We live directly across the street from a small gymnasium.
The building was a part of McClellanville Middle School until the school was closed a couple years ago as part of a cost-saving program.
The school has been silent since then and so has the gym, except for three nights a week.
On those nights, teenagers from around McClellanville, most of them black but a few white, use the gym for a year-round, parent-supervised basketball league. .
I’ve heard a few complaints from neighbors.
They don’t like the commotion of so many cars coming and going on our quiet street.
They don’t like having so many teenage boys in the neighborhood after dark.
They also may not like the noise coming from the gym, where the doors always stay open and the sounds of boys and bouncing basketballs fill the air.
To me, that noise is music to my ears because it hits so close to home.
I learned to play basketball in a gym much like this one, a small, abandoned church that had been converted into a regulation basketball court for my Catholic school. I helped sand the floor during its conversion and it quickly became a wintertime refuge for those of us who hated snow and ice.
I was reminded of those days recently while telling my bride about some of the shenanigans I and my young friends pulled, some of which might have persuaded a judge to send us to reform school or worse.
The list of wrongs wasn’t pretty. Petty thievery. Vandalism. Mean-spirited pranks. And, once, evading police.
She wondered how I managed to turn into a reasonably upstanding citizen.
It didn’t take long to answer: The love of a single mom and sports.
No, none of us went to jail, but while some friends gravitated to the other side of the tracks, I found a passion for baseball and basketball. Football, too, until the game outgrew my physical attributes. (I tried golf, but could not afford any part of the game beyond hitting beat-up golf balls off tees constructed from twigs.)
Once I discovered sports and a certain athletic ability, my sinful impulses faded into oblivion. Who had time to think of new pranks to play on childhood enemies or new ways to cop some stupid thing from a store?
I don’t know if any of the young people running up and down the court across the street share my story, but if basketball three nights a week keeps them on the straight and narrow – as it did me – I applaud them for it.
The sounds they make are wonderful.
Contact BOB BESTLER at firstname.lastname@example.org.