When you walk through the gates of the Goodman League, peoples' eyes are glued on the basketball players as they rush back and forth on the court, sweaty and tattooed. But there's plenty of other activity going on at the games located in the Southeast neighborhood of Barry Farm. There's quick-witted announcing by league commissioner, Miles Rawls, bleachers full of fans from all over the city and region and the smell of frying fish.
There's another presence at the game you may not expect. Along the midline of the court, three women, sometimes four, sit for nearly every game, in foldout canvas chairs.
They are called the First Ladies. Tangie Travers, of Hyattsville, Md., explains, "It's a respected name, and it came from coming to the games and showing support and showing love."
The women sit among other devoted fans affectionately called the "Season Ticket Holders" (although tickets are not actually required for the game). There are games six nights a week from June until September, and the First Ladies come to almost every single one.
Sometimes the First Ladies travel with the Goodman League teams as they play. Players include teenagers, college players and enthusiastic basketball players as old as 40.
One 47-year-old player called "Show Time" plays on the team, BF Crazies. "I am the smallest guy in the league, but the most effective guy. When you come to see me play, I give you what you're looking for."
The league's reputation for rowdy fans and serious competition attracts NBA players — Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant often returns to his hometown to play in the league — and former players who have since moved on from the League.
On a few occasions, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined the game. "I grew up playing summer leagues in Chicago," says Duncan. "This is great to be able to do the same thing here. Good ball, lot of fun, good break from day to day work."
[Music: "Nike Basketball Freestyle Remix" by afrika bambaataa & hydarulic funk (Album unknown) / "Auld Lang Syne" by Billy Vaughn from Passport Audio on Christmas Songs]