Midwest Swing: Final Four Edition


butler blue 2

By Paul M. Banks

INDIANAPOLIS- The brightest lights and the biggest stars come for college basketball’s biggest stage. But the biggest and best photo opp? Blue II, Butler’s bulldog mascot. He came into the media room and everyone swooned over him. He’s adorable! And the paparazzi were hounding him like 12 year old girls swooning over the Jonas Brothers. And by everyone I include media members, who all wanted their photo with the little bulldog.

-I got to tour Butler’s homecourt, historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, the sixth oldest college basketball arena still is use. Since 1928, it’s stood here, 6 miles north of downtown, as an actual official U.S. historic landmark. Obviously, you heard a few hundred times this past week about how the climactic final scene in the 1986 film “Hoosiers” was filmed here.

And about how “Hoosiers” was based on the real life 1954 Indiana state high school championship, the “Milan Miracle” in which the tiny enrollment Milan high defeated the larger powerhouse Muncie Central, on this court.blue 2

-This place was a basketball cathedral! It’s gorgeous, my driver Yilma, who sounds EXACTLY like Borat when he talks agrees. He’s from a completely different part of the world, but every time he said “nice” or “what is a this?” it took all the willpower I could muster to keep from dying of laughter. And by the way, Butler’s fight song is very underrated.

-You’ll probably recall the scene when Coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) had his players measure the distance from the free throw line to the baseline, and the height of the rim? Because most of his Hickory Husker players had never seen a building over 2 stories tall, and he didn’t want them to be intimidated by the size of the “big city gym.”
-When I first walked into the Final Four media room, and saw just how HUGE the press conference room was at Lucas Oil Field, I was amazed by the size. I’ve never seen so many chairs and such a huge stage for a press conference room. And I’ve done the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBA Playoffs, and some bowl games, but this work room is BIG! I’ve never seen so many media guides, and stat sheets, and fast scripts, double or triple the usual thickness. But I wasn’t intimated, I remembered the lessons of Norman Dale.

-Here’s the proof: I received a text late Saturday night that my question to Duke’s Nolan Smith, after their Final Four win over West Virginia, got some national airtime on ESPN. (Glad I could get my name and the Washington Times name out there even more). The exchange went like this:

PB: Nolan, you stepped your game up during the post-season. Is there anything you’ve done fundamentally different or you like the brighter lights?

NS: I haven’t done anything different. I’m just trying to make sure that it’s not Jon, Kyle, and Lance’s last game. Just trying to give it my all.west virginia

-A few years ago, an older woman who works in this industry told me “you lose your fandom in this business, you do. It’s inevitable.” And I’ve found some truth to that, unfortunately. Maybe that’s why the overall highlight of this trip was the discovery of how much I cared for Michigan State basketball again. Getting to talk with Magic while the Spartans cut down the nets celebrating their 6th Final Four in 12 years, how hard I took it when Butler eliminated them with a terrible NO CALL on the Dancing Bear Draymond Green, HE WAS FOULED! That was the highlight of this trip for me. MSU basketball and I were like an old married couple going on a romantic weekend getaway to the Sybaris.

-After all, the third word of the Michigan State fight song is indeed my last name.

-BY FAR, the best part of having such a premium press row seat assignment is hearing (and then Tweeting) what you overhear the coaches say. West Virginia Coach Bob “Huggie Bear” Huggins yelled at his players midway through the first half  “HOW MANY TIMES DID I SAY???, DON’T LET THEM REJECT THE SCREEN!!!”

michigan state girls

-Anyone else find it weird that Butler wore the dark ROAD uniforms during the semifinal game? Kind of ironic since all we heard about all week is that they came home for the Final Four. Michigan State was in the home whites. Usually, protocol dictates the higher seed wears white, but both were #5 seeds and Butler was favored. Of course, Butler was also exceedingly under-seeded.final four

-I got a few texts from a bunch of different people when the CBS cameras zoomed in on me. But the best ones of all came from my friends in the hometown. Yes, K-Dog in “the SICA,” who watched the game with our mutual friends Moe Diddy and C-Murder (By the way, if you guessed all of them are Caucasian suburbanties, you’re correct! The Final Four is, after all, the Caucasian Super Bowl) he texted:

“Shawwwwwwwwwwwty!!!!! I seen u on tv!!!!! Ur wearing a sports jacket w/ no tie………..ballin like Spaulding!!!!!”

-That references a song by Common and Kanye West about a part of the world that’s very close to our shared roots: “Southside.” It includes equally legendary lyrics “Armor All flow cuz we never get rusty,” and “we eatin Joe, you’re still talking no carbs,” and “we got Mac like Steve Jobs.”

-K-Dog checked in again during the second game when the CBS cameras were (apparently) even more friendly to me.

“U look like a pimp! Dude u got mad juice up in this beeotch!!!!”

-See this is why you have friends named K-Dog. You don’t need to watch reality programming like MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” Those people already exist in your everyday life.


  1. fun time!

  2. paulmbanks says

    Look at his little sweater!!! Blue’s coat matches the site’s colors

  3. David K. says

    sad the swing came to an end… but major props for all ur coverage and again, definitely jealous…

  4. paulmbanks says

    Thanks man! it was quite a ride…title game edition and wrap-up edition coming later tonight! And then we’ll be done…until I start working on those college playe feat, interveiw stuff for the draft!

  5. paulmbanks says

    I just hope Kevin or K Dog stops by to comment

  6. Luba Bodison says

    Nice!! Cheers for writing this. I love Jonas Brothers. Mainly Joe. Joe is totally my kind of guy.

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