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Hoops in the city: Manchester's misplaced animus

The ping-ping-ping of a basketball bouncing off an asphalt court, accompanied by the excited shouts of teammates and opponents, is part of the background music of summer. And it is disappearing from Manchester thanks to misguided aldermen.

Our City Matters columnist, Mark Hayward, wrote on Thursday of the city’s vanishing basketball courts. In roughly the last decade, basketball hoops have disappeared from Livingston Park, Harriman Park, Enright Park and Howe Park. Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne wants to add Sheridan-Emmett Park (near Beech Street School) to the list.

Osborne told Hayward that his constituents complain about the noise basketball players make late at night. He said the players litter and damage the parks. But the city has a curfew for its parks. And littering and vandalism are illegal. When residents complain about these things, the right response is for the police to enforce city ordinances.

The response of Osborne and some other aldermen is to take the easy way out and remove the hoops. That response is lazy and destructive.

As Hayward wrote, “summer basketball binds people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities. People can play their hearts out and judge one another not for the color of their skin but for the content of their jump shot.”

If you doubt this, just watch the daily pick-up games at the most popular East Side court, at the corner of Pine and Bridge streets. Players of all ages, races, incomes and skill levels play fast-paced, competitive games there. They come to play basketball. They end up forming social connections that transcend the boundaries created by our tendency to cluster together in neighborhoods filled with people of similar incomes, education levels and social status.

Basketball courts, in short, bring communities together. By removing them, aldermen are eroding the social fabric of the city one net at a time.

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