All summer long, you may have driven past Springettsbury Park and seen the lights shining.
That's nothing new. The lights stay on until about 11 every night for members of the community to come out and enjoy the pleasant summer evenings by taking part in any number of pick-up games, ranging from basketball to softball to roller hockey.
But as you approached the three basketball courts, you probably began to see a large gathering of people crowded around those courts. That scene might look new, or odd, to some, but believe it or not, that's the home of the Blacktop Basketball Bash, an annual summer basketball league that attracts players from all over southcentral Pennsylvania. The Bash also lures a fair number of spectators.
It started as a simple suggestion back in 2008, when York Township officials scrambled to think of an idea that would get more members of the community active and out to the park.
"There was a lot of pick-up basketball games here, typically," said Julie Clapsaddle, director of the Bash. "So, they just thought it was a need that we could probably have a real league and so we started it."
It was a modest suggestion that seemed to appeal to the large basketball community in York and quickly grew into a staple of York County summers. It's hard to imagine that anyone who had a say in the development of the league could've predicted the success that it's enjoying. Boys and girls come from all over the region, all the way from Cumberland Valley to Hempfield, ranging from third graders to high schoolers, to play on the outdoor courts at Springettsbury Park.
The growth and excitement surrounding the league is surprising in itself, partly because it's a weird time in playground basketball. Major cities, such as Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia, have seen their participants gradually stray away from the blacktop, so much so that ESPN.com even ran a feature on this dying breed of basketball. But as major cities struggle to stay relevant on the playground basketball scene, York has become somewhat of a hub, thanks in large part to the Bash. Fans can venture out to the park on any given night and watch upward of 12 games, from 6 p.m. until about 11 p.m., when the lights shut off.
Not just for fun: Because of the growing popularity of the league over the past six years, Clapsaddle and her volunteers have had to accommodate all of the teams that are eager to participate. In order to do so, they created two divisions, an A and a B, to allow for competitive balance. The A divisions primarily consist of AAU and travel basketball squads that come out and play competitive games, while the B divisions are for the teams that are put together to go out and have a good time.
And in case you think this is some glorified pick-up league, it's not. They play two, 20-minute halves with running clocks until the final two minutes. And if you want to try to get away with taking that extra step like you do against your friends in the driveway, that won't fly here because there are two officials on every court. And don't look for players to call their own fouls because the refs have that handled too, making sure that games don't get too out of control.
Not all perfect: However, with the good also comes the bad. One of the major problems with an outdoor basketball league is, of course, the weather, something that in this area is about as unpredictable as whether or not the Philadelphia Eagles will win the Super Bowl or finish last in the NFC East. But it comes with the territory of running an outdoor basketball league and something that Clapsaddle and her volunteers have to feverishly work around, trying to reschedule games to make sure that each team plays its guaranteed seven games.
And of course, there are also those dreaded double rims — every playground basketball player's worst nightmare. They can make perfect shots rim out and can frustrate even the best shooters because of their unfriendliness to offense.
There's no doubt about it, the Bash has been a major hit and is helping to grow the sport of basketball in the area.
Now if only we could somehow control the weather and get rid of those horrible double rims.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.