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Church-Ball Show-Down

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Utah… the home of the mountains, Utah Drivers, and of the Mormons. I had never really disliked mormons all that much. I knew a surprising amount for living in California and none bothered me very much. They were just there. But my view on Mormons changed when I moved to Southern Utah.


* * * * * * * *


Complaining to my mother loudly from the backseat of our car, “Please kill me. Why are there only red rocks in this stupid state. I thought people said that it’s pretty. Red rocks are cool, for about the first 300 you see.”
Really how is this humanly possible to have so much color and yet still be dull as rocks?! As usual, my mom rolled her eyes, I assume, and just ignored my complaints.


After the 10 hour and 53 minute drive, (24 minutes longer than google said). We made it to Hurricane Utah. “Great, more dead shrubbery and red rocks.” My new home, a small four bedroom 2,100 square footage house, was located at an end of Redrock Circle.


My dad and I started the tedious job on unloading the moving van while my mother directed us where to put the 3 million boxes. I kid you not, 23 minutes to pulling the moving van in driveway, we had a group of 17 men and teens all claiming to be our neighbors and wanting to help. The apparent leader of the group came up and started talking to my father.


“Hi there, Im  tha Bishop of tha Red Rock second ward here in Huri-can. I gathered some of tha other ward members ta help y’all move in.”


Who the heck are these people I thought; my dad was smarter though because he let them help, turning the five-ever job into a quick and simple three hour job.


* * * * * * * *
A few months past and I noticed that the mormons were kinda cool. The got to leave school for a period to go to church school, or seminary. I made a really good friend named Trey, and you guessed it, he was Mormon. He lived two doors down for me and would occasionally invite me to a church activity of another. As dull as the state of Utah, we had some, well, interesting adventures: Almost burning my house down with ping pong balls, (yes they are flammable). Getting chased by a dude, who was high on some crap, throwing ice at us. And ordering 400 chicken nuggets. All while I tried to not get absorbed into the mormon culture. Alas…


“Oh my gosh dude, I didn’ know you were so good at baska-ball. You should come play with me and some kids from the neighborhood.”


“Sure, tell me a time and place and I’ll be there.


“It’ll be at 8:30 at nigh’ at tha church down tha stree’ from our homes.”


Uh Oh I thought, anything at the church couldn’t be that good.


That night, I showed up at the church expecting to find all our friends in the missionary white shirt and tie, but they were in basketball shorts and sometimes really nice shoes. We played for about two hours and we had tons of fun. I went every wednesday  in october and november.


In December, I found out about the dreaded church-ball tournament. Trey told me “our” (*his) ward, (the people that go to his church in our neighborhood) was notorious for losing in the stake, (a group of wards). Trey kept insisting this year was our year.


We adjusted our playing from weekly to three time a week and we got a coach, and man from the ward, Pete. We worked and worked, day after day and shower after shower.


In January, the tournament finally started. “Beep-eep-eep-eep, beep-eep-eep-eep, beep-eep-eep-eep, beep-eep-eep-eep SMACK. 7:30 is too early for any human being,” I moaned to myself. With my zombie walk, I stumbled into the kitchen following the smell of maple syrup.


“Good morning, you excited for the big game today?”


“I would say yes, but Mom, really, it's too early for the living”


“Haha, well I hope that you join the world of the living or you might get benched the whole game.” She said while stacking my plate miles high with the perfect golden brown pancakes.


After eating, I gathered my gear and left. “Bye Mom, love ya.”


We crushed the other team. Our team was literally hypnotizing. Back and forth and back and forth. The ball moved from our hands faster than our brains could react: it was all muscle memory. Shot, shot, shot, and again, shot. The final score was 54-11. Pete was almost crying tears of joy.


“Way to work it team. Shakes on me!”


* * * * * * * *


The next four games played out exactly like the first one. We made it to the play-offs with no loses, but the other team only lost once. Once again, my alarm went off at 7:30 in the morning, I dragged myself to the kitchen and had the lovely mother son banter with my mother as I ate her magic pancakes.


Trey and I got to the church a little bit earlier than usual, to get a head start on warm ups. About five minutes into HORSE, the other team walked in.


“Holy crap, they mus’ be taller than the good ol’ rockies.”


Trey was right. All eight people on their team towered at a minimum of six feet. Trey, our star-player, was only a surprising five seven. “I don’t know how we can pull this game of.” he muttered.


Each of our teammates had the same look of surprise and defeat when they saw the other team warming up.
“There’s no way in heck that we’ll win. They gonna crush us like beadles.”


“What in tarnations are giants doing in da church.”


“Question: Iz id legal ta step over people?”


Whistle, “Gather round everyone. Com-on hurry up. This is our last game b’fore we make it ta the regional games. I know tha other team looks tall, but yall know the sayin’, ‘The taller they are, the harder they gonna fall.’ We just got keep them on their toes.. And make e’ery sho’ so they have no chance ad an rebound.”
The game started. Unsurprisingly, they got the tip off, but it soon became clear that they we as clumsy as tall. They were like the Slytherin team. Only picked for their size and not skill. (Nerdy, I know). Once we started winning in the second quarter, the match got dirty.


