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3:45 p.m. - November 30, 2005
Hoopin' Season Is Upon Us
It’s late November, so here in the heartland…actually…here in the Hoosier state everyone’s mind has one question that they will try to answer.

How their respective basketball teams will do this season?

Yes, Virginia, “Hoosiers” is a real-life thing. This state is basketball crazy.

And, yes, “Hoosiers” is real-life, even if it was fictionalized. They filmed a lot of it in a little podunk town here in the county, and used honest to goodness small town names for the opponents that played Hickory. However, it really made no rhyme or reason, because Oolitic, Dugger, Terhune, and Linton are really not that close to one another. But any time you can put the town of Oolitic out there, you’ve won in my book.

While Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania are gaga over football, Indiana is totally gaga over hoops.

The Indiana Pacers of the NBA do command a lot of attention, however, most Hoosiers don’t really like the pro-basketball style. In fact, more and more Pacers fans are by and large corporate types – while the grass roots fans are there, it seems to be slipping a bit.

When the Pacers were in the ABA (back in the 60’s and 70’s, playing with the red, white and blue ball) they were a lot of fun to watch. I drew three-point lines on my driveway basketball court (most every house with a boy had a basketball goal either hung on the garage, or one that was mounted to a steel pole set in concrete that was the requisite 10-foot tall) and even invented a four-pointer for a really long shot. My buds and I would play two on two with that red white and blue ball, pretending we were George McGinnis, Mel Daniels, Billy Keller, or Bob Netolicky. In fact, if you said you were George McGinnis, you had to shoot your free-throws one-handed, like he did.

If you ever got to play at an eight-foot goal (like the little kids), you could jam it so then you pretended you were Darnell Hillman. However, you didn’t have to grow his afro - the best ever in pro sports? Don’t believe me? Well…

College hoops is huge here as well – with most fans split between Indiana and Purdue. Sometimes families are split down the middle between Indiana fans and Purdue fans. In fact, our family is split that way, but somehow we exist. (Of course, I root for the good and righteous, and against those who are clad in black and gold.)

Butler, Ball State, Evansville and Valparasio have many die-hard fans as well. A lot of the smaller colleges have a following, too. In fact, here at Wabash we draw decent size crowds to our hoops games from the community.

But what this state is known for is high school basketball.

For one, the high school gym at New Castle seats well over 9,000 people. You heard me, a high school gym with a 9,000 seat capacity.

Yes, they fill it some times.

Back in my day (by cracky!) the gym at good ol’ CHS was mostly full for every high school regular season game and SRO for games against arch rivals like North Montgomery, Southmont and the evil Lebanon Tigers.

When my parents were in high school, before all the county schools were consolidated, they played a tourney in the gym here in Crawfordsville. School would be let out early so students could see the games. With teams from Ladoga, Waveland, Alamo, New Market, New Ross, Darlington, Linden, Waynetown, Bowers, Wingate, New Richmond (later those last two became Coal Creek) they had to be creative in scheduling.

The state tournament was a huge deal. It was a y’all come, winner-take-all tournament. Neighbors played neighbors, and nearby schools became rivals. Sometimes, a sectional would have one one big school and a bunch of small schools and everyone tried to slay the Goliath.

Hoosiers is adopted from true story about a team from Milan, Indiana that actually won the state tournament in 1954.

Later, teams from Bainbridge, Loogootee, Argos, Shenandoah (a consolidation of Middletown, Sulphur Springs and Cadiz), and L & M (Lyons and Marco) all made deep runs in the tournament. So a small school from BFE-land could compete once in a while against the teams from Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Gary, and Lafayette.

Sure, it was a rarity, but it was exciting when Rensselaer beat Lafayette Jefferson on Jeff’s home floor for the Regional title.

Interest in the basketball tournament was huge. And the girls’ tournament was growing as well. The first girls’ state tourney took place in 1976 (can you believe it took that long?) and the popularity of that tourney grew and grew.

Then they changed it.

Instead of y’all come, they put the teams in classes.

So instead of neighbor against neighbor, teams went far and wide to play in the opening rounds of the tourney.

Attendance is way down for the tourney and interest around the state is as well. They had a goose that laid golden eggs. They printed money with that tourney. And they killed it. Just so more teams could win trophies.
It also seems that the students aren’t attending games like they used to – though many kids now work at night and on weekends, and somehow it doesn’t seem as ‘cool’ to show school spirit and act like an idiot in the stands. The city schools, especially, have this problem. There’s not a lot of support for the teams (not just basketball, but overall) and that’s a bit disheartening.

When I moved back to my hometown, I went to a few games last year and it seemed like the crowd hadn’t changed much at all. The difference is that the people making the road trips have dwindled. Not many people are willing to go follow their teams around the state anymore. Of course, there’s a lot more to do nowadays. Back then, there was nothing to do but GO to those games on Friday or Saturday night.

But there’s still a lot of basketball talk, and lots of basketball being played.

There are plenty of leagues and pick up games around. People play hoops in the winter like they play softball in the summer and they bowl when they’re not doing either one.

Mondays and Wednesdays we have the “NBA” – The Noon Basketball Association. I’m a member in good standing. In fact, on Monday I hit the shot of the day, a running left handed runner in the paint that totally stunned our assistant basketball coach, all 6’7 of him.

Normally, I do nothing but set screens and hit the outside jumper, so this was a rarity for me. I think that’s the reason the coach stood there like a slack jawed yokel.

So, I had my one shining moment. Then, back to work. But that one-hander has carried me through. Something has to in the cold, gray November that is BFE Indiana.

 

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