After 700 posts, I hope you will forgive a digression from my usual focus on books and reading. After all, it may all be over in a few hours when the University of Dayton Flyers face the Florida Gators in the NCAA Tournament. But for at least the next two hours, my alma matter, the University of Dayton made it to the Elite Eight and continues its Cinderella run. This tournament has made me a little homesick. My family tells me that lots of people have Flyer Fever around Dayton, but around here, I’m the only one wearing a Dayton sweatshirt!
The best part of this story isn’t about basketball. Of course, it’s exciting that the team is busting a lot of brackets and bringing attention to the University of Dayton, but most of all, I’m happy for the City of Dayton. Over the past twenty years, Dayton has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs and seen both NCR and Mead Paper re-locate to other states. For years, every time I visited the formerly vibrant and energetic city, the empty downtown streets were a depressing reminder of Dayton’s industrial decline. But over the past few years, there have been signs of change – a story in the New York Times this past October about Dayton’s “immigrant-friendly” programs that are refueling the economy. An NPR story about a Chinese auto-glass maker opening a plant in a former General Motors truck plan. And Dayton Daily News articles about the increasing number of high-tech jobs in the area. And now the Flyers are providing another dose of Dayton pride.
The Flyers’ NCAA success has shined a spotlight on a special place. As a Sports Illustrated blog pointed out in a post, “Since 2005, the size of the campus has nearly doubled and it’s beautiful.” The same article reports that “The Flyers boasted a higher average attendance than seven of the other teams joining them in the Sweet Sixteen, including Michigan…Make no mistake, this is a basketball school.”
It’s almost time for the game and in a few hours, the Cinderella story may be over. But like Flyer fans everywhere, I’m grateful to this team for reminding me of how much I love my hometown and how proud I am to be a UD Flyer!