For the past month, I’ve had the privilege of watching thrilling basketball finishes in the Gingerich Center – often more than one on the same night. That’s not a reference to GC’s basketball programs, although as anyone who saw the men play Mount Vernon can attest, the Leafs are more than capable of close games.I’m referring instead to the intramural program that graces Goshen’s hardwood floor four nights a week, where King James can hold a lead instead of flaming out in the fourth quarter. In the “A” League, Steve Case grabs rebounds while triple-teamed and the Goshen Ballage squad simply fails to get lucky on shots that should fall. The “B” League is a constant showdown with reality: there, jump shots compete with tests and jobs and social lives, a constant reminder that basketball is not the end-all, be-all.
Among Hoosier basketball fans, there’s a saying: “In 49 states, it’s just basketball; but this is Indiana.” While it’s difficult to dispute that in its entirety – I am, after all, elevating intramural basketball to column status – I appreciate seeing a reminder that a game is not our be-all and end-all. In a sport and a state where team has long been valued over individual on the court, it’s just cool to see the individuality of headbands, neon sweatshirts and Timexes.
In the 1984 NCAA tournament, Indiana assigned Dan Dakich to guard Michael Jordan. One of those players became an international icon. The other hosts a talk show and analyzes his sport. Who do you think won?
Of course it was Dakich, otherwise no one would remember it. And that difference – blue-collar and unexpected versus glitz and glamour – is what make intramurals almost more entertaining than varsity basketball.
In a world too often marked by overly-visible failures, it’s refreshing to see that the people we hang with daily can come together and win. Unless they lose.