Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hoopgate: What it all comes down to...

Here we are, almost a week after news broke that DelDOT was out snatching basketball hoops.  The story has gone international, viewed in countries around the world (the only countries who haven't viewed it are in Africa and the Middle East) and picked up by national news agencies.  There is a Facebook page (which I administer by the way) dedicated to getting DelDOT to replace the poles and to have all of their regulations reviewed.  People from all over the world are commenting on the story with many in support of the family and some against them.  So far I have boiled down the argument to a couple of basic premises: safety and bad experiences.

Argument: Safety - Typical response: "Well, I mean the kids playing in the street is dangerous.  They could get hit by a car!"
The problem here is that this argument has absolutely NOTHING to do with safety and everything to do with convenience.  Even with the kids in the street, if a motorist is driving at the reasonable and safe speed limit which is posted (or assumed) they will be able to stop in the case of a child or small animal running into the road.  In fact, children playing IN the street on a basketball hoop are less of a danger because they are in more plain sight than children playing on a driveway court whose ball may accidentally bounce into the street and encourage a child to run out quickly from the driveway to get it.  Children in the street will move when they see a car coming.  This may require the driver to slow down or potentially stop but if the driver observes the speed limit and safe driving practices, there is little danger to children.  The "Hoopgate" incident is one in which the danger is even less of a real factor.  The hoop in question was positioned in a cul-de-sac and not on a "right of way".  In fact, had the hoop been on a main thoroughfare, a main artery or even a through road, one could understand the concern.  In this case, none of those things were occurring.
If the problem was indeed the safety of the children, then these concerned motorists would realize that the safest place in the world for a kid is their home (and the next safest in front of it).  They would understand that the parks (especially in Claymont) are actually not so safe.  The parks in this area are often frequented by drug users (teens and adults), gang members and at times child molesters (they like to hang out at parks, where kids play without parents).  So, if we really care about the safety of the kids, why not let them play there in the street where people can see them and where they are able to call for help from people who know them or escape quickly into the safety in their home.
Argument: Bad Personal Experience - Typical Response: "Look, these kids are rude, they cuss, they fill the street and they have no respect."
This one is understandable.  Everyone has (or has had) a neighbor whose kids are rude or disrespectful at times.  In some cases, "at times" can be more often than not but in others it's rare.  We all understand it.  A basketball incessantly bouncing "thump...thump...thump...thump" at 2AM, whooping and shouting at midnight, waking up at 7AM to the sound of a basketball setting off a car alarm, these are all valid complaints...that should be made to the parents of the offenders.  However, America (specifically New Castle County Delaware) has apparently become a nation where we don't talk to one another anymore. The simple fact is that just because your neighbors have crappy kids who don’t have any respect, that doesn’t mean that every hoop owner should be punished. What happened to the days when people would go to their neighbors and ask them questions like:
     a. Can you have your kids not smack into my car?
     b. Can you have your kids play after 9AM and be done by 8PM?
     c. You know, your kid cussed me out when I asked him not to do [insert here]…can you talk to him about that?

In this case, the neighborhood is fairly close knit.  There may be a few people who stick out but by and large the people get along.  This particular hoop is one of the places the neighborhood kids go to hang out, they shoot hoops, chat and most importantly stay out of trouble.  There are a few places in the neighborhood where they leave the basketballs out in the yard for the neighborhood kids to play on their baskets.  This was one of those places.  Remember the days when mom or dad would leave the hose out front (before we knew how "nasty" it was...weird that I never got sick from it...*shrugs*) so the kids could grab a drink if they needed to?  That's kind of how this neighborhood worked.  They love each other, they care for each other.  They even defended and came to the aid of an older gentleman who had not made the complaint, but agreed with the concept when his home was vandalized by overzealous and criminal individuals.  This includes the owners of the hoop who were on video.  Their daughter went down and helped the guy clean up the mess. 
So what happened to those days?  What happened is that morality and the idea of "community" has been stripped away.  Some people are afraid to make contact with their neighbors or question the behavior of their kids because the parents are equally rude and disrespectful, others simply don't want to bother with a potential confrontation.  Most people aren't rude or disrespectful, but because some are, it's frightened others.  Because of folks like those found in this earlier post about our nations loss of morality, people are worried about simply MEETING a neighbor.  Because of folks like those found on the comment pages at the DelawareOnline website, people find communicating with others, challenging.  Instead, they turn to local, state or the federal government to resolve disputes or mediate simple discussions that 15+ years ago would have been handled at the neighbor level.  Until we get back to a moral high ground, whether through religion or some other manner, we're going to continue relying on government to solve our problems through one size fits all laws that punish those who abide by the law in the same ways as those who break it.


  1. This commentary has only one agenda ...
    The self serving interests of its writer.

  2. Love those anonymous drive by commenters...I would be interested to hear how one disagrees with my analysis.

  3. "Agenda"? Seriously? Really Anonymous, I'd Love for Anyone to explain to me how the writer profited in any way, monetarily, socially, or any perk of any kind, for questioning what makes theft suddenly legal. (Remember the original theft: Even the tax man only comes around 15 April...) So please, elucidate us all with what, pray thee tell, are the writers "self-serving interests" ??
    Joseph J. O'Leary Jr., SrA USAF/DE ANG (since '05;
    Constitutional Conservative since BSA made me one in '88 by teaching the Constitution to me.)