INDIANAPOLIS -- At this point, there really isn't anything that hasn't been said. You know 1 Samuel 17:49
, and you've heard the one about brick walls
, and you know everything that's at stake tonight. Nothing less than the National Flippin' Championship
, and one of our own is playing for it. All of us are singing the Butler War Song, giving a fighting cry and fighting the Butler Battle. It's going to be tough -- the other guys are big and mean, and may receive preferential treatment from the officials, so It's time to make Butler Plays
and slay the Blue Devils. Or stomp on them, repeatedly, with a giant shoe.
But first, some delicious snacks.
National Championship Eve was spent eating Butler blue and Bally cupcakes in the shadow of Random Butler Student Y's
"Too Big Yo" banner. Assorted Butler students, TMM readers and random hipsters ate blue food, all the while drinking the official beverage of college.
Some of the cupcakes had plastic basketball rings in them, which was a total omen. The championship was in reach.
But in all honesty, eating a lot of blue food is not a good idea. Nothing against Butler specifically, because four years ago there was a lot of processed, non-vegetable green food products floating around. Those were gross too.
On Monday at noon, there was a Butler pep rally downtown, just like the one held last Wednesday
. The streets were closed off, and several thousand people spilled into Monument Circle. Bobby Fong, the university president, cancelled all classes for the day (but the coaches and players stayed on campus to prepare for the big game).
Up at the dais, he invoked the state's most famous boyhood resident, quoting from a battle letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to Ulysses S. Grant during the Union siege of Richmond during the Civil War. "Hold on with a Bulldog grip and chew and choke as much as possible," the letter said. Then Fong added, "They can win it. We can win it.
Then Butler athletic director Barry Collier stood up and gave a rousing pep talk to the troops. This one, however, was interactive. He instructed everybody to turn to the person next to them, and perform the famous Brad Stevens-Emerson Kampen back bump from the celebration after the Kansas State win. It was the most fun thing ever, in amongst a week of hyperbole and superlatives.
Then the cheerleaders cheered, and the band played, and the P.A. system took 'er home with "Who Let The Dogs Out." Everybody in attendance shed any remaining callous hipster tendencies, let themselves go, sang and clapped and barked along. And on this day (and only this day) this was acceptable behavior. Tomorrow, we either celebrate like we've never celebrated before -- as in, naked blue body paint horchata water slide
-- or we live in that in-between world of mourning a final loss and celebrating how far this team has come.
The last 24 hours, and indeed the entire week, has passed by as like a fleeting dream. Either way this goes tonight, we have to wake up tomorrow to a world without men's college basketball, a state that will continue until November. Season 6 will be over, and the Epilogue
will be posted tomorrow morning.
Before any of that, though, I wanted to tell you about a happy laundry accident. The only t-shirt I have left that's clean after this long week is my old worn-out dark blue UC Irvine Anteaters shortsleeve, and I wore it to the pep rally today. The gentleman with whom I performed my back bump looked at it quizzically and said, "UC what?"
I pulled the shirt straight for display purposes, and the words just came out. "You know, all the small schools that never had a chance to get here."
He nodded, at least I believe he did. But it got me thinking.
We've been living and breathing like actual Bulldogs for the past week or so, but most of us aren't from Butler. We've wrapped our arms around this team, and the players and coaches and students and alumni have graciously accepted our support and embraced us back. When this is over, we'll go back to our own teams, some of which are the Bulldogs' Horizon League rivals. We're all in this together, a family of dreamers, and when your small-college team makes it to the Final Four, Butler will return the favor.
Five months and five days ago, we all began this ride together, staying up deep into the night wearing our favorite team colors, waiting for a daylight-savings hour to repeat and for winter to begin. Tonight, as Season 6 closes at the start of spring, let's go out wearing our own team colors as one giant Hoops Nation, cheering on the one team that stands in for the hopes and dreams of all of us. Let's end it as we began it, let's close the circle.
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