HOOSIERS: The Fabulous Basketball Life of Indiana by Phillip M. Hoose

HOOSIERS: The Fabulous Basketball Life of Indiana

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A thoughtful, elegantly crafted, and shrewdly entertaining examination of a fascinating American subculture. To the initiate, ""Hoosier Hysteria"" may seem to be an eccentricity exaggerated by local pride, but the author's Clinical evidence is very credible. Eight of America's nine largest high-school gyms are in Indiana. Schoolboy basketball is front-page news and broadcast on TV. In Kokomo, former Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine is still better known for his Kokomo High setshots than for his major league curveballs. Somehow this fanaticism becomes not only endearing but socially significant. When the state tried to close down Onward High as part of a redistricting plan, the town refused and, despite a cut-off of state and federal funding, ran their high school and their basketball team for two years before finally giving in. ""For a small town,"" says Hoose ""to consolidate was to be erased."" Milan High--enrollment 161--toppled Goliaths on their way to the 1954 state championship, won on a still-marveled-at last-second shot. When Hoose elegizes that ""Milan struck a blow for the small, the rural, the stubborn; Milan stopped the highway, saved the farm and allowed many to believe that change was just an option,"" somehow you buy it. His descriptions may romanticize, but their humor fends off sentimentality. The Wigwam, the 9,000-seat home gym for Anderson High, is often sold out, and good season tickets have been held continuously by some families for over 50 years. Hoose observes: ""From the young families up in the clouds down to the gerontocracy at courtside, Anderson's human geology is recorded in the strata of the Wigwam."" Among the better-known subjects of other essays are Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Bobby Knight, and Rick Alford. An unlikely trove but a rich one, Indiana high-school basketball proves an ideal setting to observe human frailties and enthusiasms, obsessions and charms. An amusing, vital, and intelligent book about a slice of America too easily trivialized or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1986
Publisher: Vintage/Random House