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Basketball sectional isn't what it used to be ... thanks to the class systemPosted Friday, February 20, 2009, at 9:18 AM
The Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) boys high school basketball draw was conducted Thursday night and it brought back a lot of memories of the way it all used to be -- before we had class basketball.
I'm not going to condemn the system we have now other than to say it sure hasn't returned to its glory days of the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s.
Go to any gym on any Friday or Saturday night and you'll more than likely see some empty seats.
That was something you didn't see much in my growing-up era.
It could be a sign of the dire economic straits we're experiencing, but I think it's more than that.
We didn't need much stimulating or encouragement to go to a high school basketball game. It was the thing to do.
I think class basketball has contributed to the dwindling attendance and faltering interest in the sport in general at the high school level.
That's not the fault of any of the current generation of basketball players, who were probably in kindergarten or the first grade when class basketball started in the Hoosier state in 1998.
It's all they have known in their basketball playing days so they can not really relate to how it used to be.
The system was changed by school administrators and IHSAA officials as a way of making the postseason basketball tournament more equitable year in and year out for the smaller schools.
They contended it gave the "small schools" more of a chance to bring home a sectional, regional, semistate or state tournament trophy, which in theory was a good idea.
However, somewhere along the line the idea seriously deflated the mystic and overall appeal of high school basketball.
As we enter this 11th year of four-class basketball, I guess the people who supported the change to class basketball didn't watch the movie "Hoosiers."
They didn't see the look on the players' and fans' faces from the mythical community of Hickory when they won the state tourney crown.
It is a movie that defines the idea of the underdogs rising to meet the challenge of the big, more talented schools on the basketball court.
It was five players going against five players on the court and the size of the schools they represented didn't matter.
"Hoosiers" -- just like Indiana high school basketball of the past -- gave the audience something to cheer for.
It features a tough-as-nails coach with a heart of gold, a team of farm boys with dreams of making it to the state finals, and a small town pinning their hopes on their little high school -- the movie has it all.
Does any of that sound like any of our small Greene County teams of yesteryear?
I remember when having a basketball sectional was a big deal -- the only thing in our town for one week a year. Everywhere you went and with everyone you talked with -- basketball was the topic of conversation.
All the windows in the town's businesses were painted up, school hallways decorated in our school colors, posters and colored streamers were hung.
And, people went to the games.
I know some of that stuff still goes on today, but I think some of that luster has dwindled under class basketball.
When I was a kid back in the 1960s and early 1970s it was a time when you would be glued to your television set when the IHSAA did the tourney draw live -- most often on a Sunday afternoon in late February.
We didn't have to log onto the Internet or listen to a static-filled AM radio station to hear the draw.
It was a time when every non-basketball playing student in our high school would join in the pep block, dress up real crazy and lose our voices yelling for our team -- the Tell City Marksmen.
The girls in our school would dress up in corduroy jumper skirts that were adorned with our team mascot -- William Tell, and other hand-drawn creations.
I was involved in a male student group known as the "Bleacher Bums" and occasionally, some of our vocal and obnoxious rantings were directed at the men in the black-and-white stripped shirts who were refereeing the game. It created a very interesting and intense atmosphere to watch a basketball game.
I remember a couple of years after our sectional was moved from Tell City to Boonville -- a distance of about 35 miles -- that a group of us Bleacher Bums did a relay dribble of a basketball all the way from our hometown to the basketball gym before the sectional game tipped off to show our support for our team. Along the way, people lined up along the streets and highway to cheer us on. It was great.
School officials were also excited to excuse us from classes at noon on that day.
Do you think that would happen today?
It was truly a part of what became known across the country as Hoosier Hysteria.
But times changed.
It's really too bad that they had to tweak with something that wasn't broken, was making money and most of the fans loved it.
I am sure you have some favorite sectional tournament memories of your own and I would encourage you to share those with our readers.
Also, this might be a good time to get your VCR tape or DVD copy of "Hoosiers" out, dust it off and watch it again.
There is nothing like Indiana high school basketball.
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