IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Book takes kaleidoscopic look at Butler hysteria

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

Media circuses are like magnets: They either attract or they repel.

I tend to be in the repel camp. The more attention focused on something, the less I am interested in it. And that applies to just about everything from books to celebrities and from TV shows to dining trends.

Butler's Big DanceThis anti-bandwagon approach kept me from joining the masses converging on Butler University during last year’s NCAA tournament, when the Bulldogs fought their way into one of the most exciting college basketball games ever played, a game that came down to one dramatic “Hoosiers”-like shot.

OK, so I did watch that final game. But while I admired the team, its coaching, and the Butler philosophy (yes, the players did go to classes on game days), I wasn’t a part of the hysteria.

But now, thanks to Susan S. Neville’s new book, “Butler’s Big Dance” (Indiana University Press), I have a better idea of what it was like.

To be clear, this is no ordinary basketball book. Go elsewhere if you want insight into coaching strategy, re-creations of locker-room speeches, or you-are-there moments under the backboard. Neville, a professor of English and creative writing at Butler, is less a sportswriter and more a sociologist looking at the impact of her subject rather than examining the thing itself.

Butler When Bulldog-mania swept the country, Susan Neville put pen to paper. (IBJ File Photo)

She’s more focused on the mobs converging on the student bookstore for T-shirts. Insights are plumbed from the dance department on the similarities and

differences between their work and that of their free-throwing fellows. In an advanced literary theory class, students who are used to being ultra-analytic and ironic have to find a way to incorporate the sincerity and simple emotions of the championship game into their world views.

“[When you live in Indiana], you would not bring theory to bear on basketball or think of it as an ideology,” she writes. “It is absolutely what it is and not what it appears to be, and you, the fan, are not a cultural construction. You are a human being and there’s no use stopping to ask what that is. That’s Indiana basketball.”

Occasionally, the voice is confusing. I wasn’t always sure when Neville was writing as herself or channeling others. An occasional editorial comment stands out awkwardly from the otherwise lithe prose ([After the tournament] “We’re back in the world where the Gulf of Mexico, a paradise, will be filled with oil because of corporate decisions.”) And some less-than-careful editing leads to some sections that feel like good magazine articles padded.

Butler Am I Blue? Butler’s bulldog mascot rivaled the team for attention last year. (IBJ File Photo)

Still, this is an original book both gentle and bold, thin at under a hundred pages, but composed with remarkable speed and containing many passages worth perusing.

“When someone congratulated us on something we ourselves hadn’t done,” writes Neville, “or wanted to have a picture taken with a ‘real Butler person,’ we knew both how beautiful it was as well as how dangerous it could be to fall into the sleepwalker’s dream. And I’m speaking here as a less-than-bit player, as someone who just happened to be there. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to hold on to any sense of human identity if you’re at the center of something like this. You have to have someone who says to you ‘go to class. Just go to class. Put one foot in front of the other.’”

For what it is and what it isn’t, this love letter to the university and its values is also a strong bridge between the two great passions of sports and the arts. The two, illustrates Neville, don’t have to be on separate teams.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com. Twitter: IBJArts and follow Lou Harry’s A&E blog at www.ibj.com/arts.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
thisissue1-092914.jpg 092914

Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Here are a few candidates for this new group, "ripped from the headlines." First up, that bizzaro State Senator Brent Waltz; secondly, the unethical Todd Huston, and his contractual arrangements scheme; Finally, but not least of all, the dishonorable Eric Turner. What sayeth you Greg Zoeller?

  2. Good day. I can't hide this great testimony that take place in my life I will love everyone to know it and be partaker that is why I always place it on answer, I am Mrs,Natalie Cuttaia by name, I live in Texas, United State Of America, I want to thank (Mr.Bruce Brandon) for his kindness upon my family life. I never knew that there is still nice lender like this on internet and earth here. Just some Months Back, I was in search for a loan of $100,000,00 as I was running out of money for feeding and rent. I was scammed $6,800 Dollars and I decided not to involve my self in such business again but a Friend of my introduced me to a loan firm due to my appearance and doings. And I told him that I am not interested of any loan deal anymore but he told me that there is still a nice lender who he will recommend me to, and I made a trial and I am most grateful lucky am I today, I was given a loan amount of $100,000.00usd, by this great Company (Bruce Brandon Loan Company) managed by (Mr.Bruce Brandon) If you are in need of a genuine or legit loan or financial assistance and you can be reliable and trusted of capable of paying back at the due time of the funds I will advice you to, contact him via: ( bruce.brandon071@gmail.com ) And you will be free from scams in the internet. All thanks to Mr.Bruce Brandon You are the one who remove me and my family out of poverty. The reason why i am doing this is that, i promise Mr.Bruce Brandon that if i truly got my loan, i will advertize his company and bring customers to his company. Contact him via ( bruce.brandon071@gmail.com )for the Loan you have been looking for..

  3. Hello, We are firm Organization formed to help people in needs of helps,such as financial help. So if you are going through financial difficulty or you are in any financial mess,and you need funds to start up your own business,or you need loan to settle your debt or pay off your bills,start a nice business, or you are finding it hard to obtain capital loan from local banks,contact us today via email mrsroseberrywilkinsfunds.usa@gmail.com So do not let these opportunity pass you by because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever more. Please these is for serious minded and God fearing People. Your Name: Loan Amount: Loan Duration: Valid Cell Phone Number: Thanks for your understanding to your contact as we Await Regards Management Email:mrsroseberrywilkinsfunds.usa@gmail.com

  4. The question is, where could they build a new stadium? It seems in the past year, all the prime spots have been spoken for with potential projects. Maybe in the industrial wasteland area a block past Lucas Oil? I think it needs to be close to the core, if a new stadium is built.

  5. Aldi is generally a great shopping experience. Still, I'm sure YOU wouldn't want to shop there, which I consider a positive.

ADVERTISEMENT