Welcome back to the Christmas tournament! You were missed from around 1980 to the mid-1990's, but slowly, surely, the tournament is back! It is not only back, it is better than ever-- instead of the old 4-team, one-day setup, you see eight-- and in some cases, 16-- teams playing over multiple days.
With the Christmas-era tournament comes the various Christmas formats. I love the doubleheader pool format of the Toyota Teamwork Classic in Gibson County. I flat loved that tournament, and in one sense, I am sorry North Knox isn't there. Not to say that they aren't in good tournaments now-- the separate Vincennes tournaments they are in are almost as compelling-- but I love that doubleheader boys-girls format over 3 days, and the free-for-all final day of competition.
Other formats include a straight 16-team elimination format (Pizza Hut in Terre Haute), and 8-team pool play (McDonald's Tournament in Vincennes). There is also an 8-team elimination tourhament (Niehaus Girls' Classic and Graber Post boys' tournament), and an old-fashined, four-team one day tournament (Hall of Fame).
I love the return of the Christmas tournament, in all this various formats. it is a great way to compete for a midseason honor-- and keep kids in shape for January play to come. It can also bring either a lot of regional teams in, or even teams from across the state and other states. (Check Richmond's Bob Wettig Tourhament for that one-- it could be one of the only truly statewide-- and multi-state-- basketball tourhaments in Indiana.) No matter how your team performs, let the Christmas season games begin!!
Ok... I must admit... I have been laid low by a stomach virus the last couple of days. But it got me thinking... what else makes me sick? Here are a few examples..
-- Underachieving football teams. In my crosshairs right now... the Cincinnati Bengals. With a chance to lock down the Number 2 seed, they give up 21 points in ways that reminded me of the "Bungles" days of the 1990's. A punt blown off course 2 feet by the wind, mis-handled, and resulting in a safety. A litany of broken tackles-- not to mention a broken jaw to punter Kevin Huber-- in a straignt-middle punt return TD. Two mitigating factors, though-- Ben Roethlisberger was 12 for his first 12 throwing the ball, and the Bengals made a game of it in the second half-- but this was a beat-down, pure and simple. The good news? The Bengals are at PBS-- Paul Brown Stadium-- their last 2 regular season games. They have a perfect record at home, and they start with a Minnesota team that is down a bit this Sunday.
-- The Colts' getting the bad end of a trade with the Cleveland Browns. I have NO idea what is wrong with Trent Richardson.
-- Inflated salaries for baseball players. Money equals power-- as I have grown older, I am more sure now than ever, in this world, that is the truth. Or, as Michael Douglas' "Wall Street" character Gordon Gekko opined, "Greed... is good. Greed works." More to the point, HOW IN THE WORLD can anyone spend 600 million dollars IN ONE LIFETIME????
-- Entitlement attitudes in players. I do wax nostalgic for a time when heroes-- sports and otherwise-- were tough men. Not to say you don't see that today... but there are too many whiners who feel they are entitled to let their emotions run away with them. Football wide receivers seem to be in that lot more than usual. Dez Bryant, anyone? Randy Moss? Terrell Owens? Chad (Johnson) Ochocinco? At least one macho position remains in the league.. the offensive front line and defensive front seven. Thankfully, those spots are where men are men and running backs are nervous. And give running backs their due... there isn't much whining going on there either...
-- Any team out of Cincinnati. The Reds-- the Bengals-- UC-- Xavier-- and any other collective out of the Queen City have the same problem... Loads of talent-- but not the mentality to get to the ultimate prize. It is a sickness in southern Ohio-- and I, as a fan of both Cincinnati professional franchises-- hope for a remedy soon. This is getting to epidemic proportions...
-- I am sick of the NBA. Yeah, they want younger fans so they play up the hip hop part of it. But what about the other 90 percent of American culture who doesn't get it? I feel the NBA is saying, "let us eat cake." Please, NBA, don't forget there are a lot of fans who don't wear jewelery in strange places, and don't have tattoos....Thank you very much...
A town striving for relevance. An area known for its coal production several decades in the past. A community not known for its industrial base-- instead, it is known as a quick stop between Linton and Sullivan on State Road 54. This is the future that may await the community of Dugger, if its soul is ripped out tonight by the Northeast Sullivan School Corporation.
This fate has awaited other communities over the last 50 years. A half-century ago, it was towns with names like Oaktown and Wheatland and Epson and Odon... and Winslow and Ireland, and Celestine and Carlisle, and many others who wondered if they would be reduced to mere dots on a map. Over the time from 1960 to 1980, they-- and many others like them-- would be determined by the State of Indiana to be too small to be feasible. The 1960's saw the emergence of the "directional" school-- like North Knox, or South Adams, or Western Boone, or Eastern Greene-- needed on one hand to give rural kids a better chance at education, but despised on the other as ripping the very soul out of the communities that provided its students.
Recent years have seen a new wave of consolidation. Union Junior and Senior High Schools are in the crosshairs, and may be a few scant months away from joining the ranks of the dearly departed-- another white elephant building tombstone remembering the life that used to exist in a community which may soon become just another dot on the map between Linton and Sullivan.
If the Northeast Sullivan School Corporation closes the doors to Dugger tonight, the students will scatter to the four winds. Round and round the students go-- where they stop, no one will know. Linton? Sullivan? Shakamak? Even North Knox? All four are closer than the other Northeast Sullivan school, North Central. A Terre Haute Tribune-Star survey showed none-- repeat, NONE-- of the Dugger students they talked to plan to head to North Central, 20 miles distant.from Dugger. Where they go, no one knows-- but one thing is for sure, they won't forget the Gold and Black. Tonight, the Northeast Sullivan Schools could take the gold away from Dugger, and all that is left is black-- for Dugger's present, and likely future.