I can't lie. I talked to God before, during, and after Butler's championship game last night. I know it's always the joke - should you pray that your team wins? But it really wasn't that I wanted them to "win". It was that I really wanted the way they do things to be rewarded. I also won't lie about the fact that I thought it would be good for college sports if Butler won. Not that the UCONN players aren't exceptional young men, but just to prove that a school that conducts itself in an exemplary manner, with a small budget, and no frills can win the obvious prize that everyone, "good or bad", covets.
After Butler lost I was confused. Why didn't the best outcome happen? And why had the loss occurred in such a strange, uncharacteristic way?
"The Butler Way" isn't just a motto or cliche. I've seen it and lived it. So did my mom and sister. I'm not sure I knew that was what I was experiencing at the time, but I can cite too many times that a professor went out of their way for me, other students were supportive instead of competitive, and the general happiness that tends to permeate that campus. As always, you don't know what you had until your hindsight kicks in. It was the only school to which I applied and I was never sure if that was smart until about 10 years after I graduated. I appreciate so much my time there, the friends I made, the knowledge I gained, and the professors I had.
Last year, as I watched in person as Gordon Hayward's shot bounced off the rim, I was devastated along with about 70,000 other people in the stadium. That lasted until I attended the thank you rally the next day. I couldn't stop a few tears as I stood with 5,000 other people in Hinkle Fieldhouse who wouldn't stop clapping. The ovation lasted until the players finally cracked a smile, an almost uncomfortable long time. It wasn't planned. The crowd simply had to let them know that they were proud of everything, no matter the outcome. I had never seen anything like it, especially in the age of boosters slipping players money, illegal recruiting phone calls, and debates about whether or not college athletes should receive formal payment. It went against everything that cutting down the nets says is important. We were cheering not about a victory, but about conducting yourself on the biggest stage to make yourself, your family, your friends, and your community proud, against all the odds. They had given us the ride of a lifetime as a sports fan, but more importantly made us proud to be associated with them in any way.
With all that said, you must read the article below, if you haven't already. It says the rest of what I'm thinking. Last year I wondered if the thank you rally would have been as poignant if they had won. I had to admit, I didn't think so. And maybe what is said in this article is the reason things have happened as they have. I still wish Butler could have that "W", but not because it would make things right. Just because it's what I want for people that work that hard and care that much. However, what they gave everyone in America who recognizes it could not possibly compare to a victory. And yes, Levi and I will be at this year's thank you rally to cheer for all the best reasons. Thank you, Butler Bulldogs, and congratulations to Brad Stevens and his staff on an exceptional job well-done.
Read it and pass it on: