Kadner: Banning basketball is a soccer mentality
By Phil Kadner email@example.com November 11, 2013 9:56PM
Bob Mankowski hopes basketball hoops near his Oak Lawn home are removed. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 13, 2013 6:15AM
It’s never a good sign when a community launches into a debate about the merits of basketball hoops.
Oak Lawn is the latest suburb to consider removing hoops from playgrounds to make parks more “family friendly.”
Basketball, it seems, attracts the wrong kind of people. Outsiders. Teenagers. Troublemakers.
No one ever mentions race, although that always seems to be a factor.
In Oak Lawn, a fight broke out at a local park during the summer, and basketball is being blamed. Take down the hoops and the problems will end, some folks say.
It seems counter-intuitive to believe that community harmony can be restore by limiting recreational activities for children, but a quick search of the Internet will demonstrate that this is a common solution to the growing problem of basketball in some neighborhoods. Some towns have even banned driveway hoops in residential areas or restricted their use to certain hours of the day.
An alternative might be to give every child a video game so he could play virtual basketball in the solitude of his home, allowing adults to use the parks the way they were intended, for tennis and volleyball.
Really, that’s what people are suggesting, and it sort of makes you wonder what’s happened to this great country of ours.
There are people using profanity in the parks of Oak Lawn, according to one news story. The language is coming from the direction of the basketball hoops.
I used to play 16-inch softball in public parks as a child and later as an adult, and I’m not sure anyone used a word that contained more than four letters. If you got involved in a neighborhood game, with one block pitted against another, there might even be violence.
This was often accompanied by the drinking of beer, which was considered a sports beverage by most of the guys I played with and against. A lot of them were Chicago policemen and firemen, along with some politicians, which might explain the unsavory behavior of the participants.
But no one ever suggested eliminating softball diamonds in the public parks.
That was probably a good thing because the softball players I knew might have taken a baseball bat to the heads of anyone making such a suggestion.
Of course, those days are long gone, and our country has moved on — to soccer.
There are stories that soccer began thousands of years ago when soldiers cut off the heads of their enemies and kicked them around on battlefields. Use of the hands by the players wasn’t forbidden, but with all the blood and brains dripping out of a head, few players were willing to catch the thing.
Most historians apparently believe soccer as we know it today actually began in China, although Japan and England apparently vie for the credit.
Here’s what I know: Soccer is dangerous. I have seen soccer parents and soccer children, and they are frightening.
They show up in suburban neighborhoods in waves of cars (some with out-of-state plates) toting chairs, umbrellas and energy drinks and shout and scream every time a child even attempts to kick a ball.
“Great effort, Johnny!” some mother will scream as Johnny swipes at the gigantic ball with his foot, misses and falls on his behind.
This is how Third World countries became mediocre. Find a nation where the median household income is about $1,200 a year, and I will show you a country that loves soccer.
As for violence, in the 1985 European Cup Final Liverpool FC fans broke through a fence and attacked supporters of Italy’s Juventus FC, forcing the fans of the Italian team to retreat against a wall that collapsed, killing 39 people and injuring hundreds of others.
In 1964 in Lima, Peru, 318 were killed and another 500 injured after Argentina beat Peru in an Olympic qualifying match.
In 1982, 340 people were killed at a European Cup match between the Soviet club Spartak Moscow and Haarlem of the Netherlands.
In Brazil this year, a referee was beheaded by outraged fans after stabbing a player who questioned a call. One story I read, almost as an afterthought, said both the player and the referee died.
Yet soccer fields are not being banned from public parks in Europe or in the U.S. Families come to these athletic events.
In my neighborhood, driveway hoops are still a common sight. Of course, the unsavory, outside element from Chicago has yet to arrive in sufficient numbers to provoke concern.
There is no doubt that the world is a far more dangerous place than it used to be ,in all sorts of ways.
But when you get to the point of tearing down basketball hoops at a park, it seems folks ought to wonder if there is a larger problem at work that needs addressing.
As someone who began his career in journalism covering organized sports, I learned early on that a lot of the rhetoric about teamwork, sportsmanship and character building was a lot of hooey.
So is all the talk about making sure that communities provide recreational activities for teenagers after school so they don’t get into trouble.
What communities really want is to keep the teenagers out of sight, a goal achieved in recent years by the popularity of video games.
Eliminating basketball hoops may make people feel better and calm the nerves of some anxious folks in a community. It’s sort of like passing a law that allows people to carry concealed handguns.
Neither action is a solution. Both are a reaction to fear — a growing sense that people are not safe on their streets, in their parks, even standing on a sidewalk.
It’s really an admission of failure. It’s a soccer mentality. Now, 16-inch softball players, they would know how to solve the problem.