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October 10, 2013

The United Sports of America: What should your state's official sport be?

(Continued)

Illinois

Official state sport(s): none

Our choice: 16-inch softball

Also considered: pro basketball, pro baseball, pro hockey

You wouldn't think the Land of Lincoln would be so tough to pin down, but Illinois is an Arkansas-esque conundrum. Everyone loves the Bulls, but would the state swoon over basketball if the Trail Blazers had drafted Michael Jordan instead of Sam Bowie? The Cubs, too are a local institution, not to mention that the White Sox are also a team that exists. But consider that, owing to the power of radio waves, large swaths of the state root for the St. Louis Cardinals, a fact that I find confusing and frankly disqualifying. And though the Blackhawks have been quite successful in recent years, the team ranked second-to-last in the NHL in attendance as recently as 2007. That leaves us with 16-inch softball, a pastime unique to Chicago. Also known as mushball or cabbageball, the gloveless game was the beloved sport of columnist Mike Royko. There is no better choice.

Indiana

Official state sport(s): none

Our choice: high school basketball

Also considered: IndyCar racing

It's a two-sport race in the Hoosier State. You can make a very strong case for IndyCar racing, which includes a reference to Indianapolis in its name, for heaven's sake. But despite the enduring allure of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the IndyCar series as a whole is an afterthought even in Indiana. The only way high school basketball will be an afterthought here is if an asteroid obliterates the entire state, and even then I'm guessing some kid in French Lick will emerge from the crater and try to dribble what's left of the asteroid. This is the home of Damon Bailey and enormous high school gyms. And Hoosiers. Don't you dare forget Hoosiers.

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