You’ll likely hear the announcements today. Maybe even see some ads. The news conference is Thursday. And even if we’ve never said it out loud or worn a T-shirt proclaiming it, we all already know it.
Spokane is a hoops town. So why not call it that?
Seriously, what if “Hooptown, USA” was our unofficial -- yet highly promoted -- second name? It’s not crazy if it’s the truth.
This isn’t some newfangled marketing slogan or an idea that slick consultants pitched to a few local organizations. No, it just happened on its own. Organically. Because of who we are and because of our community’s passions.
Which is why “Hooptown, USA” is such a great fit ... like your first pair of Chuck Taylors back in elementary school. And now is the perfect time to make sure the rest of the world knows it.
Hoopfest is about to begin its 30th year.
Which is following Gonzaga’s 20th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and ever-growing status as one of college basketball’s truly elite programs. Which is following Spokane just having a girls national high school championship team and another boys state high school championship team. Which is following yet another local player being named one of the top 100 high school players in the nation.
ESPN is here so much during basketball season that it’s practically a local station for three or four months of the year.
All of this is such a part of our community that we often don’t realize just how unusual it all is.
Spokane isn’t typically considered a big college town. Or even a small college town, for that matter. Heck, most academics can’t even pronounce it correctly.
Despite all of its success, Gonzaga will likely never be considered one of basketball’s blue bloods because of its lack of hoops history dating back a century or more. Instead, what’s grown up along the banks of our urban river is more impressive than what the blue bloods’ bygones bring to the table.
And not just for what the Zags have accomplished for two-straight decades, but for how they’ve accomplished it.
Gonzaga has done both the unthinkable and previously unattainable: turned a small mid-major into a sustained powerhouse with legit national title hopes year in and year out. There’s a reason why national broadcasters and sports writers now say that seeing a game in The Kennel is one of the best college basketball experiences on the planet.
Other universities often say they now want to do it the way Gonzaga has done it. Good luck with that.
It’s almost as crazy as the idea of 450 courts being set up over 45 blocks in downtown Spokane for a weekend 3-on-3 tournament with nearly 25,000 players participating and almost 225,000 people watching. Hoopfest is the largest 3-on-3 tournament in the world.
Not bad for the the biggest small town in the country, huh? Still, don’t believe it?
When you walk around town, have you noticed how many basketball goals you see attached to garages or sitting at the end of driveways? Driving down Lincoln Street on the South Hill is basically an ode to the game.
Or maybe you’ve seen two homes next to each other, owned by different families, whose driveways oddly match up across a flat alley. Then you notice the perfectly placed basketball goals at the end of each driveway -- creating a near regulation court.
That’s why this place really is Hooptown, USA.
If you’re going to take the name, you better have the logo. And it better be cool.
The new “Hooptown, USA” logo will look fantastic on a T-shirt. Or a sign. Or hanging in your favorite gym, sports bar or kid’s bedroom. It’s as perfect as the nickname itself: an elegant outline of a basketball sititing on top of a hoop and net that sure looks a lot like the Pavilion in Riverfront Park.
Whether covered or uncovered, with its forthcoming fancy lighting, or when it’s just hanging out next to the river on a sunny day, surely you remember that the U.S. Pavilion was built for the 1974 world’s fair, right? People thought Spokane was crazy for that, as well.
Only it worked.
Expo ‘74 was the right thing at the right time to help rejuvenate the area and our spirit, eventually giving the community its flagship park and its most-important communal gathering place. All Riverfront Park is missing now is a world-class, outdoor court so we can play a little basketball on the banks.
That shouldn’t be hard to get done. Those are the sorts of things we’re good at around here.
Spokane is now known as much for point guards as it is pine trees and potent coffee -- all of which we have the best in the nation.
Yes, we already have a nickname or two ... the ones we can print in a family newspaper.
“The Lilac City” has worked well for us for a very long time. It still does. It’s who we are. But our city now has something else in addition to some very pleasant-smelling purple flowers that we should celebrate.
In a world where hyphenated names are the norm, a second nickname might be nice. Even practical.
Something modern feeling, yet with tones of history. Something descriptive of who we are. Something people will notice on the highway, or when they arrive at our airport or when ESPN is in town. Something people would take their picture in front of if they walked by it, then post all over social media.
Yep, that totally fits the bill. And it doesn’t bring out your inner third-grade giggles like “Rip City” does, especially after a quick lunch at Neato Burrito. We should all meet downtown this weekend to christen this new hoopified handle.
Besides, the timing is perfect.
3-on-3 basketball becomes an Olympic sport in 2020. What our nation needs is a community really familiar with the sport and that has a proven track record for hosting incredibly successful Olympic-qualifying championships that boost our athletes to gold medal glory.
Hey, that sounds oddly familiar ...