Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.

FIGHT THE STIGMA!

FIGHT THE STIGMA!
Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Apr 16, 2012

How Sports Taught Liddonfield Boys a Life Lesson


by Nick Cataldi 

You'd be hard pressed to find someone in the Liddonfield housing project who didn't enjoy playing and watching sports in even the smallest sense. For the most part we all were very much involved. Whether playing, watching or discussing it, sports was part of the fabric that made the project and us, go 'round.  Discussions about sports rarely got heated. Disagreements were usually handled peacefully. The actual games, for the most part, were played without incident but every now and then could produce some ill feelings. Nobody took losing well and the cause of the loss may find himself out of the loop sometimes, if only temporarily.  Maybe he would redeem himself the next time around. There were no ref's or umpires, so naturally there would be disagreements about some things. As mentioned above, disagreements were generally handled peacefully, but every now and then in the course of a game, tempers could flare.  The occasional fight would “resolve the issue about who was right." Not the best message in life, but it's what we knew. 

I was to learn about another problem sports could produce; gambling, or moreover, gambling, losing and having no money to pay off with!  That brings me to the story of Bill and Jerry.  They were somewhat older than I was. Bill, who was probably the toughest guy for miles around, was 21 and had done a short jolt in prison. While pleasant most of the time, Bill was a greatly feared fighter and had a temper.  He was short, well built and also a very good all-around athlete. He had played some semi-pro football.  Jerry was a few years younger and not as gifted physically, but a pretty good athlete in his own right (though not as good as he saw himself.) 

One evening, I stood by the basketball court with my friends, Ricky and Norman.  We were talking with each other while Bill and Jerry shot baskets.  Bill said with a certain disdain, “This is a game I just can't get interested in."

I thought that was a rather odd statement. Bill was a fairly good player. Jerry must've thought otherwise.  He challenged Bill to a friendly game of one-on-one with the loser having to pay.  The stakes? A Whole Quarter!  A foolish bet I thought; even if Jerry was to win, Bill probably wouldn't have paid up the lousy quarter and what to do about it?  Nothing! Jerry and Bill were about the same height, but Bill had a bigger build and was much stronger. He drove in on Jerry, bullied him out of the way and won the game easily.

Afterwards, Jerry told him he'd pay him later and it was with that Bill went crazy. Bill enjoyed another sport that was gaining popularity in the project, though Bill had been doing it for years - drinking!  What had transpired here was that Bill was figuring on this for his beer take and Jerry was welching, as far as he was concerned.  

Bill was yelling and took menacing steps toward Jerry. It was scary stuff. All this over a quarter, I thought.  I wondered why Jerry would put himself in harm's way over a quarter. Bill was over-reacting and the irony was that had he lost, Jerry would've gotten nothing and could do nothing about it! Jerry walked away slowly, looking embarrassed.  Ricky was thrilled because Jerry had been known to bully him from time to time. Not only had Jerry lost the game, but he'd been made to feel something of the fear he put onto someone else smaller and younger. Ricky walked over to Bill and said, "Man, I'm glad you did that.”

Bill seemed to hear him but all he said about it was, “I hate that s.....!"  You see, sports weren’t always about the outcome of the game.  Sometimes it was about the outcome of life's many situations.  

Nick is a broadcaster for WBCB1490 AM in Levittown.  Join Nick Sunday - Thursday on The OverNight Ride!!! 12:05 am - 5:30 am.  You can also check out Nick's Facebook Page and his thoughts of the day on Facebook's RIP Liddonfield.

OTHER STORIES BY NICK CATALDI:

Read Nick's story about how basketball helped fatherless boys in the project.  Click on the link below.


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