The Butler Bulldogs are on to the Sweet 16. Again.
It feels like it's been a long wait. Butler hasn't been here since their famous back to back national title game appearances earlier this decade. But Butler fans are spoiled. Their team is on to the second weekend of the tournament for the 5th time in 15 years. The 3rd time this decade. All but the best programs in the country would be thrilled with that rate. But this is familiar territory for the Bulldogs.
Except it's not. Not like this anyways.
Fifteen years ago Butler was a cute underdog story. Seven years ago they became America's team. Everyone loved the feel good story about the small Horizon League school taking it to the big boys on the national stage.
Those days are gone.
A famous super hero once said, "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to become the villain." Being the hero is great, but in sports the goal is to become the villain. Take a gander at the most hated programs in sports. The "evil empires". They've all got one thing in common. They win. A lot. Nobody hates the DePauls of the world.
Butler isn't a villain. But the Bulldogs have relinquished their hero status. The transition is occurring. That's what happens when you win too much. When you leave behind the little old Horizon League and start throwing punches as a member of the Big East.
All it takes is a glance around social media to see Butler isn't "America's Sweetheart" anymore. Former Indiana mayor Greg Ballard apparently still views Butler that way. He sent out this tweet, one that would have been well received in 2011. But click on it and check out the replies. Butler's won too much now. Other fans have had enough. Win too much and people get jealous.
You can find similar reactions all over twitter. Like this one. Or here. Or another one. These aren't disgruntled Xavier fans. These are neutral fans, disappointed that Middle Tennessee won't be the next program to capture hearts around the nation.
Butler simply isn't a feel good story anymore. At least not in the opening round. Not until they get matched up against a perennial college basketball powerhouse, such as a likely meeting with North Carolina next week in the Sweet 16. Then Butler will be back in the familiar role, wearing their traditional black uniforms with all of America cheering them on.
That's because Butler isn't where they want to be yet. Butler doesn't want to be the underdog. They don't want to be heroes to anyone but their own fans. They want kids decades from now to have a hard time grasping why those Final Four runs were such a big deal. "How could Butler have been an underdog?"
And it's coming. Some fans already see it. Other's fail to understand how anyone could not respect "The Butler Way". But winning breeds hate. And the Bulldogs are going to continue to do a lot of winning.