The Butler Way

Finding virtue in sports.
by Benjamin Greene, LC | Source:

It has been a month since Butler´s nightmare against the Huskies of UCONN, but it is time to wake up and erase Butler basketball from the history books of the NCAA as the team that lost two consecutive National Championships. This is only one side of the coin. There is another conclusion for the 2010-2011 Butler basketball team that few people know. Before taking the court, Butler team captain, Matt Howard, told his team, “Don’t think about the National Championship. This is our last time playing together.” So, what are you trying to say, Matt?  Are we out here to win or not? I think Howard would respond that there is more to basketball than racking up more points than your opponent, although winning always tastes twice as sweet.

His team has a unique vision of the game they like to call “the Butler Way.” But what is that supposed to mean? Even coach Brad Stevens has a difficult time pinning it down, but Matt Howard’s words in the team huddles minutes before game time shed light on the meaning of this mysterious slogan: “this is our last time playing together.” Sports are about more than winning or losing. A coach, like Brad Stevens, should not care about getting his name written in the history books or making some extra cash but about building character in his players. Sports are about virtue formation.

Did you ever stop and think how frightening our society would be if we all lived by the maxim that dominates the world of sports, “Winning is not everything; it is the only thing?”  If sports are forming a large part of tomorrow’s society, wouldn’t it be in our best interest to open our horizons to the bigger picture? This reminds me of another other one-liner of sports wisdom, consistent with “the Butler Way,” and which sums up one of the core values we find in sports: “there is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M.” The team has a value beyond that of the individual, and each player must sacrifice himself in the quest of the common good.  Besides, there is no such thing as an absolutely individual sport. Shaun White, Rafa Nadal, Tiger Woods – are not one-man shows.  They all need mentors, trainers and role models and so do the youth of today’s sports generation. This motto, “there is no ‘I’ in team,” can be applied to pretty much any walk of life. It is universal in its application but ever more necessary in the field of sports. This is what the “Butler Way” is all about.

No one likes to lose, let alone a second consecutive National Championship, but this team has shown in both victory and defeat that greatness depends not on whether you win or lose but how you play the game.  Brotherhood off the court and selfless play on the court is what has made Butler Basketball great. The formation of virtue on the court leads to the living of virtue off the court.  Thank you Butler Basketball for showing basketball fans and players across the nation that by practicing virtue in sports one never loses.

Benjamin Greene, LC studies for the priesthood in Rome.

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