More blurbs from the notebook of a roving sports correspondent.

Wednesday I got my second crack at a college basketball game. It’s been two years since I’ve been to a game of the small college we cover, FC. The experience was similar to my last visit. Enjoyed seeing a Division 3 game. Marveled at the size of the gym, which was smaller than only a couple high schools gyms I’ve visited this year. It’s also interesting that the gym that games are played in is the campus gym, as well. Walk upstairs and there is an elevated track that surrounds the court. Go around a corner and there are treadmills, elliptical machines, and stair masters. After the teams left the court following their shoot arounds, a group of students there to watch the game walked onto the court and shot around until the official warm ups began. Life is very different below the D1, BCS level.

After the game, as I wrote my story, I sat by the school’s sports information director. I noticed he was typing away, too, and he told me that he was writing a story about the women’s game. The women had played on the road earlier in the evening. Apparently the host school sends him the full stat sheet, a running play-by-play, and from that he constructs a story. I mentioned that it was kind of like old-school baseball on the radio, where announcers in the studio read a teletype account of what was going on and created a broadcast from those details.

He then told me that way back in the day, when FC was a power, the entire town and surrounding community was enthralled by the team. They played in the same gym we were sitting in, which holds about 1500 or so. Because there was so much interest in the games, local movie theaters would sell tickets and “broadcast” the game based on the teletype account. That is some serious, old school, Hoosier basketball!

FC is an interesting school. There is a banner in the corner of the gym claiming the 1923 national championship. I thought that was interesting, because I know another school in the Midwest claims the national title for that season. I looked up FC’s history, and perhaps the most heralded high school team in Indiana history, which won three straight state titles across town, made up FC’s team in 1923. They were quite good, if the Wikipedia is to be trusted. I’m sure KU would have spanked them, had they played.1

Some other things from the notebook:

I believe I’ve mentioned before how I think it’s amusing how so many high school girls who play basketball spend time in tanning beds. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. One team in particular, WHS, appears to have a group rate, because all but a couple girls look like they just got back from spring break. It makes me laugh to think that they leave practice and go to the nearest tanning salon, en masse, once a week.

Two weeks ago I covered the boys half of a WHS double header. That’s when I realized a lot of these guys had darker skin than the average Indiana white guy in January. It seems that almost the entire boys team tans, too. Now I wonder if there are a couple tanning beds in the locker rooms somewhere so that any athlete can pop in and get some color when they need to. I’m sure a lot of old men sit in the stands, see these boys with tans, shaved legs, baggy shorts, tattoos, and fancy hair and think the country has gone to hell.

That WHS boys game was notable for another reason. It was the worst officiated game I’ve ever covered. It’s not that the officials were biased towards one team, making lots of bad calls, or just calling way too many fouls and ruining the flow of the game. It’s that they obviously didn’t care and were doing their best to get out of the gym.

WHS fell behind early, but it was always in the 12-18 point range. A couple threes and a few stops and they could have easily been right back in the game. It was obvious that wasn’t going t happen, but still there was the possibility.

The refs let the teams play in the first half, but at least made the effort to look like they were working. In the second half, they gave up any pretense of caring. They called four total fouls in the second half. Four. Both teams were beating the crap out of each other, yet there seemed to be an agreement amongst the zebras to only blow the whistle when absolutely necessary. On one play, a WHS defender stepped out and blocked the path of the MHS point guard. There was a collision, both players went flying, and as he fell the MHS guard reached for the ball and knocked it out-of-bounds. None of the refs did anything at first. Finally one blew his whistle and pointed MHS’ way. No block, no charge, no foul of any kind and then they got an obvious possession call wrong. Both coaches just about lost it, screaming variations of “There had to be SOMETHING on that play!” There was something, but all the refs either weren’t paying attention or chose to ignore it.

It got worse. I noticed a couple possessions later than none of the refs were counting on closely guarded situations. On one possession, a guard dribbled around for six or seven seconds, always with a defender on him, but no whistle came. I looked at the ref closest to the action and he was just standing there, not waving his arm in a count. The same thing happened on the next possession. And then the next. Finally one of the WHS assistants started yelling a count out. One of the refs glared at him and swung his arm in an exaggerated motion, but obviously wasn’t actually counting.

Meanwhile the kids were playing very physical basketball. It’s a credit to both the players and the coaches that there never was a fight or even a harsh word. I think they understood what was up and figured there was no need to get angry about elbows or pile ups for loose balls.

It’s one thing for refs to move a game that has a 30-point margin in the third quarter along. But to just give up and not care is unfair to the kids that are putting their all into the game.

  1. I’m not getting bent out of shape about this. Those were all claimed national titles in the pre-tournament era. And the “official” national champions were all recognized after the fact. I think it’s cool that there are probably other tiny schools like FC that have claims on national titles back in the earliest days of college basketball.