I’ve now completed 4,400 consecutive days of running, another milestone in The Streak that started over twelve years ago. This daily routine has consumed 17% of my life, but it’s hard to remember those times when I wasn’t doing it every day. It’s a meaningful accomplishment, especially when it’s crossed off the daily checklist, and I can sit and write about it. My feet have felt heavy this past week, while my muscles remain stiff from the cold, damp weather. I can’t seem to warm up, so I’m looking forward to two weeks of hot Florida sunshine. I’ll see my son, grandkids, and a few Midwest friends in the process. We’ll also get to see firsthand the progress on our home.
Today is what I like to call the basketball bucket game, although there is no trophy like football, just bragging rights. It’s the first of two IU-PU annual matchups that always stack-up to be the most important games on the schedule every year. There have been 211 meetings in total with the Boilermakers leading the overall series 122-89. Purdue has also won the last seven, so Hoosier pride is on the line. Both teams are currently 3-3 in the BIG, hoping to escape from mediocrity in the conference. Even though tonight’s game is in Bloomington, there’s not much of a home field advantage with limited crowds due to Covid. The Hoosier teams have not been good from the free throw line or any other spot on the court in recent years, so they need to find a way to score. They can win by scoring 70 points or more, with their only loss at that level to Wisconsin in double overtime. A low scoring game with lots of fouls will spell disaster for the Cream & Crimson. Purdue, on the other hand, has just proven they can win in a low scoring battle, beating favored Michigan State 55-54 on the road. They will jam IU efforts to score inside and force us to take the 3, especially with our best outside shooter on the sidelines with an injury. It will probably be ugly!
Fortunately, I have a Flaviar whiskey shipment due to be delivered today. I will need it to calm my nerves, as I text with friends that will be rooting both for and against me. This is the beauty of the rivalry that can only be appreciated with a victory. IU is favored by 3.5 with an over/under of 130. This supports my “Magic of 70” theory. We have a much better chance of winning if we can score 70 points or more in regulation. The teams appear to be evenly matched but according to oddsmakers IU has a 65.2% chance of winning. Purdue won last year 57-49 and 74-62. The year before it was PU 48-46 and 70-55. These pathetic scoring efforts by the Hoosiers will have to end tonight to stop the bleeding. We need buckets of baskets!
It’s a New Year with hopes of an I.U. Outback Bowl victory. Last year, they fell short against Tennessee with a late game letdown. With last night’s Ohio State Sugar Bowl domination of Clemson, this Hoosier team is even stronger than I thought. We came so close against the Buckeyes, plus Northwestern throttled Auburn, so the BIG 10 has proven to be a very formidable league, especially against the highly touted SEC. Indiana can add to the 3-0 conference bowl record today with a victory over Old Miss in Tampa. This would set the stage for more respect when next year’s postseason slate is determined.
The Hoosiers should have played in the top tier Citrus Bowl instead of Northwestern but fell in the final rankings to #11 despite a convincing win over Wisconsin, the other BIG bowl representative. Clearly politics played a role, just as Notre Dame was awarded a playoff spot despite the Clemson blow-out loss. Coach Tom Allen has vaulted the I.U. program into the upper echelon of a powerful conference. They can prove their worth today! My other team, #25 Oregon, plays #10 Iowa State later today in the Fiesta Bowl.
Meanwhile, basketball continues to struggle, but did manage to pull-off an OT win over Penn State. Another W against Maryland next week and they can even their BIG record after an 0-2 start. Basketball used to be the big sport on campus in Bloomington, but surprisingly football has proven to be more successful in recent years. In the Bob Knight era it was “The Magic of 60.” If the Hoosiers got to 60 before their opponent victory was eminent. However, with the addition of the 3-point shot, 70 is now coach Archie Miller’s defining number. With his leadership, in conference play (including the B1G tourney) the Hoosiers are 18-7 when scoring 70 or more points and 10-30 when scoring below 70 points. 70 is the new 60 going forward.
