It’s fairly easy to complain that high school basketball isn’t what it used to be.
Pickup games have given way to all things organized, and the teaching of fundamentals supposedly has fallen victim to scrimmages, scrimmages and more scrimmages.
And the higher-scoring contests of the pre-3-point shooting era have given way to the micromanagement of each possession in many instances.
Basketball “purists” complain about AAU basketball, but with economically challenged schools cutting sports at the freshman and middle school levels, it may become a lifeline to preserving the sport for many late bloomers.
Fewer kids are playing in Maine because there are fewer kids in an aging Maine, and those kids still in the Pine Tree State have many more entertainment options in this technological age, further reducing the potential talent pool.
One of those technological advances, the Internet, provides an instant forum for public critique — mostly anonymous. That’s just one more part of an increasingly hostile atmosphere that makes coaching a much less inviting avocation than it used to be.
But really, what of anything is truly what it used to be?
Basketball, like most everything else in modern society, is far different from the supposed glory days of Chuck Taylor high-tops and short shorts.
But just because it’s different doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always going to be bad.
Take a look at the current Eastern Maine Heal points and there’s much to enjoy about the current high school basketball season.
Interest in the sport is particularly high in Greater Bangor, where the three surviving Class A programs in Penobscot County were a combined 27-6 entering Thursday night’s play.
Brewer is ranked first in Eastern A with a 10-1 record — and the Witches are 27-2 in regular-season play over the last two seasons. Hampden Academy is third at 8-3 while Bangor is ranked fifth at 9-2 after graduating four starters from last year’s team. That all three are seen as contenders for the regional and state titles this year makes for packed gyms, high-quality play and intense rivalries — and that’s all good no matter the generation.
There are plenty of other riveting stories in Eastern Maine. Take the dominance of Camden Hills of Rockport. Despite graduating four starters from its undefeated 2009 state championship team, the Windjammers are 12-0 and outscoring foes by 31 points per game while stretching their overall winning streak to 34 games.
Then there are the hard-fought battles atop the standings in Classes C and D.
In Class C, defending state champion Calais is continuing its remarkable run, seeking its fourth state title in the last five years. But the Blue Devils have plenty of challengers, including Down East rival Washington Academy of East Machias, Lee Academy, Stearns of Millinocket and Foxcroft Academy.
In Class D there’s a similar scenario led by perennial power Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, Fort Fairfield, Schenck of East Millinocket and a true blast from the past, Jonesport-Beals.
The return to prominence of the Royals — who became the face of small-town basketball in Maine with its five straight state championships in the early 1970s — is evidence that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
And while that ultimately may or may not be true, this season inevitably will end like its predecessors, with the best of the best holding the gold ball aloft, and the rest wondering how to get there.
Seems to me like the same as it ever was.