Sunday, March 22, 2015

Throwback Saturday. Sort of.

Look, the Blob's position on this is crystal, and has been for a long time: Hoosier Hysteria died on the last Saturday in March in 1997, when Bloomington North cut down the nets in the last single-class state finals, and a whole pile of ink-stained wretches wrote their valedictories.

What that means, what it's always meant, is that Hoosier Hysteria was a certain brand, and that brand was not transferrable. If you were going to alter the entire structure of high school basketball in the state that defined it, you were going to have to call it something else. Because it was something else.

Here what that doesn't mean: It doesn't mean people still won't come if you put up a basket in March in Indiana and let kids shoot at it.

Those were the glad tidings Saturday afternoon from Huntington, where I sat in line to turn left off U.S. 24 half an hour before the tip between Bishop Dwenger and Griffith. And sat. And sat. And ... sat.

Caught in traffic for a basketball semistate. Talk about your nostalgia rushes.

Huntington North's gym seats 5,500 and the place was jammed for the Class 3A and 4A semistates, every seat filled and the SRO crowd hefty enough to make the fire marshals nervous. What that told you is that Hoosier Hysteria may be long in its grave, but the game itself remains a bone-deep thing in this state. If what we have now is not what we once had, it's still high school basketball in Indiana in March. No matter how desperately the dead-enders want to believe otherwise, nobody gives a damn anymore if it's four classes instead of one.

After 18 years, it's just details.

That's why the quixotic campaign to raise the Hoosier Hysteria corpse a couple years back was doomed from the jump. The voting might have betrayed a certain aching nostalgia for the dead past, but that's all it was. It was like pining for drive-in movie theaters or the milkman leaving a couple of sweating glass bottles on your doorstep at dawn: You know those days are never coming back, but weren't they something?

Mind you, this comes from a man who was adamantly opposed to killing off the Hysteria, on the excellent grounds that it was still the most wildly successful high school basketball tournament on the planet. The archives are full of what I wrote then, carefully crafted arguments that made perfect sense at the time they were written.

But what I missed, what we all missed, was how little was going to change at the molecular level. Basketball was still going to be basketball, and Hoosiers were still going to be hard-wired to flock to it. Everything else, again, was details.

And so on to Saturday afternoon, when the Homestead and South Bend Riley sections were full even for the 3A game, and the Dwenger and Griffith fans stuck around for the 4A game. Because,  basketball. It's our siren, our deal, our north star. It's who we are.

 "I've very thankful to be a part of this ..." Dwenger guard Kyle Hartman said Saturday, after the Saints went down valiantly to Griffith.

Of course he is. Aren't we all?   

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