The calendar may indicate it's time to hail the Redskins, but for attorney Harold Jordan and a group of otherwise strait-laced Washington professionals it's basketball season year-round.
Every Saturday for the past seven years, rain or shine, Jordan and a dozen or so of his lawyer, doctor, banker and government worker pals shed their pinstripes and Bally loafers, forget about their jobs and gather on a tree-lined playground at Palisades Recreational Center in Northwest to play basketball.
Although they could easily afford to join a chic health spa, these hard-core weekend warriors opt instead for a good three-hour, run-and-sweat, full court game.
"This is heaven," says Jordan, a key organizer of the weekend basketball gatherings.
"You can exert yourself much more on a basketball court than you can playing tennis or golf," says Steve Morrison, a budget analyst for the Department of Commerce, who has been known to clean snow off the court in order to play during the winter. "Besides, my wife loves to get me out of the house."
The only official reason for canceling the game is when the temperature drops below 35 degrees.
Dick Fritsch, a psychotherapist who helped start the weekend games with a group of Georgetown University doctors in 1979, calls Saturday basketball "male bonding in the '80s" and says the athletic confrontations provide a healthy outlet for aggression.
Others explain their devotion in simpler terms.
"I know I'm too short, too slow and don't have any talent," says Russell Kincaid, an International Monetary Fund economist. "But other than that, I love the game."
In a musty gymnasium across town, members of the Saturday Club, a group of Washington's movers and shakers, also play out their once youthful fantasies of basketball stardom.
For the past 15 years, members of a 30-man roster that reads like Who's Who have met in the gym at Rabaut Junior High School in Northwest for a three-hour session of half-court basketball.
"A lot of the guys here have a passion for the game and it's a form of therapy," says Harold Bardonille, the city's recorder of deeds and unofficial club president. "It's the cheapest psychiatrist couch in town."
The club rents the gym for $5,000 a year; vacancies on the roster are rare.
Some of the other players include former city administrator Elijah Rogers; attorney and former secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander; Clifton Smith, secretary to the District of Columbia; WJLA-TV sales director Tony Washington; assistant to the deputy mayor for economic development Courtland Cox, and well-known attorney Vincent Cohen.
The Saturday Club has players who are 10 to 15 years older than Jordan's group, where most players are in their mid-thirties. Two of the club's regulars have celebrated their 50th birthdays since the gym gatherings began in 1970.
Although some of the heads are bald or gray, the play is as boisterous and competitive as any schoolyard game.
"It's a lot of fun and competition and it gives you a chance to get into some good arguments," said "Babe" Rogers, a diminutive offensive terror with a deadly jump shot. "We resolve all disputes in the city right here."
Saturday Club games are usually marked by arguments, and arguments are usually settled by "whoever argues the loudest," according to Smith.
Cohen, a former all-America who dresses for court play in white shorts, white sports shirt and gold jewelry, abruptly settled one recent shouting match over the score by pronouncing, "The score, gentlemen, is 10-6, 10-6."
When play resumed, Cox leaned in and batted away a running hook shot by Alexander.
On the next play, the 50-year-old Alexander redeemed himself by bounding across court to save an errant pass, tapping the ball behind his head to a teamate. "C'mon Cliff, this ain't TV," Bardonille joked, "Nobody's taking pictures."
"These are the people I generally deal with in social and business circles," said Cox, snapping sweat from his forehead after the game.
"But it goes beyond the basketball court. Most of us came up in the streets and we didn't have tennis and golf. It reminds us of when we were youngsters."