Last night was the final game of the NCAA tournament for 2010. Unless you really don’t give a hoot about basketball, you probably were aware that mighty Duke played an unexpected and underrated opponent by the name of Butler University from my home state of Indiana. In any other year I would be cheering for Duke which I know invokes strong responses from most people. Duke is a team folks either love or hate, there’s usually no in between. I happen to like Duke, I respect their coach Mike Krzyzewski, I respect the fact I could spell his name correctly-ok so I looked it up-shoot me, I like the fact they are a perennial threat every year, I like how passionate their fans are.
But this year was a different story. This year their opponent was none other than Butler, a small liberal arts university that I’d previously known for having a good dance school. Oh and their gym, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was one of the gyms used in Hoosiers. Butler was an improbable finalist in the tournament, rising from I think it was the 5th seed to almost win the game. It was one of the best basketball games I’ve watched in recent history. Both teams were neck and neck with each other, their defenses were tight so the score was relatively low and the excitement in the stadium was palpable what with Duke’s passionate fans trying to outshout the home field advantage Butler had. Duke ended up winning by one point but not before one of the Butler players launched a mid-court buzzer beater shot. You could hear the collective intake of breath as time slowed down and everyone waited to see where the ball landed. It not only made it to the basket, it hit the rim with a loud clunk that CBS replayed over and over. Alas it didn’t go in. What a story that would have been.
So Duke won the game. But I couldn’t help thinking throughout the celebration and press conference afterwards, that the real story was what Butler had accomplished. That they were the real winners of the night and we were the better having watched them. They never doubted they had the right to be in the finals, never apologized for their presence, never made excuses for their ascension, never wavered in their belief they would win. That team should be so proud of what they achieved. And what they taught me, not that I matter anything to them, is something I will draw on in years to come.
I do loves me some Hoosier basketball!