Friday, December 19, 2008


As a kid growing up in Memphis I was very much into sports. From organized sports including the big three to golf and tennis. But it was nothing like my favorite two games growing up. Pick up and run football and 21.

Pick up and run was the best because there was normally only one kid in the neighborhood with a football. Everybody it seems had basketballs but such wasn’t the case with footballs. So on any one of them three open fields from Castalia Heights, to Magnolia Elementary School of the field by the ditch next to South Parkway Gardens Apartments. In Pick up and run would be any where from four to forty young men playing no-holds bared football in which who ever got the ball would run and be subject to being gang tackled (which was usually the case) by all else playing.

Now I loved that, but didn’t love it more than 21. 21 was the basketball equal to pick up and run. The best games were played with 15 or more people. Object was to be the first one to get to 21 in points via free throws or a regular basket. We never played the tip version, for real ball players had to take it back pass the free throw line and score between all those playing. We had another version called Arkansas 21, which was also called rough house – which was strange since the winner had to score 36 points.

I say this because not always do I get the chance to talk of my love of sports and politics without a discussion of economics or some other mundane esoteric stuff. But I just wanted to know if folks imagined like me, what the games of 21 will look like for the future occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I will give Obama the benefit of the doubt, that he does enjoy 21. I mean James Joes, although 54, was a forward at Georgetown back in the day and Eric Holder (next AG) played ball at the reputable Stuyvesant High School in NYC. Add to the mix Obama’s personal assistant – Reggie Love who played round ball and football at Duke University and Arne Duncan, who lettered in Basketball at Harvard - Mr. Obama (a member of a Hawaii state basketball championship team back in the day – may need to step his game up. I mean I hear Susan Rice was one of Washington, DC’s best point guards back in the day.

What does this mean, well really nothing, except I love sports, and wish they would televise some of the games one day – I mean professional basket aint like what it used to be, and well 21, is always 21, especially if you aint got enough folks to run a 5 on 5 full court game.


Lovebabz said...


Keith said...

Man, I remember playing Pick up and run Football and "21"..That was so much fun...We'd be out there all day running twenty one
until enough people came to run a "full" You brought back some good memories.

Sista GP said...

That would be a site. White House Staff in a game of b-ball. History-making

Sista GP said...

Hubby said they called your Pick Up and Run game, "Killa Man With the Ball"

Anonymous said...


Queen said...

Yea, I'd watch it if they televised it too!

O' Tim said...

Stirring up some great memories indeed! For baseball it was "running bases" or "fast pitch" with a strike zone chalked up on the wall of the school. Football was the pre-unPC game of "smear the queer" or two-hands-below-the-waist touch (full tackle when we were feeling brave). Round ball had all kinds of variations - HORSE, 21, and half-court (usually 3 on 3 but sometimes more). My brother and I put up a backboard on our garage for half court in the alley, and I painted it with the logo of the rock band Yes for those nothing-but-net moments of glory.

Dawg, do you still play golf?

Gorgeous Geek said...


I was the only chick on my street... therefore I was out with the guys playing least. So many battle wounds lol I can tell stories about scars for days


plez... said...

we played "one-on-everyone else" football in my yard while growing up in upstate new york... same premise: throw the ball up and who ever caught it tried to "score" on "everyone else"! no out of bounds, lots of fun, and no worrying about getting caught up in a whole bunch of rules.

and i liked "21" only marginally better than "H-O-R-S-E", because i could hit a shot damn-near blindfolded from anywhere on the court.

we only played "21" when we had an odd number of players, otherwise it was 2-on-2, 3-on-3, or 4-on-4 (full court) and play to 21 points.

when playing "21", if you scored a 2 pointer, then you got two shots from the foul line, and then it was a free-for-all until the next person scored a basket. once again, very few rules: no fouls, no walks, no double dribble... just cut throat b-ball... i would love to see kids playing outside again!

clnmike said...

Lol we just played regular football.

But every one played 21, hell you could live in New York if you didnt know basketball.

The way we played 21 if there were a lot of people the guy who got to 10 if you didnt have at least 5 you had to sit out.

The Socialite- Publisher said...

Ill play you in a game of 21! You

Princess Katrina said...

Aww! I love sports too. Always played tennis my whole life. Only thing I didnt like about tennis was how into it my parents were. They would get so disappointed in me if I lost a match, even if I played well and well ( made a new friend because sometimes I would talk too much during the breaks lol). That kind of turned me off to it, but all in all, sports it a great thing! It teaches people a lot of skills! Skills to move do help your brain function! Some people dont understand that and let their kids sit at home and do nothing but eat and stare at the idiot box. Its a shame.

