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Butler Rooted on by Philly Citizens
The week before the NCAA Final Four, I spent a little time in Philadelphia and I made all kinds of new friends. All I had to do was walk around the city wearing a Butler University sweatshirt.
It can be interesting to see how something that monopolizes the attention of your home town goes over in other places. The Indianapolis 500-mile race, for example, was how I made my first friend when I started seventh grade at a new school in Maryland. When Bill Gabrielli, a 12-year-old Indy 500 fanatic, found out I was from Indianapolis, he just about flipped. And when I found out Bill was from Argentina, I just about flipped. I had never thought of the race as a worldwide event before.
Well, Butler basketball seems to have turned into the same sort of calling card. My first morning in town, I strolled into the hotel lobby and found myself surrounded by a concierge and three bellmen, all telling me how much they enjoyed watching the Butler basketball they had seen in the NCAA tourney.
"I hope you guys go all the way," one of them said, gripping my hand.
"Me, too," I said, not wanting to spoil the moment by pointing out that I was not affiliated with Butler and that my only real contribution to Butler’s success was at the campus bookstore cash register ($39.95 for the shirt and 75 cents for a pack of Dentyne.)
"Butler? I love Butler," said Robin, the host at the restaurant where I went for my daily infusion of Philadelphia scrapple, a breakfast food made of pork, cornmeal and spices -- for me, one of the top three reasons to visit Philadelphia; the other two are Independence Hall and Tastykakes.
Anyway, Robin the host was so effusive in his praise for the Bulldogs you would have thought he was an alumnus. They were a Cinderella no more, he said: "Now they’re the prince." I would have said future king, but point made.
That was pretty much the same point made by the toothless man in front of the Franklin Institute, who tore himself away from an argument about the Phillies to yell at me, a good half-block away, about how much he liked Butler. Friendly fellow. And loud.
And then there was the lady who was coming out of my hotel as I exited a cab one night.
"Butler!" she cried, raising her arms to the skies and trotting toward me.
Frankly, I was a little alarmed. I had forgotten I was wearing the shirt.
"We love Butler!" she yelled. And then she made the sign of the cross and asked if it was a Catholic university. I guess she thought the Bulldogs play Holy Roman defense or something. Anyway, I set her straight and she didn’t seem the least bit disappointed. "Go Butler!" she called over her shoulder as she left. Just between you and me, I think she might have been sampling the school spirit in the mini-bar.
So, if you find yourself in need of some new friends in a major East Coast city, here’s my advice: Go to Philadelphia in a Butler shirt during tourney time. You’ll be richly rewarded.
Now I think I’ll go to Butler in a Philadelphia shirt to see if that works as well.
© 2011 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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