I went to the NCAA basketball championship in Indianapolis last night. My trip home from Chicago to Louisville literally passes within sight of the stadium, so it was an easy diversion. After Butler won Saturday night, Stubhub provided a seat. I have pictures and commentary from the game, and TiVo to review what actually occurred versus what I thought I saw from the nosebleed seats. I’m a little hurt from the 61-59 defeat, so it will take me a few days.
As I drove home, though, I wasn’t that dismayed, because there’s a lot of joy in my heart. I almost saw a fairytale. Earlier, one of the radio tunes approaching Indianapolis was from Omar Samhan’s crush Taylor Swift, Today was a Fairytale. Could Monday night become one?
The student-athletes of Butler played hard and played well. Butler’s motto is The Butler Way: The Butler Way demands commitment, denies selfishness, accepts reality, yet seeks improvement everyday while putting the team above self.
You could do much, much worse. They represented young men valiently, from going to class on Friday, to church on Sunday, to dealing with poor officiating on Monday. With 5 minutes left, their best player got shoved into the basket support on a breakaway, a play so dangerous that doing that in a pickup game would typically lead to a fight. As the officials gathered, those of us in the stands knew. “It’s D–e. That’s not going to be a flagrant foul.” Of course. Despite many things, Butler held close. Close enough for belief.
When I used online dating, I started my profile with “A friend once said that in my world, fairy tales still exist.” Why not? We read those stories to children because they have the values we want them to learn. Yes, we fail in them. Yes, I fail in them. That doesn’t make them wrong principles.
Watching Butler fight tonight, the crowd believed, even the worried D–e supporters. We tried to help, cheering Butler and being noisy when the opponent had the ball. Things looked bleak after the knockdown thuggery, but Butler recovered. Then, after a scrappy rebound with 33 seconds to go, Butler had a chance. During the timeouts with 13 seconds left, the crowd believed in fairy tales. And as the last shot went into the air, even from halfcourt, for a few seconds there was a rare, special hope.
Coach Stevens spoke very well in the ESPN interview outside the locker room. (For contrast, listen to the Michigan State coach’s comments from Saturday night.) The players were hurt, not disappointed. Several of them later answered questions. The effort, the journey, still meant a great deal. On the way out, the fans understood that as well. I saw sadness, but no sense of failure. It was always an uphill battle, monetary and otherwise, for anyone outside the BCS Circle. While 50,000 people inside the stadium, millions of people watching on TV, and I wanted the fairy tale, I can still be satisfied with what I received. As Coach Stevens said, “This one, obviously, got a lot of people dreaming.” Eventually, it will happen. Until then, thank you, Butler Bulldogs, for pleasant dreams.