Sports and the Community
Growing up in northern Maine, no week was bigger than Tournament Week–what we call February vacation here in Rhode Island. It is still a big deal. Basketball teams and their supporters congregate at the Bangor Auditorium from all over the northern 3/4s of the state, all for the purpose of representing “Eastern Maine” in the various Class and Division State Finals.
It seems like it’s always been so.
To an outsider, it may seem strange that basketball is such a big deal in Maine…until you realize that there isn’t much else to do in the winter, now, is there? So the High School Basketball season–and the tournament that crowns it–are major social and cultural events in the Pine Tree State.
Bangor Daily News, which I delivered growing up way back when, editorializes about “Tourney Time” and offers some perspective on the importance of sports to our youth and how the support of the community to the old town teams is so important:
And then there are the folks who are fixtures at the hometown high school gym each Friday or Saturday night. No one is really sure — are they related to one of the ballplayers? Long ago, did a son or daughter trot up and down these hardwood floors and the habit of attending stuck? Or is it that they just enjoy witnessing the amateur ballet and epic battle that is a high school basketball game.
They, too, play a critical role. They are the cross-stitches of community. It is they who know that a student athlete has a better chance of succeeding in the classroom if he or she takes on the discipline, cooperation and sacrifice of team sport. When the young athlete passes the anonymous fan’s familiar face at the grocery store or on the sidewalk outside the movie theater, the teen is simultaneously being supported and held accountable — which is what a healthy community is all about.