Classical Basketball

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“Classical Basketball,” Ensign, Sept. 1981, 47

Classical Basketball

My husband learned to appreciate classical music, I learned to like basketball.

I never knew how much Brian loved me until we had been married a year. It was then I learned that during our engagement he had given up playing on the church basketball team that season to be with me. Sports are to my husband what wheels are to a car. I couldn’t believe it when I found out he had given up basketball for ME!

Brian doesn’t miss basketball for anything. He would rather play basketball than eat, sleep, or celebrate Christmas. He had proven his loyalty to the ball and the net many times over. It was not unusual for him to work all night, rush home from his job, grab his ball and lunge out the door, pulled to the court like a tack to a magnet.

If a game was on television, it didn’t matter whether men were walking on the moon or a new president was being named on another channel. We watched the game. If a game was on during dinner we either ate in the living room or set a place for the TV.

Where did that leave me? Sitting on the bench. I hated sports. I didn’t understand them, so they bored me. I’d rather read a book any day. I had never been interested in athletes, and I had no athletic prowess myself—I had always been the last one picked for the kick-ball team in grade school. But here I was, married to a sports addict.

And Brian didn’t even try to be a good sport! He rarely read a book, and he turned up his nose at my classical music. Why should I take an interest in his sports when he didn’t take any interest in mine?

For a while I tolerated the situation, but nothing changed. At one point the thought of delivering an ultimatum crossed my mind, but I remembered the time my mother had forced father to miss a game to attend a concert with her.

Father had reluctantly agreed, donned his tux, and taken mother to the concert. They took their seats, the lights went out, the tapping of the conductor’s baton silenced the crowd. Soon the soft strains of the Moonlight Sonata filled the concert hall. Mother thought all was well until she heard the dreadful crackling voice of a sportscaster broadcasting the game. She thought something was wrong with the PA system until she saw heads turning one by one to glare at her and father. To her embarrassment, she found father engrossed not in Beethoven, but basketball. He had smuggled in a transistor radio under his overcoat and was contentedly listening to the game.

For me, the real test came when Brian was called to be the stake sports director. I didn’t want to become a basketball widow, so night after night I traipsed with him to games, a book tucked under my coat.

The change began with a time clock. I was just getting into Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, my mind far from the gym, when Brian came running breathlessly up the bleachers in a panic. He had forgotten to get a timekeeper. Would I keep time?

I just about panicked myself. I didn’t know how to keep time. I didn’t even know how long a quarter was. But I can recognize an emergency when I see one, so I watched the game that night, ran the clock, and blew the whistle. It was actually fun! The game even seemed a little bit interesting.

On the way home I asked my husband a few guarded questions and was amazed at his delight. He raved about how much fun it was to have me interested. The next game we went a little early and dribbled the ball around the court. I was hopeless as a guard, but I couldn’t believe the thrill I felt when, with his coaching, I made a basket.

One basket led to another and before I knew it, I actually was interested. I began to read a few articles and browse over the sports page. If Brian had to miss a game, I’d try to tune in and catch the score and a few plays. If he was home, we watched the games together. And I never stopped asking questions.

It was fun, I liked it, and what it did for our relationship was worth an eternity of soccer, basketball, baseball, football, or you-name-it-ball all rolled together. And as I began to share his interests, he opened up to mine. He would actually miss games if I wanted to do something else. He started to read, and one morning came home from work with his own copy of The Agony and the Ecstasy.

The real ecstasy came on our anniversary. As we drove home from lunch, I actually found myself saying, “Honey, let’s go home and watch the Indiana/DePaul game.” He grinned with glee; and after we watched the game together, we listened to the present he had given me—Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony.

It was another point scored for love. The channel-changing wars and arguments over books, balls, and music were over forever. We were both finally on the same team.

Photography by Eldon K. Linschoten