Purdue basketball is off to a 7-4 start, but 2-2 in the conference. They play #15 Illinois this afternoon, after losing to #14 Rutgers. It would be nice to see a ranked Purdue or Indiana program. Unfortunately, both rivals will be in the lower half of the BIG since the league is loaded with 7 nationally ranked teams. Here on the West coast, the undefeated Zags are still the #1 team in the country while the Oregon Ducks (6-1) stand at #21.
On the baseball front, the Cubs continue to clean house with the trade of Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the Padres. Yu has been the pitching leader for the last two years, with Cy Young consideration. There’s also talk of dealing my favorite and IU alum, Kyle Schwarber. Rizzo and Bryant will soon become free agents, so the World Series Champions of 2016 are seeing their winning foundation deteriorate. Today, however, my concern is football the Indiana Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl.
I experienced a little mild dizziness on this morning’s run, #4,369 of The Streak. Hopefully, it’s nothing to be concerned about, most likely dehydration. I’m always worried that I’ll have another episode like two years ago (See Post #808) where I ended up in the Emergency Room after nearly passing out. Nothing serious was found in the tests that they did, but I do have a small aneurysm that I need to continue to monitor. It’s shown little change in many years but makes me feel vulnerable. Like everyone else, I’m just grateful to have survived 2020, with only 17 days remaining.
Every little ache and pain gets magnified in these viral times, with thoughts of Covid symptoms. I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I’ve had a scratchy throat, cough, or upset stomach this year that was surely the onset of the worst. What professed pessimist like myself isn’t also a hypochondriac? I can’t help but think of Fred Sanford’s famous line while grabbing his chest, “It’s the BIG one!!!” Around Portland where I now live it also refers to the inevitable earthquake. When I move to Florida in the spring, it will be the next hurricane. Fortunately, having grown up in the Midwest, I’ve survived many tornado threats. There’s always something to fret. “You hear that, Elizabeth? I’m coming to join ya, honey!”
“Big Ones” can also refer to football games. I was so disappointed when the Old Oaken Bucket game was canceled last weekend. It was a chance for the #8 Indiana Hoosiers to really shine against their biggest rival, the Purdue Boilermakers. Well. thanks to the divine intervention of the BIG10, the two were pitted against each other again this week. The game, The Big One for The Bucket, is traditionally held around Thanksgiving, but was delayed along with the season due to Covid. The virus reared its ugly head again in the cancellation, but we’ve been given a third chance for it to happen. Purdue fans probably thought they had dodged a bullet, but like a cartoon that sees it magically change direction, here it comes again! The Big One is back!
There is no Bucket or Border War to win today. Both rivalries have succumb to Covid. The teams were already three weeks behind schedule as both conference seasons were delayed and shortened by the dreaded virus. Dead. Games today will decide who plays who next, although it has already been determined that #4 Ohio State will play #14 Northwestern for the BIG10 title, #1 Alabama will face #6 Florida for the SEC crown, and #2 Notre Dame will meet #3 Clemson in a rematch for ACC bragging rights. I’m waiting to see what BIG10 team #8 Indiana plays next Saturday and whether the Oregon Ducks will get to compete for PAC12 honors or if the Huskies will automatically get the nod?
1942 was the first Old Oaken Bucket game where Indiana or Purdue entered the contest with a national rating. That year the #18 Hoosiers won 20-0. The following year #3 Purdue got revenge 7-0. In 1945, it was #4 I.U. prevailing 26-0. It wasn’t until 1960 that ratings once again became a bucket factor as #13 Purdue won in West Lafayette 35-6. 1967 went to #4 Indiana, while the 1968 #12 Boilers took home the bucket, and added another P-link in 1969 as the #17 team in the country. 1978 and 1979 also went to ranked Purdue, and it wasn’t until 1987 when the ratings tide changed as #20 Indiana won 35-14, followed by similar success by the #21 Hoosiers in 1993. After that it was all Purdue with nationally recognized teams in 1997 (#23), 1999 (#19), 2000 (#17), and 2003 (#16). Following this stretch, both programs had been in a serious ratings draught until the 2020 #8 Indiana Hoosiers took the field.
