Neighbor kids playing basketball in the driveway? Call the police.
It says here in the newspaper that, fi-nally, city councils are doing something about all those unsightly neighbor-hood basketball hoops. Civic bodies far and wide are passing laws prohibiting the erection of basketball hoops, ordering their confiscation, and fining their owners.

I say, it’s about time.

One reason given by supporters of the ban on hoops is neighborhood aesthetics.

“We have a beautiful community,” one guy was quoted in an article I read, “and we want to maintain our curb standards.”

Hear, hear! Let us all stand up for curb standards.

Basketball hoops are a blot upon the assiduously manicured landscape.

I’m thinking, in fact, of reporting the neighbor. Some time ago, before we moved into the area, he erected a basketball hoop. Can you believe it!?

I don’t know who the guy thinks he is.

If it was an artistic statement — some kind of post-modern Norman Rockwell art piece, Nostalgia in 3-D: When Kids Played in the Neighborhood and Nobody Cared — then fine.

But it’s not. Kids actually go out and use the thing. You can see them, right there in broad daylight, dribbling to the basket, taking three-pointers, you name it.

My neighbor’s hoop overhangs an alley beside our house, which means that kids from throughout the neighborhood can come and play. Play! Right … right … there. In public, of all places.

I tell you, some people.

Oh, and did I mention that the alley is paved? That’s right. Paved. It’s not some dusty dirt lane or potholed gravel trail. It is a paved public thoroughfare.

Not that its condition should make any difference, really. I don’t want to be snobby about this. A public thoroughfare is a public thoroughfare and standards are standards. No one should put a basketball hoop even on a grungy back alley because, quite frankly, what is public is public, period. But this just so happens to be a particularly nice alley. Wide. Clean. More of a street, really. As alleys go, if it were a store, it would be Saks Fifth Avenue.

Which makes the hoop that much more offensive. Not to mention that every three or four days, a car comes rolling up that alley. Heck, a kid would have to constantly be on the lookout for all that traffic and, once he spotted a vehicle coming, have to actually take as many as seven unhurried steps to get out of the way.

The problem goes beyond basketball hoops. Hoops are, of course, ugly. But the problem goes deeper, to what the hoops attract: Kids. Playing! Right there in public!

What is wrong with kids playing in the neighborhood, someone might ask. The answer is so obvious it pains me to have to point it out. But I will: Kids devalue housing prices.

You see, a neighborhood is not a playground. It may have playgrounds. But it is not one itself. No, a neighborhood is, first and foremost, a place where houses are bought and sold and the value of those houses must be protected at all costs. Orderliness is essential to that protection.

Kids, on the other hand, are unruly and loud. By definition, then, they devalue the neighborhood. Ergo, kids should be erased from the sightlines and acoustics of the neighborhood.

Oh, sure, long ago, neighborhoods were considered areas where kids not only could play, but were expected to do so, right there in front of the houses until dark when they were called to dinner and came reluctantly. Neighbors back then actually knew each other’s names, visited in each other’s homes, and came to see themselves as part of each other’s lives. Kids playing on the street was regarded, when regarded at all given how natural it was, as part and parcel of that lively neighborhood life.

How unenlightened, huh?

Which is why leaders in local jurisdictions are busying themselves not just with outlawing basketball hoops but banning street games altogether. Think I’m joking? Think again. Police in these jurisdictions have been called upon to break up a variety of street games, from football to street hockey. It’s all right there in the police logs.

Personally, I can think of no better expenditure of my tax dollars than summoning police officers to put a stop to three- on-three touch football games. I’m sure you agree.

Curb standards. Words to live by, as far as I’m concerned.

This isn’t the 1950s, after all. Or the ’60s, ’70s, or even ’80s. This is the 21st century. And in the 21st century, our kids are to be neither seen nor heard. If they want to play, they can do so where these things are done. Private athletic clubs.

A friend characterized the impulse to ban street games as springing from “a post-neutron bomb aesthetic.” She meant that neighborhoods, particularly middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods, were no longer the places for all that messy interaction of daily living, with neighbors strolling, exchanging recipes, getting involved in one another’s lives. Neighborhoods nowadays aspire to a gated (literally and figuratively) tidiness where all the messiness of real life is kept in its place, such as on TV and on the Internet.

I shudder when I recall those misspent hours of my childhood, playing stickball. We’d choose teams, make our own rules, and try to hit a rubber ball with a broomstick handle.

Can you imagine!? We’re talking a game with virtually no designer athletic clothing to purchase, no exorbitantly priced sneakers, no equipment to buy. Looking back, I see that it was downright unpatriotic, us kids not caring a whit about the economy like that. If stickball was unpatriotic, the other games were downright subversive. Touch football didn’t even require a stick. Just a ball. Same with stoopball, which involved hurling a tennis ball against some steps and your friend trying to catch it when it bounced up into the air.

And where did we get off making up rules? Rules are meant to be imposed. That we thought we could do something on our own that might teach us how to solve problems and negotiate with one another, why, that is just the height of childhood anarchy.

Finally, that we would play in the street, like millions of other kids all across the country — what were we thinking!? We weren’t thinking, obviously. We were just hooligans, really, young whippersnappers who didn’t care enough about our futures to protect the property values of our neighborhoods. Did we pay heed to curb standards? No, we didn’t. We just went out and had fun, right there in the neighborhood, where we actually got to know not only the other kids on the block, but their families, too.

Thank goodness the guardians of all that is restrictive are finally coming to power.

Me, I’m getting on the phone right now. “Hello, police? I’d like to report a rogue basketball hoop.”

There. I feel better. AW