The Class Basketball Debate (part five)

The Class Basketball debate continues here at 18to88.com this week. Today, I respond to Billy Brandle’s questions about his position. Yesterday, Billy answered mineYou can read Billy’s position in part one.  Be sure to check out part two and the brilliant part three as well.

1. In my research I kept on seeing large schools win title after title to the point where the dominance was boring. How can it be fun to destroy every single year schools so small they don’t stand a chance? Does a larger school get a thrill out of crushing schools a fifth their size year after year?

First of all, I do not accept that the small schools ‘don’t stand a chance’. They may not have good enough programs to win it all, but at the sectional level, they absolutely do stand the chance to win a game or two. That was what used to make sectionals great. They were based on geography. Therefore, schools were playing the other neighboring towns and programs. There was a sense of local bragging rights.  For Pike, where I went to school, the game against Brebeuf was a huge deal. It was about more than school size. It was about the fact that we went to middle school with most of the kids that went there. 

The tournament was about more than just the state championship. It was a way of settling bragging rights for the county, or your side of town. The title mattered, sure, but most teams weren’t really dreaming of going that far. It was about winning that sectional championship. That was the real prize.  So, in that context even kids from ‘big schools’ had a ton of fun competing against the small schools. It wasn’t about one team being a fly on the windshield. It was about being the best in your sectional.

It’s telling that some schools got tired of losing their sectionals and instead of working to develop better programs, they wussed out and found other small schools to beat up on.  Frankly, that’s cowardly.

 2. Of all the great dynasties in high school basketball how many can you name that were a small school? Did any of them consistently beat teams much bigger than them?

Well, obviously the Milan team is the easy answer. They were good for several years.  Brebeuf had a great program in the ’90s as well.  I think Washington with the Zellers would have been competitive in a higher bracket.  Mostly though, I’m not sure what the point is.  The tournament was always about more than any one specific school winning. My school didn’t win a state title until after the classes separated. It didn’t matter to me. I still went to watch the sectional games for Ben Davis and Speedway. I still went to Hinkle to watch regionals that had random schools I had no emotional connection to. I went to the Dome to watch Warsaw. It was about the larger scope. Indiana itself was my community. It didn’t matter where the kids went to school, they were playing to be champions of my state in the greatest high school tournament ever played. Thousands felt the same way.  Looking at it from the perspective of any one school is a mistake.  It’s about the whole, not the parts.

What we lost when they killed the tournament is that sense that we are all Hoosiers.  We lost the sense that the state title means something larger. Now the state is fragmented and chopped up and people only care about their individual school. It’s a shame.

3. Should small schools who win football, baseball, softball, or volleyball state championship feel pride even though there are teams much better than them? Should their pride be the same or different then in basketball?

Winning a lesser championship is a neat accomplishment, but it’s a minor one. Football is a little different because it is a numbers game. Even baseball and softball require special equipment.  In baseball, I played against lots of small schools. It wasn’t the size of the school that mattered as much as the quality of the coaching. I can’t understand why there would be classes in volleyball. It makes no sense. 

Ultimately, however, my answer is no. Small class champions can be proud of their accomplishments the way I’m proud of being a baseball sectional champion twice. I would think they would have to know that while a neat little thing for them, their championship isn’t that important really. I don’t expect anyone to ooh or ah over a couple of baseball sectional titles, and I don’t get worked up about Class A championships either.

4. Why is it so important that we play you (and by “we” I mean small schools and by “you” I mean large schools)? I’ve talked to many coaches of small schools and they love the class system. Why should we be forced to play teams when we feel that there’s an extremely unfair advantage? I get your opinion but why should your opinion be forced onto us when we don’t feel the same way?

Because the tournament is about everyone. It’s a chance for everyone to measure themselves by the same yardstick. Because it keeps away the whispers and the wonders of “What if?”. What if the Zellers had played Connely and Oden for the state title? There is no unfair advantage at all. None.  It’s a question of talent, nothing else. I fail to see where there is an unfair advantage. It’s the same ball, the same basket, the same refs. The fact that one team is better and another is worse is not an unfair advantage.

The fact is that the proponents of class basketball were in the massive minority. The few robbed the many of something that was precious to them. The decision was never popular even among fans of smaller schools. It was ramrodded through by a few principals and coaches.  The few ruined something that the many wanted. Why? Because they wanted more pats on the back. The administrators did it for themselves, not for the kids. I believe that had the schools allowed an open vote of everyone, the change would never have been made.

5. One of the first things learned in epistemology is that passion and feelings get in the way of logic. On a personal level, how much does passion play into your opinion and how much is logic? Do you feel that much of the rest of the state wants a one class system because of logic or feelings?

Why is it illogical to point out that the new tournament is massively unpopular and even hated? Why is illogical to point out that it rewards the few at the expense of the many? It’s not at all illogical to say that an event that was unique to Indiana and provided a key touchstone in our local identity shouldn’t be discarded simply to please a few small school principals. 

The myth is that the tournament was only about winning, that it only mattered if you advanced deep into it.

That is and always has been the lie of multi-class basketball.

What is illogical is to destroy something that meant a lot to millions, only to replace it with a system that is wildly unpopular, a financial disaster, and discourages people from supporting the sport.

To wrap up, the tournament was about more than me rooting for my school. Until after class basketball, I never had too much of a chance to do it. The joy the tournament gave me was in rooting for Indiana basketball. 

That joy is now gone.

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