It was the Joe Tiller era from 1996-2008 when the dominant Black & Gold went 10-2 against the bucket deprived Cream & Crimson. Going back a little further, the rivalry’s biggest upset was in 1989 when Bill Mallory coached I.U. was a 15.5 favorite, but underdog Purdue led by Fred Akers pulled off a 15-14 victory. It was their only Big Ten win that year and proof that anything can happen in a rivalry game. With the death of the bucket this year, we’ll never know if lightening could have possibly struck twice?
Santa started making deliveries this week, getting a head start on Christmas morning. The electric scooter arrived in Florida for my granddaughter. A Gamemaker2 program showed up on my grandson’s computer, and a kids table & chairs set is on the way for my youngest granddaughter. However, I did not get any of my holiday wishes granted yesterday. Santa, dressed in cream & crimson, did not deliver a basketball win at Florida State, a Bucket Game this year, or a top spot in the BIG10 Football Championship. The Buckeye Santa, also dressed in red & white, swayed conference representatives to allow his team to play for the title against Northwestern. Honestly, they deserve it after their 42-35 victory over Indiana and an undefeated record.
It was not a good day for I.U. or P.U. athletics as Covid once again has taken its toll. The Old Oaken Bucket rivalry (See Post #867) has existed since 1891 but games in 1895, 1896, 1903, 1906, 1907, 1918, 1919, and now 2020 did not happen due to various circumstances. The game this Saturday would have been the 100th consecutive in the series but has been officially cancelled. Overall, Purdue leads 74-42-6, but the #8 Hoosiers had hoped to narrow that wide gap as a heavy favorite. Thanks to Covid, The Boilermakers may have dodged a bullet! Up next for I.U. will probably be Iowa if Champions Week goes as planned. As we all know, nothing is certain in these viral times!
Santa is still coming to town, although there will be only one limited family get-together. My wife’s daughter and husband will be over for a dinner gift exchange next week, but all other family meetings will be limited to phone or Zoom. Kauai was cancelled and any travel into San Francisco for the other daughter is delayed. We will get together with my son’s family in mid-January with a trip to Florida and The Keys. We’re still waiting to see what happens with any home construction delays and the cruises we have scheduled for 2021. Santa is putting us in a new Florida home this year.
Yesterday’s errands turned out to be less of a hassle than originally expected. This is the plus side of being a pessimist. I didn’t have to deal with the garage hydraulics, traffic was light, parking was easy, appointments went as scheduled, and travel between them was smooth. There were no wrong turns and not once did I go out of my way. This is a rare accomplishment. The Social Security office was closed, so I put my paperwork in the mail, hoping that it will still get immediate attention. There was one extra unexpected task when the low-air indicator popped up on my dashboard. It required a stop at Les Schwab Tire, but they got me in right away. I will need two new tires before we head out to Florida, but that will wait until after the first of the year.
I was surprisingly home by noon, expecting all my tasks to take most of the day. My wife then offered to let me put-off cooking for a few days, allowing even more time for play. As a result, I watched two more James Bond movies – Diamonds are Forever (#7 1971) and Her Majesty’s Secret Service (#6 1969). Today, I’ll be home all day with more Bond movies, Big Sky, and Suits on the television viewing plan. This sadly is the new daily norm for me – run, blog, watch. Tomorrow, it’s back to the dentist for a crown and a filling, another deviation from the apartment routine. I’m glad to have something to do, but who really wants to go get drilled?
