News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

March 26, 2013

RONN MOTT: Basketball = happiness

I love March Madness. I think this time of year was created for Hoosiers to re-establish their love for a game that is so identified with the state. I love this time of year, even the snow-filled traditions. It is especially good when a team or two from Indiana does well.  

Indiana University, where Tom Crean has pulled the Hoosiers out of the dump into the spotlight as one of the nation’s elite teams, has made it to the Sweet 16 as this is being written. Basketball and memories are wrapped around my brain because of the good times, and bad times. I especially remember my mother coming with my dad to see me play against her alma mater, Union Township Parke County, Bellmore. I was on the B-team and had one of those games where just about everything I threw up went in.

My mother, not being a big sports fan of any kind, thought that was the way it was supposed to be every game. Good times. I remember getting red US Keds, our colors at Newport were red and white, and getting those shoes was a real thrill.  

We were going to Dana for a ballgame and all of us had our traveling bags. Coach Les Milam told everyone, varsity and B-team, to leave their traveling uniforms at home and take only our white ones, our home jerseys. I didn’t understand why, but as a freshman, I wasn’t going to question the coach. I would find out later.

Coach Milam had found out Dana was having a photographer in to shoot pictures for their Annual. Dana’s colors were purple and white, so they had bought new white uniforms for the occasion. With us having only our whites (I have no idea what coach told the Dana people), the Dana team had to wear their old, purple uniforms, not their shiny new white ones.

Les Milam was looking for an edge to throw off the Dana Aggies, but it didn’t do much good because our varsity and B-team lost to a bunch of Aggies who had to wear their old uniforms. You can see why the movie, “Hoosiers,” is one of my favorite sports’ movies of all time.  

My mother moved the family to Clinton when I was a junior and I was cut from the basketball team. But I went on to play some AAU games and got pulled in to doing play-by-play on the radio. I was working at WPRS and J.B. Powell, who did mornings, was the program director, and had played on a very good Paris High School basketball team.

We were doing a tournament and J.B. was to do all of the games. I went along to assist him by reading the commercials. That way, nobody had to be hired to play commercials back at the studio. At the beginning of the second quarter of the second game of the day, J.B. Powell’s voice stopped dead in its tracks. Not even a whisper.

He wrote on a note pad, “You’re on, kid!” And that started my experiences as a play-by-play announcer.  

This time of year these memories are always conjured up. My backside remembers the cold press boxes when we did football. One time in the Pacific Northwest doing a high school football game the fog was so thick we couldn’t see the players, much less uniform numbers or stripes on the field.

I suppose the most fun were the old sectional basketball tournaments with township high schools and the competition … the winners and the losers, the smell of popcorn, and those old cheers. There wasn’t anything quite like it anywhere in America.

If I sound too nostalgic, it’s because I’m old enough to have some of those good memories. March Madness, I don’t think so. I feel it’s like March happiness.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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