April 5, 2010

Butler Bulldogs, We're All For You!

So go ahead and accuse me of being a "fair weather fan." Okay I admit it, I don't follow college basketball unless Ball State, University of South Florida, University of Evansville or American University are in the Big Dance. And that is mighty rare.

I did not attend Butler University. My only connection is that a childhood friend’s daughter is a junior there. My son also has a few friends who go there to college.

However, every Indiana schoolchild knows the great tradition of Hinkle Field House which was immortalized for all in the movie Hoosiers. You cannot be a true Hoosier if you don't wish the best for the Butler Bulldogs. Yes, I'm speaking to those of you wearing your mourning clothes, which I believe are gold and black.

Basketball in this state is something special, like the moon reflecting off the Wabash on a cool fall evening.

For a team like the Butler Bulldogs, from a small Division 1 program at a small private school, getting to the Final Four is simply magic.

I am blogging tonight because I cannot bear to watch the game, for fear that the Powerhouse that is Duke (and their coach with no vowels in his name) will steal this dream from the Bulldogs.

When I was a child in small-town Indiana basketball was everything. I mean everything.

Now we have a class system, and the movie Hoosiers could not be made today. The story of the Butler Bulldogs and their baby-faced coach brings it all back.

My father was a teacher at a pre-consolidation school. In the late 1960s, consolidation of tiny township high schools made for bigger, modern glass structures and combined county teams. I was a freshman at Whitko in fall 1971, which combined Sidney, Larwill, South Whitley, and Pierceton township schools.

At South Whitley High School where my father taught, the gymnasium was built in the 1920s for multi-use, a stage at one end, lines painted for women's and men's basketball. Women's basketball in Indiana in the 1920s was huge, with six-women teams, three on each side of the court all wears the silly pantaloon pants. Graduation, the Town Follies, Lions Club Cake Walk and Halloween happened on this gymnasium floor. And until they moved to a larger gymnasium six miles north, this was the home of the South Whitley Bulldogs.

As a teacher, my father (and sometimes my mother) took tickets and worked concessions. I don't think I missed a home game in grades 1 through 12. And we went to many away games. This was a small community, and everyone supported the team.

An early memory comes from my mom teaching me the Indiana University fight song, which shared its tune with the South Whitley Bulldogs fight song. And our South Whitley Bulldog logo looked a little bit like the fiercer Butler Bulldog. South Whitley Bulldogs, South Whitley Bulldogs, South Whitley Bulldogs, We’re all for you.\

The cheerleaders wore long blue and white pleated skirt, and there was a small band directed by Harold Leckrone, who wrote the Manchester College fight song, which was used in the movie Hoosiers. In my eighth grade summer I marched in the off-season band, wearing the same hot stuffy blue and white wool uniforms my mother wore when she marched in the Bulldog band in the summer of 1946.

In a gymnasium like one Bobby Plump led the Milan team to the famous game that inspired Hoosiers.

As I write this, Butler has lost to Duke by two points in what we Hoosiers call a "barn burner."

Damn. Nevertheless, congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs for an amazing ride. We Hoosiers are very proud of you.