HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
March 19, 2007, Herald Journal

Aggressive basketball entertains


My husband, Craig, has been talking two days straight about the section play-off high school basketball game he watched March 10 in Howard Lake. Craig believes the referees lost control of the game in the first 30 seconds. From that point on, the teams played aggressively, making the game unusually entertaining to watch.

It reminded him of how it was for him playing basketball, under less-than-ideal circumstances, when he was in high school. Craig played for Lutheran High School of Mayer. They often played other small parochial high schools, which sometimes didn’t have good gymnasiums.

Craig recalled going into one gym that must have been an attic once upon a time. He remembered playing the piano in a recital there when he was a little kid. The floor was so dead in spots, if he threw the ball down, the it didn’t come back up.

What really made it rough, though, was the small size of some of those gyms. Players shoved each other up against the walls constantly. The team’s smelling salts got as good a workout as the players did.

Craig remembered one game in particular in which he thought the referee had made a bad call.

“Aw, ref,” Craig complained. To his horror, he turned around and the referee was standing right behind him. As the referee called a technical foul on him, one of Craig’s team mates rushed over and pinned his arms to his sides, as if he was going to take a swing at the referee.

Actually, Craig didn’t know the referee was standing there, and had no intention of attacking him. Craig was embarrassed to be standing in what essentially was a bear hug with another player.

The most intense rivalries seemed to be with the Catholic high schools. For him and his team mates, those games were more important than all the rest.

The gyms also were overcrowded with fans. For some reason, crowd capacity of the gym wasn’t enforced as part of the fire code as much as it is now. Every square inch of space was occupied, the stairs, doorways and floor around the actual playing space, even if the fans had to stand the entire game. If there had been a fire, people certainly would have been trampled in the rush to get out of the building.

Now, many coaches won’t allow a team member to play if he gets a technical foul, so players are a lot more careful than before.

And the rivalry between Lutheran and Catholic schools has all but disappeared. Now, the parochial schools are pretty much on the same side.

Still, high school basketball can be very entertaining.