Post 1,035 – Bull Session: Bergen Jamboree

February 20, 2023

Another Bergen Jamboree has come and gone in Boys Basketball. This is the county tournament for Bergen County and Don Bosco beat Bergen Catholic by 20 points. Not only did I witness this year’s Jamboree final, I witnessed next year’s Jamboree final at the same time.  

The semifinals this year had Bergen, Bosco, St. Joe’s (Montvale), and Ramapo – the lone public school. And there is a good chance this is next year’s Final Four. 

Once a very good tournament, the Jamboree has become very predictable with no buzz, whatsoever.

Many years, we have seen three Catholic schools in the semifinals with one public school. Many years that public school only becomes the sacrificial lamb for one of the Catholics. Ramapo is a good team this year with a very good junior class, but what happens when that class graduates? There have been many years when Ramapo has not made it to the quarterfinals, let alone the semifinals. 

For the record, I am not picking on the Catholic schools; I attended both Catholic high school and grammar school. 

It has become the familiar story of the Catholic schools assembling so much talent and the public schools not being as good as they once were. The decline of both Englewood and Hackensack, once regular contenders, has hurt the tournament. Teaneck is having a good year and may next year, but they also had some down years recently. Hackensack last won the Jamboree in 1995 and Englewood in 1999. And the Jamboree is worse off for it.

Some of the most memorable tournament finals are when Bogota, as the little engine that could, won the championship in 1990 and 1993.  Another past classic was the final in 1985 between two undefeated teams, Rutherford and Demarest, in a game that went to double overtime, won by Demarest. Those days are gone forever. 

We do not see games like that anymore. When was the last time someone left a Jamboree game, saying “wow, what a game?” When was the last time there was a big upset? 

It has just become predictable.  

Many of the teams selected to be in the Jamboree have no chance to win the tournament. In fact, they have no chance of getting to the quarterfinals. And I question whether being in the Jamboree means much to those schools.  

Solutions? There are some possibilities. It can be cut down to eight, maybe even four teams, with the rest of the schools having their own tournament or joining the Bergen Invitational (BIT). It will be more exciting for the schools who have no chance in the Jamboree and the BIT may be more exciting than the Jamboree as it currently stands. No matter how it is done, the same four teams are going to be left standing. And the Catholic schools will not be falling back to the pack any time soon. 

When I just mentioned a four-team tournament, it can be done in a similar fashion to how the Beanpot tournament is done with college hockey in Boston. Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College, and Boston University are the participants and it is very successful. Bergen, Bosco, Joe’s, and Paramus Catholic can face off. Don’t laugh at Paramus Catholic: they beat Joe’s, Ridgewood, Pascack Valley and lost to Teaneck in overtime – all Jamboree teams. Even if PC gets shelled right away, it will be no worse than having a public school get slaughtered. 

The Bergen County baseball tournament is won much of the time by a Catholic school, but a very good pitcher or two gives the public schools a chance. Teams such as Old Tappan, Pascack Hills, and Pascack Valley have won that tournament. That does not happen in the Jamboree. 

The Jamboree Committee does a good job organizing the tournament, but if they think this is the same tournament many loved, they are mistaken. I don’t see it changing if it stays the way it is. 

Every year, Cory Doviak of North Jersey Sports has been to a Jamboree final. This year, he was a no-show because he wasn’t enthused about the game. Can anyone blame him? 

In fact, many basketball fans stay away because it is so predictable. There was a good crowd for the finals, but much of it was from the participating schools. I did not see many of the who’s who at the game. Much of the crowd appeal in a game like this is having general basketball fans there and I do not believe that to be the case anymore. In fact, there were sparse crowds throughout the earlier rounds of the tournament. 

Passaic County’s Boys tournament has more suspense than the Jamboree. The Bergen County Girls Basketball tournament has the losers of the opening round going to their BIT tournament. Granted, the Girls main tournament has had Saddle River Day and Immaculate Heart in the finals the last few years, but at least there is some flexibility and something other teams can play for. 

I am not writing this with any glee; in fact, there is sadness. And I am not the only one saying this: many I speak to agree with me. Some outside-the-box thinking would be beneficial; the status quo will not cut it, which means we would be having this same conversation ten years from now. 

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