Thursday, November 5, 2009

Weapon of Inclusion: basketball courts

I nominate basketball courts as a weapon of inclusion. All public sports venues create a situation that invites play and exercise amongst strangers, what make basketball stand out is it's simplicity and popularity. Basketball courts offer a space to play, only requiring a basketball and players. Players can come alone and play by themselves or join others there. A game can vary greatly in size to how many people are needed . When in a heated game is already in session, a court can have a formal feeling, but generally courts are open to others and never require scheduling in advance. Basketball courts offer a space for the game or practicing any time day or night, do not require a large space, and are low maintenance (no need to cut any grass or line a goal). Unlike swimming or ice skating, basketball does not require surveillance. This allows for less inhibited or calculated interactions. It is easy to place a basketball court in an urban space or tuck it away into a neighborhood, unlike a soccer field or track. Basketball is very popular internationally and across many races of people. As racial tension and divide is a large factor in closing the city, basketball is a simple accessible avenue for those of different races to play together without much effort.  

Additionally, basketballs are often the only well-lit space on a block and as an open space (unlike a tennis court or skateboard park) can be used for other purposes like jump-roping, clapping games, even playing music late at night (I've seen it! see link: The court, if well-lit at night can serve as a haven and increase safety - of course if it attracts drug dealing or violence (murders are often committed on basketball courts in Baltimore according the the City Paper's Murder Ink). This is often countered, most famously by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in their promotion of midnight basketball as a tool against crime, arguing it occupies many "at-risk" young men (low-income, African-American young men). Courts are often used at night by young people and can serve as a safe space, often built near schools, parks or major streets. Overall, courts offer a place for children and adults to meet people in their neighborhood and exercise in a relaxed social setting.

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