Crazy for Hoops

This is a guest post by Robert Germaux. Robert and his wife live outside of Pittsburgh. After three decades as a high school English teacher, and now a good many years into retirement, he is beginning to have serious doubts about his lifelong dream of pitching for the Pirates. “Crazy for Hoops” is one of the essays from his first non-fiction book, Grammar Sex (And Other Stuff). In addition, Bob has three novels available in the e-book format. You can find The Backup Husband, Small Talk and Hard Court at his Amazon Author Page.

We’ve all done some things in our lives that, when we look back, we think, Did I really do that? I’m not talking the big regrets here, the decisions you made about a job or a long-ago boyfriend or girlfriend. I mean some inconsequential thing you did when you were younger, something that you never thought twice about at the time, but the memory of it today just makes you shake you head, maybe smile a little.

In my case, it was basketball. In the early sixties, I had a real jones for the sport, and I hit the court every chance I got. Most of the year, I played on one of several outdoor courts in my neighborhood, usually with my friend, George Wasson. The winter, though, was a different situation. During cold weather, our first choice was always the Mifflin Avenue Methodist Church, just a couple of blocks from my house. If the pastor or the church secretary or the janitor was around and willing to open a door for us, we’d spend a couple of happy, and warm, hours in the church’s bandbox gym. But if no one answered our knock at the door, we didn’t let that deter us. We’d head over to Green Street Playground, with its heavy-duty steel chain nets and ten-foot fence surrounding the standard-size court, where we’d play HORSE and 21, along with a lot of one-on-one contests. I always took a handful of Band-aids with me, because at some point in the proceedings, the combination of the bitter-cold temperatures and the constant dribbling would open little cuts on my fingertips. Instead of doing the smart thing (going home), I just wrapped Band-aids on my fingers and kept playing. George and I usually stayed until we were driven off the court by the approaching darkness or, occasionally, a snowstorm.

I can’t play basketball anymore. A torn left mensiscus, some minor arthritis, way too many decades of running point on thousands of fast breaks . . . they’ve all taken a toll. But I’m not complaining. Generally speaking, I’m in pretty good shape, and I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson about hoopin’ in cold weather. But there’s still a part of me that, if I could do it physically, and someone called me in the middle of January and said they needed an extra guy for a game at the court down the street, I’d probably start breaking out the Band-aids. I guess there’s still a little crazy left in me.

Bet there’s some in you, too.


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  1. Growing up in another part of Wilkinsburg, we would occasionally shovel the snow off the Ferguson Playground court if the Temps got to at least 40 degrees. Many times my hands bled from the fingernail getting pulled away from a finger, or some other cold related cut. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  2. My grandmother died in a cold day in January, 1967. Full of emotion and not sure how to deal with grief at the age of 17, I grabbed my basketball and headed off to Green Street Playground. Since everyone else was in school I had the playground to myself. Shooting baskets helped weather this difficult day in my life.

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