The 13th annual Gus Macker Basketball Tournament (The Only Game In
Town, SI, July 8, 1985) took place in the streets of Lowell, Mich.,
last weekend, and the most deft assist was Kent County circuit
court judge Robert Benson's. When a Macker neighbor asked on June 30
that the festival of three-on-three driveway hoops be chased from his
doorstep, Benson refused to grant a preliminary injunction, allowing
the tourney to forge ahead as usual.
The neighbor, Larry Isenhoff, still wants the basketball
bacchanalia moved away from his house, which sits adjacent to -- and
one six-foot-high fence away from -- the home of Dick and Bonnie
McNeal, whose 30-year-old son, Scott (a.k.a. Gus Macker), runs the
event. The McNeals argue that the Macker would lose its charm if
altered from its takin'-it-to-the-stree ts format. Isenhoff counters
by insisting that, if it stays, he'll lose his mind. ''The sound of
a basketball dribbling,'' he says, ''is as irritating as a dripping
faucet. Drip, drip, drip.''
Isenhoff, who'll fully air his case before Benson later this year,
claims that the tournament, which drew 4,228 players this year,
violates zoning laws and has become a public nuisance. And at an open
hearing several years ago, he said he didn't like ''seeing all these
blacks playing'' in front of his house. Pressed on that point as he
gave a deposition last month, he added that blacks ''bring
problems.'' In 1984 he told this reporter that he had, during one
Macker, found ''a spear chucker'' in his flower bed.
Fostering interracial goodwill is one of the tourney's goals. So
is shameless, harmless silliness. This year Macker organizers named
one of their 54 brackets the Gary Love Defender of Human Rights
Division, after the tourney's attorney in the Isenhoff case. And on
Saturday a Macker choral group, clad in cardigans, serenaded the
Isenhoffs with the theme song from the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
television show, Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Meanwhile, Isenhoff was seen scurrying about, taking notes,
snapping pictures and taking measurements, all to gather evidence, he
said, for the judge: ''He's the guy I've got to impress.''
MITCH KEZAR Isenhoff isn't on the fence about the Macker.