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American society

Crime-time Basketball 

An unusual sports program that is helping some of the most disadvantaged young people in the USA

Alfred Jones didn't have much going for him when he was 17; a high school dropout living in the poor Atlanta suburb of Jonesboro South, he had little to look forward to other than a life of unemployment and petty crime, if not more crime. No one respected young men like Alfred, and Alfred had no self respect either. No ambitions.
             Yet today Alfred is a student at Atlanta's Clark University, his self respect has returned, and he's looking forward to getting a proper job. It's all down to basketball.... and a bit more.
basketballBasketball offers something different to do on a warm night.
Crime comes easily to many young men in the tough parts of America's cities; it's almost second nature, specially to guys who have no jobs and no money, and nothing to do.
    It comes easily at any time of day, of course; but at night it comes more easily still. The middle of the night is prime time for crime, and it always has been, specially when the nights are warm and it's good to be out of doors.

    Yet the level of crime in America's big cities has fallen considerably over the last two decades. In some cities, such as New York, the fall has been spectacular, and though America's cities may still be dangerous places at night, compared to most European cities, the improvement is real.
    One reason for this improvement is statistical; the number of young men in the 15-25 age group has fallen. However there are other factors too, including stricter policing; but less spectacularly, perhaps, there are also the numerous programs that have been set up, by cities and volunteer groups, to provide young people with alternatives to crime.
    While Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels showed New Yorkers, then people in other cities, that tough young men could be just as happy and effective combating crime as participating in it, many other programs have also helped bring down the crime rate. The idea behind them all is much the same; to give people something constructive or enjoyable to do, and channel their efforts away from crime.
    The concept of Midnight Basketball was first launched in 1986 in Maryland, by a retired federal employee, G. Van Standifer working at the time as town manager at Glendarden, a suburb of Washington. The federal capital has one of the highest rates of criminality in the U.S.A..
    Faced with an "escalating crime rate" among "at risk" young men, mostly Blacks, Van Standifer saw that one of the main reasons for the rapidly worsening situation was boredom, the fact that young men had nothing to do - or at least, nothing they could afford to do, given that few of them had jobs.
    With the help of some friends and volunteers, he set up the first Midnight Basketball program, opening the doors of a local sports center from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and inviting in anyone who wanted a game. Word soon got round, and before long groups of Glendarden's young men were dropping in to take part or cheer on their friends.
    The idea spread, and before long other cities and urban areas started opening up facilities to encourage young men in off the streets for basketball; by the early 90's, Midnight Basketball programs were running in 44 American cities, and a network of regional leagues was established. In 2014, twenty-eight years later, after some ups and downs, the concept of Midnight Basketball is still going strong, and Midnight Basketball tournaments are organised in many US cities, such as New Orleans, Newark and San Antonio. The idea has even spread to Australia..
    However, there is more to Midnight Basketball than just playing ball; there are conditions. Many players first take part in a "HOPE" session, HOPE being an acronym for Helping Other People Evolve.
    Hope is a commodity that is often in short supply in America's run-down inner cities; at Midnight Basketball HOPE sessions, educators, community leaders and people with useful skills show 17-25 year olds how they can improve their situation in life. Pre-game seminars concentrate on subjects such as getting a job, respect for women, and developing skills. When appropriate, participants are encouraged to get back into education of some sort. Many participants in the Midnight Basketball program are indeed high school dropouts, with no skills and no qualifications; for some, Midnight Basketball provides an opening that they would never otherwise have had.
    Alfred Jones is just one young man from the suburbs of Atlanta who has been successful; others, in other US cities, have done as well as he has, or even better. Alternatively, like Tony Johnson from San Francisco, they have got jobs. "I've changed my life completely," says Tony, who now has a full-time job with Nestlé. Previously, Tony's life was just "hangin' on the streets, bein' a menace, sellin' drugs."
    Not all Midnight Basketballers will end up with a job or a qualification; not all will abandon crime. "It brings a lot of criminals to one spot and keeps 'em off the streets 'til it's over," says a San Francisco cop, without much enthusiasm. In San Francisco, as elsewhere, uniformed cops regularly sit in with the spectators, as trouble can flare up easily at Midnight Basketball sessions.
    Yet for many, Midnight Basketball has provided at least a first foot back on the road to hope; and that is a chance that, without it, they might never have had.


WORDS
dropout: failure - down to: a result of - tough: hard - guys: men - provide with: give - crime rate : number of crimes - channel: direct - retired: former, who used to be - cheer on: applaud - league: championship - is in short supply: there is not enough of it - skill: practical aptitude 


 Copyright notice.
This resource is © copyright Linguapress 2015.   Updated from an article originally published in Spectrum magazine in 1995.
This text may not be reproduced on other websites nor in printed form without written permission from the publishers. Reproduction is authorised exclusively for personal use by students, or for use by teachers with their classes.



  

Student worksheet
Crime-time Basketball

Rearrange the words to make questions that relate to the article above
.......then answer them.
1) Q.   the / is / crime / time / when / prime / for ?

    A.   ...................................... .........................................
2)  Q.  the / spectacular / fall / been / has / where / crime / in ?

     A. .................................... ...........................................
3)  Q.  reasons / are / improvement / what / for / the / this ?

     A. ..................................... .......................
4)  Q.   the / what  / behind / is / programs / idea / the ?

     A. ...................................... .........................................
5)  Q.   the / launched / was / concept / when / Basketball / of / first / Midnight ?

     A. ....................................... ........................................
6)  Q.   situation / was / of / reasons / what / the / one / main / worsening / for ?

     A. .......................................... .....................................
7)  Q.   part / today / many / men / how / young / take ?

     A. ............................................ ...................................

Written exercise:
Before writing this article, the Linguapress.com reporter might have talked to G. Van Standifer. Imagine eight questions that the reporter could have asked, and the answers that Van Standifer might have given. Vary the questions. Include at least one question with each of the following question words:
       Why, when, where, how long, what, how many, Has... Did ....

  

Teachers section : Using this article in class

Listening comprehension:
After you have been through this text twice with your students, have them hide the text as you read to article out loud.
Stop reading at each of the  | marks in the following extract. Get students to try and remember how the text continued. If you wish to continue with the whole article in this way, decide beforehand where to break.
    The phrases in italics following the pauses illustrate points of syntax or structure (underlined), or fact, vocabulary and pronunciation (not underlined).

Crime comes easily to many young men in | the tough parts of America's cities; it's almost second | nature, specially to guys who | have no jobs and no money, and | nothing to do.
    It comes easily at | any time of day, of course; but at night it comes | more easily still. The middle of the night is | prime time for crime, and it always | has been, specially when the nights are warm and it's good to be | out of doors.
    Yet the level of crime in America's big cities has | fallen considerably  over | the last two decades. In some cities, such | as New York, the fall | has been spectacular, and though America's cities may | still be dangerous places at night, compared to most European cities, the | improvement is real.
    One reason | for this improvement is statistical; the number of young men in the | 15 to 25 age group has fallen. However there are other factors | too, including stricter | policing; but less spectacularly, perhaps, there are also the | numerous programs that have been | set up, by cities and volunteer groups, to provide young people with | alternatives to crime.


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This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress Revised 2015 . Originally published in Spectrum, the Advanced level English newsmagazine.
Republication on other websites or in print is not authorised
Linguapress.com
Advanced level English resource

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.
Reproduction is authorised exclusively for personal use by students, or for use by teachers with their classes.

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