Something to crow about, at least a little bit. My beloved alma mater, Xavier High School, has made it to the Wisconsin state basketball tournament in Madison for the first time. The mighty Hawks are 22-3 and will face the hated Monroe High School Cheesemakers on Friday in Madison. The picture shows our school's home floor, the Torchy Clark Gym. It seats about 1,500 people and it is one of the loudest places you will ever encounter.
While this is the first trip the Hawks have made to state with the public schools, for many years there was a private school champion crowned in Milwaukee. Back in those days, the old Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association (WISAA) would crown champions a weekend or two before the public schools would crown their champions. Xavier won championships in 1963 and 1995 under the old system and now has a chance to add some public school hardware to the trophy cases. The 1963 squad featured Xavier's most famous alumnus, former Pittsburgh Steeler running back Rocky Bleier. We've also sent Greta Van Susteren to the larger world, for what that's worth.
During my high school years we went to the private school version of State every year. In those days the games were played at the old Milwaukee Arena (a/k/a the MECCA), which was the home court for Marquette University and the Milwaukee Bucks. It was a loud, proud old building and since the big-city schools in Milwaukee tended to dominate the event the crowds were usually pretty good. We would always bring good teams down there but in the end we would usually fall a bit short. But it was a lot of fun. I got to go every year and we often would stay at the old Plankinton Hotel, where we would set up Nerf basketball games in the hallway and (in later years) have a few cocktails. Since the drinking age was 18 in those days in Wisconsin, it was possible, especially senior year, to have a few drinks. But the drinking wasn't nearly as much fun as playing Nerf basketball in the hallway, especially if kids from other high schools would come down the hall to play with us, which happened a few times. And know this -- the kids from Manitowoc Roncalli did not have game.
One year we couldn't get into the Plankinton and we stayed at a Holiday Inn about a mile west of the arena. We were very confused when we saw some very oddly dressed African-American gentlemen coming down the hallway. It was an early brush with fame as we discovered we were sharing the hotel with the Ohio Players, who were in town for a show. You didn't see too many people like Sugar Bonner in Appleton, Wisconsin -- that much is certain. But once you got to Milwaukee, you never knew what might happen.
I'm happy that this generation of Xavier students gets to go to State. No matter what happens, the memories will endure. Even if they don't see the Ohio Players.