Park district baskets were replaced by a skate park several years ago, and basketball is prohibited from the alleys. Many Forest Park basketball players are literally without a goal – and we wonder why they hang out on corners.
Alley basketball hoops used to be common in Forest Park and I had one on my garage. It was a popular gathering spot and my neighbors hated it. Players were pulling up in cars with bass-thumping stereos. There was swearing and littering. We kept a lid on the noise, but finally had to take the hoop down due to dents in the garage door.
While we were taking ours down, another proponent of alley basketball was putting a hoop on his garage. Eric and Mary Connor wanted to provide a place for daughter Kerry to practice for the Lady Panthers. The hoop was also used by boys from the neighborhood, including future NFL linebacker Pierre Walters.
Connor recalled groups of six to eight boys playing pick up games. They would ask permission and he would take the club off the rim. He posted rules, gave the kids a rag to wipe off ball marks and ended the games when it got dark. Still, his neighbors frequently called the police to complain about the hoopsters.
One night, Kerry arrived home at 1 a.m. to find the net on fire. Someone had placed a gasoline soaked rag in the nylon and lit it. The arsonist could have burned down the garage with two cars inside. After an eight-year run, Connor knew it was time to take down the rim.
He wishes, though, that every alley in Forest Park had a hoop, because otherwise the few baskets we do have become overcrowded. For example, residents of the 7700 block of Monroe are not crazy about the hoops that are set up in the street, attracting droves of middle schoolers. The peace and quiet of the cul-de-sac has been shattered by bouncing balls, swearing and littering. Many of the young children on the block are too intimidated by the b-ball players to play outside, parents there have said. The block hopes to hold a meeting to address the basketball problem.
In the meantime, arson has not kept the Connors from being advocates for youth basketball. As members of the Youth Commission, they work with police to sponsor basketball on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the middle school playground. Last year, more than a hundred kids signed up to play, with 40-plus players at every session.
Providing free-standing hoops on the playground is a start, Commissioner Rory Hoskins said. But he also wishes that local hoopsters had more access to our school gyms. Ultimately, Hoskins said he believes Forest Park needs an indoor recreational facility where teens can play ball.
Perhaps if the players were out of sight, residents would stop losing their minds.