Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On Location

I pedaled up to the Westbrook Rec Department around 6:20p and was ready to play some pick-up basketball five minutes later. Unfortunately, though, because of the Rec's arcane way of doing things at its Adult Open Gym, I didn't actually hop into a full-court game until 8:15p.

To be sure, I hadn't been to Open Gym at the Rec for a couple years, so I'd forgotten just how competitive it can sometimes get for floor time. But at the same time, I'd never attended Open Gym when there were more than twenty players jockeying for games, so I had never realized just how inane their "First Twenty" policy is.

Put simply, the first twenty players who pay their two bucks and sign their names on a list form four teams of five players and rotate among each other (two games on, two games off) perpetually until players begin dropping out. When a player decides he's had enough (the population is universally male) and leaves, one of the reserves hops in for the departing player.

So if you are one of those unlucky souls who arrives after the first twenty have been determined, well, you just hang out until one of the early birds checks out for the night or is generous enough to give up a game on your behalf (don't be expect the former to happen until about 8p and don't be hopeful for the latter ever to happen). Moreover, to make matters worse, the gradual integration of the reserves is arbitrary, as the twenty-first, twenty-second, etc. players arriving to play aren't required to sign in, thus staking their spots--and respecting others'--in the hierarchy.

So if you're not in that exclusive club of the first twenty players, it's advantageous to be aggressive and damn the first-come, first-play ethic that otherwise rules the night.

Anyway, because the guys who constituted the first twenty didn't begin to leave en masse until they finished their seventh or eighth games (games are to eleven points, which takes between ten and fifteen minutes) at about 8:15p, I wasn't able to crack the top twenty until about that time. And because the team I did eventually play against had just played their seventh or eighth game, they decided to leave immediately after our game.

Nevertheless, there is a bright side to getting in only uninspired one game in two hours: I don't have to worry about scrubbing the film of sweat off my forearm gathered from the bare back of the player I would've had to guard in the low post.

Hey, I've got to be positive about something.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. All the literature and signs in the Rec building suggest Adult Open Gym is every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening from 6:30-9p. However, as one veteran put it to me tonight, it actually begins as soon as the adults can wrestle the court away from the preceding middle-schoolers. Tonight, for example, the games began in earnest between 6p and 6:15p. Which means you should start camping out in the lobby before 6p on some nights (I was told Tuesdays are the busiest and that it is less crowded as the week progresses) if you actually want to, you know, play.

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