Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Invasion of the Basketball Snatchers

Naturally the newspaper article caught my eye. Anytime you see your community blasted publicly on wide foolscap in black type you take notice. Especially when this quiet little concave is being besmirched and they are naming names and even the names named are adding to the inaccuracies.

Almost immediately I took exception to the deception, not just by the reporter too lazy to get locations correctly placed, but to the unfairness of everyone else involved in the tale, the squealer, the self-justifying accused and the weak-kneed actions of the state government.


In the fading days of summer, a self-proclaimed Paul Revere rode forth sounding the alarm that the nets were coming. Actually the nets were already here and long entrenched and this Paul Revere remains shrouded in anonymity. A reporter duly reported that some patriot had ratted out several families loyal to the nets. These miscreants lived along the roads less-travelled where they openly engaged in a heinous crime. They had participated in installing basketball hoops upon the grass plot between sidewalk and street. The Grass Plot Protection Police swooped down upon these erstwhile public enemies and said, "Either you nyet the nets or we will and we will bill." The criminally accused cried fowl, claiming martyrdom for involvement with a long treasured and vested practice as American as -- well, as basketball. Tearing down the nets would dishonor the memories of generations of hoopsters and deprive their kids of needed exercise. The reporter further parroted their claim that the community was a concrete jungle lacking open space for play and air to breathe. With a lump in the throat it was said the deprived children would be denied any opportunity to develop proper muscle tone, condemned forever to dark rooms of video games and texting thumbs. The state noted that nets in such locations prevented  more people from parking their cars conveniently upon sidewalks and presented a risk to those who tried. 

The whole thing revolved about breaking a state ordinance called the Clear Zone Law,  "which prohibits hoops, trees, shrubs and other objects from being within seven feet of the pavement's edge in subdivisions."    


First of all, does this ordinance really specifically lists hoops? 

I don't know.

Is the accusation false? Did the accuser tell a fib? Did the state have no right to take the action taken? Is there no open space for children to play in this place? Was the reporter totally correct in naming the community named?

The answer to all these is, "No".

These basketball nets do exist in the grass plots between sidewalk and curb, but does this present a clear and present danger to the public? A citizen has the right, some would say the responsibility, to report criminal behavior out of concern for the community, but was that the Whistle Blower's real motive? The state certainly wasn't derelict in their enforcement of the law or were they?

Oops, we seemed to have ended up with more questions instead of answers.


Let's begin with the newspaper story. The reporter placed all horrid net nonsense in one particular development, but why?  Of the three streets involved only one is in the development named and it is a small dead end avenue at the very edge. Why wasn't the reporter's focus more on the unnamed development next door where the two longer through-traffic streets are located? He could have at least named both communities. He did note these nets "are common in older suburban neighborhoods across northern Delaware". I have visions of the late Kevin McCarthy running down our street yelling, "They're everywhere! They're everywhere!"

But the concentration on the lesser offending community might have a founding in whom filed the complaint.


Why did the Complainant pick these particular three streets anyway? I apologize for repeating myself, but there are grass plots full of basketball nets throughout the communities around here, not just in the community named or the one next to it.  Most of these many nets are on much more well-traveled streets than the three named. The concentration on one development and the involvement of those three streets may be clues to the Complainant's location and motive.

Here is my totally opinionated, just-guessing scenario, so don't anyone take it for Gospel. We aren't writing God-inspired scripture here; we're just taking a rag-tag ride on my wild imagination.

My wild imagination imagines the Complainant lives on that little dead end street in the reporter's named community, probably next to or near a neighbor committing the high crime of basketball net in the grass plot. My wild imagination also imagines there isn't so much as a lick of concern about children or driver safety as there is annoyance with the noise of kids playing nearby, especially by the thump-thump-thump of a ball on macadam.     

Now there is no question that thump-thump-thump can get annoying after a while as can the shouts and laughter of children, but if you cannot tolerate a reasonable amount of disquietude then do not live in an urban surrounding. Move yourself to the peacefulness of a mountaintop or a cave in the forest primeval where you can pontificate on the meaning of life and the evils of basketball nets. Of course, reasonable amount of noise is a key. No one should be subjected to jarring thump-thumps at indecent hours anymore than the blaring of a boombox turned full volume or the constant barking of a mournful and marooned hound. All should be respectful of others in such matters of noise and when not it is certainly permissible to complain.  (Just a note to those thinking about the peacefulness of the forest primeval, the early morning and late evening hours in the countryside are far from devoid of noise. They may be the noisiest times of the day.)

 Maybe this person was not subjected to unreasonable sounds at unspeakable hours; indeed, had no viable complaint; that is, the children weren't hooligans disturbing the peace. They were just young people being young people disturbing a curmudgeon being a curmudgeon. And what is a curmudgeon to do to rid oneself of normality?

