My turn: Reinstate Gold Medal tourney's women, intermediate divisions

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

I, and many others in this community, read with some dismay that the Gold Medal Tournament Committee has decided to take actions which would eliminate the women's and intermediate divisions in this year's tournament. The committee will also add teams to the C, B and masters divisions. I think the direction of the committee is a mistake.

Most of us have worked for years to support our youth and women in their efforts for recognition. We were very supportive of both the women's and intermediate divisions. But, for some reason, the Gold Medal Committee decided that an older bracket (masters) was more acceptable than the young men (intermediate) for the Gold Medal. I believe this was wrong.

We go to basketball games to watch excitement and fast play. The masters division does not provide that. Coffee table discussion is that the masters division is supported because one team has a representative on the committee and pushed for its inclusion to the detriment of the intermediate division. This conflict of interest needs to be discussed. It is unfair.

Village teams are a draw, and when the city teams ended up playing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the committee felt there was not audience support. If village teams were playing on Saturday, there would have been huge crowd support. Our people want a menu of all basketball for full excitement, and having only men play sends a wrong message to our young women in the villages.

Last year, Juneau played Metlakatla for the women's division championship, and the crowd was there but not into the game. It would have been a different crowd if Angoon were playing Hoonah, or Kake was playing Yakutat.

If the women's intermediate division is dropped and the B, C and masters divisions added, where are the teams going to come from? Teams from Juneau,Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg will fill the rosters, and when the day comes when Ketchikan plays Petersburg in the B division championship, there will be no audience. The only other alternative would be to add two teams from some of the villages for crowd appeal. Last year in the masters division, the only team in shape and equipped to play was the Green Team from Juneau. Yakutat came with six men. Angoon came with seven. Klawock had to pick up players in Juneau.

Gold Medal needs measure "crowd appeal" for the teams invited. The reality is, the crowd is made up of people who are from villages in and around Juneau. Klukwan, Haines, Yakutat, Hoonah, Angoon and Kake make up 90 percent of the Gold Medal crowd. Juneau teams, though they have great basketball players, do not bring any kind of crowd with them. Other Gold Medal fans watch all the games and want more to watch when the tournament is over each night. Look at the crowd at 10 p.m. and see who is still in those seats.

If you feel I am wrong on crowd appeal, the simple test would be to invite only city teams - no village teams - to one Gold Medal Tournament. Then measure the crowd.

The Gold Medal Committee should find a way to utilize the expertise of the members of the Gold Medal Hall of Fame, if for nothing else, as a sounding board for future direction.

Gold Medal needs to go back to a well-rounded tournament with women's and intermediate divisions. The masters division can stay around - but not to the detriment of the above mentioned divisions. If the committee needs to add to the B or C divisions, it can take the slots from the masters division.

When people in the villages look at what is available at Gold Medal - no mixture of brackets, with no intermediate and women's divisions, and only men and old men playing - the reaction will eventually hurt the tournament. Maybe it won't hurt this year, but in time, the draw may not be there, especially when village people have to decide on whether or not to spend money for fuel at $4 a gallon or buy a Gold Medal ticket.

• Dennis Gray Sr. has participated in Gold Medal as a player, coach, fundraiser, fan and parent of players. He is a Hoonah resident and member of the Gold Medal Hall of Fame.

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