The long contentious tale of outdoor hoops in Northeast Ohio has been well documented by many outlets, including this rag. Gone are the wholesome days when kids gathered for healthy pick-up games and a spot of cardio. This ain't rural Indiana, with pristine backboards and eager youngsters learning the three-man weave and proper free-throw techniques.
No, basketball courts — in Lakewood, Euclid, Cleveland, and other suburbs — have become ground zero for debate. A handful of issues are at the center of public complaints — that the ever-worrisome "wrong crowd" gathers at courts; that drugs, guns, violence, and other elements are attracted to the blacktop; and that the kids who use the courts for actual basketball games are exposed to all those dangers. Residents have stormed city council meetings, those more fond of the pen have fired off letters, and there was the infamous incident in West Park where someone managed to pull down a hoop as a sort of vigilante exhibition that future Allen Iverson's are not welcome there. (You can make your own inferences about who tore the hoop down and what element they were trying to dissuade from frequenting the area.)
One Lakewood Avenue resident specifically complained that folks on the court were saying "Fuck," which upset the man because his kids could hear the vulgarity. So, naturally, he took the most logical recourse available to an angry father who hopes to shelter his children from profanities until they are at least 27: he grabbed a baseball bat and headed to the courts.
Kauffman Park — the pilot site for the sport’s return to the city following a four-year hiatus — has been a popular destination for youth looking to play ball.
Neighbors of the park say it has also been a destination for trouble.
Kim Schelgunov, a resident on Lakeland Avenue, told council that foul language is his primary concern. His frustration came to a head on Memorial Day when he says basketball players began dropping the “f-bomb” around his four children.
He walked across the street toward the court with a baseball bat in hand. A police officer at the basketball court diffused the situation, but it did little to end Schelgunov’s frustration.
“We are told to compromise,” he said. “But at what point do our concerns get addressed?”
Rationality, as you can see, reigns supreme when a lightning-rod issue like basketball comes up.
Mayor Michael Summers promises that despite initial problems with the hoops trial run, basketball is here to stay in Lakewood, pointing out that the city is "'reviewing the effectiveness' of a $4,500 sound screen that could minimize the noise from the park."
That is, until an enterprising, irrational, and vengeful soul hooks his pick-up truck to a hoop.