A late night game of basketball on one of the many lighted Washington area outdoor courts seemingly is an adventure all the time.
Shots that normally would swish through the net during the daytime or in a gymnasium sometimes bounce wickedly off the backboard because a shade of darkness has distracted the shooter's aim. Games that normally would be at a run-and gun pace are sometimes slowed.
But each summer, you can find the same groups at the same courts, dim lights or not.
Once, many of the area's summer basketball leagues were played on outdoor courts, with players using the leagues chiefly as a form of recreation. But now, summer leagues are seen more as a training ground for athletes who choose to play basketball year-round. That led to most summer leagues being moved to more optimum indoor conditions.
The Hobson League, played at Fleming and Maplewood parks in Bethesda, and the Chevy Chase League, played at a court on Livingston Street NW in the District, have remained dinosaurs -- summer leagues that still play outdoors.
"It's different shooting on outdoor courts as compared to indoor courts," said Wilbert Givens, a Montgomery County recreation specialist who played in the Hobson League for years. "You can't really judge because some shots that you don't think are going in, somehow go in. But you get a chance to sweat and enjoy the coolness."
There are other aspects that make outdoor basketball unique and still give it some charm.
"Every game is different," said Paul Leonard, who plays for Shoot The Wounded in the Hobson League's Maplewood Division. "It's hotter for the 6:30 games, so the lighting is great, but the 8:30 games are tough because the lighting is so bad. The ball comes out of nowhere and the referees miss a lot."
Leonard's Shoot The Wounded team has been in the Hobson League since 1982. Even though it is struggling this summer, the players will return for a ninth season next year because "we kind of have a habit of coming back," said Leonard.
Like Leonard's teammates, many of those playing in outdoor leagues have been doing so for more than a decade. But each league continues to attract enough younger players to give the leagues continuing life.
"We're trying to give the guys that get off at 5 or 6 in the evening the opportunity to play basketball," said Danny Meyer, co-commissioner of the Chevy Chase League along with Jimmy Speaks. "It's fun."
Inconsistent lighting, unexpected bounces off the hard top and rims that occasionally bend at odd angles are accepted parts of outdoor basketball.
"It's interesting," said Fred Chapman, player-coach for Squires in the Chevy Chase League. "The court isn't a long court, but you can't just take two passes and easily score."
There are other variables.
"Outdoors basketball is such an adventure," said Leonard. "If it rains a little bit, it might not be enough to cancel a game, but then, the court is slick and you really have to watch what you're doing."