To the editors:
As a black lifelong Southsider and former playground "ballhawk," I sympathize completely with Virginia Walker and her neighbors who are tired of the loud and vulgar hoopsters in Shoesmith Park [Neighborhood News, August 3]. Obviously, all of the players don't fall into this category, but enough do to create an ongoing problem. And although Ben Joravsky's article emphasizes that the issue is not a racial one, just the opposite is true--its whole basis is racial.
Understand that for many young black men, basketball is the ultimate form of male bonding. These guys are not power-lunching at the Union League Club or playing polo in Oak Brook. It is the only arena of competition for some of these individuals who, in many cases, will never have a steady job of any sort. Therefore, basketball gives them the opportunity to develop skills and win at something, even if that something is no more than a playground game. Couple this with the fact that black males in our society are accorded positive recognition most often for their sports prowess, particularly in basketball. So if you're a black, uneducated, and jobless youth who can shoot the hoop, who are you going to emulate, Thurgood Marshall or Michael Jordan?
This is why playground basketball games between blacks are sometimes so loud and animated. They're tests of manhood in what is widely perceived as a black man's sport. To test my theory, go to a basketball court in any white or Hispanic community and observe what, in comparison, will be like a friendly game of checkers.
Maybe there should be curfews on use of the basketball courts in neighborhood parks. Or better yet, maybe local churches, civic, and business leaders can come up with some type of program to get the would-be Magic Johnsons off the court and into a more productive and rewarding life.