Last night I did something brave – I played in a church basketball game.
Last night after the game Super Mom told me that it was not a brave thing that I did but rather something bordering on insanity. I think wives and mothers all hold the opinion that it takes more courage to stay away from church ball than it does to be a willing participant.
Many of us for many years treated church ball as a blood sport and a stepping stone to the NBA even though the former is far truer than the later. A lot of blood has been lost in church ball, never has anyone made the jump from the local church gym to the Los Angeles Lakers roster. It is an unfortunate irony that our church leaders implemented the church basketball program to fellowship and build camaraderie among its members but anyone who has played church ball knows that it has probably chased away more members than it has helped to retain.
People take it too seriously, especially people who think that winning the church basketball tournament is something to brag about.
“Hey! Did you see me steal the ball from that guy with a limp, drive the court and shoot over that severely overweight father of ten?”
“Yeah, that was awesome Jim. You’re the man!”
In church ball there are a disproportionate number of guys who think that since its church ball we are all going to magically stop cheating, play fair and act like the prayer we say before the game is going to make a difference once we start gouging eyes, scratching like cats and yapping like little children in the nursery.
“That was a foul you blind, stupid #@$&%$!# ref!”
“I didn’t see it so let’s play on dad and shut your #$@%!^ mouth or I’ll call a technical foul on you!”
I have heard every kind of colorful (and distasteful) language, every justification for bad behavior, every type of antagonistic, hostile and unfriendly aggression known to man within the hallowed walls of the church and most of that misbehavior was committed by me – the natural born instigator.
Sadly I did not find my behavior distasteful and repulsive until a few years ago when I finally swore that I would never play another game of church basketball after a particularly nasty altercation between two teams. I was actually sitting in the peanut gallery when the exchange took place (imagine that, something that I didn’t start). As I sat there listening to and watching the fracas I wondered, ‘Is that what it looks like when I’m being a total jerk out there? Is that what it feels like to be “losing my religion” every time I’m on the court?’
After that display of unsportsmanlike conduct, I gathered up my belongings, exited the building, drove home in a daze and solemnly hung up my church ball boots for a time.
It was a good five years before I broke my oath to never play a game of church ball again. When I finally accepted the invitation to play I had moved to a new city (Lehi, UT) and my timidity was due in part to a gaggle of new faces and a hypersensitivity to the realities of the game that had passed me by. Would the experience be different now that I was in a different town? Had any changes occurred in the attitudes of the players since the last time I donned a cheap jersey and ill-fitting short-shorts?
Dejectedly, I soon realized that nothing had changed except the location and the faces. There were still flare-up’s, foul language and yes all the hacking, pushing and sweaty slapping hands that still made my blood boil. So I hung them up for another two years until last night.
Last night I found that I actually enjoyed the experience – a lot. It was baffling but I had a great time. Why? Well, maybe it had to do with the fact that I was playing with a group of guys who are u;tra competitive but who also accept defeat when you have done your best and you lose to a team that has given their all without trying to rip your skin off your chest when you’re going for a loose ball or try to scalp you every time you come down with a rebound.
Maybe I enjoyed it because I was so oxygen-deprived that I was light headed and all I was really concerned with throughout the game was making it to the final buzzer so that I could collapse from exhaustion. Or maybe it’s because one can’t help but have fun when you’re real goal is not to beat the team you’re playing but to try and make it up and down the court one more time. I can’t really run, jump or shoot anymore so really I’m battling myself for 40 minutes (and the hour after the game when I can finally breathe another breath without feeling like my lungs are being kicked by a kangaroo).
Or, maybe I’m just learning in my old age that I’m actually enjoying church ball more because I’m doing it for the purpose that it was intended: to build a camaraderie and a friendship with the guys whom I call ‘Brother’ every day of the week.
Whatever the reason I think I’m going to brave again next Tuesday. I know, I’m insane.