How about accusing the neighbor of harboring a criminal basketball net on the grass plot.

One must be careful, though, for being too specific may result in a neighbor-to-neighbor feud. It could become uncomfortable if the neighbor guessed who was behind the complaint. It would be difficult to hide behind that kids-playing-in-traffic argument. After all, there is little danger on this street of a kid being hit by a car while so engaged. (If you look at this overhead of the street you may understand why this is so, especially remembering the street dead-ends around the curve. You can even see the basketball net from high in the sky and that it faces a big loop off of the main drive. It also shows some long driveways, too. Remember that for driveways will come up again later.)

So the Complainant simply resorts to the anonymous, but concerned citizen ploy and provides the names of several others involved in the nefarious scheme to overrun grass plots with basketball nets. This protects the Complainant's identity and makes the complaint a simple civic duty.

Why do I speculate the Complainant lives on the dead-end street?

First, that would explain why the newspaper reporter referred only to the one community, the community with the dead end street, the one the complaint came from. If the complaint had originated from one of the other two streets, then that community would have been making the headlines.

Second, the two other streets cited in the complaint would be the normal route someone living on the dead end street would use to get out to the main roads to go to the mall or to work. This would make it easy in the daily swing of things to note the invading army of nets along this singular route. If all of this was true concern for community safety, why not list all such nets, especially those on more dangerous traffic-laden streets. (The photo on the left shows the typical traffic flow on the streets named.)

Also, if the Complainant lived on one of the two through-traffic streets why wouldn't he just circle the block rather than drive down a dead-end street?

Some might say I am a bit severe in my speculation about the motives of the person who filed the complaint. It is just speculations after all. I don't know who the person is or what their true motives are. Why they may just be a concerned citizen as pure as a Michael Jordan drive to the net. Yeah, I'm sure that's it.


I'm not defending the Accused netters, either. They aren't necessarily pure as the wind-driven free throw either; in fact, they are a bit disingenuous in their self-proclaimed victimhood. 

They are absolutely correct proudly stating such nets were, "A fixture for street basketball games for two decades." I'd go so far as to say they have been an urban feature a lot longer than twenty years. The length of time these nets have been waving in the breezes of American streets will come up again when we get to the State's action.

The largest self-justification made by the Accused is, "The neighborhood has little open space, so street basketball is the sport of choice." Further argument is made that without these grass plot hoops the children will bloat to gross overweightness or rot away from lack of movement.

Give me a break! What a bunch of double dribbling. 

"What's the game plan, coach?"

"We tell them we gotta play in the street because there ain't no other space in this concrete jungle."

That is an overview on the left of the area in question. Just look at all that paved over space. Why, hardly a glimmer of green is to be seen. Well, you see the glimmer of green below the dead end street to the bottom left? That is the upper edge of a park. You can walk from the back of those homes to that park. Is there a problem with playing basketball in the park? Yes, there is, but when we get to the government's role in all this mishmash we will explain and give a solution. 

I'm all about solutions. 

"In a day and age that they want to get kids moving, why would you take down the basketball hoops?"
That is another quote by the Accused justifying their hoop dreams. In this time of a so-called child obesity epidemic it certainly makes sense to have some vigorous exercise for the kids to indulge in. "It's really the only thing that gets me out of the house and stops me from playing video games," said one of the Accused's children.
Oh really? Hey, parents, you are supposed to be motivators of your kids. Tell the lazy little varmints to lay down the joysticks and go out and move. If they don't, put the video games in the liquor cabinet and lock the door.

Oh, what's that? There's no where to send them out to?

But what is this to our wandering eyes should appear?

Why that almost looks like an overhead shot of a basketball court. Indeed, I do believe it is.

Depending where your home may be in these communities it is a five to fifteen minute walk away. Fifteen, probably, from the Accused and their streets, but wouldn't that get the kids moving?

Take a little walk -- it won't kill you -- and play a little round ball on a court between athletic fields. Doesn't look like this court gets used much, though. There is grass growing up between cracks in the surface. What a waste and a shame.

And no, in case you're thinking this is some abandoned area. That is a brand new playground off there in the back of the field. This is an area behind an elementary school, a public library and a community center. There are baseball diamonds going to seed back here as well. Maybe you could trade in the condemned basketball hoops for some bat and gloves.

But never mind, if walking to playing fields is an exercise too strenuous for the present generation, not all hope is lost. In fact, hope isn't even the word because the reality is that all the houses in these communities where the invasion of the basketball snatchers happened have back yards and driveways (remember those driveways mentioned before). Don't give us this,"no open spaces" malarkey. It not only isn't impossible to provide basketball space without sticking a hoop in the grass plot by the curb, it is done all over these same communities.

