I'm a sucker for a great sports story. Remember the Titans...Rudy...Field of Dreams...Rocky...
I grew up in a small town. So small, we didn't have a football program. Well, not an American football team. Our boys played the European version - soccer. And while Bend it Like Beckham was also a great movie, this story is not about soccer. You see, the boys in our school played soccer for two reasons and two reasons only.
1. Because it was the only fall sport.
B. Because they wanted to be in great shape come BASKETBALL season.
Did I mention that small school I came from was in Indiana? Where basketball rules. The state that brought you one of the greatest sports movies ever - Hoosiers. The Land of Larry Bird...Bobby Knight...Gene Keady...Reggie Miller...and now, the Butler Bulldogs.
A couple of weeks ago, none of us knew the names Brad Stevens, Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. Many of you out there probably still don't. But a new wave of basketball fans indeed do. They were key figures in Monday night's final game for the NCAA National Championship. The game that matched up a legendary coach and his team of Blue Devils against a "mid-major" from the city of Indianapolis, IN. A school with about 4200 students and a home-grown head coach.
Brad Stevens was a standout basketball player in Zionsville (Indy 'burb) who went on to play at a small Indiana university (DePauw is about half the size of Butler). He had a cushy career started at the infamous Eli Lilly, but gave it all up for his love of basketball. Stevens began as a volunteer with the Butler program, and after only three years as head coach, was only three points away from a national championship.
If you're even remotely a sports fan (or, your hubby or children watch Sportscenter twice a day), you've seen the last second shot by Butler forward, Gordon Hayward a bazillion times. The half-court shot that hit the backboard, hit the front of the rim, then bounced out - saving the Duke Blue Devils from the BIGGEST UPSET EVER in college champsionship hoops. The entire game was a nail-biter. One of the most intense NCAA championship games I have ever seen. And it couldn't have been more of a David and Goliath story.
Now, I ask you....is that a Hoosiers sequel, or what? Yeah, probably more so if the ball would have actually went IN the basket and the place would have erupted and Gene Hackman and Barbara Hershey started dating. (FYI Genie, no way you're playing Brad Stevens. Maybe Coach K?)
A quick dye job
and some brylcream - good to go!
In all fairness, the Goliath side had some stuff that good movies are made of, too. Yes, this is the school's fourth national championship, but the first in nearly a decade from a coach who has been loyal to the school for thirty years. And it's not at all lost on me that 6'2" Duke guard, Nolan Smith won his championship ring in the same city his late father, Derek Smith won his exactly 30 years prior (while playing for Louisville against UCLA at the old Market Square Arena in Indianapolis). Good for you, Nolan. You did your dad proud (also a sucker for a good father/son storyline).
Just one more thing to note about Monday night's game (wake up, Julie! I'm just about done talking about sports!). The song, "One Shining Moment" has been the anthem for the NCAA champsionship game since it was first played when my alma mater, Indiana University beat Syracuse in 1987. Legend has it (and by legend, I mean according to Wikipedia), it was written by Michigan singer/songwriter David Barrett after seeing Larry Bird play in the 1979 NCAA championship game (Bird for Indiana State against Magic Johnson and his Michigan State Spartans - CLASSIC GAME). It's the last thing played after trophy presentations and locker room interviews, and includes a video montage of all 64 teams in the Big Dance. It's one of the highlights of the night. And this year, the esteemed Jennifer Hudson (of American Idol, Dream Girls fame) sang the newest version of the song. Way'da belt it, Diva! You're quite the Cinderella story yourself!
To conclude, congratulations Duke and Coach K. Hold your head up high, Butler and Coach Stevens. And to Butler mascot, Blue (officially, Butler Blue II), better luck next year, you chunky little bunch of bulldog love!