The Paunch League regulars, many stripped to their waists, some with more than a little gut hanging over their shorts, begin playing basketball promptly at 11 on Saturday and Sunday mornings on the Fairlington Glen condominium court to relive the days when they were a little faster and a little lighter.
The four-on-four games between these dozen or so middle-aged professionals are intense and fast, but crowded because they are limited to half-court -- not by the players' choice, but by a decision of the condo's board of directors. The board yanked down one of the backboards after residents complained that the informal league's games were too noisy and bothersome.
But the players have rebounded, filing suit against the board on Friday to get the backboard out of storage in the South Arlington condo's pool house and back on the court.
For the regulars, the court is an important place, where avowed basketball fanatics stuck behind desks all week can battle the ravages of sedentary living.
"When you get over 30 and don't play ball two, three times a week, it takes a toll," said 36-year-old Richard Cambareri, an oncologist and Paunch League regular. "The court was the reason I bought there in the first place," said Jack Floyd, 41, a computer systems analyst.
Floyd has many fond memories of the court, including the time he dunked a ball. It was a tennis ball -- he couldn't palm a basketball -- but it was a ball just the same. "The highlight of my life," he said.
But to Cindy Landvater and some other Fairlington Glen residents whose town houses border the court, the games are a source of noise and disorder in this outwardly placid village of neat brick town houses.
The dispute has simmered since the league was founded in 1975. Landvater took her complaints to the five-person board, which voted unanimously in February to end full-court basketball for at least two years.
The dispute took a more serious turn Friday when 11 regular players and supporters filed the class action lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court, charging that changes in public areas require the approval of 95 percent of the condominium's co-owners. Fairlington Glen, one of six condo villages in South Fairlington, has about 300 units. Attorney and league member Greg Murphy, 39, said a temporary injunction hearing is scheduled for Friday.
"We refuse to give up on this," said Bill Archey, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official and a charter member of the Paunch League, named for Archey's decidedly bulging belly.
Steve Halbrook, who chaired the board when the decision was made, defended the action. "If I believed we had acted illegally, I would have advised against it," said Halbrook. Added board member Greg Lukmire, "It's very clear in the bylaws that it is totally up to the judgment of the board of directors."
Both sides admit that a judge could rule either way, and they also agree on something else -- that the issue has long divided many Glen residents, especially those within earshot of the court.
"There's a long history of residents complaining about noise, and then players complaining about harassment," Lukmire said. "It's like Nixon, a series of things. This is an emotional issue, obviously."
Archey said that the league prohibits cursing and stressed that the players are sedate and middle-aged. "If they're too quick, we don't let them in," joked Archey, who is 43. Many players blame Landvater for the trouble, mournfully noting that Landvater bought her condo from a dedicated player.
Landvater declined to answer questions about the dispute but said in a statement that she is not the only resident bothered by noise and rowdy behavior. She added that the players complaining the loudest do not live in the Glen anymore. Floyd, Cambareri and Archey have moved from the complex but still own town houses there.
The question of residency has become key in this condominium war. "Fairlington Glen is the only village that even allows co-owners who aren't residents to use the facilities," said Lukmire, a 37-year-old architect. "The people who live there don't even use the facilities," Cambareri countered.
Some neighbors have complained that the players bring huge dogs to the court. This weekend, the only dog in evidence was an eight-week-old labrador the size of a deflated ball.
So for now, the residents pick sides and the players defiantly gather to play. It appears a judge will be the referee.