SCHERERVILLE | With the rise of video on social media and the seemingly countless sports television stations, there is a perception that violence in and around basketball games is on the rise.
But at the Halls of St. George banquet center on Monday night, a different point of view came forth. Rough play and poor behavior off the court has always been around.
In 1954, when most of Indiana was celebrating tiny Milan winning the boys state basketball championship, there was another issue at the Hammond Civic Center.
“Something happened and it wasn't good,” said Russ Marcinek, a basketball player at Bishop Noll in March 1954. “There were different stories of what happened. Some said it was Hammond's fault.
“It wasn't the players. Something happened outside the gym.”
The backlash of whatever happened celebrated its 60th anniversary on Monday night at the Calumet Region's Sportsmanship Dinner.
Twenty-nine full teams took part in the dinner that will prepare all programs for next week's sectional play.
The Sportsmanship Committee had 13 former players who were at the first Sportsmanship Dinner and were invited back.
“I didn't like guys from Hammond,” Marcinek remembered. “But at the first one you didn't sit with your team like now, you sat with guys from other teams. You didn't know them but you had to talk to them.
“At the end of it you were thinking, 'Hey, those guys are all right.'”
IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox attended the event, like his does every year. He said the region's celebration of sportsmanship is unique in the state, and one that he believes is very important.
“Every player and every coach here wants to win their sectional,” Cox said, “but this is a reminder of what's really important. At the end of the day, no matter who wins the sectional, you want to have respect for your opponent and respect for the game.”
East Chicago Washington legend Nick Mantis played eight years of pro basketball, with tenures with the Minneapolis Lakers and the St. Louis Hawks. The Northwestern star was also at the first dinner where foes broke bread together.
“This is a great thing to have,” Mantis said. “It's great that the businesses are behind it, they've done a lot of great things. I am behind this 100 percent.”
Hammond grad Jim Lamott was another returnee. He was at the first dinner at the Katherine House Boys Club in East Chicago.
The storyteller was having fun with his old foes.
“I didn't have anything to do with it, I was protecting the cheerleaders,” Lamott said of the incident. “It's great to see how this has grown. I can't believe they have this many teams now.
“This is a great thing. Every team wants to win next week and they'll play hard, like teams in this area always have. But you have to win, or lose, the right way.”