CALUMET TWP. | Imagine Barack Obama in a black-and-white striped shirt, a whistle around his neck, running up and down the basketball court. Imagine the crowd reaction when our hoops-crazed President made a call.
This is America in 2014. Half of the people in the bleachers would be angry with whatever his call would be. Half would be in love with the call, whether it was a charge or a block.
Politics and basketball, gotta love it, right?
On Tuesday night at Calumet High School, an up-and-down game between the host Warriors and Hammond was officiated by a politician. And not just any old Tammany Hall windbag.
Crown Point mayor David Uran was on the floor with a whistle in his mouth.
"I had to do it. My daughter's in college, and I need the extra money," joked Uran after Hammond won, 69-56.
At halftime of the break-neck speed game, I would've had my head in an oxygen tent with ice on my limbs. Uran was on his phone, checking with fellow administrators to make sure the roads in the county seat were OK in the snow storm.
This isn't Strom Thurmond riding a wave on Waikiki Beach or Tip O'Niell speaking at a dinner of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Uran is directly connected to Indiana's game.
He played guard on Hanover Central's 1986 sectional championship game.
"It's still the only one we've ever won," he said with pride.
He came back to coach the Wildcats from 2001 through 2007, when he quit to run for mayor. I would prefer teaching a kid how to box out rather than argue with a stranger over a sewer leak.
"There is politics in sports," Uran said. "Being a high school basketball coach prepared me to be the mayor. In basketball you have five guys and one ball. That's not fair but that's the way it is.
"In city politics you can have 12 balls and get a lot of things done."
The itch to get back on the hardwood started when Uran coached his son in youth basketball. He has always loved the game so getting back into it made sense.
Tuesday marked his fifth varsity game. His first game after all these years was the West Side-Bishop Noll girls game on Dec 4.
With the nose-growing, smoke-blowing nonsense in Washington D.C., on both sides of the aisle, it would be easy to assume that Uran was like all the rest. But he isn't.
When asked if he would ever officiate a Crown Point game to get some extra votes, he laughed.
"Nope, you're not going to get any home cook'n with me," he said.
Can you imagine Harry Reid saying such a thing?
Here's the bottom line. Uran is a very good ref. He worked with Chicago's Steve Tyler and Valparaiso's Glenn Fifield. The three kept chaos in line and did it with a solid eye.
Sure, the county fair needs better elephant ears and Main Street needs its potholes patched and everything affiliated with John Dillinger needs to be closed. There is a lot of work to be done.
But let the mayor have a few nights a winter in the basketball gym. It's a great way to relieve stress.
"I love basketball," Uran said. "I love high school basketball."
A politician who loves something other than his own wallet. Imagine that.