Column: Line Drives — Jay may bring a change of heart

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[This is my column from Thursday’s edition of The Commercial Review].

It’s not easy, or perhaps even smart, to say this given that I moved to the state known for its love of hoops, but basketball is not my favorite sport.

It’s not even my second or third.

As a youngster I was never good at basketball. I was always shorter than everyone else, and my jump shot was far from average. It got to the point where I would never take shots because I never had open looks.

The taller defenders would block any attempt from the outside, and driving to the basket was a waste of time for the same reason. I quickly became more of a passer. I considered myself to be more like John Stockton.

But my participation in the sport diminished as the talent of the group of kids I grew up with matured faster than mine.

On a junior high ski trip with my school, I injured my ankle pretty badly early into the trip and was forced to sit in the lodge by myself for the remaining four hours.

While my friends were out having fun on the slopes, I was left watching basketball on television for the duration of the trip, and the product on the court was mediocre at best. The time spent alone did not help the cause for the sport to keep my attention.

My disinterest in basketball continued until my junior year of high school. I had friends on the girls varsity team that won the state championship, the first in school history. I was in the stands for their entire playoff run, not so much a fan of the sport, but supporting my friends.

I hardly had an idea of what each particular foul was. All I did was mimic the rest of the student section. They cheered a foul, I did too. The students showed disgust at a call, I followed suit.

Being at the games was a lot of fun. I enjoyed cheering on my friends; yelling for every bucket made, shouting for every forced turnover and heckling the opponent on a free throw attempt.

I was there more for the experience of being in the student section than watching the game on the court.

In college I never cared too much for basketball either until I worked in the athletic communications office. I spent home games in the media booth, put together the game notes for media, interviewed the coach and players after games for the athletics website and got to experience the atmosphere in the arena once again.

When hundreds, even thousands, of people roar with the intensity of the game on the court and get into it nearly as much as the players and coaches, it heightens the experience.

Tuesday night I was reminded of the basketball ambiance, and it took me back to the fun times I had while in high school and college.
Although for the Jay County faithful, the girl’s game against Fort Wayne South Side was not a favorable one — the Patriots fell to the Archers 66-37 — it gave me a glimpse of things to come.

It’s obvious how important the sport of basketball is here to people like me from outside the Hoosier state. The little taste I received of the thrill that is Indiana basketball may blossom into what piques my interest into the sport again.

After all, I watched Duke play Kansas Tuesday night on TV on my own free will, something I haven’t done since the Detroit Pistons’ championship season in 2003-04.

These are baby steps. But maybe, just maybe, they are the first steps to Indiana high school basketball bringing me a change of heart.

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