“Com’on ref, that was obviously the biggest push i’vd ever seen. My wife didn’ push that hard givin’ birth ta my oldest.” Yelled Pete. The game continued on like this till the fourth quarter when the score was 36-34, our team losing.


“Timeout...TIMEOUT ref. Okay team. We’re almost there. We need one more basket for us to tie, and I know from there we can win in overtime.”


“Can we juzs be done. I’m more bruised than tha apple I’vd played baseball with” Trey whined. “I don’t know if we can win. This other team is just too dirty and the refs to blind”


“NO. NO, NO, NO. I know thad we are tha bes’ team our stake got’. We CANNOT let these darn, dirtied cheaters go ta regions. Be like the wind: swift, fierce, wild and break their knees.”


We started with the ball. I passed in to Trey,  with only 15 seconds left on the clock. We passed it back and forth, back and forth,
“GIVE and GO. Yeah jusz like we practiced” yelled Pete.


“Three….two….one” I shot the ball, just out from the three point line and scored a three.


I don’t think I’ve seen such celebration from any teenagers in my entire life. Our coach was so ecstatic that anybody un-informed would think he belonged in Arkham Asylum. My Mom was so proud that her son shot the buzzer beater, that she made my favorite dinner, Chicken Croissant sandwiches.


* * * * * * * *
We made it to regionals where, I assume, we would play the best team from the stakes all around. We played and played. I didn’t know that Mormons could and would be so passionate about a bit of basketball. We won our first three games meaning that we would make it to the semifinals.


The second Saturday in February, Trey invited me to a region dance, whatever that was. He told me it started at seven and I need “Church clothes”, like a white shirt and tie. I scrounged something up from my dad’s closet.


At the dance, I saw lots of desperate looking teens, both boys and girls. “I hope I don’’t look like any of these nerds.”


“Dude, you savage.”


I mostly hung around the refreshment table, watching in confusion as most people danced the lame line dances. “How and why do they even know how to dan-” I was cut off by Trey before I could finish asking my perfectly reasonable question
“Dude, DUDUDUDUDE, look ad my seven o’clock.”


Looking past Trey’s shoulder I saw her….DANG. She is something fine looking if I do say so myself. In my head I named her Eye-Cand;. Her hair was loosely curled, cascading down her back. Her eyes, looking sharp, complimented her whole face.


“Hey, I’m gonna ask her ta dance with me tha next slow dance”


I thought Trey was crazy since, I didn’t think that anyone could have even approached her without dying of anxiety, but I told Trey, “Go for it dude. If anyone deserves Eye Candy, it’s you”


We waited for a slow song, and waited and waited, all while we awkwardly follow-stalked her.  His chance appeared when the DJ announced that the next song was a slow song: boy’s choice. He started towards her, but lost his opportunity just as fast when another dude almost apperated, (yes, I know you think of Harry Potter too much), at her side and asked her to dance. He looked up and Trey and I, and gave us his face of triumph: I realized that he knew Trey wanted that dance.


We must have waited for an hour for another slow dance so Trey could dance with Eye-Candy. At 9:55, the DJ announced that the last dance is a slow dance, boys or girls choice. Without wasting time, Trey jumped into action. Being only a few feet away I could hear them conversing...


“Hey, names Trey”


“Olivia”


“Wha-do you like ta do?”


“I absolutely love basketball. My dad is actually a ref fer tha region's church ball and I like ta go watch the games”


“Ohh really? As a madder of fact, my team is…


Trey’s voice suddenly cut off when a cute-ish girl asked me to dance. I wanted to decline, but the look in her eyes told me that I really shouldn’t. Not being rude, I danced with her, and talked to her, missing the rest of the conversation.


After that song, Trey and I drove on our way home.


“We have to make it to the Finals dude. Olivia said that she would be there, and not ta boast, but when she sees me play, it’ll absolutely woo her.


* * * * * * * *


In the semi-finals, we demolished the team 60-28, well.. Trey demolished the team. I haven't realized how great Trey was until I saw him play with proper motivation.


Pete gathered us, “We made it. I can’t believe we actually made it.”


“Wow thanks for the confidence boost.” I sarcasm-ed


“I think this may be tha firs’ time thad the Red Rock second ward has ever made id to the finals. The Final game is next saturday, nine o’clock sharp. I wanna see the best from all y’all so get lots of sleep and ead the best breakfast humanly possible.”


“Beep-eep-eep-eep, beep-eep-eep-eep, beep-eep-eep-eep, beep-eep-eep-eep smack.” My early saturday morning routine started again. Just like usual, I ate my mother’s pancakes, the best breakfast known to the human race, and rushed out the door to catch my ride. Driving to the small obscure church to play in the finals, I could see the wind terrorizing trees and encouraging a storm to blow.


