LAKE CHARLES — The year was 1989.
When most writers start a story this way the next line mentions locking eyes with another person across a smoke-filled room.
But that’s not my story.
For me, it was dimly lit coliseum. Instead of finding a person, I found the confidence to lock in on a profession.
I’d covered cover LHSAA state championship events before, most notably a state track meet and a Class 4A baseball tournament.
The LHSAA’s girls basketball tournament, then called the Sweet 16, was not something I ever attended. Credit Bob Tompkins, a colleague who recently retired, for sending me to Rapides Parish Coliseum to cover a couple of games. Tompkins was the sports editor of the Alexandria Daily Town Talk at the time and he was trying to figure out how to cover all these games.
We relocated to Alexandria less than a year earlier and my role was primarily that of “agate magate,” a person who compiled information called in by local schools on a part-time basis.
Sure, I’d been a sportswriter before, worked in sports information on the college level and had a journalism degree. But with a soon-to-be 2-year-old and a husband working a night shift on the news side I wasn’t sure what I was.
Like some teams and athletes I cover, I was told “No, you can’t” for a variety of reasons. Then there it was staring me in the face on a 90-foot basketball court. My past and future collided.
When you grow up in Kentucky, you either love basketball or you have nothing to do for a significant portion of the year. Thanks to a family with loyalties split between the University of Kentucky and Louisville, there were typically games on separate televisions.
I was never destined to be a player. But I liked to write and I liked sports, so there you have it.
And I finally got that feeling back that week in Alexandria.
So much has changed since then in high school sports since then. Basketball has become more of a “What about me?” instead of “What about team?” sport on all levels.
There are still moments I cherish. Like the elation of a kid hitting game-winning, half-court shot to win a game the way Wossman’s Casey Jones Jr. did this week. Or watching a young player like Merryville’s Andrea Cournoyer break a 49-year-old tournament record did last week.
I’ve been asked what I think will happen next year as the LHSAA moves to toward 12 split select/nonselect basketball championships in 2017. I honestly don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone does. I grew up in a state that has two champions — one for girls and one for boys — for 280 schools.
There’s legislative intervention possible and the chance that a second association for select schools will be formed. So there are many avenues possible out there for Louisiana, just as there are for other states.
I’ll choose not to ponder those issues for one more day. Four boys state champions were decided Saturday at Burton Coliseum.
One tournament helped change my path in 1989. Another in 2016 is compelling and competitive. For today, following teams on their route to the basket and a championship is what matters most.