Friday, September 27, 2013

Pickup Basketball and Street Prostitutes

I've said earlier that on the pickup basketball circuit, it is often the case that there are many more players than basketball courts to accommodate them, spawning rituals around rules of succession, calling the next game, and the many disputes that can erupt over who actually "called" next game. etc. This is an attempt to fairly distribute a scarce resource (time on the court). But occasionally the reverse is true where a perfectly good basketball court lacks enough players to run a full game. In this case the early birds at the park or playground can only wait around for others to show up and jump start a game. [This admittedly became more common in my later basketball-playing years, as I was up earlier on the weekends than the younger ball players.]

It is common to see potential players drive to a certain schoolyard or park and before parking, look to see how many people are there. If there isn't any action, they can easily move on to another local playground to see if there are more potential players hence more promising opportunities for a game. You can often see from your car whether there are 8-9 adult males ready for action or just 1-2 kids fooling around. In the latter case it's better to just move on to the next stop in the basketball court circuit.

But for those who are among the first to arrive and who get out of the car and start shooting baskets, it can be frustrating. You're ready for action and see a carload of 4 athletic looking males slow down to take a look then quickly drive off toward the next stop on the circuit.

Sometimes it seems that the sound of a bouncing basketball is the equivalent of animal mating call and players tend to materialize shortly after the repeated thump-thump of the ball permeates the neighborhood. On a summer's evening some guys may be sitting around with nothing to do and one of them notices a faint but persistent drum beat coming from the middle school on the next block. So he and his pals get their sneakers on and head over, watching others join in along the way.

Occasionally when I've been at a basketball court waiting for a game to materialize, I see the carload of young men slow down but decide to go for greener pastures at another playground nearby. I've caught myself moving out to the street (after warming up) and flagging down any car that looks like it fits the profile.

If there are 4 men (better, 4 black men) in the car, I can almost guess what they're looking for, driving around in a crowded vehicle so early in the morning. If they can get a good look at the playground from afar and don't need to drive up close, they sometimes get away before I can get their attention. It begins to look like a street prostitute flagging down customers who fit a certain profile (white, middle aged men driving alone and alertly looking around). When I see a carload of potential players, I'm equally unashamed of getting their attention and enticing them to come on over and check it out.

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