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Big hoopla over portable hoops is problematic

LET'S SEE if I got this straight: The new menace to suburbia, the issue that threatens to undo all that is good and decent about life beyond the Beltway, is portable basketball hoops?

And towns all across the country are taking steps to ban these things from their streets because of all the complaints they've received?

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Tell me this is a joke.

Tell me this is something the local TV stations dreamed up for a slow news day.

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Don't these towns have a few more important things to worry about? Like, oh, no money for public services and overcrowded schools and the fact they all have 87 Starbucks on every corner?

But there it was in The Sun the other day, a Page One story by reporter Mary Gail Hare about town fathers freaking out because kids are playing hoops in their streets.

And as I read it, I could feel the top of my skull going Chernobyl.

Look, as a parent of three kids and a suburban homeowner with a portable hoop out front -- it's old, it's rusted, it looks like an abandoned oil derrick, something my neighbors are kind enough to pretend they don't notice -- here's my take on this whole thing:

If they get a kid away from the TV for five minutes, I'm all for portable hoops.

If they get a kid away from the computer, or Nintendo, or yakking mindlessly on a cell phone, I'm all for them.

Me, I'm one of these nutty parents who thinks kids need a lot of fresh air and exercise.

In fact, if I had my way, every kid in the country would be required by law to start the day with 200 jumping jacks and a three-mile run.

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Now some people might think that's a little extreme.

But the fact is, a lot of these little brats don't move off the couch anymore. Some don't even take gym class in school now.

Which means a lot of them are starting to look a little, um, doughy, if you catch my drift.

In other words, heading out to shoot baskets after a hard day of watching Spongebob Squarepants might be the only exercise some of them get.

But as The Sun's story reported, town officials are concerned about these portable hoops for a number of reasons.

For instance, officials in Sykesville, in Carroll County, said the portable hoops damage snowplows and trash trucks.

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And the police chief there says he's worried about the safety and welfare of the kids, who might be so preoccupied playing ball that they could be hit by a car.

To which I would say this: Tell the guy working the snowplow to go around the baskets.

If a basket is blocking part of the street and the snowplow can't plow there, that's the homeowner's problem. These baskets are portable, remember?

If some knucklehead homeowner leaves his basket in the street when it snows and it blocks the plow, that part of the street won't get plowed. Simple as that.

Same thing with the trash trucks.

If the garbageman has a hard time getting to somebody's garbage cans because of the hoop, tell him not to pick 'em up at all.

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Believe me, once people see mounds of garbage piling up in their front yard and it's 90 degrees and the flies are buzzing all around and it smells like a slaughterhouse, they'll make sure their garbage cans aren't blocked.

As for the idea that kids are too preoccupied playing ball to get out of the way of a car -- I'm not sure I buy that, either.

Look, if it's 10 at night and kids are playing ball out in the street and blasting a boombox and keeping the neighbors up, sure, that's a problem.

Or if kids are blocking the street with full-court games and traffic can't get by and the kids are thugging it up with passing motorists, OK, that's a problem, too.

Then I'd say town officials have to crack the whip, and get rid of the portable hoops.

But most of the time, that's not the situation.

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Most of the time, what you have is one kid, or two, or three, shooting baskets.

And when a car comes by, the kids move out of the street -- unless it's a neighborhood filled with young Charlie Mansons.

In which case, portable hoops would be the least of the problems.


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