Boredom sparks lifetime of passion for game

‘Tis the season. But wait, aren’t we past all that? No, I’m talking about something that is way more important to my family — basketball season.

My mother is the most rabid IU basketball fan I’ve ever met. You might think this is strange coming from someone of her age (if you’re curious you can do the math; I’m 48 and the youngest of three kids) but her passion for the hoops has lasted for the majority of her lifetime.

This mania started when she moved to rural Brown County when she was a teenager. She was dismayed that there was nothing to do, as she was at a distance from school and peers. But, unusual for the time, her parents did own a TV. It was able to receive two stations, one of which was from Bloomington, broadcasting IU basketball. Thus were the fires ignited.

The IU coach at the time was “Branch” McCracken; the boys coach at Mom’s high school was given the honorary moniker “Twig.” Basketball has always been popular in Indiana; this was in the era of the Milan Miracle — when the tiny high school team won the state championship in 1954, upon which the movie “Hoosiers” was based.

She later attended college at IU and claims that decision was based solely on her interest in the medical technology program. Yet, she never missed a game when she was a student there. (Although now she has given up Assembly Hall for Comfy Couch, stating she can see more of the players when they’re on TV. She makes Dad turn off the captions because they obscure the game.)

She always was incredulous that I lived in Bloomington as long as I did without ever attending a game. Or even knowing when IU played — as evidenced when I’d accidentally call her during a game. It would be a short conversation. Everyone knows not to disturb Mom on basketball nights.

Recently, I came across a broadcast, which happened to be a game where they wound up in triple overtime. I was surprised at how much of it came back to me; you can’t grow up in Indiana without absorbing some basketball knowledge. As a point of reference, the last time I followed this sport was so long ago it was before the adoption of the 3-point shot.

Every year an official IU basketball poster is distributed, which includes head shots of the players and listing of the games. It would be my mission to get her one, which would always make me popular when visiting home. As of last fall, I no longer lived in Bloomington, so I had to make a special trip down south to retrieve one. Sure, I also saw some people and went to a yoga class, but I made sure to get the poster first.

At least it wasn’t like the year I had to shop around trying to find her the red-and-white candy striped pants like the players wear — until I found out they were an officially-licensed team product that cost $100.

So, here’s an odd twist. Dad went to Purdue, so there’s a friendly rivalry between my parents for any sporting event. But Mom has been so impressed with Purdue’s stellar play this season that she has found herself intentionally watching Purdue and cheering for them. It’s kind of throwing my whole worldview off kilter.

Still, during December, Mom had a red tablecloth with a white lace overlay on the dining room table. Some might assume this was a Christmas decoration, but the rest of us know the real reason.

Stephanie Haines is a Greenfield native. She can be reached through her website, Send comments to