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From the Heartland

The Dartmouth College football team had plenty of reason to sing after Saturday night's victory over Butler in Indianapolis, Ind. (Valley News File Photo - Tris Wykes)

The Dartmouth College football team had plenty of reason to sing after Saturday night's victory over Butler in Indianapolis, Ind. (Valley News File Photo - Tris Wykes)

The Dartmouth College football team’s trip to play at Butler in Indianapolis, Ind., last weekend marked the first time I’d traveled with the squad in five years of coverage. Usually, I rent a car and drive myself to other Ivy League campuses and places such as Bucknell, Holy Cross, etc. That way, I have plenty of time to write and edit photos after the game.

This time, however, the athletic department was kind enough to sell us a ticket on the team charter, so I combed my hair, put on long pants and made sure I was on time for the buses’ departure to Manchester on Friday morning. We boarded a Jet Blue charter flight to Indianapolis from there and reversed the process directly after the Big Green’s 30-23 victory Saturday night.

After growing up in Hanover and serving as a de facto student manager for Dartmouth football while in middle school and high school, I went off to the University of Minnesota and spent five years as the real thing. We flew and bused all over the country in that time and my body held up just fine. But now, at 42, I can tell you I felt the cramped quarters and hours of travel a lot more. By the time we rode home up Interstate 89 in the rain at 3 a.m. Sunday, I felt like I’d been trampled by oxen.

In the Big 10 and other high-level Division I conferences, the players rarely if ever touch their own equipment on a trip. It’s all handled for them. But at Dartmouth, the players carry their own bags from the locker room to the bus and vice versa. So that struck me right off the bat.

Another point of interest for me was the amount of available food. We received a paper bag with two enormous sub sandwiches and various snacks to start the trip, had a ballroom full of deli meats and fixings waiting for us at the hotel and then the players ate dinner later that night.

After the game, we were handed another bag meal before departing Butler and more sub sandwiches were available before we boarded the plane. Coolers of water and Gatorade were everywhere. I think I returned to the Upper Valley 25 pounds heavier than I when I left.

Upon landing in Indianapolis, we proceeded to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and were given a tour of the fabled race track. Photos aplenty were taken at the start/finish line and many players and a few coaches dropped down to kiss the brick strip that remains from the facility’s original paving. That’s what the race winners do upon exiting their cars.

The next day at Butler, I got a chance to check out historic Hinkle Field House, home of the school’s basketball and volleyball teams. The Bulldogs are very successful in Division I men’s hoops and the arena seats about 10,000 fans. It’s where 1954’s “Milan Miracle” occurred and was later described in the movie Hoosiers.

Outside in the parking lot, a robust tailgating scene was underway and I got to get a close up shot of Blue III, Butler’s live bulldog mascot who later led the football team into the Butler Bowl. It wasn’t quite as imposing as Ralphie the Buffalo leading the University of Colorado on to Folsom Field in Boulder, but, hey, you work with what’s at your disposal.

Heading back to the Indianapolis airport, I discovered to my horror that I’d left my wallet and ID at the hotel. So a tip of the hat to Big Green director of football operations Joey McIntyre and coach Buddy Teevens for vouching for me and not leaving me behind on the tarmac.

Next up, a home game Saturday night against Holy Cross. e_SClB