Parking was a breeze and the line to the entrance of Hinkle Fieldhouse was well within the confines of the parking lot, two hours before tip. It seemed for the moment that it was not going to be the riotous watch-party I'd hoped for.
I was feeling bad for my fiancé and long-time friend from Cincinnati whom I had dragged to the Butler campus two hours early, thinking that the Hinkle Filedhouse viewing party was going to be stuffed to the brim with rowdy Butler students and local media, ideally with CBS' cameras cutting over to us intermittently throughout the game. So we had a little time to kill.
Though the line to the gate would eventually wrap around out to 46th street and the underclassmen eventually made their way into the building about 10 minutes before tip, It turned out the real party for most Butler fans of drinking age was downtown and in Broad Ripple. But between free t-shirts, a boisterous crowd of a couple thousand and the perfect aesthetic setting to watch a basketball game, I was in the second best place to be to watch the game Saturday night.
The upper level and baseline bleachers were mostly empty, but the crowd was almost as loud as I’ve ever heard at Hinkle—except for the Ohio State game in 2008. With screens that large, it felt like being at the game, sitting in those bleachers. An emcee was leading cheers and the t-shirt gun was blasting free souvenirs up toward the ancient arched ceiling of Indiana’s basketball cathedral.
Other than the fans at Lucas Oil, only I and the other something-thousand fans could get completely lost in the game that way. There were no waiters, no tabs, no disgruntled neighbors, no obnoxious Michigan State fans; all of us forgot that we were not at the game. We booed the refs on the phantom fouls, we rose to our feet when the Bulldogs needed a big stop or a game-changing basket and cheered during the pre-game player introductions. It was human delusion in its most natural form, and everything that is beautiful about sports.
Hinkle will host another viewing party for the Championship game. Due to the obviously escalated stakes and the school-night impact on the alcohol industry, I expect that this time seats and parking might be slightly more difficult to come by.
The gates will open at 8, and tipoff is at 9 p.m.; the event is completely free and open to the public.