The tension in the air was so tangible, I think that I could have carved out a piece. Trey was eagerly searching the audience for Ms. Eye-Candy. Before I knew it, the game had started. Most of it seemed like a whirlwind of senses. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 16-7. How were we losing? We played so well last week in the play-offs!


While the coach was lecturing something about defense, I was searching the audience; I realized the reason we were losing. Olivia wasn’t there. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap. Trey didn’t feel like he had a reason to win. I was about to talk to him when the doors blew open. I could sense a lightness coming from the door. It was Olivia. Yes, yes, yes. We have this game in the ba- no, No, NO. The lightness from Olivia was dimmed by a darker presence. The one douche from the region dance walked in behind Olivia talking to her... and making her laugh.


“Hey Trey, over here.” I tried to pull his attention away from the door, afraid that the awful sight would fully crush him, along with any hope of winning the final. It was too late; the damage was already done. To make matter worse, Mr. Douche walked up to the other team, taking off his jacket, revealing a jersey underneath.
Whistle: The second quarter started. Eye-Candy-thief, was point guard, just like Trey. I don’t think that I have ever seen so much legal aggression from two players. Jordan was his name and he and Trey competed at everything at every turn, sweating, running, and shooting. Half time was called and the score was amazingly 22-20.


I was worried about Trey. He and Jordan seemed to be pushing the rules to the brink of destruction. I knew that they were playing too aggressive, and one faulty move would mean ejection.


“Trey dude. You have to calm down. You need to stop with the aggression.”


“Wha- what aggression?” Trey asked though winded breathes.


“If you get ejected, we will lose the game and I have come way too far just to lose.”


He assured me that he would pull back, but I didn’t fully believe him. Proving my suspicion, the third and most of fourth quarter played out like the second. 15 seconds left on the clock and we were somehow tied at 45. What happened next, nobody knows for sure. Jordan was trying to dribble around Trey, and then Trey stole the ball, and tried to get around Jordan. Jordan stole the ball back, I think, and boom. Huge tangle of mess and both Trey and Jordan were flat on their backs. I don’t know what the refs were thinking, but they called a double offensive foul on Trey and Jordan, giving both of them two free throws, ending with Trey, since he might have had the ball last.


Jordan, up at the line, bounces the ball three times and shoots. Swish. The ball might as well floated through the basket. As Jordan prepares for the next shoot, he bounces the ball three times, adjusts his feet, and shoots. Another flawless shot, and there were only two and a half seconds on the board. Whistle.


“There’s no way that Jordan could get another shot.”


Jordan stepped over the free throw line, voiding his last shot. I couldn’t believe it. We actually now had a chance.


Trey is up to shoot. He dribbles two times, and shoots. The ball goes around and around and around the rim, on the top, and… falls...in the hoop. The crowd cheers, because the game is now tied and this last shot will determine the winners. Trey dribbles and shoots, and… miss. The shrill whistle interrupts the ‘Ohhs and the Ahhs’ in the crowd.


“Light player six will get a reshot due to the fact darkplayer 34 crossed the line into the key.”
For those who don’t know basketball, on a freethrow, the shooter stands at the freethrow line above the key. The sides of the key are divided up into 3 sections on each side, where other players will stand waiting for the rebound. If one of the waiting players steps into the key, the shoot gets a reshoot because his “concentration” was disturbed by another player.


This was our chance to win. All Trey had to do was make literally the most important shot in his, and my, life.
The crowd becomes silent as Trey lines up to shoot. So silent that I thought I could hear Trey’s heart beating in his chest. If he won this game, he wins over Olivia.


The ball leaves Trey’s hand. His follow though is perfect. The ball’s arch is perfect. The spin of the ball is perfect. As the ball gets closer and closer, time slows and slows. And…. Swish.
The silence is stayed by half a second then the crowd erupts into absolute chaos of cheers. I couldn’t believe it. We won. We actually won and it was all thanks to Olivia.


* * * * * * * *


After the game, Trey and I find Olivia to talk to her. Trey won the game along with Olivia.


“Wow that was some really nice playing you two”


“Thanks, I was stressed the entire game. But I think Trey is the real hero here.”


“Trey, that last shot was amazing. I think I wanna play you one v one sometime. Here’s my number. Text me when you’re available.”


I made up the excuse of getting water to leave these two lovebirds alone. As I walk away I see Trey and Oliva excitedly talk about the game, I assume due to the actions. I can’t believe how involved the Mormon culture I’ve become. I tried to avoid it, but hey, if that’s what happens, that’s what happens. I guess getting involved other cultures can be good for me, except when I’m forced to eat green-jello with cheese, nuts and vegetables in it.


As I walk back, I see Olivia do the ‘I like, flirty, you push”. Good for him I think to myself. As I get closer I hear the words,
“We are so similar. I’m so glad we are friends. I already kinda think of ya as my brother.”


Olivia walked away leaving Trey so very, very deep in the dreaded Friend-Zone...




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