Mikel Musich, 36, grew up playing basketball in New York City, and throughout his life he has competed in tournaments all over the state. He was thrilled to play in his first-ever Gus Macker this weekend in Niagara Square.
But following this year's tournament, he's considering never playing in a Macker Tournament again.
"I live in Rochester, so I drove out here this morning and now I've got to turn around," Musich said. "I got up at 6 this morning. I'm used to playing in tournaments and they just didn't run it very well. I was thinking about playing the one in Syracuse in August, and now I have to double-think that."
The two-day, 3-on-3 tournament canceled its final day Sunday. It wasn't the early morning torrential downpour that kept Buffalo's ballers from making it rain jump shots; it was the threat of lightning.
An easy rain came and went throughout the day, but the 2012 Gus Macker train had already been derailed in Buffalo, and the hoopsters who had punched their $152-a-team tickets were not happy. The tournament will not be issuing any refunds, partial or full.
Daniel Robertson, 27, of Buffalo, said this was a huge mistake. "We played half a tournament," he said.
Many Macker-goers turned around when they heard the news. "It's canceled?" they sighed, as sleepy but excited faces turned into frustrated grimaces. Others voiced complaints and listened to officials explain the situation outside of City Hall.
Contrary to what appeared to be the crowd's consensus, Bill Loecher, chairman of the event, said he doesn't believe the majority of players were upset. He said the Macker staff made the best decision it could at the time when it canceled the tournament at 7:15 a.m.
"We got here early this morning and evaluated the situation," Loecher said. "We had to make a decision: is [the tournament] more important than the safety of 3,000 people?"
Play began on Saturday despite miserable morning weather conditions. The sun eventually appeared, and with it shooters heated up, big men battled, and crossovers drew dramatic "ooohs" from the crowd.
"[Early Saturday morning] it was windy, you'd take a shot and all of a sudden the shot was flying away, it might end up in Lake Erie. It was tough," said Bob Kuebler, 56, of Buffalo, who said he has been playing in the tournament for around 15 years. "[The weather today] is not bad at all. There's no reason we couldn't play right now. Right now it's not raining, it's not freezing, there's no wind."
Kuebler and Musich expressed the same sentiment as many of the tournament's attendees: the weather was worse Saturday but play was not canceled. Loecher explained the difference was the lightning threat.
Trophies will be distributed based on which teams won the most games on Saturday, with the tiebreaker being least points allowed. Macker officials will inform the winners via email.
"I joked that one of the things I want on my gravestone is: 'never played in the Toilet Bowl,' " said Kuebler of the game played by teams that lose their first two contests in the tournament. "When you get to be older, you never know which game is going to be your last. It's disappointing that you don't have the camaraderie, you don't have one more chance, you don't have just the thrill of being on the court."
For Kuebler and Western New York's other street ball enthusiasts, the thrill will have to wait another year.