Tag Archives: BASKETBALL

No Hoops For You ! 4/15/17

IMG_20170413_164146898IMG_20170413_164146898 copyNO HOOPS FOR YOU !

North Providence Mayor Charlie Lombardi needs someone to post him up down low on the blocks. Incredibly, he has banned pick up basketball games on the Evans Street playground located on Fruit Hill Avenue. In North Providence where local hero Ernie DiGregorio once honed his skills!

According to the mayor’s dictate the Evans Park courts will only be available for town sanctioned games and leagues. The ban is 24/7 all year long essentially shutting out folks, boys and girls, who just want to get together and play some ball.

If Pawtucket had implemented such a ban in the 1950’s and 60’s half of my youth would have been a dark, blank void.

Early September of 1956 when I was ten years old my mother bought me a new pair of shoes from Thom Mcan for the upcoming first day of fifth grade. The Sunday before school began, for budget reasons not having any sneakers, I wore the new shoes for the first time to shoot some hoops at the old Slater Park court opposite St. Teresa’s Church. Rather than the normal smooth concrete base this court had a rough tar surface. As was my routine I worked on my moves, faking out imaginary defenders with incredible skill, for hours until the street lights signaled me home. When I hopped on my bike to head home I noticed the pedals felt odd to my feet. A quick inspection showed that I had worn large, round holes in the soles of my new shoes, literally exposing frayed socks. It was a fear filled ride home knowing my parent’s shaky finances would be sorely taxed by having to buy another pair of shoes.

Yes, give me a basketball and an empty court and I’d be in heaven. Been that way my entire life, beginning with the Potter, Slater, and John Street playgrounds of my youth.

In 1970 at the end of my three year Army stint I was briefly stationed at Fort Meade in Maryland. It was basically a boring way station for guys who were near the end of their tours. I discovered a locked, old abandoned building on the base which housed a long neglected court with bent rims, no nets and missing, or warped, tiles on the floor. I received permission to cut the bolt lock from the door and went about repairs as best I could. The building had an old fashioned coal fired furnace and, amazingly, a bin still filled with dust covered coal. I managed to restart the furnace without burning down the place and spent a week finishing up rehabbing the court.

At first I was the only one to use the gym. Back to playing imaginary games against invisible opponents,but, eventually the sounds of my dribbling and the lights from the court in this remote part of the fort drew attention and slowly other soldiers started joining me. By the time of my discharge there was a fairly healthy group of hoopsters playing almost every night.

In 2008, as I neared retirement from my marketing career, the company I worked for installed a small work out gym in our new building, including a hoop in the warehouse. It became my routine, then in my 60’s, to skip lunch and use the weight machines and shoot some hoops. I found it energized me and kept me sharp. I admit I also took great pleasure in beating my much younger coworkers when we would play H-O-R-S-E at our annual cookouts.

I thought my retirement in 2011 essentially ended my basketball activities, but, in defiance of Mayor Lombardi’s ridiculous edict I plan to find, and inflate, my old Spalding ball and head to Evans Park this afternoon. If I’m really lucky maybe Ernie D. will be there and we can play some one on one. If I’m really unlucky maybe I’ll meet the same fate as John Updike’s iconic character Harry “Rabbit” Angrstrom and die at the age of 70 of a heart attack shooting hoops.

There are worse ways to go!

– END –


MY WHIMSICAL GOD (Unpublished)

My conviction that God is a whimsical deity can be proven by looking at one item; the tonsil. Even WebMD states, “Removal of the tonsil does not seem to increase susceptibility to infection.” Ergo, God stuck it in at the back of our throats out of whimsy. He had a little extra material left over, and not being a wasteful Creator, he used it.
Lo (or Lord) and behold he found one more little glob and there you have it, the appendix, or as it is sometimes called, the tonsil of the belly. Whimsical creation!

I realize the Bible, especially that nasty Old Testament, often paints God in a different light fueled by fire and brimstone. Genesis 19:24, “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” But, I tend to think things like that were just on God’s off days, sort of His way of getting through hump day.

Today I am surrounded by another example of God’s whimsy. A day long snowfall is piling a projected 16” of new snow on top of the 24” already stacked up in my backyard. I can just imagine the Divine One in heaven thinking, “ Those New England folks don’t have tornadoes, major earthquakes, mud slides or wild fires to trouble them. I have to do something to keep them humbled, ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’ .” Personally, I’ve had just about enough of this particularly heavenly whimsy!

Sometimes the final result of God’s work can only be seen by tracking a long chain of creations which lead to their current conclusion. For example, when He popped out one of Adam’s ribs and created Eve it was with the good intentions of companionship and progeny. Sure, the snake and apple derailed part of His plan, but down through history God fiddled with the X chromosome and had some great successes; Joan of Arc, Madam Curie, Margaret Mitchell and Elle MacPherson spring to mind. But, as often befalls whimsy, things can go wrong which is the only way to explain Kim Kardashian.

Unfortunately, I present this thesis not from a strong personal position of religious comportment. In fact the fate of my eternal salvation will depend heavily on God’s whimsical nature.

Fifty two years ago I stopped attending Sunday Mass. It was not that I stopped believing, I still have faith. Sadly, it was for a more pedestrian reason; basketball. In 1963 as a high school junior I had a job at Apex, a local retail store. A group of older guys from the store were looking for some exercise and decided to rent a gym. Ironically, the first gym we rented was at Holy Trinity in Central Falls, right next to the church. For years while the good parishioners were kneeling and praying we were twenty yards away jumping and dribbling close enough to hear the hymns. I played Sunday morning basketball for more than 30 years, interrupted only by my Army service. In the later years my opponents were the teen aged sons of the young men I started out with in 1963.

I confess this not in any way as a good thing. It is just one of the facts of my life. So, despite my having lived a decent life, I can only hope that when I reach those pearly gates part of the Creator’s whimsy will be that he has a real love for March Madness.

God will be the final referee.


Jim Raftus
Follow at: whorlofwords.com
Contact at: jraftus@aol.com