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"Quest for a Court in Crowley Park"

As I have alluded to in the past, there's a basketball hoop I play at regularly in my neighborhood park at home. It's simple. It's in a parking lot so it's not full of people playing. It gives me time to relax and shoot hoops. Have fun. Get my mind off things.

Then again, it also has a chainlink net that's falling apart, is built into the curb so that the curb is directly under the hoop, the park behind it is built on a hill so the ball rolls all over the place, cars park right under it if I'm not there first, etc. etc. etc.

A few weeks ago I finally took the time to try to appeal to the city to get a new hoop built on a real court, perhaps a full court. Now, I guess I've been meaning to do this for years, but I never got around to it. People used to park under the hoop all the time, but I think now the regulars finally got a clue and learned not to park under it. Otherwise, this tall dark guy who plays that poor man's game, basketball, is gonna give them some harsh looks and come over to ask them to move.

Maybe the guy will kill them! We better not take that chance, and stay well out of the way.

Basketball is such an intimidating game to those who don't watch or play it. It's a game of black people and Nike clothing and expensive Jordan shoes that people will kill each other to steal. It's a game only angry, obnoxious young people play. This is the stereotype, anyway. People seem less threatened if you mention to them that you play tennis, not b-ball. :P Did you know that we actually store our crack inside the ball? Also, losing team ends up getting a drive-by later that night. Oh, and we score more points in one full game than we did on our SATs.

The way people avoid looking at you or fetching a loose ball for you is like they're scared shitless or something.

I called up the director of parks for my city to ask about how I could petition or whatever for a new goal. Basically the guy told me to write him a letter stating why a goal would be needed. Obviously he needs it for his records. I remember doing this sort of stuff in the past. It was called middle school. Write a persuasive paper on why you want me to give you this, Benjamin...

So I composed the following letter after writing to the head honcho who takes care of important tasks like basketball-goal-setting-up-for-the-neighborhood-and-finding-the-money-in-the-city-budget-to-do-so:

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Mr. Al Johnson and the city of Richardson:

My name is Ben Turner and my family has been living in the neighborhood near Crowley Park (Aster Drive, specifically) since 1986. In fact, we own the second house built on the entire eastern side of the small creek running through the park. What I would like to propose is that a proper public basketball court be built somewhere in the neighborhood.

I have been playing basketball at the small goal built into the curb in the small parking lot on Lookout and Spring Lake Drive for about six years. This of course coincides with when I grew interested in basketball. Because of the location my house was built on, with a tree in the backyard and a sloped driveway, building a goal near my house was not an option. I either had to shoot baskets in the park or drive up to Williams High School or Bowman Middle School to play.

So I shot baskets at the goal in the park and in the meantime moved to Austin for school. In fact, I just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. I am staying at home for the summer so I can store my stuff somewhere while I travel. I still shoot baskets at the park's goal almost daily.

I have seen the net for the goal been replaced many times, and now a steel net is used, presumably because it's more durable and harder to destroy. I've repeatedly had to contend with people who park their cars directly under the goal when there are plenty of other parking spaces in the lot. This is a safety concern, because while it is not much of a danger for me to be running around in the parking lot, there are many children who come to shoot baskets or play near the parking lot who may be put in danger from passing cars.

What is also a concern is the fact that the goal is built such that the curb is almost directly under the actual hoop. I played my brother once at that goal and he went up to take a shot and his foot landed on the curb, spraining his ankle. There is no place to land if you are close to the basket. The other downside is the possibility of the ball bouncing off the curb and rolling into a small part of the creek nearby. The slippery mud down there, along with possible poison ivy, makes it hazardous should the ball go down there. Or the ball could bounce the other way, and roll onto Lookout.

Just yesterday I was shooting baskets when my friend from school came by. We talked for a bit, and then a large family came by with a small child who wanted to shoot baskets too. Later on, an older boy and his mother came to shoot. Since I shoot hoops there almost every day, I see how many people try to use the goal. I think there is significant interest in a goal, but there are probably more people who would use it if it were a proper goal built with proper and safe specifications.

I know that if a court were to be built, it would probably be part of an all-purpose court, allowing people to play tennis and maybe ground hockey as well. Being a tennis player myself, I had been waiting for many years for public tennis courts to be built in our neighborhood after one of our neighbors, a police officer, told us that tennis courts would be coming soon. They never came.

Personally, I'm only interested in a basketball court. I know that tennis courts are expensive to maintain (nets, benches, etc.) and take up a lot of room. What I would like is a full-court basketball court with two goals and perhaps a fence around it to keep the ball from rolling away. Actually, a fence wouldn't be necessary if the court was built in the middle of a level area instead of by a sloping hill like the current goal is.

I am not sure how the process works, but I would be happy to help contribute however possible towards building the basketball goal/court. I could also try to get other people who use the hoop regularly to help out. It could be a community project, and the end result would be that we would have a court to play on that would be safe, competitive, and inviting for people of all ages to use. I think a basketball court would be a good investment for the city, and while it's not exactly beautifying the neighborhood, it would strengthen the community by giving us a place to play basketball together.

Sincerely,
Ben Turner

And the response letter from the city, in .jpg form.

I was too lazy to transliterate the whole thing, so I'll just sum it up by saying that the director thanked me for expressing interest, but right now the city is in the middle of a six to seven year budget and so it won't be able to propose a new basketball goal for the budget until 2003-2004, at least.

...

Alright, I'm a pretty nice and patient guy. But when you're told to wait four years to get something you could put up inside of a week, you just shrug the whole thing off. Now, you as the reader may be asking, "Why is Ben writing about this? Did he really expect to get something out of this? Besides, it's not the city's fault. It has a lot of concerns to address."

Which is exactly my point for this. The city is useless. Beyond the essentials that the city manages for its residents and businesses, everything else it handles takes so long to process that the end product comes way too late and misses key windows of opportunity. I'm all for federal government and all, but the more local the government, the more responsive and fleet of foot it should be. But that's just my opinion. Maybe I'm just bitter because my city has been skimping out on equipment for our park ever since we moved here in 1986. Heck, where are those tennis courts we were told we would get? Why is the pond filthy? Etc. etc.

To which some may respond, "At least you have a park with a pond..." Well, fuck you, that's beside the point. This isn't about how lucky I am, it's about how shitty the city is towards our park.

And all this just confirms that in order to get anything done in this country, you have to go to businesses, not cities or states. Not that they're always benevolent, but they certainly get the wheels spinning faster. Businesses make things happen. So maybe I should give it the old college try to call some local sports company and ask them if they'd sponsor a new court built somewhere nearby or something. Pressure the city into giving them permits and shit like that.

The company looks good because it sponsors a court for the kids to play, and it gains a presence in the local area. The city looks good because it'll actually have a decent park.

I know. It would be a long shot. Heck, it's at least worth a try. Never underestimate the power of a young person on his summer break. Right? Surrre.

Oh well, no new Ben Turner Commemorative Basketball Court of Crowley Park for me anytime soon.

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