Tony Burke stood at the center of the crowded community hall to address his neighbors.
"There are a few things you don't mess around with," Burke said. "That's American sports, family and friends." Burke's brief sermon brought a rousing applause. Moments later, the residents of Stonegate, a Castaic housing tract, voted to restore driveway basketball to their community.
Once again, the sound of the bouncing ball will ring through this otherwise quiet cluster of beige-and-yellow homes, situated just off Interstate 5.
To play or not to play had become the issue in Stonegate. The homeowners association outlawed basketball hoops on homes. The residents cried foul, so the association's board of directors had to call for a special vote.
"It has been blown out of all proportion," said Rob Reiss, the board's president. "You'd think Singleton had been dropped off here." Reiss was referring to convicted mutilation-rapist Lawrence Singleton, the unwelcome parolee who is now living on the grounds of San Quentin prison by gubernatorial decree.
The dispute began three months ago after residents in 10 of the new tract's 250 homes had installed hoops. Neighbors soon complained about the noise and unsightly appearance.
"With the windows shut, with the TV turned all the way up, you can still hear that bang-bang-bang," resident Roger Mayer said at Thursday night's meeting. "And that's at 11 o'clock at night."
Citing Stonegate's regulations, the homeowners association ruled that basketball hoops were an illegal addition. The association offered to reimburse two residents who had purchased new backboards and hoops for their homes. The basketball-playing residents refused to take down their hoops, thus, the meeting.
About 150 residents crowded into Stonegate's recreation center for the crucial vote, which, ironically, coincided with Game 2 of the Lakers-Celtics NBA championship series. Debate at the meeting was heated--and one-sided.
When the ballots were counted, the pro-hoops faction won by an almost 4-to-1 margin. Again, there were cheers from the crowd.
To appease those who had complained it informally was agreed that ballplaying would be limited to "reasonable" hours.
On a large-screen television in the next room, the Lakers were finishing a 141-122 beating of the Celtics. It had been a decidely upbeat night for basketball in Los Angeles County.
As the Stonegate residents filed out of the recreation center, one man raised his fist.
"Let's go play ball!"