History, Don’t Forget
Butler, a scrappy foe, rightfully made believers out of many.
by Chris Deaton
“They should make a movie anyway.”
So said the striking blonde along the White River in Broad Ripple. Didn’t get her name—didn’t matter. She was right.
“I just don’t want cruel history to forget us,” I told my dad by phone, leaning against a wall in Indy’s Average Joe’s pub—a wall that surely absorbed my amalgam of emotion, since I showed none after my boys lost. Gordon Hayward, this sure-to-be lottery pick a proximate day from now, put a fadeaway jumper in the bucket—and it refused to drop.
Then came a halfcourt heave that looked all but pure, if only because Matt Howard, the concussed uncertainty that came into the title game, surely laid a brain-knocking screen on some white shirt—can’t remember who it was, for the instant analysis—and the 6’9” hybrid got a clear look, one of those looks that was made for a legendary finish.
I could only be prouder had one of those shots fallen, and even then, it would be by the most minute of degrees. This should be the opportune time to shout hell upon all those overly compensated talking heads who built Duke to be an incomparable foe and Butler to be an ant playing David, but there’s no reason for sour fruit. Anyone who deemed Butler a mere pretender was proven a dumbass, and at night’s end, there can be no sweeter victory.
Stars matter when counted in the sky, not tallied on a Rivals or Scouts spreadsheet. They lined up for Duke Monday night, whether for national favor or not, and fittingly so. They too showed their defense to be a bulldog, and if the final moments played out on a different stroke, goodness knows if the end result would’ve gone five for the one guys and five for the others. Such is how Tournament basketball goes—and such is why Duke deserved to win.
Any sane mind would say that five wins on a march to the championship game are a near impossibility, whether for mighty Kentucky, which failed, or indomitable Kansas, which faltered, or improbable Butler, which crawled the trek but collapsed at the end. Never will this Indianapolis speck have a chance to win on such a stage for their townsfolk—because Butler is no longer a speck.
Butler is a giant now, and all—from those in Durham to those in Indiana—can only hope that Brad Stevens continues to guide his program to now expected success and that big-conference heavyweights treat small-conference foes with deference when scheduling. Perhaps these Bulldogs are a phenomenal rarity, a squad that can’t possibly be duplicated within short time.
But despite my loyalties to the school, if Saint Mary’s makes a similar run, if Northern Iowa breaks through, if Davidson finds another Steph Curry and challenges for the chalk and marbles and accolades, I’ll be rooting with the greatest force of my lungs.
“Purity” is often a word reserved for the backwards, those who would be reluctant to see a sport evolve in terms of pace or style. Butler was made for the 50s, Hansbrough’s UNC or Wall’s UK or Collins’s KU for the 00s. No matter how updated the latter three versions of college basketball are, none can carve a place in the heart the way Butler did in March and April.
They reminded us all why the sport is beautiful. They reminded us all why we watch, why we hope, why little kids dream. They showed that the true game, the one of team first and NBA draft second, lives on. And as long as Butler grows and their emulators try to match, hoops will endure in their best form, and the game will long be savory, whether 65 or 96 or 128 teams duke it out for the right to be called a rightful champion.