Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lines of demarcation

We called it factory talk back in the day, and it worked like this:

The phone would ring.

 You'd pick it up.

On the other end would be some conspiracy theorist in the foundry or the heat treat or the paint shop -- some guy  out at Guide or Delco-Remy back in the days when both were riding the crest of the 1970s boom in Anderson, In.  He'd be shouting (or so it always seemed). That's how you knew where the call was coming from.


One year the high school basketball star was Ray Tolbert, the 1977 Indiana Mr. Basketball from Anderson Madison Heights.  One year it might have been one of the Zacharys from Anderson Highland. You get the idea.

The idea is that kids moving around is no new phenomenon, and that is especially true in Fort Wayne. The same year Ray Tolbert was winning Mr. Basketball, another basketball star in Fort Wayne was living across the street from my former brother-in-law. My former brother-in-law played football at Harding. The kid across the street from him wound up playing basketball at Wayne.

So, it happens. Probably not as much as the conspiracy theorists like to believe, and probably not always because the coach at the rival school across town is a blackhearted Machiavelli intent on stealing away what's rightfully your school's. After all, when your school's coach does it, it's completely legit.

That said ... it's happened forever here. And if sometimes it is completely legit, sometimes, yes, there probably has been some occasional poaching involved. It's why I've always laughed out loud at the idea that the parochial schools in town have some inherent advantage because they can "recruit" -- and do, shamelessly, to hear people talk.

"Oh, hell," I'd always say. "It's Fort Wayne. Nobody's going where they're 'supposed' to go."

Which wasn't exactly true, of course. What is true is that enrollment lines in Fort Wayne Community Schools often have been remarkably elastic, and for a variety of reasons.

Well. No more.

Now the school system is cracking down, a direct result of  Indiana (which is not now nor will ever be known as the Education State) putting the financial squeeze on.  That means FWCS has to cut back on bus service, and that means kids who've been busing all over town won't be able to do that anymore.

How this will affect the football programs at the district's five high schools  is unclear, but according to this piece by Reggie Hayes of the News-Sentinel, the coaches don't seem inordinately concerned about it.  Of course, away from the media, they might be in a full-blown panic. And, if that's the case, it's probably a little more full-blown at the powerhouses (i.e., Snider) than elsewhere, because the powerhouses are the ones who are perceived to have most benefited from FWCS' laissez-faire enforcement of its enrollment lines.

What I suspect, though, is that the primary impact of the district's belt-tightening will be on that aforementioned perception. I think people are going to find out that what they always took to be conventional wisdom is more along the lines of mythology. No, the Sniders and North Sides haven't traditionally won more because they have bigger recruiting budgets. Kurt Tippmann (and Russ Isaacs and Mike Hawley before him) never spent their summers driving around town with duffel bags of unmarked currency in the trunks of their cars, the better to lure some prize freshman to the corner of Reed Road and Fairlawn Pass.

The powerhouses have won -- and this is true of Snider and North and Luers and Dwenger and everyone everywhere, really -- not because they outslicked everyone, but because of the quality of their programs. That's what I think everyone's about to find out.

I know. Boring, right?

And too bad, in a way. I kind of miss those phone calls.


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