Living dangerously

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Last week a father was convicted of manslaughter for having beaten to death the father of another boy at a school hockey match. On Sunday, President Bush became unconscious and fell off the sofa after having a pretzel go down the wrong way while he was watching football on TV. All this suggests, of course, that watching sport can indeed be a perilous occupation, but Peter and I laugh at danger (or are usually blissfully ignorant of it) and decided to venture down to the Mackey Arena at Purdue to watch the men’s basketball team play Minnesota on Saturday.

The men had started the season poorly, losing their first two games, but last week they beat the more fancied Illinois team and we were hoping for great things from them at this game. I originally suggested we walk the mile or so down to the game, but it was threatening to rain and/or snow later in the day, and I didn’t fancy having to struggle back through that, so we drove to the main covered carpark across from Peter’s office. From there it was a short walk across campus to the arena. Mackey Arena is an impressive facility. It is a brick, circular, domed building, fully air-conditioned/heated, with tiered seating around the centre court for just over 14,000 spectators. By the time the game started, there were not many empty seats. No food is allowed in the seating areas (so we were safe from pretzel mishaps), but there are plenty of food and restroom facilities around the entry concourse.

All the hype and razzamatazz that had enthralled me at the football was also evident here at the basketball. The band, though smaller in number, and physically constrained within a section of the stands, was nevertheless enthusiastic, energetic, and entertaining. Purdue Pete was there again, as was Rowdy, the double life-size inflatable mascot character. The boys and girls of the cheer squad were also there to ensure that everyone cheered loud and hard for “the Boilermakers”. They formed pyramids, did backflips, cartwheels, and other feats of athleticism that again had me fascinated. Tension and excitement built until at last the teams came onto the court. The Minnesota team ran on and then came Purdue. Their appearance was heralded by a fanfare from the band and evoked a huge roar from the crowd. They did some warm-up manouvres and finally removed their black track suits to reveal their white and gold outfits. They were dazzling!

Even more fanfare was awarded to Coach Gene Keady, a Purdue legend who has been there for 22 seasons and has lead his teams to their fair share of successes. Coach Keady obviously does not owe his cult status to his barber. He has one of those wrap-around hairdos which unsuccessfully tries to pretend it is not hiding bald patches underneath, but hundreds of adoring students showed their admiration by wearing T-shirts proudly proclaiming them to be members of “The Gene Pool”. Centre court has also been named Keady Court in his honour.

Now basketball is a game I really enjoy and Peter and I cheered enthusiastically as the Purdue players outclassed the opposition in every move. One guy in particular was brilliant – intercepting, blocking, and scoring 3-pointers at will. Minnesota, to their credit, did keep to within 8-10 points of Purdue, but seemed to be doing it the hard way. Half time arrived all too soon, and with Purdue ahead, spirits were high as a presentation of a cheque for $3m was made to Purdue President, Martin Jitske, by 1964 graduate, Richard Dauch, who came onto the court with his family. The donation was for a new alumni centre. We were told that the total contributions made to the university by the Dauch family was now $9m.

Half-time entertainment was provided by a group of young dancers from Indianapolis, and then the men returned to complete their conquest. Alas, the change of end also brought a change in fortune for Purdue. If I’ve ever seen the wheels fall off for a team, then I saw it in that second half. My hero from the first half couldn’t sink a shot, no matter what he tried. His friends were looking just as bad as they missed shots and fumbled passes till it was almost too painful to watch. All the moves were being made by Minnesota who looked as though they might have actually swapped shirts with the Purdue guys during the break. They bridged the gap and then mid-way through the second half, they took the lead for the first time. From that point, it was a complete rout. Coach Keady, in a post-game interview, suggested his team had some “chemistry problems”. It looked to me as though they ran out of chemicals altogether. The final score was too horrible for me to recall. We should have waited till Sunday to watch the women play Ohio State. They won 80-43. We will certainly get to a women’s game sometime in the future, when we pluck up the courage to become sports fans once more. Of course the main threat we have to face at the moment is the weather.

Our other social event for this week was dinner on Friday night with Sue and Kent Parkinson, the friends we had spent 5 minutes with on New Years’ Eve. Sue is a wonderful cook and we greatly enjoyed their hospitality and conversation. I was most delighted to receive a special gift that Sue had made for me – a snow globe containing a photo she had taken of Nick and me enjoying hot cider on her snowy patio on Christmas Eve. After dinner we played a game (I forget what it was called) which had printed phrases similar to those produced by your voice recognition Dragon program, Laura. The aim is to work out what the phrase actually means. It was great fun – mainly because Peter and I were absolute whizzes. I think it may have something to do with the fact that we have had to concentrate on understanding the different accents here, that we have picked up an extra skill. Anyway, a great time was had by all!

Most of the rest of my time lately has been taken up with three main occupations:

1. Reading the fascinating accounts Murray has sent me of their trip to Bolivia in September, and then the even more fascinating tales of his adventures in Rhodesia and surrounding areas in 1974. If anyone is interested in reading some or all of these, let me know. Murray has given me his permission to pass them on.

2. Making floor cushions for The Harbor project which is due to start next week. Heather, the project leader, mentioned that she would like to have some cushions made so that groups could sit casually and comfortably on the floor. I volunteered to make them, and found out she wants 20 cushions made. Luckily, Sue is going to help me with them. Each cushion takes 2 pillows, so yesterday I depleted the stock of 19 pillows at the local Walmart and will go down later today to collect the rest. Even trying to stuff 19 pillows into my car was interesting enough. I’m glad they didn’t have all 40 as I required. When I got home, I dragged all the pillows up into the spare bedroom (Peter’s study) to get them out of the living room. When Peter came home and found them all there, he claimed I had converted his room into a padded cell. I broke it to him gently that the next half would arrive today. He’ll really be able to bounce off the walls then.

3. Getting all my emails onto a website. With considerable help from Peter, I have scanned about 90 photos and added them to the written reports I have been producing (somewhat prolifically) over the past 5 months (5 down, 5 to go). With a bit of editting and playing around on my part, Peter has now got a website up and running which you can peruse at your leisure. You don’t have to read all the letters again, but you might like to see some of our pictures. I will add to the website as I go now.┬áIf you have any problems accessing the site, or if it doesn’t look the way you think it should, let me know. I will pass on your questions and comments to my technical adviser.

I am very excited that Philip has given mum and dad his old laptop computer and they are now online at home. Most of the family were there the weekend before last to see Philip and to send us the first email. I look forward to many more.

Even though it is still Tuesday afternoon here, people are already up and about their daily business in Australia on this special day – Harvey’s birthday. Happy Birthday Harvey. I hope the weather cools off a bit for you. Have a drink for us!

I received lots of correct answers to my last week’s question from the many Beach Boys fans out there. Well done! Robert sent me the full lyrics and I have since discovered I have the four-part harmony version among my Sweet Adeline collection. Pat was able to quote Woody Allen who described Kokomo as a bar or islands where the girls have fathomless beauty.

My question this week is: “What exciting sporting event would I be attending this coming weekend if I were in Australia?”
Oh, yes, could you also please let me know the score after the event? Thanks for that.