The String

The String continues ... when PURDUENUT (a.k.a. Wendell Wolka) saddles up for the 2005 season, it will mark the 31st anniversary of his string of consecutively attended home and away Boilermaker football contests, which now stands at 353 games.

     The String began October 5, 1974. Why then? Well, the week before, Purdue played in South Bend. Living in Chicago at the time, Wendell decided not to make the trip to the game. Purdue had been humbled the week before by Miami of Ohio 7-7 and had lost the first game of the season to Wisconsin, 14-28. Who needed the pain of another thrashing by the Domers? Tuning in the game on the radio at home, he was stunned to hear the announcer excitedly exclaiming that Purdue was leading the Mighty Irish. "Was there still time to drive to the game?" he wondered. Alas, the answer was No.

     The next week Alex Agase was in Sports Illustrated and PURDUENUT was on a plane to Raleigh armed with a vow to never miss another Purdue football game for the rest of his life ... no matter where, no matter how unlikely a win.

     The String started out in less than storybook fashion. Purdue lost to lowly Duke 14-16, in a stadium that reminded Wendell of something right out of an Andy Griffith story. Even at that, he almost missed the game, showing up at the wrong stadium (North Carolina was playing at home in Chapel Hill) thanks to some really vague directions. The years started to roll by; a brief flurry of success from 1978-1980 sandwiched in between mediocre to downright terrible football during much of the 1970's, 1980's, and early 1990's. There were a few close calls for The String ... a plane which wasn't going to be held in Amsterdam in the late 1980's (an "earnest appeal" to KLM personnel changed their minds -- "Crazy Americans"!). The Sales Meeting inexplicably scheduled on the weekend of the Purdue-Michigan game in 1992 (in order to keep The String alive, Wendell made a "minor detour" from Milwaukee to Indianapolis via West Lafayette, stayed for one play, and drove to Indianapolis, catching the last flight to Houston with seven minutes to spare).

     The lowlights? Scoring 56 points and still losing to Minnesota in 1993; capturing the Eternal Record of becoming the first team to finish 11th in the Big Ten the same year. Then there's the Wisconsin game in 1983 when Purdue lost a gut-wrenching 38-42 contest because they could not run the last 30 seconds off the clock, even though we had the ball, two downs, and an opponent with no time-outs left! Scott Campbell -- what were you thinking???

     The highlights? Well there have been quite a few of those too. Beating number one Michigan in 1976, 16-14, thanks to a missed field goal as time expired. Both the 1997 and 1998 miraculous Michigan State games. And yes, the Kansas State victory in December '98.

     The worst weather? Hands down winner is the 1995 Purdue-Michigan game (Loss 0-5) which was played in rain, sleet, snow, and high winds which were reminiscent of the weather in Stalingrad during the winter of 1942. Most of the fans could have been extras for the German army.

     What keeps Wendell going? After about 100 games, The String started to take on a life of its own. It really didn't matter whether Purdue had a chance or not ... continuing The String was all that counted. The last milestone was game number 300: the Ohio State game in West Lafayette, October 28, 2000.

     So -- no matter where, no matter how long the odds, no matter how bad the weather, there'll always be at least one fan in attendance at every Purdue football game as long as PURDUENUT has any influence on events. He truly remains "Ever Grateful, Ever True ... ".