen you wear Penn and Mishawaka shirts even though they were our enemies when Steve, Jen and I were in high school. So what’s the big deal?”
I shrugged. He had a point. “But ….”
“Hold that thought,” he said and disappeared for a minute.
He then came back with one of those little holiday gift bags and said, “Merry Christmas.”
I pulled out the tissue paper and then my present. It was a Purdue T-shirt.
“I knew you didn’t have one of those,” he said.
And now I have two.