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The great problem facing Oakmont, Pennsylvania

By: David Collins, Contributor

Originally Published February 20, 2024

No town is without flaw. Whether it be something like crime or lesser quality education available or discrimination, it takes not a magnifying glass to locate a problem (or more likely several problems) within any given community.

And this is no different for Oakmont, Pennsylvania. Oakmont is a small suburb about an hour from Latrobe and maybe 20 minutes outside of downtown Pittsburgh. We are perhaps best known for our country club, which casually hosts the U.S. Open every few years. Western Pennsylvanians may know us for our acclaimed bakery as well. Or maybe rock and roll enthusiasts know us as the home base to Whitesnake guitarist, Reb Beach.

There’s a lot to love about Oakmont, including if not especially me. But we have problems too. The Allegheny River runs by Oakmont. I haven’t done any research or anything, but I’d imagine that the river isn’t clean. We are also all convinced that the Mattress Warehouse on Hulton Road is a money laundering front. We’ve never really seen anyone inside, and there are these signs that say like everything must go or 65% off store-wide that have been up for as long as we can remember. I want to focus my attention, though, toward an issue that is overlooked but is unmistakably injurious to our community as a whole. At our local park in Oakmont- Riverside Park- the basketball hoops are not quite 10 feet tall.

In basketball, the rim is standardly 10 feet off the ground. It’s like how an endzone is always 10 yards long or a hockey goal is always 6’ by 4’. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891, hanging peach baskets on a railing at a YMCA gym in Springfield, Massachusetts. The railing was 10 feet tall, and the rest was history.

Now there was the one game in 1954 where the NBA raised the hoop to 12’ for a single night because 6’10” George Mikan was dominating the league and they sought to level the playing field. And then of course Dwight Howard rolled out a 12’ tall hoop in the 2009 Dunk Contest, but- other than that- 10 feet across the board.

At Riverside Park, each hoop is between 8’6” and 9’9” by my personal and imprecise estimation. And they aren’t even consistent either. There are six hoops and minimal uniformity.

And Riverside Park is otherwise wonderful. George M. from Yelp agrees with me on that much. He offered the following rave review on January 10, 2016:

The track is made out of that high end rubbery firm but soft on your knees material that's awesome to run on. It's right by the river and is usually not crowded for running or walking. There are basketball and tennis courts in the middle of the track. There are also bathrooms open during the day.

I took a girl to Riverside Park one time on a first date. We raced on the track- the one with the high end rubbery firm but soft on your knees material that George M. articulately detailed- and I let her win. Then as a joke I pretended to be a reporter, holding my fist to my mouth like a microphone and I said something charming like I’m here with this girl after she defeated David in the race. What was going through your head down the stretch? And then I held my fake microphone to her mouth. She clearly didn’t understand the bit, though, and instead of answering my interview question into the mic, she just fist bumped my fake microphone.

And it wasn’t just that she didn’t understand that it was a microphone. It was that she then answered the question, as if assuming I would ask her something like that unironically- like I was legitimately curious what was going through her head as she beat me in our fake race. We haven’t communicated since that night. But anyway, the hoops.

I was able to locate a study which looked at the impacts of a shooting program on a hoop with a reduced rim diameter. Nine male hoopers were the control and nine others were the experimental group, and each underwent a 10-week training program. The study ultimately

concluded that training with a reduced rim diameter significantly does indeed improve shooting performance in young basketball players. The is interesting but unfortunately is irrelevant to my issue because the problem is height, not diameter.

Putting on my investigative journalist hat, I went to Riverside Park to investigate. I proceeded to shoot just 4-10 from the free throw line, proving that the hoops are not regulation. Now I could have measured just how tall the hoops were had I brought a stepladder and a tape measure, but I brought neither.

So I surveyed some local hoopers to get their thoughts. One called the heights of our hoops “disrespectful, inconsiderate, and disproportionate to the community that uses it.”

Others were less moved by the issue. I asked another hooper if she had any thoughts on the hoop heights. She replied with confidence, “not really.”

A third suggested that they never really noticed the heights not being regulation, and a fourth had some insight, proposing “maybe they should fix it.”

As is painfully evident from the anonymous interviews I conducted, this is a flagrant and explosive issue that- if unchecked- could stir mild inconvenience in half dozens of hoopers to come through our town.

And to anyone that suggests this issue is of negligible consequence- to anyone that suggests the reason that this issue is overlooked is not because no one knows but because no one cares- to anyone who suggests that the short hoops accommodate the dreamers, serving as nothing more than a charming wrinkle in a park ideal for a bad date, a dunk attempt, or a potential run-in with Reb Beach, I offer you this: you are probably right. And there are also bathrooms open during the day too.

Editor Note: The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely the author’s. Publishing of any opinion piece does not represent endorsement of the piece by The Review staff or Saint Vincent College.

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