I.U. basketball is on TV tonight, with the ACC-BIG10 Challenge against #22 Florida State. BIG teams dominated yesterday’s action with a 6-1 record, with the only loss by Purdue against Miami. A Hoosier victory would be a positive step into the Top 25 after a mediocre performance in the Maui Classic. The other big news today will be the BIG10 Conference decision to wave the six-game minimum on playing for the title. With the cancellation of the Michigan-Ohio State game, the Buckeyes at 5-0 have not played enough games to qualify. Indiana at 6-1 could by-pass Ohio State, despite the earlier 42-35 loss, and play Northwestern for the championship. However, the vote could pander to the Buckeyes, allowing them to also compete for a National Championship. This would unfortunately knock the Hoosiers out of contention for the BIG title, despite the rules. One way or the other, it will be a very controversial decision. The Old Oaken Bucket game against Purdue is also in jeopardy this weekend due to Coronavirus concerns, although it has little affect on Hoosier post-season destiny. Even though it might benefit I.U. football – Covid Sucks!
Indiana is having the best football season since before I was born. A once mediocre to poor program has been resurrected by coach Tom Allen. For me, watching them beat Wisconsin yesterday was a near religious experience. The post-game interview showed the love of the players for their coach. It’s encouraging to note that his enthusiasm, energy, and respect will bring top players to Indiana for many years to come. Football will become THE Hoosier sport. Next year, even Ohio State will have reason to fear the Cream & Crimson.
The next step is beating Purdue next Saturday for the Old Oaken Bucket. Rivalry games like this tend to bring out the best in a mediocre opponent like this year’s Boilermakers squad. I’ve seen many a solid I.U. team fall apart in this game. Weather may even be a bigger factor with the December match-up three weeks later than normal. There’s been nothing normal about 2020, and I.U. football success is one of the irregularities. The Hoosiers now boast the most wins in the BIG Conference at six, with Penn State, Michigan, and now Wisconsin as their uncharacteristic victims. In order to qualify for the Championship game, Ohio State still needs to play one more game. If the virus gets in the way, as it often has this year, the Hoosiers could still win the evasive title.
In my lifetime, only the Rose Bowl season of 1967-68 compares with 2020-21 success. The Hoosiers under John Pont finished 6-1 in the Big Ten that year, 9-2 overall, and became the last non-Ohio/Michigan team to win the Conference, losing only to Minnesota. They earned a trip to the Rose Bowl, but were thwarted 14-3 by USC’s O.J. Simpson, the Heisman Trophy winner that year. The team featured wide receiver Jade Butcher, running back John Isenbarger, and MVP Harry Gonzo at quarterback: B-I-G. They were known by those three letters long before the Conference itself!
Virus willing – there will be at least three more games for the Hoosiers this year, including a major Bowl. Hungry Purdue at 2-4 will not qualify for post season play even if they pull-off the upset of I.U. – more reason for me to worry about next Saturday. My other hometown adopted teams are Illinois 2-4, Texas 6-3, and Oregon 3-2. Notre Dame stands at 10-0, with a chance for a National Championship. My heart is always with the Hoosiers. Behold – we are witnessing the resurrection of I.U. football!
Sports have probably never been a more important part of my life. It’s my sole entertainment in these pandemic times of isolation. I’ve gone through most of the movies and documentaries I’ve wanted to watch, waiting for live sports to finally return. Now, there’s almost too much to keep track of every day. My love of sports dates back to childhood and following my local high school team – The Elkhart Blue Blazers. A once dominant team in most every sport was eventually split into two high schools. Throughout the years, there was never a greater nemesis than the Penn Kingsmen in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana. Once I moved away from town, it seemed like every time I checked the scores it was another loss to Penn, particularly in football.
“Once A Blazer – Always a Blazer” is the motto of my generation, disturbed by the recent consolidation of the two Elkhart high schools into one again. They should have never been separated in the first place, but it did start another rivalry between the Memorial Chargers and the Elkhart Blue Blazers. Unfortunately, neither team was very competitive on the state level like Penn. The main problem with unifying the two programs became selecting a name. As a result, the Blazers or Chargers no longer exist, but the new Lions have become a football force. For the first time in 35 years, the final score of Friday night’s football match-up was Elkhart 20 Penn 19, and the team that I will always know as the Blazers are undefeated.
