A letter on class basketball

I wanted to comment on the class basketball story that was placed on the blog.  It appears that Mr. Brandle is too young to really remember the magic of “Hoosier Hysteria.”  He mentions that he recalls a game when he was in middle school between a 1A and 4A team – this indicates he was very young when the system changed.  I was a junior or senior in high school (I can’t really remember which year it was, but I graduated in 1998 – and having looked it up on wikipedia now, it apparently was my senior year when the change went into effect) when the change happened, and I did not know a single person, player, student, parent, or other citizen in the community, who was in favor of the change.  I am from Terre Haute, so it’s not like I was from some small town where people may have felt they had no chance, though (I went to Terre Haute North, which at the time was the 7th largest high school in the state, and we were in a conference with Ben Davis, North Central, Lawrence North, etc.).

Anyway, the magic of the single class tournament was unmatched – I still tell people about it to this day.  The way the community came together was incredible (do we really need to remind everyone of why there is that massive, NBA-style gymnasium for a high school in New Castle?).  Hulman Center, which is where Indiana State plays (if you can call what they do playing basketball), was always full during sectionals (which invariably ended in the sectional championship being between Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South, although occasionally Northview (Brazil) or West Vigo (West Terre Haute) would creep in as well), and it was amazing.  I always went to the games, regardless of whether North was playing, and I always went with my family when I was younger.  In fact, my aunt, who unfortunately passed last year, would always take me to the games, and at her funeral, they played the Terre Haute North fight song – that’s right, the high school fight song was the song they played at her funeral because she loved watching them play basketball so much – my wife never really believed me about the passion we have for basketball in Indiana before that.  Then the regionals would be at the Hulman Center too, and there were always great teams coming in.  I remember watching Damon Bailey and Bedford North Lawrence playing in the regionals there, and remember those incredible White River Valley teams with the seemingly unending string of Graves children (all of whom, if I recall correctly, starred at Butler as well).  The single class tournament was incredible.  

When they switched, it wasn’t the same.  I went to DePauw, and while I was there, I watched the tournament games they held in the Greencastle high gymnasium, but it wasn’t the same.  There was never the same anticipation, the teams weren’t the same, and there wasn’t a chance to see these great teams I had read about in the newspaper anymore, because a lot of them were in lower classes now.  I haven’t lived in Indiana in near a decade now, so I can’t speak to what it is like today – the students now obviously have nothing to compare it to, and probably just think of it as normal.  It was something special, and something that made basketball in Indiana special, though – now it feels to me that it is just like every other sport, and nothing special about it to me anymore.  I think class basketball had something to do with that (and Peyton Manning, of course).

–Jason McElroy