Final Four and Benner/Sports and Butler University and Opinion and Sports Business

BENNER: One last look at the Bulldogs ... in another universe

April 17, 2010

The sports world moves on quickly. Phil Mickelson wins the Family Values Masters. Baseball begins to unwrap. The NBA prepares for the playoffs. And we await the month—er, the two weeks—of May leading to the Indy 500.

But in the two weeks since the NCAA title game, I can barely go a waking hour without someone asking me The Question.

What if?

What if Gordon Hayward’s shot had gone in? A sports scientist commissioned by ESPN determined that, if the 46-foot heave at the buzzer had been a mere 3 inches to the left, it would have gone in, and Butler University’s Bulldogs would be the national champions.

It would have gone down as the greatest moment—and victory—in the history of intercollegiate athletics.

Gordon Hayward, the baby-faced kid from Brownsburg, would have become a nationwide A-list sports celebrity.

Brad Stevens, the baby-faced coach from Zionsville, would have become a nationwide, A-list celebrity. Period.

And despite three national titles, 11 Final Four appearances and a stint as coach of a gold-medal-winning USA Olympic team, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would have received condemnation from the media for ordering his center, Brian Zoubek, to intentionally miss a second free throw that left the Blue Devils with only a two-point lead and thus vulnerable to a miracle.

Ah, but the imagination beckons.

The shot goes in and the Raleigh-Durham newspaper runs a caricature of Krzyzewski portraying him as the devil with a target on his forehead and “lose, lose, lose” doodled on his shirt.

The shot goes in and Bobby Plump has to close his restaurant when business dwindles after Hayward opens a spot down the street in Broad Ripple. The place is called, “Gordon’s Longer Last Shot.”

The shot goes in and Hayward declares for the NBA, forcing the Indiana Pacers to bow to public pressure and trade Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and two future first-round draft choices to New Jersey for rights to pick Hayward ahead of Kentucky’s John Wall.

The shot goes in and Hayward replaces Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning as spokesperson for MasterCard, Gatorade, Sony and Bill Estes Chevrolet.

The shot goes in and Matt Howard’s mustache is enshrined in the college basketball hall of fame.

The shot goes in and Bobby Fong is named NCAA president as the architect of the student-athlete ideal.

The shot goes in and plans to renovate Hinkle Fieldhouse are upgraded to include luxury suites, video screens, ribbon boards and a separate practice facility.

The shot goes in and Purina Dog Chow signs Blue II as a celebrity endorser.

For dramatic effect, instead of a young, married man, Pizzo casts Stevens as a down-and-out retired pharmaceutical company employee who has delayed his dream to coach for 35 years. And when he finally gets his chance, he finds himself at odds with an attractive academic adviser who questions his motives.

A pivotal early scene depicts the fictional Hayward addressing the Butler faculty and saying, “If Supreme Court Justice Roberts is allowed to speak, I stay. He goes, I go.”

The NCAA’s Greg Shaheen plays himself as he welcomes the Bulldogs to Lucas Oil Stadium.

And Bobby Plump plays Bobby Plump. Not even Hollywood can improve on the original.

In the pre-championship game pep talk, the actor portraying Matt Howard says, “Let’s win this one for all the little schools that have two academic all-Americans and cumulative 3.0 or above GPAs who couldn’t get here.”

“Ollie” is brought back to play Zach Hahn. Or maybe Zach Hahn plays Ollie.

Hayward nearly misses the championship game because his professor won’t let him out of a night class.

And at the conclusion of the championship game, the Lucas Oil Stadium retractable roof opens and the Butler team ascends into the sky via a golden escalator, waiting to be greeted by Butler coaching legend Tony Hinkle who intones, “I love you guys.”

That is, if the shot goes in. OK, world, I’m done imagining. Move on.•

__________

Benner is director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.

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