By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
With two teams in the state basketball tournament and a basketball movie that was filmed here premiering this week, we’ve got a bad case of March Madness in Portales.
I like sports movies, even if some think they’re all made with the same recipe. “Hoosiers” is my all-time favorite sports movie. The players in that movie really bring out what it should be like to win a championship. It should be nerves, fears and coming together as a team. In the real world it isn’t always that way.
Maybe the new movie, “Believe In Me” will overtake “Hoosiers” on my list — it’ll have to conjure up a lot of magic to do it. I’ll say I like the period and the location it was shot in, though.
Portales High School has had lots of experience at the state championships, especially Brenda Gomez’ Lady Rams teams in recent years. I’m sure it’s just as thrilling for Brenda and her teams every time they head to Albuquerque to play in the state tournament. I fear the community may not get as ignited by the state tournament as we once did, because we’ve been there so many times.
Don’t take it for granted. Get behind our local teams.
We seem to know what the really important events are for our teams and turn out well for those contests, but even when we’re winning, the fans take certain opponents for granted and don’t show up at the games. Maybe we’re just a lot busier than we once were or maybe we’re just not as basketball crazy.
In the 1960s Portales was basketball crazy. With state championships for Portales High School in 1965 and 1966 gymnasiums, across the area were packed on game nights during that era. But what really put the town over the edge when it came to being hoops fans were the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhound teams in the late 1960s that culminated with a national championship in 1969.
Greyhound Arena was never packed, even for the biggest games back then, but little ol’ Portales put a lot of screaming fans in the “Toilet Bowl” every time the Hounds hit the court.
I was a 9-year-old country kid the year the Hounds won the NAIA championship and even though I didn’t get to go to a lot of the games I listened to every one of them on the radio that year.
My little brother and I had joined the “Kennel Club” a kid’s fan club, which got us a green and white T-Shirt and the opportunity to attend a basketball camp put on by coaches and players. If we went to the game we got in on the cheap if we wore our shirt and could sit together in a special section with the other kids.
I remember that when the team made it to the tournament that year the town practically shut down while the game was on the radio. We even listened to a few of the games at school as I recall.
The play-by-play call on the radio got into my head deeply that year. My brother and I made up the call using Hounds players’ names as we played one-on-one in the evening on our homemade backboard goal, which was nailed to a tree.
I’m not sure a movie could ever fully capture the community pride and bond that developed around basketball in Portales in those years — but I appreciate movie-makers who would try.
I’m not sure another team could spark that same magic in Portales — but I appreciate the young men and women who are going to give it their best next week.
They’ve proven they believe in themselves — let’s prove we believe in them, win or lose.
Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481, ext 33 or e-mail: