I’m 57 years old… I’ve seen some shit… Rarely am I truly surprised.
However, over the past couple of days, I’ve been taken aback by the enormous chasm that exists between the way the Philadelphia Public League and the Philadelphia Catholic League treat their respective players, students, families and fans.
Remember when your Mom would tell you to clean up your room before you go outside? Remember how you would just shove everything under your bed and declare the room spotless… At least, you tried to pretend… Well… The Public League just leaves dirty drawers in the middle of floor… Snickers wrappers on the desk… Half finished bottles of soda on top of the TV…
It’s fair to say, the PUB just doesn’t give a fuck… Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Catholic League consistently provides first class five star service during it’s playoffs.
The game experiences could not possibly be more distinct and different. If I didn’t personally know many of the administrators and coaches in the Philadelphia Public League, I would jump to the sad conclusion that they do not like the kids, students and families that play in and attend Public League games.
Judging by the way they are treated, it feels like they damn near hate their constituents.
I’m befuddled because, like the Catholic League, the Public League produces a solid and marketable product once the playoffs come around, especially the Final 4. The brand of basketball played in the Pub is extremely fast, often chaotic, frequently undisciplined and always entertaining. This year, the final four consisted of a double header featuring perennial powers Math, Civics and Sciences (MCS) and Lincoln in the first game. The second game saw upstart West Philadelphia take on Nationally ranked Imhotep Charter School.
MCS and Lincoln both feature long, talented and athletic scholarship level players at every position. Both programs have been among the best in the city for several years. West Philly was the surprise of the Public League this year. Their best player, Deyishon Miller, is a raw but truly gifted 6’5” athlete capable of play all five positions at the high school level. He shoots, he passes, he rebounds, he passes, he defends… He does it all with a distinct Philly swagger that reminds many of Gratz legend Jarrett Kearse. Imhotep has three top 100 high major prospects on the roster. Justin Edwards is ranked as the 8th best player in the class of 2023 by ESPN. Ahmad Nowell is ranked in the top 30 in the class of 2024 by ESPN. Rahmir Barno is a top 100 player according to 247sports and my eyeballs. Mo Abdullah ’22 has committed to play for Rider University. Beyond the aforementioned, Imhotep has another 4 or 5 young D1 prospects in the oven.
In short… The Pub Final 4 is definitely something you wanna see…
It’s an event deserving of proper planning, organizing, marketing and media coverage.
So… I arrive at the School of the Future (SOTF) about an hour before the scheduled 4 pm start. The SOTF has a nice but relatively small gym and limited parking. The lot is already overflowing when I arrive. I am forced to “create” a spot next to a dumpster in the rear of the building. After grabbing my camera, I walk around the building and as soon as I turn the corner, I see about 50-60 high school age kids pleading their case to an administrator.
“I’m on Ms. So and so’s list…”
“My brother is playing…”
“I know I’m on the list…”
I walk past the kids and identify myself as media. I am allowed to enter… But only after my pockets are emptied, my body subjected to a metal detector wand, my camera bags thoroughly searched and I am patted down.
Now… given the fact that it seems like 10 people are shot every day in Philadelphia, I feel a little better knowing they are making a real effort to keep firearms out of high school gymnasiums.
I walk into the gym and immediately notice that only half of the bleachers are available. There’s seating for maybe 200-250 people… That’s it…
Awwww… Shit… This is gonna be a problem.
Apparently, there’s a process in place. I learn that teams are expected to submit a list and only those on the list are allowed to enter the gymnasium, I didn’t know this… Thankfully, the Pub respects media outlets.
It’s the PUB Final 4, that is not gonna work!
I decide to sit along the far baseline. I wanted to be as far away from the entrance as possible. I thought the exuberant youngsters clamoring to gain entrance might try to “bum rush the show” and I’m too old for that shit.
I posted my chair next to the exit doors. Within minutes, despite the so-called “attendance limitations” the crowd began to swell. It was at capacity before tip off. The available bleachers were filled and folk were standing shoulder to shoulder along both baselines.
There remained a substantial contingent of anxious young people outside… Students of the respective schools, hoopheads eager to watch the games and frustrated family members that weren’t on the list.
Desperate to gain entrance, they started to intensely bang on the doors… BOOM!.. BOOM!… BOOM!
It felt and sounded like the Minneapolis, Minnesota police armed with 37 arrest warrants for unarmed Black men… BOOM!.. BOOM!… BOOM!
Damn… I felt their pain…
They just wanted to see the game… Alas, it was not going to happen.
Then I got a text from a coach that drove from Baltimore, Maryland to see one of the MCS kids play. He was sure his name was on the list… He said they told him they couldn’t allow him in because they were over the capacity limit. This after he drove over an hour and half to evaluate a kid in a playoff game. He was never able to see the kid.
That reminded me of the time I went to with two D1 college coaches to watch Miller and West Philadelphia play at Overbrook. We were met at the door by the athletic director and told we were not allowed to watch the game. After explaining that we were there to evaluate kids for scholarships that would allow them to attend college for free, the Overbrook AD said “I’m not letting you in.”
After voices were raised and several minutes of back and forth bickering, the AD reluctantly relented and allowed the coaches to watch and evaluate the kids. He made sure to tell us NOT to come back because next time we won’t get in.
Is this real? I gotta pay $3.00 for a soda so a disgruntled athletic director can deny kids life changing opportunities?
Seriously, it feels like the people running the Pub hate the kids… Fuck that soda tax!
So… then I had to take a leak… After the first game was completed, I walked across the court toward the bathroom. A security guard told me to turn back around.
I said “My man… I have to piss.”
“That’s not my problem… You can’t go past this door.”
“I’m 57 years old and I have to go to the bathroom.”
“You need to go somewhere else.”
“Well… I’m gonna go outside and piss on school grounds, is that what you want me to do? The bathroom is right there on the other side of that door.”
“Do what you have to do.”
So I did what I had to do… I went outside and took a leak…
I was thirsty… There were no concessions available… No water… No juice… No soda…
I was hungry… No soft pretzels… No hot dogs… No pizza… No chips…
They just don’t give a fuck…
Now I imagine some will rationalize such minimalistic treatment by citing the wanton violence and mayhem gripping our region.
“We don’t want large gatherings of young Black kids, especially males”, they might say.
“These are the kids leaving 20, 30, 40 or even 50 shell casings at crime scenes on a daily basis” one could argue.
They would NOT be wrong… Truth be told… My head is on a swivel each and every time I traverse the city of Philadelphia.
There are young brothers out here fucking it up for everyone.
But, isn’t that also the case in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Newark and Atlanta?
District administrators in those cities somehow manage to treat players, students, fans and families with a modicum of respect. Grandmom and Grandpop can come watch junior play in those towns.
They aren’t welcome in the Philadelphia Public League. And, if they do decide to venture out and try their luck, they better wear some Depends adult underwear.
When they decide to transfer grandsons to Catholic, Friends or Inter-Ac league schools… I understand.
The PUB has stopped giving a fuck…