Church league column

Tommy Layden, Sports Co-Editor

Church League is just rec league basketball. It is just a bunch of guys in a gym who aren’t the most skilled or the best athletes shooting hoops. Church League is all of these things, but it is so much more than a rec league. It is a continuation in a sport for many who had no chance of playing in high school.

Since I started playing basketball in fifth grade I was always pretty awful. I would try to play hard and I would usually be decent on defense. In seven years not much has changed: I am still pretty horrible and despite my lack of skill and shooting ability I still have a place that I can go play. That is the truly beautiful thing about Church League, anyone (*that is not playing high school*) can play in the league. The skill ranges from my ability all the way to players who are arguably high school caliber or former high school players. It creates heated rivalries and where teams are always seeking revenge for a tough loss.

There is resentment built up in junior and freshman teams from the abuse they are subjected to from the sophomore and senior teams in their league. The likelihood beating a senior team, even one of the worst senior teams, is so low that I have watched a junior team celebrate a seven point loss like they won the NBA finals. Eventually after a season of tough games versus bigger, more physically developed teams the juniors come back the following year and obliterate the new junior teams. Week in and week out different players and parents are thrown out of games for getting too into it, and in the past players have been suspended for multiple games.

For the past four years SFX Pugliese —the team I play for— has been in a violent rivalry with SFX Roache. We lost to them when we were freshman, won sophomore, lost junior and beat them a few weeks ago in a 15+ point blowout. It was the best feeling to end out our chippy back and forth with a dominant win. While Church League creates heated rivalries between two teams that have mutual hatred for one another, it also has the unique ability to bring together a group of people across two grades, seven schools and a dozen or so churches. For the most part the only players who know each other well are on the same teams or on a few teams, but after a while you start to bond with random people from other teams that you have seen play. That is what basketball is about, it brings people together in the strangest way. In Church League there’s a constant competitive energy, everyone is hustling and playing hard and this constant commitment to playing at a fast pace is what makes it so intense and fun.

The basketball world recently lost one of its most iconic players ever. Kobe Bryant was more than a basketball player. He was a cultural phenomenon, who has a legion of fans across the world. It was only fitting that the all- star game MVP award was renamed the Kobe Bryant MVP award and the NBA changed the format to make it a more hard fought and intense game. Kobe was the pinnacle of maximum effort; to him there were no exhibition games, every game was a opportunity to torment opponents and Bryant relished in that. This competitive energy is essential to the sport of basketball. It is what makes us fall in love with players like Kobe.

At any level, from the NBA to Church League, the effort, the blood, sweat and tears is what makes it worth being a part of. Basketball is a sport that is played by individuals but dominated by cohesive high energy teams.