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Commentary, Mark Smith: If it’s not on TV, it doesn’t matter

Last Saturday at Michigan City, Merrillville’s BJ Jenkins hit a three-point shot with two seconds left to give Merrillville a 55-52 victory over Munster, stopping the Mustangs’ 25-game winning streak. I didn’t get to see it.

Last Saturday, the Gary all-stars, (aka Bowman Academy) won a high scoring showdown with All-American James Blackmon and beat Bishop Luers 82-72 at Triton High School.

I didn’t get to see that one, either.

I did get to see the wonderfully dramatic Plymouth Regional. A standing room only crowd saw Plymouth’s Brent Grimes hit a last-second three-point shot with one second left to cap an 11-point rally and tie Andrean 51-51.

The celebration of the Plymouth fans was remarkable.

But then Andrean hit every shot in overtime to win 70-60, and the Andrean kids rushed the floor and the 59er boys cut down the nets.

Why am I complaining?

Because you didn’t get to see it.

Driving home in the dark, I heard about the other two games but, to this moment, I haven’t seen Jenkins’ three-point shot.

People who have always lived in Northwest Indiana may not know that high school basketball is on TV every March everywhere in the state. It’s all over TV. Local TV carries games live and on tape delay. The local network affiliates fill the 10 o’clock news with highlights.

Not here. You might see highlights on the South Bend news Saturday night but only if a South Bend area team is involved.

It wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and as recently as 10 years ago, there were two football and basketball games on a three- or four-hour tape delay on local TV almost every Friday or Saturday from September through March.

The games weren’t shown live but nobody cared. If you are in Michigan City, you didn’t see the championship game in Plymouth. So it doesn’t matter (in fact, it’s better) if you only see it at 11 p.m.

I tuned in to Lakeshore Public TV late Saturday when I got home and I fully enjoyed a rerun of the Doo Wop all-stars in concert followed by actress Ashley Judd narrating a moving tribute to the gospel hits of Elvis Presley.

What happened?

We lost one game of the week when Comcast cable abandoned Northwest Indiana in the last decade. You can now watch all the Illinois prep basketball you want but they pretend Indiana doesn’t exist in the “Chicagoland market.”

Lakeshore Public Television formerly aired games when they were known as WYIN.

But in recent years, they decided that a regular season (only) Friday night highlights show and a Thursday night preview show was easier to produce and better for everyone than individual games.

That’s arguably true until the post-season, when the games are few but often epic in stature.

I wasn’t unhappy that I chose to go to Plymouth Saturday and, as I often do, took photos of everything. The game. The boys. The scenery. The gym full of fans.

I have a lot of it still inside my camera and once I don’t, I have the memories of the night in my mind. The Plymouth Regional final game was a memorable event.

But so was the Triton Regional final. And the Munster-Merrillville game was a classic.

Gas isn’t 79 cents a gallon like it was in the 1960s. If you had nothing to do with any of the local schools involved, I don’t blame you for not driving to LaPorte or Marshall county.

Maybe you listened on the radio but what you hear second-hand becomes a report. What you see becomes a memory.

When you talk about how Indiana basketball isn’t what it used to be, you hear that interest isn’t high. How nobody’s talking about the tournament like they did in the “good old days.”

It’s not hard to figure out. The games aren’t on TV like they were in the good old days. You don’t care about what you can’t see and in this part of the state, you have to drive 45 mile to see the serious portion of the boys basketball tournament.

A decade of no games on TV has kids actually thinking that “March Madness” is Indiana playing Purdue for the third time.

In two weeks, Bowman, Merrillville and Andrean could all be in the state finals in Indianapolis. The games will be aired on Lakeshore Public TV on the IHSAA TV network. All four finals games will be on one of Lakeshore’s two channels.

But if all three local teams lose this Saturday, their seasons will end before most of you got to see them. Because they didn’t get on TV.

And these days, if you aren’t on TV, you don’t really exist.



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