Middlesboro Men’s League tournament gets ramped up

For 23 years, Danny Griffin has been putting on the Middlesboro Men’s League in Middlesboro. Griffin started the league with the former owners of Arnold Athletic years ago as a way to help give the athletes of the community something to do during the summer.

“We’ve been doing this for 23 years now,” said Griffin. “I started it with a couple of guys that used to own Arnold Athletic here in Middlesboro. Once they got out of doing it, I continued on. We started out by playing at the old middle school, then we moved to West End and now we are here at East End.

“We used to just do one league in the winter, but it began to grow more and more popular. So, we had to expand it into the summer as well. People come from all over to participate in the league. We have a lot of former players from in the county here, as well as Pineville, Morristown, Tazewell, Harlan, Corbin, Barbourville and all kinds of places.”

With so many negatives to focus on regionally, Griffin feels like the league helps keep people off the streets and out of trouble, even if it’s only for a few hours.

“It really just gives us something to do,” said Griffin. “We are in here for a few hours on Mondays and Thursdays in the summer and Sundays in the winter. Maybe we are saving a life. We’ve got people in here playing basketball and not out on the road or out getting into trouble or anything.”

Darrell Wilson has assisted Griffin with the league for seven years. Wilson has 30 years of referee experience, including a multitude of division I games, division II and NAIA.

“I really just enjoy being a ref,” said Wilson. “This league gives guys a chance to come out and give something back to the game. A lot of these guys played throughout high school, some college.

“It’s nice to see people in here still doing something they’re passionate about. I just try to referee and help out as much as I can, I love it. If they get to jawing though, I’ll stick em’.”

After a wild summer of back-and-forth standings in the league, the summer tournament began on Monday. With half of the field falling into the losers’ bracket, a clearer picture is being painted on who may be in the final.

“We’ve got probably four teams that could win the whole league, they’re pretty equal,” said Griffin. “Then I feel like we have a few more than on any given night can upset some people.

“We do give out trophies and shirts and everything at the end, but most of these guys are playing for bragging rights. It’s really enjoyable to watch. We must be doing something right to keep people coming back year after year.”