Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hoops and Corn Dogs - The Phenomenon of Hoosier Hysteria

The NCAA and March Madness

If ever there was a time to try to explain the effects of March Madness on Indiana, it is now. For those of you who have not been reading the paper, watching television, or listening to the whoops echoing over the entire Midwest, you have missed out on a phenomenon known as HOOSIER HYSTERIA. Yes, the Hoosier State of Indiana LOVES basketball. And who is better suited to provide Hoosiers - and the world - with heart-stopping basketball but the mighty Butler University Bulldogs?

Cinderella Goes To The Ball

Although Indiana, birthplace of basketball great Larry Bird and once home to former I.U. coaching legend Bobby Knight, is a state from which we have come to expect great college basketball, Butler is truly a Cinderella story.

This school of only 4200 - my Alma Mater - consistently delivers a team with bulldog hearts, high academics, and gentlemanly, albeit ferocious, game. Last year Butler, underdog to the much bigger competitive schools, made it to the NCAA finals in spite of the odds. In a riveting play-off game, the Bulldogs hung on until the last second when a half-court shot by Gordon Hayward bounced off the glass just as the buzzer announced the crushing Bulldog defeat. The fact that Butler had made it all the way to the just-shy-of-glorious end, with shorter and younger players, was more than admirable - it was the stuff from which legends are made.

This year the number eight seeded Bulldogs are back to play out the final chapter of the legend. Yes, they are once again in the playoffs, having just triumphed in a heart-stopping overtime "Elite Eight" game against the number two seeded, very talented Florida Gators. As the Bulldogs rallied to a 74-71 win, hearts broke all over Florida. Indiana, on the other hand, was high-fiving corn dogs and screaming "Booyah!" My friends there tell me there were horns blowing all over town, and neighbors were in the streets hugging each other. The excitement of the Bulldog performance swept the state with more force than a summer tornado.

The Pride and the Passion

Why is it that Hoosier Hysteria exists in the first place? What is it with Hoosiers and their basketball? In my opinion, Hoosier Hysteria is a result of something very basic to that state. Indiana is a warm and friendly place that supports family...and good Hoosier values. And what better to value than the lessons learned from healthy sports competition? Hoosiers raise their kids to be polite, to play fair, to believe in miracles, and to relish the challenge of a tough fight. They teach their kids to be steady and consistent (unlike the often harsh Indiana weather that changes every five minutes). And they teach them to be tough. A Hoosier will politely say, "Excuse me, sir" just before trampling a bone-crushing opponent with more force than a John Deere tractor.

Hoosiers have a belief in themselves as champions. The residents support their players, and the players give back with every ounce of energy they can muster. Hoosiers give great basketball because they know how to give of themselves. Hoosier Hysteria exists, because Hoosiers have heart. And if you want to see a bunch of great kids play with more heart than you knew was possible - watch the Butler Bulldogs in the Final Four game. You will quickly realize that Hoosier Hysteria is more than an Indiana phenomenon - it's the apotheosis of Hope and Possibility - something we all need these days.

Yes, I said it folks - I, the fairly liberal Democrat living in the wild and wacky state of California just said it: We all could use a little Indiana HEART!


No comments: