21 May 2010

epic-center for Hoosier-hysteria-Milan

I'm not a raving sports fan. But the one game I can sit and watch and actually draw some enthusiasm from is basketball. Could be because I'm a Hoosier. And could the NCAA play-offs have been any more "Hoosier" than to have the small-school Butler Bulldogs taking on Duke? And if that last second shot had gone in.....THAT is Indiana basketball at its finest.

Before the "class" system (say class as you roll your eyes) Indiana high school basketball pointed to one significant moment in our state's history to prove no matter where you came from you could still topple the giants. Other schools did what Milan did. But none have been as storied.....and none but Milan have had a movie made about it, ala "Hoosiers".

While in southern Indiana this week I found myself on Highway 350 heading into Aurora. If I had looked at the map more closely I wouldn't have been so surprised when I saw "Milan" on a sign on the outskirts of town. On my way back on 350 I decided I had to take a detour into the giant-slayer's downtown.

Milan had some really wonderful buildings, but like so many small Hoosier downtowns, Milan appears to be struggling. The most tangible monument to the town's claim to fame is what is painted on their water tower-which caught my eye as though it pulled me back into time when the brave teenage boys probably climbed it and painted it back in '54 (assuming this isn't a repaint job!).


I enjoyed this quick jaunt off of 350-if for no other reason than to say..."hey, I've been to Milan". My own river city boasts a David vs. Goliath moment pre-class-basketball. I remember it well....the day the giant fell. Maybe it wasn't anything like the day Muncie Central fell to the Milan Indians in a buzzer-beater shot.....well, then again, maybe it was. Milan was the smallest school ever to win the state championship (enrollment 161), after Milan was Plymouth in 1982.


The day after Milan won 40,000 people descended on the town of 1,150. I can't imagine....but I really wanted to ask the old walls what it was like there on Main Street the day the world came to Milan.

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