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Indiana, Before Football

Once upon a time, Indiana didn’t have a football team. Instead, it had basketball teams and everyone focused on them. I grew up among the vast farmlands in the heart of that country known as Indiana. Way before I even understood sports, it was ingrained that basketball was part of our religion—it was the sport, the eighth day, it was Hoosiers.

If you weren’t a basketball player, it didn’t matter. Basketball was still what you did; it was who you were.  If your backyard or driveway didn’t have a basketball goal, you better believe that the neighbor’s house had one. There was always a game going on—after school, weekends, mornings—and you were either watching or playing.

On Fridays during the basketball season, the high school day came alive with excitement. The cheerleaders wore their uniforms and the basketball players donned their numbered jerseys. Often, there was a pep rally held in the gymnasium at some point during the day. There was no question what you were doing that night; you were, of course, going to the basketball game. It didn’t matter if it was home or away, you still went—driving to your home turf school that night or hitching a ride with dedicated parents to another rural school situated among the same kind of cornfields as yours.

This wasn’t the chilled Friday Night Lights of football we’re talking about. This was the electricity-filled air of enclosing two rivals in a congested indoor space. It was echoing gymnasiums filled with an odorous mixture of concession stand popcorn being popped in the hall outside the door and remnants of the 2:15 p.m. sweaty gym class dodge ball game. It was screeching tennis shoes on a waxed floor and the shrill of a referee’s whistle.

This was Friday night…without the lights. It was basketball, Indiana style.

Back in my Hoosier days, if you cut your finger you either bled IU Crimson or Purdue Black and Gold and absolutely nothing in between. Kids who could barely speak knew the names Knight and Keady. As you grew older, it was blatantly obvious that you had to choose a side—probably the same side as your family for fear of being disowned.

My childhood basketball memories are filled with chair throwing rants, a Keith Smart Final Four buzzer beater in 1987, and the excitement of having dinner in the same restaurant as Damon Bailey in Bloomington, Indiana in 1992. (One always appreciates an unintentional brush with Hoosier basketball greatness.)

For a kid growing up in Indiana, basketball memories are important. It’s part of what makes you…a Hoosier.

As March Madness winds down, it’s only right that this year’s final game once again includes a Hoosier team—just the way God intended basketball. Good luck Butler Bulldogs. No matter what happens, you’ve already made the Hoosier state proud.


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[/author_image] [author_info]About the Author

Jacqueline Wilson is a wife, mother, published author and freelance writer who isn’t even close to being an athlete. However, she did grow up as a Hoosier, and in basketball heaven that’s good enough. She’s more than slightly amused that she wrote an article being filed under “sports.” She writes here, on Prime Parents’ Club, and on her parenting humor blog, Writer Ramblings on Parenting Imperfectly. Follow her on Twitter as @WritRams or on Facebook.[/author_info]


Image: Arvind Balaraman

Along with being a contributor to, Jacqueline Wilson is: Appalachia Advocate~Supporter of Women~Writer~Accidental Pit Bull Advocate.


  1. Crystal Paschal

    April 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    LOVE THIS! As an almost-life-long Hoosier, I can completely relate. I still remember getting to meet THE Damon Bailey when he came to speak at my school.

    Sad to see Butler lose last night, but they represented us well!

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