“It is good people who make good places…” -ANNA SEWELL
“It is good people who make good places…” -ANNA SEWELL
It’s just that demon life has got you in its sway.
I get up early.
Nothing new for me on Saturday morning.
Looking outside my window I see we got a lot of snow.
My father is not coming by today to get me.
It’s a crap shoot with that actually. I like when he comes by, he takes me down to Timboo’s and I spend all day there. Him and mom divorced when I was five.
But if he doesn’t come by, it’s all good.
Thinking of grabbing a shovel and going to see if anyone needs their sidewalk shoveled. Could make a few dollars. The people on Fuller Place are always looking to have their sidewalks cleared. The store owners on the avenue too. But I don’t have a shovel.
I get dressed and walk to the schoolyard.
Cross ninth avenue, down Windsor Place, hang a right on Howard.
Reaching down I grab some snow and make a snowball. Good packing.
I fire a fastball across Howard Place and bang it against the wall.
Few people are shoveling their sidewalks.
One kid is trying to make a snowman. He’s alone. Probably about nine years old. He’s struggling actually. I pick up some more snow, make another snowball and throw it at him. Just missed his head.
Entering the yard I see Gammie and Edgar shoveling the middle court.
These guys are nuts.
“Yo Red, grab a shovel,” Gammie shouts.
I look around and think, I don’t have one.
Gammie points over towards the fence on Howard Place.
Against the fence, just a few yards away is a small shovel so I grab it, walk through the snow and help them push the rest of the snow off the court.
Looks like they have been here for a while. I need to tell you, it’s a few minutes after nine.
It’s what we do. Shovel the court so we can play.
When I played basketball for Holy Name, this is where we practiced.
Right here in the boys schoolyard.
Just the yard.
Our coaches made us shovel the court.
And yes, we practiced in the rain.
Nothing was ever cancelled.
Parents never complained.
After about 10 minutes we have a clear path to work on our dribbling.
From one baseline to another.
Looks like the yellow brick road from Wizard of Oz.
Gammie grabs a ball which was sitting in the snow and starts to go up the court towards the church wall.
He’s not wearing gloves. But he has a really cool hat on.
Edgar watches closely and soon as Gammie gets to half court he starts real low and dribbles forward. No gloves either. No hat.
The dribble is always out in front.
I’m left standing there on the baseline without a ball. Watching these two great point guards do their thing. Working on their handle.
Gammie plays for John Jay, Edgar at Bishop Ford.
Soon as Gammie gets to the other end of the court he flings his ball in the air down to me. Full court pass, perfect. I didn’t have to move.
“Go ahead Red!” he shouts.
Follow the leader.
I start to dribble towards them.
“Get low Red,” Edgar shouts.
Always stay low and keep your head up.
It starts to snow.
Fuck it, let it snow.
ESPN took some time to research a topic that is dear to my heart.
I’ve spoken about it here on the blog in the past and have discussed it with my coaching peers.
Outdoor basketball; do kids play outside anymore?
I know little kids run around the playgrounds with the jungle gym and all. On my visit visit to Brooklyn I walked past the 11th street playground and the place was packed. I am talking about outdoor basketball on the pavement.
In our neighborhood the boys schoolyard at Holy Name was our spot.
The place was filled every day after school and all day Saturday and Sunday.
Non-stop ball, 24-7.
We also played down 154 schoolyard and East 5th street. Hop on your bike and you can head to Tillary Park, Kingston, and Manhattan Beach.
How about it?
What’s the reason why kids do not play in the yard anymore?
Getting up early is not exactly something that young people enjoy on the weekends, especially in the summer.
I’m talking ages twelve to about eighteen. That is, unless you have a paper route or you have a part-time job.
This morning as I got up at six-thirty the sun was shining, birds chirping and the neighbors dog was barking. I thought back to Saturday mornings back in the neighborhood; boy do I miss the days of waking up and heading over to the boys schoolyard to play basketball.
Sometimes I’d be up by seven. (I wish I had that motivation in the winter time for school)
Sitting in my living room on the couch, eating a bowl of cereal while everyone was sound asleep in our railroad apartment. It sucked if we were out of milk.
No alarm clock. No one to get me up.
Before getting up out of bed, I’m listening to the cars and busses going along ninth avenue and the occasional truck delivering the goods to local establishments. We keep our windows wide open in the summer.
After my cereal I grab my basketball, walk down the two flights of stairs, cross ninth avenue and head down Windsor Place. Hang a right on Howard Place I jog the rest of the way. While I dribbled my basketball I try to avoid the cracks on the sidewalk. I’d also keep my head up, because that’s what a good ballplayer does when dribbling the ball; they have to see the floor.
Mom never knew I was gone, I never had to tell her that I was leaving but I think deep down she actually knew where I was going.
Oftentimes I’d be the first one to the yard. It was real quiet. I was afraid to dribble the ball because I’m sure the residents across the street on Howard were still asleep.
Standing in front of the first basket I’d start real close to the goal and begin to shoot my shot; down-up-push, form always the same. Follow-through, watch the ball go through the netless rim.
After each shot I would look over to see if someone was coming in the yard.
I’d turn around and dribble at the other baskets and get up shots from different spots on the court.
When I felt like it I would work on my dribbling. I would start at one baseline (Howard Place side) and dribble all the way down to the opposite baseline (Church wall). I’d change-up speeds, go around my back or through my legs. Drills were important to our progress; we had the best coaches in the winter time teaching us how to play the right way.
I learned to shoot a left-handed lay-up when I was in the fourth grade. Danny Piselli had us do it over and over until we got it right. By the way, I’m right-handed.
I truly miss the half-court, three-on-three games. I miss the full-court games on the middle court and most of all I probably miss the summer league games at night the most.
The boys schoolyard was where you met on Saturday mornings. No one was given a ride either; it’s not like anyone had a far walk though. We didn’t arrange anything, you knew that’s where everyone was on Saturday mornings. Sleep in? Ha!
When I visit the neighborhood this coming November, I’m heading to the yard to get up some shots. You are welcome to join me. If I need a ball, I’m going to look down the Trapp’s basement stairs.
Matter off fact, I often head outside to this outdoor court by our house to get up some shots in memory of all the guys and gals who played ball in the yard on Saturday mornings. Every time I attempt a shot on an outdoor court, I get caught in a time machine and I see myself shooting the ball on the middle court in the yard.
The days of playing Taps, Around-The-World, 21 and H-O-R-S-E are stored away in my head; boy do I miss them.
The boys schoolyard at Holy Name, boy do I miss that paved paradise.