Butler’s great expectations

Disappointment is relative.  In my experience, it usually comes from not meeting expectations… but what or who actually determines those expectations?  Opinions from so-called experts and the general public can be arbitrary and out of your control.  Expectations you set for yourself are more controllable.  Or are they?

In 2010 the Butler basketball team wowed the world with an improbable run to the NCAA championship game and came within 6 inches of winning it.  They were not expected by the experts to win ANY of the games after the first round, yet they kept winning.  The underdog role can be very powerful in sports, driving deep-down motivation to win, without the pressure brought on by a fear of losing.

This year was different.  After a moderately successful regular season, Butler made the NCAA Tourney field again.  They were not “expected” to go all the way, but we really weren’t so surprised when they won each game.  After all, these are almost all the same guys who made that championship game last year, and they still have that whiz kid coach.

As I sit here and contemplate last night’s “ugliest championship game in the history of the sport,” I wonder why Butler suffered such a meltdown.  The players probably tried to tell themselves it was just another game and that they would go out and play their hardest.  I’m sure the coach tried to relax them with that same line of reasoning. 

However, I bet that inside their minds they were secretly thinking “This is our year of redemption.  We almost won last year, so now it is our turn to win.  It SHOULD happen now because that would be poetic, cosmic justice.”  I bet they were thinking about the fans and how upset they might be if the team did not fulfill its destiny.  In other words, I bet they placed extremely high expectations on themselves.

The first half was competitive on defense but both teams had abysmal shooting.  Butler’s poor shooting continued in the second half, and even the easy layups were not going in.  I turned to my wife and said “If one team hits 3 baskets in a row, this game is over.”  Sure enough, UConn delivered a little surge of 3 unanswered field goals.  And that was it. The camera panned the Butler bench and I could see the defeat in their eyes as they stared up at the clock ticking down on them.

Were they just frustrated by having an off night?  Or were they finally dealing with the disappointment of not living up to their unspoken expectations?

I’ve had my share of big disappointments in my life, mostly during times when I was considered to be a front-runner or probable winner.  If you are a frequent “winner,” the external expectations from the fans will come your way whether you like it or not.  And I don’t know which feels worse… letting yourself down, or letting others down. 

Setting big goals and believing you can achieve them is important, but EXPECTING to achieve every one of them is a setup for a letdown isn’t it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below.

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5 Comments on “Butler’s great expectations”

  1. Sammy Says:

    It was hard to watch! This is what happens when the kids leave early for the NBA. You get water down talent. These kids were not use to having to play in front of 50,000 and all the press.

  2. Julie Says:

    I think you’re right David… expecting to win everytime is unrealistic… but they had won all those others times against expectations. I’m sure they still see themselves as ‘losers’ however, having made as far as they did definitely makes them winners. Somebody had to lose… “Love is the only game in which there are two winners…”

  3. Rich Hopkins Says:

    Preach it brother David!

  4. Beidler Says:

    Ucon held Butler to 12-for-64 shooting, worst percentage in a final NCAA championship game.
    Bulldogs made only three 2-point field goals in 31 attempts, and went 9 for 33 from behind the arc.
    Butler’s shooting percentage dropped from 35.6 to 18.8, and Connecticut went from 46.9 to 34.5.

    Both teams played off their peak but Connecticut came through with better coaching that night.
    It’s easy get behind Butler’s young exemplary coach Brad Stevens but it goes to show that experience and wisdom played a bigger role for UCON having Jim Calhoun’s 39 seasons, 852-366 NCAA winning percentage(0.700) leading their effort.

  5. Tim Says:

    Sorry, Biedler. I don’t buy the out-coached thing. UConn can beat their chest all they want, and I do think UConn affected Butler’s inside game with their length. However, Butler had open looks the entire game, and other than Chase Stigall, everyone was missing. If Butler had only shot 25%, they might have won the game. Stevens wasn’t outcoached. The team might have been over-matched on talent, but they just didn’t get it done when they normally do.


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