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The Wine Lover’s Guide to the NCAA Final Four

Here in Indiana, basketball is as core to the fabric of our regional identity as wine is to California and they have more in common than you might think.

It should come as little surprise that Indianapolis and the entire state of Indiana is much abuzz about the hometown underdog, the Butler University Bulldogs, making it to the Final Four not just last year, but this year, as well.  Lightning does strike in the same place twice and with good reason.  More on this in a second…

Butler is a small, liberal arts and sciences school nestled in a near north side neighborhood of Indianapolis.  At 290 acres you could plop the entire university footprint down in just one of Hahn Family Estates five vineyards—Ste. Philippe Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco appellation being approximately the same size. With just 4500 students, you could spend a lifetime in the city and never bump into a denizen, so innocuous is its profile. 


A few short years ago, Butler was notable nationally not for its basketball team, or famous alumni (Kurt Vonnegut being mentionable), but rather because their basketball arena called Hinkle Fieldhouse, built in 1928, was an architectural treasure and the setting for the championship game in the movie, “Hoosiers.”

Butler was a nice school, with nice people, and little national renown.

That has changed in the last 13 months and it’s fueled as much by ethos as execution.

What makes Hoosiers so proud of Butler as they’ve mowed through the NCAA basketball tournament the last two years is not the bricked façade as landmark, or the familiar angle of the “Local boys slaying the giant,” though that’s part of it, more importantly, Butler’s success on the basketball court has coincided with a growing national understanding of, “The Butler Way” – a philosophical coda that deeply resonates as more than lip service.  If there’s one thing Hoosiers identify with its integrity – an honest, plainspoken, everyman approach that achieves with hard work.


The namesake for Hinkle Fieldhouse is Butler’s former basketball coach of over 40 years, Tony Hinkle.  During his lengthy coaching tenure that ended in 1970, Hinkle espoused a credo and five principals of Butler basketball.  Resurrected in the 90s by then coach Barry Collier (now Butler Athletic Director) and carried forward by subsequent coaches who have been promoted from within, “The Butler Way” is quickly becoming a guidepost for doing things the right way. 

The Butler Way:

“Demands commitment, denies selfishness and accepts reality, yet seeks constant improvement while promoting the good of the team above self.”

That credo is buttressed by the five principles that are posted in the basketball team’s locker room:

Humility - Know who we are, strengths and weaknesses

Passion - Commit to excellence

Unity - Do not divide our house, team first

Servanthood - Make others better, lead by giving

Thankfulness - Learn from every circumstance

Are those not life lessons for both the hard court, and the game of life?  Of course they are, and, in particular, they’re lessons that most, if not all, small wineries live by, as well.  A sense of self, commitment, the eye on the prize, a sense of community, an appreciation for the process…

So, as you watch, listen or catch the headlines for this weekend’s Final Four, know and understand that should you be the type of wine lover that loves the small guy, the winery without the budget to acquire the accolades nor match the perceived elite, but a commitment to doing things the right way with integrity, humbleness and a sense of service to the greater good, while earning a place on the national stage, then Butler is your team.  When coach Brad Stevens says, “Everybody in every business and every industry talks about values, mission and vision. The key is holding to them” not only do you believe him, but you raise a glass of wine to him and a team that acts as a beacon of honesty and accountability in a world that is frequently neither of those things.


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (3) |


On 04/03, eric wrote:

i think Luck has much to do with Butler’ success. they have arguably the top young coach in college athletics.

good post and i enjoy reading most of your material

On 04/06, Chris Jones wrote:

I raise my glass to Coach Stevens, his team and “The Butler Way.”

On 04/06, michail t wrote:

It has taken a while now, but I am starting to catch on to the many similarities between wine and basketball. I have to admit, the first time I read one of these wine/basketball blog posts I had to double check the website I was on. I look forward these b-ball analogies.


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