Gus Macker

Dear Islanders,


I'm writing this week to ask you to embrace the GusMacker 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament. I know that many of you have some reservations. But I hope to persuade more of you to take part in and support this event. You don’t have to play, but come on by, cheer for some of the teams, and show that Grand Island is an open, welcoming town. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity before us!

People will be mad.

I’m writing in part because of a call I received last week.  On Monday the Town Board unanimously voted to approve the GusMacker. Immediately, a friend of mine called me to say, “Nate, a lot of people will be mad you did that! You have to do something!” 

“Why?” I asked. The Chamber of Commerce supports it. A separate group of businesses also sent the Town Board a letter stating their general support. There was a public hearing on the GusMacker. The organizer also had a separate public meeting to discuss any concerns the public had regarding the event, where very few concerns were raised. Several business leaders even reached out to me directly to express their support. And the organizer is reaching out to the businesses that legitimately might be negatively impacted to come up with creative ways to hopefully resolve any concerns.

Further, the GusMacker has a higher level of private security and emergency preparedness than any other large-scale activity on Grand Island.  A full-time ambulance will be on call throughout the event as well as a private security team—both measures were taken to address concerns raised by citizens and community leaders. No other town or city has done so much to prepare for a GusMacker Tournament.

Despite all this, I understand that some people still don’t want it

When I explained all this, my friend still wasn’t having it. He just insisted that “Some people just don’t want it.” After listening to him, I had to take a step back. I understand—despite the substantially muted protest—it is my job to recognize why some people oppose the Macker and to address their concerns. I understand that it may interfere with some business operations. And the placement of the event at the center of the Island does pose a traffic inconvenience. And I even get that some people may not be comfortable with all those “off-Islanders” flowing in. Plus, we all know that events like this carry inherent risk. People can get hurt. Bad things can happen. 

But having that many people visit the center of the Island is a great showpiece for our town. And several business owners I spoke with benefitted greatly from the event. Instead of posting “closed” signs on their windows and parking security guards out front, they took advantage of the opportunity by making a few bucks off parking and selling goods targeted to the players: henna tattoos, snow cones, etc.   

I also think that the Islanders who did come out last year had a great time. Other than the regular scratches and bruised egos that go along with sports, the event was incident free. In fact, it was downright idyllic—with families and friends picnicking all around Town Hall.

I’m sad to say that there is often a dark undercurrent below some of the complaints. Let me speak plainly, there has been a scent of racism in the air. I am hesitant to use that word, because issues of race are such an immeasurably potent agitate in our society. Even hearing the word singes the soul because of our history. I’m not saying that all of the complaints regarding the GusMacker are related to racism—there are certainly many legitimate concerns. But let’s be honest. We have all heard the comments, the euphemisms, and the sneers. And when we do not meet our highest ideals and the specter of racism is apparent, it is important to confront it directly. 

Let’s Be “MAD”!

I’m reminded of something I heard as a young man at Boy Scout Camp. I was the youngest kid there­— lonely, and desperately homesick. The Scout Master saw my long face and he said, “What’s wrong?” Feeling sorry for myself I muttered, “I want to go home.” He told me, “Stop worrying about yourself and get ‘MAD’— that will fix your mood.” “Mad?” I asked.  And he explained, “Make A Difference. Help someone.”  That year, I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and had one of the best summers of my life. To this day I try to be a little “MAD” every day.

Thus, I invite all Islanders to get “MAD”.  Not only when it comes to the GusMacker, but all things in life. There is a real opportunity here. It is an opportunity to maybe make a little cash and more importantly to have a good time with your friends and family. I strongly encourage you to talk to people who came last year to get a first-hand review, because it was a blast. Let’s show all of Western New York what type of community we are. We are a community that welcomes others.  We are a community that responds well to big challenges and prepares for those challenges. And we are a community that smiles and makes a difference. So come on out, smile, hit a few jump shots at our 3 point contest fundraiser that we are planning, throw some high fives, and get a little “MAD”.

Warm regards,


---- as first appeared in the Island Dispatch