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When the Duke Blue Devils managed to beat the Butler Bulldogs last night in a stupefying 61-59 finish in Lucas Oil Stadium, my husband and his friend Rod were satisfied they’d seen a great game. Rod’s wife Betsy and I were devastated. Before the game even started, Betsy had asked me who I was rooting for, and I said, “Butler, of course.” And she said “Exactly. I always root for the underdog.” [picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=butler%2fduke&iid=8439262″ src=”1/1/a/2/NCAA_Championship_Game_3181.jpg?adImageId=12157557&imageId=8439262″ width=”396″ height=”594″ /]
And that, in a nutshell, is what I love about women. We love the runt of the litter, the little guy, the kid who never gets picked by the good team. We may not want to date him, but we do love him and will look after him just the same. Even if that kid isn’t ours. Even if we don’t much understand the rules of the game. We know who needs us to go to bat for them.
It’s precisely this sentiment that made me want to write this blog in the first place. Now granted, Butler is not exactly a charity case, although it’s also not remotely in the same league as Duke. For one thing, Butler plays in the Horizon League, and is only the second team not affiliated with the Big Six to make it to the NCAA finals. Its tuition is $28,460 a year compared to Duke’s $39,075. It’s been to the Final Four exactly once to Duke’s 15 trips, and to Duke’s 15 consensus All American players ever, Butler has exactly zero. With a student population of 4,512, Butler is dwarfed by Duke’s 13,000, and 10 of Butler guys are Indiana Hoosiers, while only 4 Duke players hail from North Carolina. Even Butler’s star player, Gordon Hayward, was a one-time tennis prodigy, not a basketball player at all.[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=butler%2fduke&iid=8439078″ src=”7/c/7/6/NCAA_Championship_Game_a9d9.jpg?adImageId=12156860&imageId=8439078″ width=”500″ height=”368″ /]
“We caught lightning in a bottle and ran with it,” is how coach Brad Stevens, who looks as young and fresh-faced as one of his players, put it. Although nobody but Butler really thought Butler would win, it took a missed 1/2 court heave by Hayward at the buzzer, that smacked against the rim and looked perilously close to dropping in, to give the Blue Devils the title. For the Bulldogs, it was still a bitter defeat. “It’s great for us to be here, but that’s not what we wanted to do. We wanted to win,” Hayward said dejectedly after the game.[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=butler%2fduke&iid=8439508″ src=”a/8/b/e/NCAA_Championship_Game_e8b9.jpg?adImageId=12156894&imageId=8439508″ width=”500″ height=”316″ /]
My $100 today goes to a team that delighted and enthralled me, right up to the final seconds of the last game. Butler still plays in the aging treasure of Hinkle Fieldhouse, named after Paul D. “Tony” Hinkle who coached basketball, football, and baseball in a 50-year career at Butler and won 1,000 victories with his teams. (Hinkle is also the venue where tiny Milan High School of “Hoosiers” fame swept to the state championship.) Hinkle needs renovating modernization badly, and I figure that’s a good historic place for me to put my underdog funds.
I wasn’t sure anything could shake off my “Butler Blues” this morning till I opened your daily post and saw the Bulldog – thank you, Betty! And even though my Butler Basketball t-shirt (a Youth Large, the only non-backordered Butler shirt in the country last week) is already in the charity pickup bag, and even though I’d like to re-write those last game seconds and have it end like in the movies, I’m grateful to Butler for giving us a wonderful story these past weeks. And to you for recognizing it!
With news dominated by hate talk and sniping from Washington to Afghanistan, student tragedies from Cornell to West Hadley and the painfully slow economic recovery, it was indeed a refreshing feeling to cheer for a talented, underdog group that modeled teamwork at its best.
Speaking of inspiring underdogs, that’s exactly who your daily blog always highlights, Betty, so I’m grateful to you, too.
Great story, and what a game!
The broad paintbrush applied to men vs women and underdogs isn’t totally accurate. My buddy and I were rooting for Butler for the very same underdog reasons.
As I posted on Facebook last night, Duke may have won the game (and they *are* stellar), but Butler won for biggest heart.