(This post originally ran on June 25, 2011 on ColtsAuthority.com. It is the counterpoint to Kent Sterling's "10 Reasons Why the IHSAA Tournament Is Still the Best.")
Hi there everybody, I’m blogjacking vagabond Roy Hobbson! You might remember me from my previous internet homes, sites such as Flipside Sports and The Silent Pagoda and Versus.com and many other fine establishments that have all since melted into ruin and no longer exist, coincidentally! Anyway, like any decent blogging hobo, I now just drift around to other people’s sites to write things in exchange for warm socks and cornbread. It makes for apathetic and uninformed posts on most days, but not today. Not when someone molests my very soul with this, in support of Indiana High School Multi-Class Basketball:
Professional sports don’t need to be fair; college doesn’t even need to be fair. High school does. In high school, above everything else, it is about the athletes. They need to play on a level playing field.
Now, I am woefully unqualified to ring in on most every issue ever. Gerrymandering … math … home repairs … parenting … you name it, I am terrible at all those things, and also many more! Only a fool or my kids would listen to my arguments on such matters. But this? This is different. I have a unique perspective here. Not “better” or “more enlightened,” really — but unique. And also better and more enlightened. That’s because Single-Class Basketball once kicked me in my down-there parts and murdered my dreams for no real reason at all, other than boredom maybe? OH IT WAS A MAGICAL TIME TO BE ALIVE!
We were a small school, with an enrollment of around 600 or so. It was 1994, on a Tuesday night on the west side, at Ben Davis High School — that vile Bastion of Sorcery and Meatheads — the host site of our six-team Sectionals. Our first game of the tournament was against Ben Davis, of course, a school of roughly 16,000 professional athletes and longshoremen and titans of industry — on THEIR court, no less — because Old Fashioned Indiana High School Basketball Rules made no sense whatsoever. We were the 4th ranked team in the state, they were the 5th — a dandy first-round matchup if you’re not one of the two schools playing in it. We lost that game, naturally — on a late game put-back by Ahmed Bellamy that I’ve diligently repressed into the darkest reaches of my brain and since forgotten about, almost! Not that it matters.
Because what matters, I guess, is this: my tournament lasted 32 minutes that year, which was especially awful since we were the FOURTH best team in Indiana, 20-and-1 through the regular season, and our reward for such lofty accomplishments was a first-round matchup against an admittedly better team — on their insanely hostile turf — because why not? Single Class Basketball was a cruel DemonBitch like that, maybe the cruelest, all scatterbrained and uncaring, nearly as “fair” as life itself.
But She was also stunningly beautiful, a Seductress for the ages, and our state is a far lesser place in Her absence.
I’m not bitter about what she did to me, although I certainly could be. Instead, I’m bitter that some other tiny school with an enrollment of 600 will never get the chance(s) that we did. I’m bitter that at best, they’ll go on to play The Deaf School or Waldron or Park Tudor for the 1A State Championship in front of like 79 disinterested parents at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and one team will win and one team will lose and it won’t matter much because nobody will remember it anyway — or if they do, they’ll quickly forget when the next title game starts in twelve minutes or so.
I’m most bitter, though, that this has all been done in the name of “fairness,” because it’s not fair at all. It’s not fair to the kids and it’s not fair to us and Indiana High School Basketball is now no different than Idaho High School Basketball, and somehow that’s being celebrated around here — but not at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse because that’s now a Hardee’s, probably. Or it soon will be.
More people can eat there that way.
It’s only fair.