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:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

  2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

  4. downtown in the same area as O'malia's. 350 E New York. Not sure that another one could survive. I agree a Target is needed d'town. Downtown Philly even had a 3 story Kmart for its downtown residents.

  5. Indy-area residents... most of you have no idea how AMAZING Aurelio's is. South of Chicago was a cool pizza place... but it pales in comparison to the heavenly thin crust Aurelio's pizza. Their deep dish is pretty good too. My waistline is expanding just thinking about this!

ADVERTISEMENT