As I write this morning, I’m watching the final day of the Tour de France, reminiscent of our trips to Paris. It too was delayed several months as organizers made adjustments to deal with Coronavirus concerns. Slovenian Tadej Pogacar won it in his rookie debut. Cycling, golf, auto racing, football, and baseball are all now competing with each other for television viewership, with little in the way of live fan support. Plus, last night the Portland Timbers pounded the San Jose Earthquake 6-1 for a MLS victory, after a draw the other night in the same stadium.
So far, 2020 has been a good year for my teams. The Chicago White Sox just claimed their first playoff berth in twelve years. The Cubs will also soon clinch, putting both Chicago teams in the same post-season battle for only the third time since 1906. The White Sox, known that year as the “hitless wonders” upset the powerhouse Cubs in the World Series. Could it happen again in this year of strange surprises? Last Sunday, for example, the Bears, Cubs, and White Sox were all victorious. I bought a new pair of Sox Socks to celebrate their success. My Bears and Cubs socks don’t have holes in them yet.
The Cubs had a five-game winning streak going into last night’s game against the Twins. Sadly, the streak ended badly and the Cubbies allowed the Twins to clinch the fifth spot in this year’s post-season. The Cubs magic number is now four with three games remaining against the White Sox. They could each knock the other out of the top spot in their respective Division races. A week from now the seeds will all be finalized. Could the Sox and Cubs collide for all the marbles again after 114 years?
Chicago baseball has witnessed two no-hitters this year, the only ones in the majors. I bought Topps cards to commemorate these two remarkable achievements from Luis Giolito of the White Sox and Alec Mills of the Cubs. At no other time in history have both Windy City teams had this happen in the same season. It’s just the beginning of what could happen in Sweet Home Chicago this year. Unfortunately, a Cubs-Sox World Series would be held in Arlington, Texas,
The other important development this past week in sports was the BIG 10 conference rethinking the earlier decision to delay Fall football. After much controversy, schedules starting October 24th were finally announced. I.U. will open at Penn State and conclude with Purdue eight weeks later. The ninth game for the Cream & Crimson will either be the BIG Championship or a bonus conference match-up with potential Bowl implications. Let’s hope it’s not the Toilet Bowl – they could easily go 0-9. Basketball will begin November 25th when the Hoosiers were originally planning to play in Maui. It will be a week later in Asheville, as a further indication of the strange twists in sports this year. Will 2020 also be good to both Hoosier teams, despite the delays?
The Lakers are in the driver’s seat for this year’s NBA Championship, with an opening round final four victory over Denver. The Tampa Bay Lightening lost their Stanley Cup Finals opener against the Dallas Stars. I’ll need to follow them as a future Florida resident. The Rays are comfortably in the MLB play-off field, while the Bucs and Tom Brady did not get off to a great start last Sunday. I’ve now lived in enough states to always have a team in contention, but Chicago will forever remain my favorite.
The strain and stress of isolation is beginning to distort my sense of personal privacy. I was always taught to refrain from discussing three controversial subjects in life: Religion, Politics, and Bobby Knight. These were the three most debatable subjects while growing up as a Hoosier. I was warned that each could easily destroy any good friendship and create irreparable alienation from others. Through my daily thoughts, I’m hoping to attract others to my words – not drive them away. With this in mind, I will cautiously step to the edge of the religious cliff and reveal some of my secrets. For those of you ready to stop reading, this is not about Coach Knight!
I know that we all would like to believe that after we die there’s a special place we go where we are rewarded for our goodness. I see it as the retirement party that I never had. A lot of things in life for me did not go as planned, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t turn out for the best. I never imagined that I would work for ten different companies, after my dad spent forty successful years at one. I never would have planned being married twice or moving over 30 times. Portland, Oregon was never on my radar, but Florida always was a Heaven on Earth and where I hope to retire next year.