Now since I am done with sports, (not working out tho, I love to work out). My boyfriend plays professional football so I have to love that too and I do! I love watching him play more than anything in the whole world!


Now speaking of basketball..I have a mean backwards closed eyes shot that I make about 85% of the I was thinking about maybe teaching Shaq my shot so then he could make a darn free throw! lol

Claude said...

21 is the best, especially useful if you don't have an even number of cats to play like 3x3 or 4x4. My strategy is to lay in the cut and then hit ALL my free throws, and then hit MOST of my 3-pointers and occasionally cross it up and go inside. We never played tip in, you always gotta bring it back. There's a distinct difference in how kids play, depending on whether they want to actually WIN or just show off their ballhandling skillz. Great post! What's happening man is that Obama is making a lot of us fiend for hoops again. If he can do it, we can do it!

Anonymous said...

Boy do I wish the kids in my neighborhood could still safely play 21 without fears of being killed before turning 21 . . . It's a different world out there jones. . . But thanks for the beautiful memories. Any ideas on bringing back the security and safety of our days?

Peace, Light and Love. . . CordieB

msladydeborah said...

I haven't played 21 in a long time. That was fun back in the day.

I played touch football too.

It seems to me that the common thread of b-ball indicates that each of those individuals know how to work on a team using their individual talents to benefit the common good.

Now maybe I am wrong but that is the first thought I had.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

We called the football game "Kill The Carrier".

There was only one place to play it near where I grew up which had grass and dirt. It was across town in Gramercy Park, but sometimes the block association would lock it and if we climbed over the fence someone in one of the buildings would call the police to chase us off.

That meant playing on pavement and you had to pretty much cover every part of you and wear a watch cap underneath a hood and you'd learn how to fall like jello like you were drunk, otherwise you could break any bone except maybe your spine and skull. Yeesh. Can't say I'm in a big hurry to play that again.

We'd play a 3-man game of football with a QB-WR-CB. The QB-WR would have 4 downs to complete 2 passes of 10-yds or more for a fresh set or we'd rotate.

THE games, though, were Stickball and Stoopball. Stickball is played with a Spauldeen and a taped broomhandle for a bat and the bases are the iron sewer covers which are spaced about 100 feet apart so the running and scoring is like cricket, i.e., back and forth. They used to just count sewer covers to determing the hit but the West Indian kids improved the game by adding the cricket running element and the alternating pitcher's "mound" and "batter's box".

In Stoopball, the fielders would be positioned across the street and you'd throw the Spauldeen against the tenement steps which were usually 3 or 4. You really couldn't get better than a single and usually not ever that if you couldn't catch the edge. In Stoopball, there was no running, just "ghostrunners."

Played "Running Bases" like O'Tim. In the suburbs, it was called "Pickle." I also played the chalk strike zone game, as well, which we called "Pitching In."

Basketball was HORSE or 2-on-2. I've never heard of 21.

We played tennis on cracked asphalt courts, so you had to have a very hard serve and a lot of variation to your court game but you couldn't hit it baseline to baseline like that you'd have to slice your backhands a lot, put lots of topspin on your forehands, and lots of drops and lobs. And no one had had any lessons, so it was an ugly game, but really competitive. When I was married to my 2nd wife who had been on all the teams throughout grade school, HS and one year of college, it was really funny because I look terrible on the court but I played city style just looking to win points any way possible and she'd stand at the baseline hitting perfect textbook returns right to me so if I could put a ton of English on it, I'd drop it or lob it. I swear I looked absurd but she never took a set off me ever.

Can't play golf worth shit anymore, so it's too frustrating. Cannot hit a driver or wood to save my life but I can hit irons ok and putt ok.

We'd play a version of Bocce but with baseballs we'd soak in water and wrap with duct tape, so they'd land heavy but bite.

The girls would play all of those games but their obsession was Double Dutch. And at night, we'd play cards and the girls would play jacks.

Lots of music I associate with that time: The Stylistics, Lynryd Synyrd, Marvin Gaye, The O'Jays, Todd Rundgren, Yes, Jeff Beck, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, The Allman Brothers, The New York Dolls, The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Yes, Diana Ross, Barry White, Bloodstone, Chicago, Led Zepplin...jeez...lots and lots more.

Anonymous said...

t..what up 's your boy Shawn P. Welch,..."blunky"...Happy belated! I would love to play some 21! holla

Sincere said...

lol I love 21!! I also envision what it would be like at 1600 w/ all the ball players and Obama on staff. Not really big on the football free for all thing, you seen how small I am! lol but 21 was definitely something I was into.

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