A couple of week ago, I wrote on the spirited street ball game played weekends at Cobb’s Hill now for about 35 years, spotlighting its more colorful characters and nicknames: “Abbacca” of the big hand, “Spook” (whose real name no one apparently knows), Pastor “Choir Boy” Cuevos, self-proclaimed “Old School” Don from back in the day of Larry “Lover’s” Lane, and the Twin Towers Brothers K.
Sunday, my mission was different. Reflecting upon the tragic events of last week and the witnessed vigil, I wondered what the street ballers had to say.
The Game is about much more than basketball. When I talk with the players I hear: camaraderie, lifelong friendships, family, escape from the day’s worries, haven, and even oasis (the Pastor). One descriptor from”JB” James Brown (pictured) stuck: “a place of normalcly.” Not a place of senseless shootings and violence.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the shootings on Genesee Street – not yet fully assimilated – filter lightly in and out of conversations. Feelings still raw; the vigil still going. Vernon Jones (pictured), SUNY Brockport student, thinks the events were so severe and the facts so unknown that people are leery to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. By next week’s game, however, the conversations about what it means and what to do will be getting real.
To learn more about how the game functions in the city community, I spoke with perhaps the dean of The Game, Terrence Mitchell, of East High basketball fame and beyond, who says he has played at Cobb’s Hill for at least 35 years.
To Terrence, it’s about being with friends and family, relaxing and competing after a hard day’s labor. At the same time, while the courts are not a political forum or a debating society, to Terrence they are are also a place of open and free discussion on all topics. When tensions in the street or grievances in the neighborhoods need to be discussed, they are. When community good news needs to be spread, it is. As Terence has seen, at election time the pols come a lookin’ for votes as if they were loose balls. Mayor Bill Johnson, who lives near by, was a regular — but not just in November, Terrence reassures.
As Terrence eloquently says, the “game is the messenger.” If you have a message worth giving, bring it to the courts and message might get heard all over Rochester. The Game just might be The Pulse. Stay tuned.
for more on one player, Dr. Jason Willis From the Rucker League to Edison Tech. With a Ph.D. in between.