Family gets into Hoosier Hysteria


Dave and Mary Merry and their daughter, Pam McKay, have sold and checked tickets for Seymour High School basketball games for nearly 20 years.

The three are familiar faces to anyone who has attended a game at Seymour’s Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium throughout the years.

“I don’t know how many games I’ve worked. How many have they had in 20 years? That’s the number of games I’ve worked,” Dave Merry said.

But the family has never seen anything like what they have observed the past three weekends of work at the nation’s third-largest high school gymnasium.

“It’s chaos,” he said of the crowds that have poured into the gym that holds 8,110 people. “I’ve seen people wait in lines that brought up a card table and played card games while they wait and they get here early.”

Mary said seeing people wait for hours seems unreal.

“They really have a lot of patience waiting in a line for three or so hours before a ball game,” she said. “They have to wait in a line like that.”

The hysteria has invaded the city because of Romeo Langford, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard for New Albany that’s a 2018 McDonald’s All-American and favorite for The Indianapolis Star’s 2018 Mr. Basketball. He led the team to the 2016 Class 4A state championship, the school’s first since 1973.

The New Albany senior has scored 2,967 points so far, which is good enough for fourth place on the career scoring record. Langford trails third-place Deshaun Thomas of Fort Wayne Bishop Luers by 51 points and second-place Marron Pierce of Lewisville by 52 points.

He only has the semistate game and the state finals if the Bulldogs advance to score 167 points and catch Bedford North Lawrence’s Damon Bailey, who sits at first with 3,134 career points.

That makes Langford one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits from colleges across the country.

He has narrowed his choice to three schools: Indiana University, University of Kansas and Vanderbilt University. He was recruited by high-profile schools like Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Kentucky and Louisville.

After each game Langford has played at Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium the past three weeks, a line for autographs has formed in the hallway outside the Bulldogs’ locker room.

“He seems like a really nice kid when I’ve seen him walk through the hallways after the game,” Dave Merry said.

Mary doesn’t get to see him. She’s too busy in the ticket booth balancing the books.

“We do like seeing the people coming out here to see him,” Mary said.

The Bulldogs will face undefeated Class 4A top-ranked Warren Central in the Class 4A semistate at 3 p.m. today.

The stakes are high. The winner will advance to the state finals, and fans are going to great lengths to catch a glimpse of Langford in his last appearance at Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium.

A ticket to see the semistate today is selling for $55 on Craigslist in Bloomington. The Merrys said they received training this week in spotting a fake ticket.

Rex Schroer of Seymour drove to Morristown to snatch up two tickets to the game. The town is about 60 miles northeast of Seymour.

Morristown will face off in the Class A semistate game against Barr-Reeve at Seymour.

“I’m a Romeo follower,” he said. “My daughter is more of a follower, and she hasn’t made the sectional or regional because she had to work, and she gets to go this time and see him play.”

He said he called the athletics office at Morristown earlier in the week to see if they planned to sell tickets to the public. He was told tickets would be available to the public after county residents and alumni that wanted tickets got them.

On Thursday evening, he called, and a man in the office told him there were a limited number.

On Friday morning, Schroer and his daughter, Mecka, 16, made the trip to try to get tickets. They got to Shelbyville when he called again, and a woman told him there were no more tickets.

The two ate breakfast at a McDonald’s, and he decided he to drive the extra 15 or so minutes to see if there was a chance at scoring tickets.

“I’d already driven an hour and figured I might as well go,” he said.

The decision paid off. When he arrived, the man he had spoken with on the phone had a thin stack of extra tickets.

“I was lucky enough to get two,” he said. “There couldn’t have been more than two dozen there.”

The craze does bring a reminder of another Indiana basketball sensation to the Merry family.

“Damon Bailey,” Mary said. “The crowds look like what we saw when Damon Bailey played.”

The Merrys had yet to start their ticket jobs with the school when Bailey led his team to win the 1990 state championship, but they attended a game when the Stars visited the Owls.

Today, they plan to arrive at the gym early and expect to see crowds.

“They’ll be there,” Dave said.

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