Norwich YMCA program director, Tom Revoir, has acted as Gus Macker local tournament director in all but the opening year since it began in Norwich in July, 1996.
During that time, he has seen a lot of good, a little bit of the bad, but seldom the ugly. Revoir reflected on a variety of subjects as the tournament kicks off its 14th edition Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
With the exception of the opening year when much of the first day was wiped away due to the effects of Hurricane Bertha, the tournament has progressed on time with rarely a rain drop. In recent weeks, the Norwich area has endured more rain than sunshine, and Mother Nature is always a concern for outdoor events.
“What I hear for this weekend is hot and humid with a chance of showers,” Revoir said. “I think the big thing – and Jamey (Mullen, YMCA executive director) both believe this – is that Dave Sherman (late YMCA executive director who died in the fall of 1996) shines upon us and puts the a big umbrella over us. Every year it seems to work out, and I hope it does again this year.”
What does the Macker home office think of Norwich?
Many of the names and faces from the corporate crew of Gus Macker have changed over the years, but the impression of Norwich is typically the same.
“They (Gus Macker’s fleet of workers) love Norwich,” Revoir said. “They come here and it’s a family atmosphere. They have to work, but they don’t have to work too hard because most of it is done for them.”
The local volunteers
Unlike the Gus Macker crew from the office, the local tournament team of volunteers is comprised many of the same names and faces that began 14 years ago.
“We have a good volunteer corps to set up and tear down,” Revoir said. “I firmly believe the volunteers we have here are the best of the best. We’re constantly asking for more volunteers, and they always seem to come out of the woodwork, no matter what. Gus (Scott McNeal), himself, is very impressed with the people we have.”
Making adjustments and improvements
By no means was the first year of Norwich’s Gus Macker Tournament an organizational disaster. There was a learning curve, though, and Revoir, along with Mullen, laid the groundwork for a smooth-running operation in year two.
“What we did was get some key people involved in this event,” Revoir said. The charge was to assign specific people to specific areas. “Mark Abbott (head Gus Buster) does all of the Buster scheduling, Steve Benenati does all of the Buster prep work. We pulled in the fire department, and really got them involved. They have helped us immensely as far as the medical stuff goes. Nancy Snell handles all of the concessions. Thank God she is there. I would be pulling hair out of my head if I tried to do that. Joyce Hagen handles all of the financials, and Ted Guinn handles the scorekeeping.
“We have key people in place handling all the different areas. The first year, everything is like a hodgepodge, and you’re not exactly sure what is the best way to do things. I looked at and Jamey looked it, we decided this was what we needed to do for the tournament.”
How volunteer Busters should handle unruly spectators or players
In a competitive game, there are contentious moments and tempers will get the best of many people. Often times, fans – and sometimes players – will argue or harass the volunteer officials. There are options to handle those types of situations.
“The first thing I tell (Busters) is to ignore it,” Revoir said. “It’s not worth it to engage them. If they do engage you and get up in your face, at that point, seek out a Super Buster. There is always one nearby who is monitoring a designated area. If they can’t handle it, they seek out me. If I can’t handle it, guess what, we bring in the police. At that point, we boot them, and in the past, we have booted people out of the tournament.”
What is new or different this year?
The game is the same: It’s 3-on-3 basketball with the first team to 15 points winning the contest. With minor exceptions, the rules have also remained constant over the 14 years. The breakout of players and courts, Revoir said, is a little different over previous years, and the Tournament is adding some weekend entertainment on Saturday night.
“We did drop in the number of youth courts and players this year, and gained in adult courts,” Revoir said. “I don’t know why that happened. What that means is that there will be less courts where Busters will actually need to blow a whistle.
“Saturday night, Eric Larsen and the Blues Fest Committee have paid for two different Blues bands to play in the West Main Street Park. It’s another attraction and a different element we brought to Macker. Saturday, there are people still wanting to do something other than basketball, and this is a free concert in the park for everyone.”
Is the preparation for this tournament becoming routine?
For such a large undertaking, Revoir and the Norwich Gus Macker volunteer crew seem to have the execution of the tournament down to a science. Preparations for this two-day event, however, began months ago.
“We started to fire things up in late December and the beginning of January,” Revoir said. “We start sending out letters to our major sponsors, and I can’t thank the sponsors enough – all of them. They have been invaluable, and the reason we get teams every year is the marketing push of our sponsors.”
MACKER NOTES: Prior to the opening tip-off, Unadilla Valley teacher John Jackson, along with his daughter, will sing the national anthem, and Father Douglas Cunningham will offer the opening prayer. Traditionally, the Norwich Mayor will sink the first basket, although our local mayors the past 14 years have struggling in making the basket on the first try. Mayor Joe Maiurano will have the honor of shooting the first basket this year.
“Back when Mary Lou Stewart was mayor, she made the layup right off the bat,” Revoir said. “Ever since then, we haven’t had anyone make that shot on the first year. Last year, we had the first female fire chief make that basket, Tracy Chawgo.”