INDIANAPOLIS -- The sky above was blue, the concrete below was grey, and Butler fans streamed into Monument Circle to celebrate their team's return home to play in the Final Four. Bally and I headed downtown to see what all the fuss was about! The players and coaches weren't there (they were in class, according to Butler president Bobby Fong), but their real live mascot was! Butler Blue II, the 60-lb., six-year old English Bulldog was the star of the show! Speech, speech!
Blue was so well-behaved, posing for pictures with kids and enjoying the sunny day. But the fans who came in from downtown streets, and the students bused in campus, were whipped into a Butler-lovin' frenzy by the band and cheerleaders!
There were signs for the fans, souvenirs for everyone. "Good Dawgs Always Come Home." It's true!
Then Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard officially declared March 31, 2010 Butler Bulldog Day in the city of Indianapolis! "Butler represents the best. They do it right. They do it with teamwork. With camaraderie, working together. That's how we do things in Indianapolis," he said as the crowd cheered, waving blue and white pom-poms.
Barry Collier was a Butler player, graduate, and also the program's head coach for 11 years. Then he jumped the Red Line, leaving for the Nebraska job in 2000. His six years there didn't go well enough to satisfy power-conference tastes; after a 7-9 season in the Big XII, he left Lincoln and returned to Butler as athletic director. While in this new job, he took a chance on a young coach, and the rest is not only history, but hopefully a long future as well. When he gave his speech today, he talked about his pregame meal in Salt Lake City before the Kansas State game last Syracuse. He ordered a rice bowl at a Chinese restaurant, and when he cracked open the fortune cookie, it said, "If you are assertive, you will win the game."
But the final speaker was Butler's most storied player ever, a certain Mr. Bobby Plump. He's a walking, talking Hoosiers reference, but he hinted strongly that he was a little tired of how the national media is trying to frame the narrative. "I don't think we changed our mascot to Butler Underdogs. We're Bulldogs, and we've got bite!"
Unfortunately, the Butler official Final Four restaurant won't be Plump's Last Shot in Broad Ripple. (This was one of the most fun parts of 2006, when George Mason took over the Big Horn Brewery with glow sticks and green "Kryptonite" beer) Butler fans will gather at the RAM on South Illinois instead. (West Virginia has Scotty's Brewhouse, Michigan State the downtown Champps... and Duke's official restaurant is Buffalo Wild Wings. If I had known that, I would have had lunch somewhere else.)
The crowd was estimated at 2,000, and it seemed like everybody was wearing Butler t-shirts. There were flags waving, pom-poms shaking, and everyone was cheering! Three days until game time, and Dawg Nation is getting fired up!