The picture at the top was the basketball hoop put up in my backyard. There was plenty of space for hoopla and for the barbeque grill and for the swing set and whatever. When the neighbor next door's boy came of basketball age, he put a hoop up alongside the driveway, the other side neighbor and the guy down the street had a net mounted about their storage shed and garage respectively.  Even as we speak, there are basketball hoops up along drives, well away from traffic and clear of Clear Zone Law violations on the very streets where the Accused live, which is where the one in the photo on the right is. See, it can be done.

Oh, but horrors, it might call for some sacrifice of grass in the backyard or force daddy to move the cars because the kids want to play some Horse. How blasted inconvenient.

Now some may say I switched gears and am being too severe on the Complainees then I was previously on the Complainer. Naw, I'm just being fair and balanced. I'm being equally hard on the lot. I don't think the Complainant had any real reason to complain and I don't think the alleged Sinners have any real defense except one, the law isn't supposed to discriminate.


The State said: "the hoops need to be cleared because they're a safety hazard to cars. You don't want anything close to the road's edge where cars could strike them, cause more damage to the car or the car's driver."
Apparently basketball hoops have been leaping into the street or driver's have been driving on the sidewalks. The State did not make clear why these cars and/or the drivers were in a damaged condition, only that the basketball hoops could "cause more damage to the car or the car's driver."
Of course these statements by the State also raise a few other questions. If these hoops are specifically listed as against the law in the Clear Zone Act, why have they been allowed to be erected and standing for decades? If these hoops present an imminent and present danger to cars and their drivers, why have they been allowed to remain for twenty or more years all over the area, county and state? Apparently the agencies of the State either do not see these hoops as a danger and so not worth concerning themselves with or the State is simply derelict in its duty.
And why would the state issue a dictate of removal to only the eight people named by a curmudgeon and not the other dozens of such hoop holders in these two communities? Isn't that discriminatory enforcement?And you can't stop with these two communities, because that would be singling out a set group too. To be honest, fair and uphold the Clear Zone Act (albeit two decades too late), the state must issue an order to every home statewide to remove such basketball hoops.
That isn't the biggest problem, these hoops. No, I would say it is trees. You would have a hard time finding a street in the communities where these basketball hoops stand without finding even more offending trees in the grass plots. See the photo on the right? That is pretty much how every street is around these parts. The Clear Zone Act as quoted clearly says, does it not, that it "prohibits hoops, trees, shrubs and other objects from being within seven feet of the pavement's edge in subdivisions." 
Would not the State have to issue decrees that these hundred and hundreds of trees be removed because they are within seven feet of the curb and present the possibility of damage to cars and car drivers?

What is it with all these cars being driven down the grass plots anyway? Seems to me if you persist in driving off the road to scoot over the grass plots and pavements, then you deserve a little damage to yourself and your vehicle. I also bet all these solid looking trees would inflict far more pain than the relatively less basketball hoops.
But sometimes it is better to let be what be. I don't want to see curmudgeons turning in neighbors right and left because they have a tree in the grass plot or a hoop or they have a lamppost or decorative brick wall or landscaped bush in their yard a few inches into the seven foot clear zone.

But doggone, the state lets these hoops exist for decades and then comes down on a handful of those who have them? Either enforce the laws you make or don't, but don't put the power in the hands of any curmudgeon who might harbor a grudge against a neighbor. 

Now, do I think it is best for kids to be playing in the street? No, I think people have alternatives around about here for placing hoops away from traffic areas, even the less traveled ones. But frankly, these nets on these back side streets haven't been a problem for anyone in at least the last thirty years.
There are hoops that are a problem and should be dealt with post haste, but none of them are on the streets named. These are those portable basketball hoops that some people place in the street. I repeat for clarity, these are not hoops in the grass plots, these are hoops IN THE STREET ITSELF. They are a danger to cars and drivers. I had a near miss with one not long ago myself. I was driving and a car turned into the oncoming lane from a side street, which caught my attention. Then I saw out of the corner of my eye a large black object to my right. It was one of these portable hoops sitting IN THE STREET. These things are especially dangerous at night because they are hard to see. I see no excuse whatsoever for placing such things out on the street itself.
There are also some spots where playing in the street is dangerous. There is one on the grass plot on the main street through these communities. This is a heavily traveled street and the youngsters playing at this hoop are often very slow about moving out of the way of oncoming cars.
If sites are to be cited, then these are the sites to cite.
If the state or county really cared about any of this, then the politicians that run them would see that some basketball nets were in that park behind those houses on the dead end street. This was once the communities property, but a few years back it was sold to the county for one dollar to become a county park. There is a very nice and large playground there now for the little kids. Would it kill the county to put up a couple hoops for the older ones? I mean come on Chris Coons, the county got a pretty nice chunk of land for a dollar, how about giving back a little to the community. 
Anyway, my sympathies don't lie with anyone involved in this sordid tale, accuser, accused, state or reporter. I think they all fowled out and ought to be benched.

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