I attended church and vacation Bible schools while I was growing up in Indiana. I never had any issues with following the basic principals of the Commandments, even to this day. They are good rules to live by, and the common foundation of every religion. However, it was always disturbing to me that every organized group of worshipers seemed to portray a superior attitude in their beliefs. Like clubs, fraternities, and sororities, religious affiliation appears to divide more people rather than it brings together. From my perspective, it’s been a alarming observation that 30% of the world are Christians and 70% are arguably wrong.
Heaven and Hell are the two choices we’re given, yet nobody really wants to go to Hell! Heaven could be really boring, filled with people that can do no wrong or at least never get caught. What would there be to talk about, and what does a two-bedroom condo cost there? Are there travel options to Hell and Back, just for a little variety? I’m not one to make fun of beliefs, but all this preaching about one God and two ways of spending eternity, leave me a bit baffled.
I can see where each of us carries a little bit of our God with us at all times. This enables us to distinguish between “Good and Evil.” I don’t see where “going to church” or following a specific God should be like a Walt Disney World Fast Pass to Heaven. You might not even speak his or hers’ language. I think we’ve already proven that our personal prejudices have made it impossible to live peacefully together on Earth, let alone in some other Eden-like world. Like most everyone else, these are questions that I silently ponder every day of my retirement life.
Every day could be my last, but I’m content with the way I’ve led my life. I know that when I close my eyes for the last time, I don’t expect to be transported to paradise, but I will be briefly reunited with those that I have lost. This is the one reward that I think everyone, regardless of good or bad merits, is entitled to experience. A final rush of remembrance. After that, it may simply be eternal sleep, which at times sounds pretty good after too many years of wondering what might happen next?
I’ll save the heated subject of Bob Knight for another time, after I’ve gauged any negative reaction to these thoughts on the after-life. While there may be a place in my heaven for him, I’ve heard too many Purdue fans say, “he can go to Hell!” I think my first wife might have said that of me, but I don’t think she really meant it at the time. Hopefully, we’re both happier with the way things turned out. Life is not a fairy tale, so not everyone will have a happy ending. I hold no animosity for anyone or anything, and if there is a God, I would be the last one to try to upset them. Just get someone where I go that can win a few basketball games for me!
Will it be March Madness, Badness, Gladness, or Sadness? One sad note is that my Elkhart High School Blazers have played their last basketball game forever, eliminated in the Indiana 4A sectionals. From this point forward, they will be known as the Elkhart Lions. My son’s high school team, #1 ranked Indianapolis Lawrence North, escaped defeat by legendary Indianapolis Crispus Attucks last night to make it to their sectional title game. Their girls team already claimed their first state title last week. Ever since I was a little kid playing with an aluminum foil ball and a bottomless Quaker Oats container, the Indiana high school basketball tournament was always the first sign that spring has finally arrived.
The second sign of spring was if I.U. was still playing basketball and Purdue wasn’t. However, that hasn’t been true for years. The two Hoosier seniors, De’Ron Davis and Devonte Green, have an opportunity today to at least get in the NCAA tournament for the first time in their college careers. Coach Archie Miller has also yet to produce a tourney-worthy team. Purdue has been there every one of those frustrating years, but find themselves in a bubble game today against Rutgers. IU has to beat Wisconsin to officially make their dreams come true. The game starts in a few minutes and will determine my mood for the rest of the day. If they fail, they at least have the BIG tournament next week to try to make the elusive field of 68 for the first time in four years. The IU women made the quarter-finals of the BIG tournament and play Maryland later this afternoon. Purdue has already been eliminated, another positive sign of spring.
With the clocks “Springing Forward” tonight, it’s the start of an ominous week that also includes a full moon, Friday the 13th, conference tournaments, and Selection Sunday. We fly to Phoenix on Thursday for Spring Training games and additional fun in the sun, so regardless we’ll escape from the Portland gray skies and rain. Typically, Friday the 13th has been lucky for me, so I really can’t lose when we see the Sox playing the Cubs, my two favorite teams. I’d then like to see the week end with I.U. men in the NCAA tournament and Purdue on the sidelines – the true beginning of spring.