Photo (c) Joni McDaniel 2015
My eyes didn’t want to believe what I was reading on Facebook; it was a simple post which stated “the gym is gone.” The photos that accompanied the statement left no doubt with flames that appeared to be shooting straight to heaven from where the roof should have been. A sacred place of my childhood had perished, and my heart was broken.
It was a cold crisp December evening, snow dusted the ground, and with the falling temperatures mom had bundled me tight as mummy. The sense of anticipation enveloped me when I saw the parking lot of the gym was almost full. I was about to see my first basketball game. I didn’t know what to expect.
Dad found a parking spot, and when I opened the door I could hear the sounds that emanated from behind the closed doors of the gym. I could hear the ring of a basketball being bounced against the hardwood floor. As we approached the door we could hear the opposition cheerleaders urging their team to victory.
It was my introduction to Hoosier Hysteria. We came to see my cousin Danny Banks play for the Springville Hornets. When we approached the door there seemed to be a roar from inside. The visitors were warming up on the floor, and as dad purchased our tickets the hometown Hornets came out of the locker room.
Danny led the way as the hometown Hornets circled the court before breaking down into two lines for layup drills. The local crowd stood as one and cheered. I was hooked on basketball. The old scoreboard straight of the movie Hoosiers would tick down to the start of the game. The place was packed, which didn’t take a large crowd in the tiny gym, but the whole town seemed to be at the game.
It would only be a couple of years before I played for the Hornets as would my brother, as my dad and his brothers. The sense of history, and community was always felt in that small gym.
When I came home on leave from the Air Force in the late 70’s, I knew where to find my friends, and a friendly game of basketball. Well as friendly as Hoosiers can get playing basketball. The sense of knowing you were home again warmed my soul.
As the years went by, I would still drive by on a December night, and if I listened close, I could hear the roar of the crowd in a tightly contested game from long ago. I’m eight years old walking across a snow-covered parking lot with dad, my heart races in anticipation for what for what awaited me behind the closed door. It was a love affair with Hoosier Hysteria that waited just beyond the entrance. The gym may no longer exist, but in my mind, and stories it will live on.