‘Fiction’ about fric­tion

Ham­mond mayor wants Grif­fith to step up, re­sume ri­valry game

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Sports - Mike Hut­ton mhut­[email protected] Twit­ter @MikeHut­tonPT

I’m glad Ham­mond Mayor Tom McDer­mott Jr. is mak­ing Grif­fith feel un­com­fort­able about giv­ing up its an­nual boys bas­ket­ball game with Ham­mond.

It was a long, fruit­ful ri­valry un­til last year.

The Pan­thers can­celed the se­ries with­out warn­ing last sea­son af­ter an in­ci­dent at a fresh­man game. A fight in the stands spilled onto the floor, and of­fi­cials called the game with 6.3 sec­onds left.

No play­ers were in­volved. McDer­mott, who is un­abashedly out­spo­ken, wasn’t happy with what he views as an over­re­ac­tion by Grif­fith.

In­stead of ad­dress­ing the cause of the prob­lem, which re­sulted in Ham­mond as­sis­tant coach Robert Pogue be­ing charged with dis­or­derly con­duct along with some fans, Grif­fith dropped Ham­mond from its sched­ule.

The extreme so­lu­tion could come with con­se­quences.

Grif­fith wants out of Calumet Town­ship.

Grif­fith vot­ers over­whelm­ingly ap­proved a ref­er­en­dum ques­tion in Septem­ber to look for a dif­fer­ent home. It passed with over 92 per­cent sup­port.

The town has asked for ad­mit­tance to St. John Town­ship, but hasn’t re­ceived an an­swer.

Last week, the Grif­fith board of trustees unan­i­mously voted to seek ad­mit­tance to North Town­ship. Grif­fith wants to make the move by Dec. 31 so it can save mil­lions in taxes for 2019.

Ham­mond is the biggest city in North­west In­di­ana, and it’s in North Town­ship.

You get where this is go­ing? McDer­mott says no deal if Grif­fith doesn’t re­sume the reg­u­lar-sea­son game be­tween the two schools.

If you want to be our neigh­bor, you have to be a good neigh­bor.

Are you lis­ten­ing Grif­fith? McDer­mott is a huge sports fan, so the snub is per­sonal.

“They are a stone’s throw away from Ham­mond schools,” McDer­mott said of Grif­fith. “Our kids go to col­lege to­gether. To put up ar­ti­fi­cial bar­ri­ers for not play­ing this game is not neigh­borly.”

McDer­mott also is in­censed by the idea, which was floated by Grif­fith, that the can­cel­la­tion was a mu­tual de­ci­sion.

“That whole story line is fiction,” he said. “The (Ham­mond) school board was caught off guard by the de­ci­sion.”

McDer­mott said he’s “real sen­si­tive about this. It may seem silly to peo­ple, but this is real im­por­tant to me. I don’t want Ham­mond kids treated like sec­ond-class ci­ti­zens.”

Fur­ther­more, it’s irk­some that Grif­fith plays other Ham­mond schools, in­clud­ing Clark, Mor­ton, Gavit and Bishop Noll, but not the Wild­cats.

His point: Fix the prob­lem, don’t bury it.

If that means in­creas­ing se­cu­rity, hav­ing a sum­mit be­tween the schools or is­su­ing extreme warn­ings to fans and play­ers about the con­se­quences they face if they do some­thing stupid, then do it, McDer­mott said.

The his­tory of the bad blood dates to the 2015 sea­son when a brawl be­tween the two teams ended the game. The IHSAA shut down both teams’ sea­sons, but Grif­fith and Ham­mond went to court to get re­in­stated for the play­offs. Both in­ci­dents oc­curred at Grif­fith.

This no­tion that it’s some­how bet­ter to give into a few id­iots who be­have badly in­stead of ad­dress­ing the prob­lem in a proac­tive way is bad busi­ness.

Ham­mond coach Larry Moore Jr. said he has no con­trol over it. He doesn’t talk about it and he’s not go­ing to cam­paign for it.

“There was never a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween coaches and play­ers about what to do,” he said. “We got a di­rec­tive. We moved for­ward.”

It does mat­ter, though. Ham­mond plays ev­ery school in its sec­tional ex­cept Grif­fith. It’s how coaches like to sched­ule for the play­offs.

Moore said Grif­fith and Ham­mond played three times last sum­mer with­out in­ci­dent. He gets along well with Grif­fith coach Grayling Gor­don.

Grif­fith Su­per­in­ten­dent Michele Riise re­fused to com­ment, and Ham­mond ath­letic di­rec­tor Larry Moore Sr. didn’t re­turn a phone call.

McDer­mott said a merger with Grif­fith could have some mu­tual ben­e­fits, but he’s not sure what those are since he has no de­tails of its pro­posal.

Keep those check­books handy, Grif­fith res­i­dents.

McDer­mott doesn’t make the call here, but he has in­flu­ence. He’s right to be of­fended.

This is an adult prob­lem that could be solved with a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment from both schools.

For the sake of the kids, play ball.

JIM KARCZEWSKI/POST-TRI­BUNE

Mayor Thomas McDer­mott Jr. presents his state of the city ad­dress in the lobby of Ham­mond’s City Hall on March 18, 2015. The mayor would like to see Ham­mond and Grif­fith re­vive their ri­valry.

MICHELLE L. QUINN/POST-TRI­BUNE

Mem­bers of the Grif­fith and Ham­mond bas­ket­ball teams at­tend a sports­man­ship din­ner at the Grif­fith gym on March 17, 2015.

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