Last night I played in the most exciting basketball game that I've ever been a part of. Seth, a friend of mine from church, works for the Southwest Philly Community Development Center, and has gotten to know a man by the name of Earthquake through his work. Earthquake is a former boxer, a garbage collector in SW Philly, and a community activist who works toward non-violence. He started a basketball league that plays in a gym at a Baptist church on 70th and Woodland, and invited Seth to get a team together from our church to join in the league. The three other teams were made up of athletic teenagers from the neighborhood. Then there was our group of out-of-shape 20-and-30-something white guys.
Picture this scene: a loud, cramped gym that is about 2/3 the size of a normal basketball court where the walls are about 18 inches away from the out-of-bounds lines on all sides. Earthquake gathers everybody for prayer at center court before the games start and asks God to bless all of the "ballers" and their families. Basketball players and fans line the court and erupt onto it with shouts and yells every time a big play happens for either team. A lone ref with his whistle does the best he can to control the chaos and call an honest game despite lots of fouling and protests on every call.
Somehow, the old white guys keep up and send the game into overtime and double overtime. Thirteen seconds left - they're down by two. Jay Hiatt gets the ball in the post, is double teamed, goes up, hits the shot, and the whistle blows. And one. The crowd goes wild. The clock shows four seconds left. Something happens, and all the sudden the scorekeeper is coming after one of the players on the other team. He gets held back, but the scoreboard is unplugged. Five minutes later the scores and time have been replaced. Jay goes to the line, having had five minutes to think about this shot. He puts it up, off the backboard, and it rolls in! The VCC Ballers Shotcallers pull out the improbable 2OT win!
Earthquake was loving every minute of it, and I'm sure the smile on his face was partly because of the exciting game and partly because his goal of getting kids off the street and involved in healthy competition that ended with everybody shaking hands and congratulating each other was playing out before him. I had to rush home to meet people at my apartment to watch Monday night football, but I think I would have been speeding down 30 blocks of Woodland Ave. with my windows down and music blaring even if that wasn't the case because I was that pumped up.