Olympics Ennui & Hoosier Basketball Magazine
Two for the price of one today. Read on, babies.
I just don’t get the Olympics®. Never have.
In fact, the only Olympics that ever meant anything to me was the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. That was when USA runners John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their black-gloved fists in the Black Power salute on the medal stand. Naturally, Carlos and Smith were drummed out of the Olympic village and were stripped of their medals. Politics is verboten during the Olympic games.
Mexico City, 1968
So, that’s why Olympics history is rife with images of athletes and statesmen cozying up to reprobates like Adolph Hitler. Why, golly gee, we’re only here to see who can run fastest and jump highest. We don’t want rock anybody’s boat by mentioning sensitive topics like that little bit of genocide you’re planning, don’t you know?
Anyway, back a few years ago when my beloved old hometown Chicago was lobbying for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, I had my fingers crossed that it would lose. And it did. And I was pleased.
Yeah, yeah, some jobs can be created by an Olympics nod, mainly temporary construction gigs. But overall, any place that hosts the quadrennial hullabaloo takes a huge financial beating. Plus, there’s all the pain of setting up the obligatory police state that must protect one and all from the potential of another Munich ’72.
Not only that, I can’t see the competitive purpose of the games. By and large, all the sports have their own yearly world championship competitions, meaning there’s a whole bushel-full of Olympics every single goddamn year, without the expense and the police state.
One more thing: The Olympics features a lot of sports that are beautiful and artistic and supremely challenging but, man, they’re not really competitions. Here are some sports that have no goals, no points, no objective measurements or criteria by which the participants can know that they have either won or lost:
- Figure skating
- Equestrian dressage
See, if the athletes are not required to cross a finish line or put a ball into a net, they are judged by a bunch of huffy, blow-hard-y, all-too-easily swayed and/or corrupted arbiters. These sports are glorious in their pageantry and execution but, honestly, they’re not real competitions. In fact, some sports like figure skating have rules that disallow extreme or overly showy performances. It’s as if basketball had a rule that said if a player takes a shot from too far away from the basket, it won’t count. Weird, no?
Anyway, I got a kick out of reading a little snippet in the Winter 2013 hard copy issue of Mental Floss. It tells of the time Denver, Colorado was selected to host the Winter Olympics. What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Denver Winter Olympics? You memory is not failing you.
Denver was anointed by the International Olympic Committee in 1970. These days, when a city wins an Olympic Games, its populace and leaders indulge themsleves in a wild orgy of self-congratulations. Hell, I figure quite a few little Rio de Janierans were conceived the night that the Brazil city was chosen to host the 2016 Games.
Not so in Denver when it was announced in 1970. Denverites were told by the IOC that they, as well as the rest of Colorado’s pop. would have to foot the bill for the Games. Economists had alreay begun warning that an investment in an Olympic Games likely wouldn’t pay off in the long run no matter where the event would be held. Still, Denver officials put a $5 million bond issue to pay for preliminary costs of the Games on the 1972 ballot. The bond issue lost, according to MF, “in a landslide.”
Mental Floss goes on to say (correctly, I might add), “At least Denver won the gold for fiscal responsibility. The city pawned that hardware and astutely reinvested in infrastructure.”
Chicago dodged a bullet. Neither Sochi nor Rio, apparently, have.
Speaking of hard copy issues of magazines (I did mention it — honest — a few paragraphs up).
Indiana is, of course, the world’s capital of basketball (although I’ve never been able to figure out quite why) and people still burst into the Book Corner looking for Hoosier Basketball magazine.
Logansport High’s Whitney Jennings Is Featured On This Year’s Cover
It’s an annual that spotlights all the basketball players in the state and it’s the damnedest thing: Folks can get all the hoops info they want from the Internet now but thousands still want that fresh, thick slab of mag in their paws. Hell, some websites probably even have real time charts displaying the current heart rates and respirations of each of the top fifteen centers in the state. No matter; some guys still crave their Hoosier Basketball.
Funny: Guys still come into the store to pick up Playboy, Penthouse, and other agglomerations of Photoshopped female flesh even though the Internet has has more porn than Larry Flynt or Al Goldstein could ever imagine. Some guys, I guess, are old school.
And in the realm of basketball intelligence nobody is more old school than Garry Donna
Donna’s been publishing Hoosier Basketball for more than four decades. The Indianapolis resident travels the state in his car, dropping off cartons of the mag at gas stations, convenience stores, booksellers, groceries, gyms, and any other outlet that’ll carry his publication. He dropped off the 2013/14 edition at the Book Corner yesterday.
The 1986/87 Edition With Steve Alford On The Cover
“It’s been part of my life for 44 years,” he told me. “Basketball fans of all ages want it. I got a call last week from a guy in Hawaii who used to live in Indiana. He’s sending me $25 for postage because he wants it. I’ve always said, I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m healthy and the people still want it.”
Oh, they want it. People have been asking when HB would come in for a month now. I shrug and tell them, “I’ll know when I see it.” Donna’s usually late with the mag because he insists each and every edition carries the schedules of every single Indiana high school basketball team as well as detailed profiles of just about every Hoosier who has picked up a basketball in the last twelve months. Many of those skeds and profiles come in late. A lot of articles written up by his stable of freelancers miss their deadlines as well. No matter. Donna impatiently waits for every bit of dope to come in. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to boast that Hoosier Basketball is more comprehensive than any other pretender that has come out (and, mostly, failed) since 1969.
Donna’s basketball info operation includes three full-time paid employees as well as up to 40 freelancer writers. He also owns Kokomo Raceway as well as Applewood Raceway in Anderson; both are go-kart, putt-putt golf, and arcade complexes. Bloomingtonians might remember another such fun-plex operated by Donna on Pete Ellis Drive. The place closed down some five years ago.
This year’s edition runs a hefty 296 pages on ultra-thin newsprint with perfect, thick gloss card binding. It contains thousands of pix and thumbnails of cagers from high school to the pros. It is, let’s face it, hoops porn.
Oh, Donna’s old school.
“I was told about five years ago that the Internet would put me out of business,” he said, “but it hasn’t done that. You know the last time I looked on the Internet? Never. Not even once.”