My parents both attended Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. Careful readers know that the bucolic Green Mountain burg is my birthplace. In 2003, Reilly penned a moving tribute to one of the great small-school traditions of all-time, Picking Up Butch.
Here are the first few grafs:
The best college tradition is not dotting the i at Ohio State. It's not stealing the goat from Navy. Or waving the wheat at Kansas.My father framed the article. It hangs today in his old office. Later, other national media outlets picked up the story - Butch got airtime on CBS, ESPN and others, always with the same refrain: its the best tradition in college sports. On this most glorious of sporting days, I highly recommend a reread of Reilly's article. It's easy to be a cynic in today's sportscape - hell, the caricature that's now Rick Reilly does it professionally - but Butch has a way of bringing us back to the best of our natures.
It's Picking Up Butch at Middlebury (Vt.) College.
For 42 years Middlebury freshman athletes have been Picking Up Butch for football and basketball games. It's a sign-up sheet thing. Carry the ball bags. Gather all the towels. Pick Up Butch.
Basketball players, men and women, do it during football season. Football players do it during basketball season. Two hours before each home game, two freshmen grab whatever car they can get and drive a mile off campus to the tiny house where 54-year-old Butch Varno lives with his 73-year-old mother, Helen, who never got her driver's license. And they literally Pick Up Butch, 5'3" and 170 pounds, right off his bed. They put him in his wheelchair and push him out of the house, or one guy hauls him in a fireman's carry. They pile him into the car, cram the wheelchair into the trunk, take him to the game and roll him to his spot in the mezzanine for football games or at the end of the bench for basketball.
So read Picking Up Butch. And enjoy the Madness.