March madness rivalry not just for college hoops

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

March 09, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

THIS IS a time when basketball rivalry makes headlines at all levels of the sport. Playoffs -- ah, the madness of March.

Whatever your interest in hoops, though, you've probably missed a rivalry budding right here in Howard County. It's Wheatfields vs. Lynwood, teams drawn from two subdivisions with a state road in common, although, to be honest, this isn't exactly the stuff of Tobacco Road.

"They've got a guy who's something like 6 foot 7 and another guy named Juan who's their whole team, really."

Not what you'd call high-quality trash talk, either, but it's what's emanating these days from the Lynwood side when the subject of playing Wheatfields comes up.

What we're writing about, by the way, is men's over-30 basketball under the auspices of the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks. A dozen teams divided into two divisions for competitive balance just finished their winter season and will begin playoffs this week -- one loss, and you're out.

"We're all Maryland fans. They're just a bunch of `'Hoos.' They were better in the fall season, but I think they're last this winter."

Half-truth, really, this crack from the Wheatfield side -- co-winner (6-2 record) of Division 1. Co-cellar dweller Lynbrook (2-6), when you seek the truth, actually fields two University of Virginia alumni, which isn't really a "bunch," although its uniforms are Wahoo orange and blue.

OK, so this is one real low-profile rivalry. But the building battle for bragging rights along Montgomery Road also is a nice snapshot of why people of modest but ardent athletic prowess pursue games.

"It's a chance to get out of the house," said Dave Archer, 33, a pension consultant and newcomer to Lynwood, and its manager. "One of our guys said that Tuesday nights [when games are played] are like a weekend for him. ... We've all known one another for years, and we all have young kids. It's fun to play the game and then have a beer or two."

Said Mike Sneller, 39, a spokesman for the older, more experienced Wheatfields side, which has been together seven years but just began playing over-30 ball in the fall: "It's a lot of fun. The guys aren't great, the floors we play on are slippery, but it's low-key. And afterward, we like going to Pizzeria Uno for a beer. We take one booth and [Lynbrook] sits next to us, and we shoot the [breeze]."

Troublesome rivals? Not at all, said Bill Reed, general manager of the Long Gate Center pizza restaurant. "They're Tuesday-night regulars. We know they're basketball teams, but they've never made a big deal about it."

But there's one other element lurking around basketball, Montgomery Road-style: Both Wheatfields and Lynbrook hear footsteps of a third rival, Elkridge Motors. No spokesman for Motors could be located, but it's entering the playoffs with a league-best 7-1 record.

Along the sidelines

SNOW CASUALTY: The Department of Recreation and Parks lost a small, vacant warehouse on a small piece of property that one day might become a neighborhood park on the Howard County side of the Patapsco River in Sykesville.

The one-story, metal-sided building, totaling about 10,000 square feet, collapsed from heavy snow last month.

"It looked like someone dropped a huge rock on it," said rec and parks chief Gary J. Arthur.

John Byrd, the department's parks director, said the warehouse was erected in the 1960s or early 1970s and was last used by an aluminum storm-door maker. Locked since the department bought it about a decade ago, the building was worth less than $250,000, he said.

Two other vacant buildings on the roughly 10-acre Tisano property, or as it's being carried in department planning documents, "north-central neighborhood park," escaped damage. Both have local historic value, Byrd said, but the warehouse did not. When an insurance settlement is reached, the wreckage will be cleared.

WALKING: A year-round volksmarch -- a typically 6.2-mile hike that can be done anytime along a discreetly marked trail -- planned by the Freestate Happy Wanderers Volksmarch Club for Brighton Dam and Triadelphia Reservoir this year has been shelved.

"We were denied permission to use the trails because of the world situation," the club's Bill Hassell, is quoted as saying in the Columbia Volksmarch Club's newsletter.

Want to get someone, or some team, involved in spring sports into The Sun? Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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