A Wide Open Playing Field

By Elizabeth Beard | Posted on May 31, 2011

BankshotIt starts like a joke in possibly poor taste: “So a rabbi and a blonde are playing basketball, and the rabbi says…”

I met Rabbi Brenner on a beautiful spring day at one of the newest and largest parks in Rockville, Maryland. Mattie Stepanek Park has it all—sports fields, dog park, memorial garden, playground, and lots of wide open green space. And I mean really wide open, since the park is part of the King Farm development.

King Farm was still a farm when I moved to Rockville in 1993–an agricultural anachronism in a sea of urbanity. When the farm defaulted on its property taxes, it was annexed by the city of Rockville but its fate had been sealed years earlier when the Shady Grove Metro station opened nearby. Although we are supposed to cheer this sort of smart growth near mass transit, it was still sad to see the old farm disappear beneath townhomes and garden apartments. So I was glad to see the broad fields are at least still preserved in a fairly substantial park.

Out of these fields rises a very strange clump of what appears at a distance to be colorful trees. Upon closer examination, you might revise that to a modern art installation, perhaps a Cubist interpretation of a basketball court. Out in the open fields of the park, the Bankshot court draws the eye like some sort of Basketballhenge.

Because it is a school day, the park is dominated by very small children, most of whom are too young to play basketball and instead swirl around the playground like a flock of starlings. I must admit that I had always thought of Bankshot as something one only did during lifeguard breaks at the Rockville Aquatics Center, where there is also a court. Amusing enough but a groundbreaker for inclusive recreation? A few minutes with Rabbi Brenner and you will become a believer, at least in Bankshot, that is.

Intentionally or not, inclusiveness became my mantra for the May issue, whether it was making room for off-beat sports like bike polo or far more gentle sports like the Miracle League and Bankshot. And the wonderful thing about parks is that they can accommodate everyone, from the strong and athletic to the meeker and weaker to those who just want to play with their friends and family despite their physical limitations. The field is open for all of us.

Elizabeth Beard is the Managing Editor for Parks & Recreation magazine.