Whenever “tourney time” rolls around, I think back to when I was eight years old. I remember piling into our old Isuzo Trooper and making my first trip with my dad and his friend to the Bangor Auditorium. It was my brother’s senior year in high school and he and his fellow MDI Trojans were playing against Houlton in the quarter finals.
Despite the disappointment, it remains one of the most memorable games I have ever seen. Dancing in my seat to Jesus Christ Superstar, cheering when the announcers called my brother’s name like he was a celebrity, feasting on popcorn and nachos and soda, it all made me feel like I was at an NBA game.
I was still so enthralled after the game ended that I memorized both teams’ starting line ups and constantly re-watched the tape my mom had recorded.
My brother always seemed to walk through our front door to catch me re-living his last ever high school basketball game on the TV. It was salt in the wound for him, but for me, I was re-watching what had introduced me to the ways Maine communities support their basketball teams.
This past tournament weekend provided a slightly different perspective as it was my first spent on the Bangor side of the bridge. While it’s fun to drive off the Island and read the signs that line the telephone poles throughout Trenton, it was nice to escape tournament traffic. It was also nice to see downtown Bangor wake up from a sleepy February. Crowded restaurants and filled parking spaces generated the familiar tournament buzz.
On Saturday, I enjoyed an easy drive up the road to the Cross Insurance Center to watch the MDI Trojans play Orono in the Class B Boys Northern Maine Championship. I still have to stop myself from saying ‘Eastern Maine,’ especially when I remember that this classifies my seaside home-town.
As I found a seat, Jesus Christ Superstar played ever so faithfully.
A member of the Maine Principal’s Association was awarded with a plaque and thanked with a standing ovation for his fifty-one years of service.
The game began.
My seat was comfy but I missed looking up and seeing spectators sitting among the rafters. I missed feeling the rumble after an exciting play that questionably shook the entire Bangor Auditorium. However, the inherent joy of the Maine high school basketball tradition—the bands, the crowds, the announcer calling out players’ names like they’re celebrities—it all remained.
Yet school populations are declining. In 2015, the Maine Principal’s Association voted to develop class AA in response to an influx of schools downsizing to smaller classes.
Recently, I have been thinking extensively about how to get young people (including myself) to want to stay in Maine, including all areas of Maine, not just the southern cities and suburbs. I’ve been thinking about what small role I can play in addressing the issue. After watching the game last weekend, I’ve started thinking about how a declining population would affect such a beloved tradition.
I had to leave the game at half-time to make it to my restaurant job on time. As I took one last look at the game and wished the Trojans luck, I hoped that in another fifty-one years, tourney-goers would still be honored for their steadfast service.