For some schools, these tournaments are family reunions. At the Washington meet, Montgomery's team boasted four Kavanaughs—Albert, Lee and David, all teachers, and Louis, who announced the games on radio. Another brother, Steve, 39, looked forward to exorcising demons of his own in a future nostalgia contest. While celebrating after Montgomery reached the sectional finals in 1971, Steve was dancing an Irish jig atop his car and stumbled. He injured his ankle in the fall, and without him, his team lost the title to Loogootee the next night. "I still have dreams about that game," said Steve. "Maybe I'll come back on crutches so people will remember me." Yet another Kavanaugh brother, Tim, quit playing basketball a few years ago when a man he was guarding during a pickup game dropped dead.
Although the tournaments are played with fun and jocularity, they also serve the need to relive the memories, a need that players such as Helm and Gee admitted was hard to explain to non- Hoosiers. "I could walk down the street and 10,000 people would know me," said Helm. "Maybe I'd know 500 of them."
One can get a sense of how significant this is by considering the case of former Washington broadcaster Joe Edwards. Three generations of players have raced to their car radios on Friday nights to hear his voice immortalize their names in his weekly wrap-ups. The 69-year-old Edwards, retired and living in Florida, was invited back in 1990 to do the play-by-play of the Nostalgia Sectional for one of three stations that broadcast the games. Scheduled for heart surgery, Edwards was warned by doctors that the excitement of the tournament could be dangerous to him. He insisted on going. He broadcast the opening night's session and died of a heart attack the next day.
As for Gee, now a teacher in Florida, he gained a measure of satisfaction at the Washington tournament in 1990. Displaying the same repertoire of behind-the-back passes and cocky canters that had delighted fans and enraged opponents nearly 30 years ago, he and his Loogootee teammates beat Washington and went on to win their Nostalgia Sectional. The team celebrated its victory by posing for the championship team photo that—had the 1963 tournament gone the other way—would have been hanging in the Loogootee gym all these years.
When asked about the rematch with Washington, Gee paused, unable to shake the memories. "I don't know what happened," he said after the game. "I went out there tonight to certain spots on the floor, and I could still see the same images, the same faces—everything."
So could a lot of other Hoosiers.