March and early April could have been awfully exciting for Butler Blue IV.
The mascot-in-waiting at Butler University, a plump English bulldog born less than five months ago, had been scheduled to travel from Indianapolis to New York for the Big East men’s basketball tournament. If Butler had reached the Final Four, Blue, as the puppy is known, would have made the journey to Atlanta.
But both the conference and national tournaments were canceled last week, and Blue, expected to take over mascot duties in May, stayed home. So did his predecessor, Trip, the regal dog who had been teaching the puppy the ropes around campus, where dorms will be closed until at least April 4 and in-person classes have been suspended.
“Selfishly, as basketball junkies and shills for these dogs, we’re extremely sad, but that pales in comparison to the heartbreak we have for our seniors on our basketball teams, and our student-athletes who compete in spring sports,” Michael Kaltenmark, Trip’s handler, wrote in an email on Friday.
“These recent developments are devastating for them, and terribly unfair,” he added. “Our dogs have had their day, and will have more days in the limelight to come. But many of those athletes, who provide us a stage with which to bask in the glow, will have to hang up their uniforms with a lack of proper closure.”
But well before the coronavirus became a pandemic, we visited Indianapolis to meet Blue and see how he was preparing for the rigors of being a live mascot. It was quite a process.