An odd equality exists on the court. White guys wearing Kevin Garnett jerseys play alongside Asian girls in t-shirts. There are college kids, high schoolers and grown adults acting as though age means nothing. If bias exists here, it is solely towards height and talent. This is basketball in the Back Bay Fens.
This isn’t high quality basketball. I imagine better ball is being played elsewhere in the city. Much better, maybe. Here, easy lay-ups are missed, fouls are called far less often than they occur, and dunks are dreams that have long passed these guys by. I’m pretty sure the shot pictured above missed. You don’t come here because you expect the best.
Applause, when it occurs, is never for one team or the other, but for an outstanding play. The game matters more than who wins or loses. Most of the talking being done on the court occurs between teammates trying to set up a competent defense. On offense, clamoring for the ball is rare. Both sides are more concerned with playing well than with trash talking.
It’s not clear whether teammates even know each other’s names. The only names seen or heard are those of Boston Celtics players featured on the back of jerseys and those of area high schools featured on the front of t-shirts. Teams are assembled more often than not by necessity and timing than a sort of team unity. The five players who happen to be around when a game ends will join together to take on the winners. No questions asked, no ID required.
There are two courts, one of which has bleachers set up on one side. The bleachers feel superfluous; there are no true spectators. Everyone is playing or waiting to play. The players not involved in the current game often ignore the bleachers, opting to sit on the surface by the sideline, or to stand with a ball to practice lay-ups when the action is taking place around the other basket.
A man, probably in his thirties, is currently doing just that with his son. His kid is maybe eight or nine years old. They don’t have any interest in joining the next game. To them, this is just a bit of family bonding. A black middle schooler takes a jump-shot that collides with the father’s lay-up just above the rim. Neither ball goes in the hoop as a result, and by the time they are chased down, the game has returned to this side of the court.
Roughly a hundred yards away from the basketball courts is a soccer field. Different sports, but I get the feeling that that game feels a lot like this one.