An urban basketball tale: Taking the cure at Morningside Park

The playground basketball cure

2 minute read
The requisite treatment: 30 minutes, twice a week, for a month.
The requisite treatment: 30 minutes, twice a week, for a month.
Damn. Mid-September 2008 and altogether too early for my right shoulder to begin twitching. But I knew it would have to be attended to, and fortunately, I also knew the "cure": Make sure my basketball was fully inflated, be prepared for the teasing I was about to receive from my wife, put on my good Converse sneakers, and haul my 71-year-old butt over to the nearest court.

The requisite treatment required bi-weekly shoot-arounds of about 30 minutes for at least a month. In the past (and when I was considerably younger), playing in a couple of reasonably hard-fought pickup games would usually do the trick. No longer possible (and where was I going to find a bunch of old guys even if it were?).

The early onset of my twitch also reminded me of when it had all begun. It was 1959 and I had just begun grad school (in social work). On the way home from class one day, I had this funny sensation in my right shoulder, like it wanted my attention or something. Perhaps I had strained the shoulder backing into a very tight parking space. I ignored it.

But every few days, the sensation would return.

For the first time in more than eight years (high school in New York and then Columbia), I had no team basketball to look forward to. Felt a little deprived without it.

The third weekend after the twitch appeared I had almost no homework. On Saturday morning I took a walk. Looking over the wall from Morningside Heights down into Morningside Park (and Harlem beyond), I saw basketball courts with lots of action.

Went home, put on my old pre-season sneakers (Converse) and hardy T-shirt, and walked down into the park. Two courts, ten guys playing full-court on each. All black. Half-dozen or so guys at each watching and waiting for "next."

My whiteness must have been quite a surprise. The action on both courts stopped, and everyone looked at me. I walked over to the closer court watchers and said, "Can I get a game?" The watchers looked carefully at me, slowly at each other, and the tallest nodded.

I got to play in two games that day, and three the following day. It was very pleasing to be accepted.

Two weeks later I realized the twitch was gone. When it returned the following fall, I was ready with the antidote.

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