- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
SOMEONE TO TALK TO
Muncie won 65 to 48. I walked down deserted Main Street, past Payne's Cafe where they had a purple and white floral display in the window and a sign, "Beat 'em, Bearcats!" Needing someone to talk to, I dropped in at Charlie Peterson's shoeshine stand on the corner. The stentorian rat-tat-tat of basketball was still coming in over his radio, from another game—"he shoots, he misses, ball taken off backboard by Jones," et cetera. Don Burton, co-owner of Muncie's radio-TV station, covers the games himself.
Charlie Peterson was just standing there behind his counter, brushing someone's hat. "No business," he said. "Everybody at the tournament. Or home listening. Nobody wants a shine."
I went back to Payne's for supper. At tables they were replaying the games, arguing coaches' strategy and referees' decisions. The Crispus Attucks-Muncie Central game was coming on, so I went over to the Moose Lodge, where they have a downstairs bar and TV. Men and women, young and old, were gathered cozily in the smoky darkened basement, eyes on the TV screen. Here there was much joking and laughter, broken by sudden tense silences. The Bearcats scored, and two elderly ladies embraced. Attucks scored, and there were oops, ouches and moans. The Bearcats scored, and a man pounded me on the back jovially, and I agreed it was fine.
It was nip and tuck, but I had to leave the Moose to go over to the police station on a reporting errand.
I didn't leave the basketball game behind me. Looking into the Main Street Grill, I heard cheering and got word that the Bearcats were still ahead. At the police station the boys were gathered around the TV. An unbidden and apologetic stranger came up to the sergeant's window, asking to see someone, possibly the chief. Whoever it was he wanted to see, the man was in Indianapolis. I walked down the street, stopping in at Nick's, a Greek tavern with neon lights in front. Here I saw something nice. Paul Thomas, a local theater manager who hadn't been able to get an Indianapolis ticket during the drawings at the high school, was sitting at the counter talking to Nick and watching the game after all. He had closed up his theater next door since there wasn't anybody in it.
Muncie lost the Crispus Attucks game in the last minute of play, 71-70. (Attucks went on to win the state championship next week, beating Roosevelt of Gary.) There was no parade that Saturday night, and the extra police and firemen went home early. But a community which knows how to boost its high school basketball team knows how to come back from defeat.
"Bitter tears gave way to a feeling of fierce pride in this shocked community," wrote Bob Barnet, popular basketball columnist for the Muncie Star. " Muncie still loved her Bearcats...Never in the history of the Hoosier prep tournament has a loser fought so valiantly." Sunday morning after the tragic game my wife, returning from church, bore encouraging news. "The preacher gave a special prayer," she said. "He prayed for the Bearcats and asked God for strength so that we could all of us play the game according to the rules and take defeat along with victory.