Every year about this time, I head for some gym somewhere to watch the remnants of what we used to call Hoosier Hysteria. Almost always, happily, I find a piece of it.
Last night that was at Bellmont, where a gritty, focused group of Concordia Cadets knocked out No. 3 NorthWood (which had in turn knocked out No. 1 Norwell in the afternoon) to win a very tough 3A regional. Then they all knelt at the free-throw line, and their parents and loved ones aimed their digital cameras.
It was all very timeless, somehow. A scene (kneeling, happy high school kids; proud parents) that has played out over and over again for the last century in this state.
Here's the thing, though: If I once again was able to find a piece of the Hysteria, it wasn't because the IHSAA made it easy.
Quick story. Yesterday morning, before I knew where I was headed that night, I tried to find directions to tiny Caston, where Canterbury was playing a 1A regional. So I did what anyone with a computer does these days. I went to Mapquest and typed in Caston's address.
Mapquest came back with this: Unable to locate.
Which raises an obvious question.
How on earth does someplace so remote Mapquest can't find it get a regional? Is the IHSAA deliberately trying to hide its crown jewel, or what used to be its crown jewel?
Nothing whatever against Caston, which I'm sure did a fine job putting on the regional. But I'm looking around Fort Wayne and Allen County proper, and I'm seeing at least half-a-dozen gyms sitting empty that could easily accommodate a 1A regional. And yet, with a few exceptions (Bellmont being one), the IHSAA won't come anywhere near here with a regional, or a semistate for that matter.
Why is that? Is there some edict in place that's decided the more remote the better for the IHSAA's centerpiece event? And why would that be?
I've many times shared my opinion that one of the negative effects of class hoops was to devalue the tournament's sense of the occasion by taking its sectional, regional and semistate rounds out of major population centers and scattering them to the four winds. If you want to ramp up interest among the general public -- and let's face it, the general public has largely deserted the tournament since the demise of Hoosier Hysteria 15 years ago -- this would seem to be a key piece of doing that.
Instead, they seem to be deliberately snubbing the major venues. Which is how you wind up with a regional in a place Mapquest can't find.
And how you wind up with a tournament that, for all its timeless charm, is a mere shadow of what it once was.
More's the pity.