by Kent Sterling
January is a long month. It’s cold, dark comes too early, and life slows uncomfortably. If not for the steady diet of outstanding basketball relentlessly available, I would hibernate from the day after Christmas through Presidents Day, and again until St. Patrick’s Day if my mood was gloomy.
Tuesday night, I was in Assembly Hall watching the Hoosiers beat Wisconsin – the #3 team in America. Last night, I watched Cathedral beat the #1 team in Indiana while scoring 27 or their 45 points from the foul line. Tonight, I’m in Bankers Life Fieldhouse waiting to see the team with the best record in the NBA take on the New York Knicks.
Is this heaven? No, it’s Indiana.
Did I mention that Purdue beat Illinois at the other Assembly Hall last night, that Indiana State is pretty damn good, and Butler is trying to find its way to success to the reconstituted Big East.
Oh, and the Big Ten Tournament will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in two months, an NCAA Midwest Regional will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium two weeks later, and there is a good chance that the Pacers will find a path way through the Eastern Conference side of the bracket to play in the NBA Finals for the second time in their nearly 40-year (NBA) history.
The Hoosiers and Boilers look like they might have something to say about the Big Ten race after all after both started the conference season 0-2. The Marion County Tournament is also in full swing.
If you love basketball like most Hoosiers, you can find something interesting to do every night through mid-March.
There will be a small respite between the Final Four and the NBA Playoffs, but then Pacers fans hope for a thrilling two-month run to a championship.
In America, there are cities and areas associated with different sports. Minnesota is a great place to watch all levels of hockey. St. Louis is a baseball mecca from youth leagues to the Cardinals. Western Pennsylvania is all about football. But for basketball, there is nothing like Indiana.
No area matches its passion for the game, or the ability to impart wisdom from generation to generation. On a night after what in Indy is a significant snow, the Fieldhouse will be sold out to watch a game between the Pacers and the woebegone Knicks. Tuesday night, Assembly Hall was packed, and last night, there weren’t many seats at Cathedral either.
When I first moved to Indiana as a soon-to-be high school student, I thought the people were insane. The first teacher who spoke to me asked whether I thought Jeffersonville could survive the graduation of its best player. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.
Where I came from, kids played tennis, baseball, and soccer – in that order. I’m not kidding. I was named to the travel all-star team because the best players from my team chose to play travel tennis instead of baseball. The seventh grade team my son played a few years ago would have beaten the team I played for by 200+ points, and we weren’t bad for north suburban Chicago kids.
If you live in Indiana, or ever plan to, you better be able to habla some hoops. If you don’t know that the way to beat a 2-3 zone is through ball reversal and feeding the middle, you need to buy a book and study up, because as welcoming as Hoosiers can be, they know basketball. And if you don’t, brows will be furrowed in your direction.
In Indiana, January means a nightly diet of basketball, and that’s enough to keep me going. “In 49 states basketball is just a game, but this is Indiana,” would be trite and reductive if it weren’t so thoroughly true.