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Church Basketball: The Brawl That Begins With Prayer
by Ron Johnston
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I saw a shirt last week and thought it was pretty funny. It said "Church Basketball: The brawl that begins with prayer." Mormon Church basketball is an experience that is hard to understand unless you have witnessed it or participated in combat... I mean a game.

Way back--just before I was a teenager--I started playing Church Ball. I was one of the poor-sports that I am now writing about years later. The one and only reason I was a bad sport and lost my temper during the games is that I was a lousy player.

I played on the Morgan 2nd Ward adult team back in the early 70's. I was young but they always had me play because they usually only had 4 players show up. Thus, it was left up to me to fill the spot. I played with my Dad and others. After getting about 10 of my shots blocked I would get mad and start to play rough. I know it is hard to believe that this would happen in a Church ball game!

However, something more tragic than this happened to me during my church ball experience. I had to referee a bunch of the games. I am still going to therapy for this. It is my theory that Mormon men are calm and kind in their everyday lives at school, at work or at play (as the old song goes). Then something happens when you start playing ball and the "meanness" comes out.

I played my last Church brawl-game when I was 37 years old. There are several reasons for this: I was getting older, my heart is not in perfect shape, I would lose my temper once in awhile. Mainly, though, it was because I really stink at basketball.

The last game I played was at the Stake Center. I was on the 1st Ward team with some good players. I was making some long shots including some three pointers. Believe me, it was all luck. Then it happened.

I have had four major events in my life: getting asked to the girl's dance, getting married (to the prettiest girl in Murray), and the birth of my children. What happened next is Major Event #4.

The game was nearly over with a close score. We called time out to rest. I mean to go over a plan to win the game. We all got in a huddle. Mark Walker was giving instructions to us to help us win the game (Major Event Alert!). He said "Let's get the ball to Ronnie so we can get some points." I thought to myself "who else on the team is named Ronnie? Did I just hear him say get the ball to me?" He was talking about me!

I think I made a few more points before the game ended. If you added up all my points from all the games I had played from the time I was 12 they probably would equal the 13 points I got during that single game.

For those of you still playing Church ball, one bit of advice: quit.

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