Mr. Hoop Scores by Servicing the Mechanically Uninclined
Boston Sunday Herald
by Peter Gelzins

I tried. I really tried.

Even Mr. Hoop himself said I managed to make it further than most of the mechanically inept sad sack boomer parents he services through New England.

I joined Section A of the Porter “Jump Shot” portable/adjustable basketball hoop to Section B, exactly as shown on page 3 of the 11-page instruction manual.

Then I proceeded to line up all the proper hexagonal bolts, flathead washers and locknut screws required to connect Sections A and B to the gray plastic base, which I’d previously outfitted with a pair of red plastic wheels.

Then I took a hose, filled the base with 400 gallons of water and immediately discovered that this “portable” hoop was a great big lie. The wheels were props.

Like all the slaves who herniated themselves 3,000 years ago inching boulders into place for some pharoah’s tomb, I started to sweat and scream and swear.

“That’s not where I wanted it, Dad,” moaned the son, whose request for a net in the yard had finally been granted.

With a $3 siphon pump, it only took a few hours to bale out enough water to budge the base into the right location. I felt mildly triumphant . . . and only slightly herniated.

Then it took another three nights in the cellar, on my knees, assembling the adjustable backboard “super structure.” It seemed to correspond exactly to steps D through T in the instructions. I felt the tingle of accomplishment.

“Think you’ll be shooting hoops by tomorrow afternoon,” I informed my son.

“Really, Dad?” he asked, not believing me at all.

“Well, maybe,” I hedged.

A friend came over to assist in the next-to-last step of fixing pole Section C, and the backboard super structure to the base.

After this was done, both of us stepped back in the full scope of the pitiful mess hanging over our heads.

“What’s the matter with it, Dad?” my son asked. “How come it’s all loose and crooked like that?”

“Hate to say this,” my friend murmured, “but I think you better call the store. Just give it up. See if someone puts these things together.”

“No sir, we don’t do that ourselves,” the store clerk said. “But call this number.”

“Hi, you’ve reached Eric at Mr. Hoop. I’m not in the office, but you can leave a message at the beep or call me on my call phone at . . . 1- 800-Mr-Hoop.”

I have never tried to get the Secretary of Defense on the phone, but I can’t imagine his number could be any busier.

When I finally made contact on the phone, Eric Elofson, aka Mr. Hoop, was in his truck somewhere on the Connecticut border. Ten days later, Mr. Hoop was standing in my yard with the right ratchet wrenches, a carpenter’s level, 12-foot ladder, a sledgehammer and total certainty.

Inside 10 minutes, Mr. Hoop turned a mess into a backyard gym. “Don’t feel bad. The directions are very confusing,” Mr. Hoop told me. “I never use them.”

Take Paul Bunyon, sprinkle in hints of Robert Redford, and you’ve got Mr. Hoop. Eric Elofson went to UNH on a football scholarship and graduated with a business degree. Dad owned an electronics business. Eric’s course was pretty much set, until the fateful day he and some friends bought a hoop for the yard.

“Nobody wanted to put the thing up.” Elfoson recalled, “so I did. But just for the hell of it, I called the store. ‘If I didn’t know how to put this thing up,’ I said to them, ‘do you guys have anyone?’ They didn’t. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head.”

That was in [1989], and “Mr. Hoop” was born. Today, Elofson has contracts with MVP and Sports Authority chains throughout New England. Along with six employees, he installs between 35 and 65 in-ground and portable hoops every two days.

Couple [basketball] madness with overall yuppie helplessness and you’ve got a vacuum in which a booming business has taken flight. When the weather sours, Mr. Hoop goes indoors, assembling StairMasters and treadmills for a flabby universe.

The cell phone in Mr. Hoop’s back pocket barely stopped ringing. He took messages as he straightened out my life. Before leaving my yard, he spotted a battered Fisher-Price kiddie hoop. Mr. Hoop smiled.

“Whenever I see one of those,” he said, “I stop the truck, get out, and leave my card. I know they’ll be needing me in a couple of years.”