I played at the old Mormon church again last night, and as I was walking back to my car I wondered why I have never spent any time describing the eerie feelings I have whenever I walk back to my car from playing basketball at the church. I usually just write: "I played basketball last night, won some games, lost some games, had fun, blah blah." The images burned into my head from playing basketball there never make it into this blog, nor are they written down elsewhere. This will be an attempt to jot down some of those freshly branded images.
The first thing about basketball at the Mormon church is that I always play there at night, from 9pm to 11pm. The underneath-lit church looks spooky to me from the second I pull into the parking lot. It reminds me a lot of the frat buildings in the movie "The Skulls." I have very little experience with religion, and I never spent any time in churches growing up. Like everyone else, I fear what I do not understand.
The gym is quasi full-size. The ceiling is low and the walls are very close to the out of bounds line, but the court itself is full-size. Every time I play, someone crashes into a wall or leaps up on the stage at the West end of the court to avoid smashing into the lower wall. Before basketball starts, we have to fold chairs from the gym floor and stick them on a chair rack. We have to grab Mormon bibles (are they different than Christian bibles? They must be...?) and set them aside. Then basketball gets played.
There are a few interesting characters. John, from my cohort, plays basketball the same way he plays frisbee. He is one of the bigger guys, so he bangs around on the inside (or goes deep in frisbee), and is a very unselfish player. He sets screens and likes to pass the ball (or the disc). Joe is a bowling-ball of a point-guard. He's about 5'8" and weighs over 200lbs. He shoots 3's all day long if you give him a glimpse of day-light and he makes his fair share. If you stick a hand in his face, he's capable of driving around (or through) you and to the basket. There are a couple other very good basketball players that show up from time to time, one guy who pretty much dominates everyone on the inside, but does not look like a very difficult match up... until the game starts and his speed and quickness make their presence felt.
On the walk out after basketball, I am usually dead tired. It is dark and the one light behind the church shines directly at the back door, not illuminating much else. The cars are parked diagonally behind the church, and all of the cars are nice (although not as nice as the cars in "The Skulls"). The I-5 freeway and its roar of traffic is elevated beyond the cars, with a sturdy hedge and retaining wall.
It is a spooky spot. Dark, nice cars, exhausted people, and if you scream nobody can hear you. I envision a homeless person exploring the grounds of the church one night and finding this scene. The homeless person wonders why those young white guys get to play basketball on weeknights and drive home in their fancy cars, and become mad at the world for the discrepancy.