Players from the 65+ division from left, Keith Gordioff and Ben Smith.
By LORI EDMO-SUPPAH
FORT HALL — Fort Hall Recreation Director Mike Sakelaris says the Fort Hall Classic is really a social gathering where long time basketball players come together to reminisce and have fellowship.
Sakelaris has worked in his job for 48 years and he said it’s a special thing to have these players come back to Fort Hall. The tourney had 52 teams this year with 94 games played at four different gyms.
The tournament started out as a 30 and over division and eventually evolved to what it is today with five different divisions – 40+ men and women, 50+, 60+ and 65+. The late Roger George and Wayne George (also deceased) were instrumental in the tourney origins assisting Sakelaris.
Eddy Kniffin, recreation specialist, said he’s grown up watching many of the players and has made a lot of friendships. He’s taken some players on tours of the reservation because many arrive early. Last year they went to Ross Fork, Mount Putnam area and this year they visited Lincoln Creek and the Fort Hall Bottoms.
Fort Hall Classic banner to honor players who have passed on
added two more names this year. (Submitted photo)
Ben Smith, 66, drove 11 hours from Farmington, N.M. to play in the tournament. “I love to come here,” he said. He started playing in the 30 and over division, then 40, 50, 60 and now 65 and older. He has teams in three different divisions. Smith said he used to live in Idaho Falls for 15 years before moving back to the Navajo Reservation where he’s from.
Keith Gordioff, 74, hails from Cordova, Alaska where he’s a commercial fisherman and pilot. He enjoys coming to Fort Hall to play because the people are friendly and he’s made long lasting friendships. He went on the tour with Eddy and said they seen a moose, many different types of birds, among other scenery. He wants to play for a few more years and keeps in shape through distance running.
Sakelaris said it would be good if younger players would observe some of the Classic games because they would learn much about sportsmanship. Eddy agreed. “I like seeing all the old guys that still come back and play – they have better sportsmanship and don’t want to see anyone get hurt. “These guys are more classy and it’s a good atmosphere.”
Kniffin said it’s a challenge setting up the tourney brackets because of the number of teams. He starts two weeks out with a rough draft. They have to find extra gyms to play then it’s narrowed down after the final teams are determined. “I might do the bracket six or seven times before it’s finished.”
Concerning player registration, El Marie Snipe and Sharon Honena have volunteered many years in the effort. They enjoy registering the older players because they come prepared and have the necessary paperwork.
To honor players that have passed on, a memorium banner has been put up with their names on it. This year two more were added Snookins Honena and Doug Charles. In addition, they added “Big John” Smith’s name to the Wind River Indians banner to acknowledge his passing.
Bill Schaff, 77, plays in the 65+ division while his daughter plays in the women’s 40+ tourney. He’s also been playing in the Fort Hall Classic for many years and plans to return.
Sakelaris said some of the players in the 65+ division are now 70 and older so there’s been some discussion about having a division for them. However, it’s still in the talking stage.
Smith said he will keep playing as long as his health allows but the Classic is, “the best tournament I ever entered.” Gordioff concurs as he’s been to many tournaments at different reservations.
"Big John" Smith's name was added to the Wind River Indians banner.
BOISE – A frustrated Idaho Gov. Butch Otter allowed a $320 million transportation funding plan to become law on Tuesday, despite lodging multiple criticisms against key aspects of the measure.
“Transportation has been one of the central focuses and primary frustrations of my three terms as governor,” Otter wrote in his transmittal letter to lawmakers and to the secretary of state’s office.
Otter went on to lament that mistrust and misunderstanding inside the Statehouse has stifled efforts to come up with a long-term solution to address the state’s aging infrastructure. Nevertheless, Otter said he could not veto the bill because he had no hope that lawmakers would successfully come up with a better solution in 2018 since they would be too worried about the upcoming election cycle.
In Idaho, the governor has small window to sign or veto bills once they reach his desk. If the governor chooses to do nothing, then the bill automatically becomes law.
The new transportation plan is primarily made up of $300 million in bonds to pay for new road projects and repay it with future federal highway payments.
However, the plan also includes funneling 1 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue –which go into the state’s general fund – to pay for other infrastructure projects. This roughly $15 million marks an unprecedented shift in lawmakers’ willingness to use previously taboo fund road and bridge maintenance.
That’s because general funds pay for public schools, and lawmakers have long resisted creating a competing stream that could threaten to take away money from education.
Roads and bridges have previously been solely funded by relying on fee-for-service revenues, such as from gasoline taxes or vehicle registration. This has created a system with not enough revenue to help cover the costs of maintenance and construction, leaving the state with an annual $262 million transportation deficit.
In his 2015 annual address to lawmakers, the only section of Otter’s speech to be in all-caps and underlined was the Republican governor’s reiteration that he would block any effort to dip into the general fund for road construction and maintenance.
“So while I hope that lawmakers will reconsider the provision carving out 1 percent of state sales revenue from our general fund, House leadership has expressed to me that such reconsideration is highly unlikely,” Otter wrote. “But that is a discussion for the interim and beyond.”
The Republican governor also criticized House lawmakers, specifically calling out leadership, for refusing to budge on blazing a trail to begin using general funds for roads.
Yet House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa, defended the plan. As a representative from Canyon County – a region that has been plagued with congested traffic corridors and raised public safety concerns with a rise in vehicle accidents – Crane said that it doesn’t matter if Idaho has the best schools if there are no roads to get to them.
“Idaho is one of seven states that doesn’t use general funds for roads,” Crane said. “I think it’s time. We have enough money for schools and roads.