Maryknoll’s varsity basketball team advanced to the State Championship game last night. They lost a thriller to Kalaheo. As great as the game was, though, the best part about it was that Lynnette contracted Spartans Fever, a lower grade version of the Mets Fever with which I am infected every spring. She followed the Maryknoll team from afar as they advanced through the tourney, even suggesting we go to the NBC on Saturday night to watch the game live. We stayed home and watched it on TV instead, which proved to be better because this happened:
Lynnette had her first life-or-death sports experience. You see, Lynnette’s emotional interest in the Mets and Cowboys is merely the result of marital obligation. She is obligated to feign interest in the Amazin’s and America’s Team because she is married to a man who loves them. Since she has no pre-existing loyalties to other sports teams, noting prevents her from at least pretending that she supports both the Mets and the Cowboys. In truth, she does not care if either of those teams win or lose, she is only concerned with how those outcomes will affect my behavior in the short term, since she has to live with me. But the Maryknoll Spartans? They have a new gym! They might be State Champions! As she seated herself on the couch, she did everything but dust off that rolled up skirt to wear for good luck.
The game started out about as poorly as it possibly could have for Lynnette’s beloved Spartans. I think the score was something 22-3 in the first quarter and Lynnette said something along the lines of “It’s a good thing we didn’t go tonight. I would have hated to pay for parking.” And like that, Lynnette began to blossom into a true sports fan before my very eyes. To her credit, she sat through Kalaheo’s unbelievable torrential downpour of three-point shooting. For a stretch in the first half, it looked like they couldn’t miss. “Nice colors,” I said of Kalaheo’s blue and orange jerseys. “I thought you might like that,” Lynnette replied with a dash of bitterness. Huh… Was she? Beginning to care about sports?
At the start of the fourth quarter, Lynnette scooped Abby up and Maryknoll went on a run. “You’re staying right here with me,” Lynnette said. This, of course, had me in hysterics because for years Lynnette has derided my superstitions, even when she was present for the time I instigated a Mets rally from my bedroom. This one time, I scissor-locked Lynnette on my bed and a few Mets reached base. I told her I could not relinquish the hold until the inning ended. She rolled her eyes with an intensity that could have meant “Not again,” or “Are you f*cking kidding me?” Well, the Mets score multiple runs that inning and they couldn’t have done it without me. Lynnette has merely tolerated similar behavior for years, scoffing as I refused to let her out of bearhugs, full-nelsons, and other questionable situations for the sake of the team. Last night, it was Abby who was caught up in a situation that she didn’t understand, let alone give two dog craps about.
Lynnette ran the gamut of emotions last night, as the Maryknoll and Kalaheo gave their fans everything they could have asked for. Lynnette’s night began with bitter disappointment, but gradually grew to excitement. This game was perfect for a first-timer like Lynnette because it made her wait. When Maryknoll began its comeback in the second quarter, Lynnette’s involvement increased. As soon as Maryknoll would get within 3 points or tie the game, though, Kalaheo would go on a mini-run of its own. For what seemed like an eternity (or maybe just a quarter), Maryknoll couldn’t quite take the lead. Each time Kalaheo would strike Maryknoll back down with a 3-pointer or steal, Lynnette sagged into the couch. Abby fell with her.
While I didn’t think the play-by-play team was anything special, Lynnette learned more about basketball last night than in her entire 21 years of life prior. By the middle of the second quarter, she was shouting things like “Bang it inside!” and “Stupid!” when one of her beloved Spartans would commit a reach-in foul or something similarly untimely. Her couch commentary was highlighted by two statements. The first came when one of the Maryknoll players airballed a shot from about 20 feet out. “Give the ball to the tall guys!” she screamed. She was right. The second highlight of the night came when a Kalaheo player walked away from a scrum holding his eye. “Poke the 3-point guy’s eye!” she yelled. I have to admit, I felt a little Victor Frankenstein-y.
Somehow – probably because Lynnette got literally caught up in the game – she lost track of Abby. Abby got the hell out of Dodge. That’s why I’m ultimately better than Abby, Lynnette, I’ll sit in your lap until you force me away. Anyway, Lynnette tried to snare Abby, but by then, there was no way Abby was going to let that happen. I don’t want to blame Lynnette for the Spartans losing the game, but the Abby/Lynnette combo was working wonders until Lynnette somehow let her go. Best similar subplot: Lynnette was sitting on blanket. Madison tried to take it from her. Lynnette lifted her butt slightly before stopping and shouting at Madison “No. I need to sit on it!” Best. Day. Ever.
Highlight of the Night: With Maryknoll up 50-47 with less than two minutes left, Madison accidentally hit the TV remote, changing the input read from cable to the TV. The screen went fuzzy with gray. Lynnette was apoplectic. “OH MY GOD! WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!” she shouted. Madison was paralyzed. “Calm down,” I said. I snapped this picture, then changed the settings. The score was 50-50. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lynnette so disappointed in something that didn’t have even a tangential tie to me. Madison kind of slipped away quietly.
In the end, Kalaheo won the game. Our night ended with Madison and Abby and consoling Lynnette. I think this was as close to an apology as Lynnette was going to get from Mad, who had no idea A) she even touched the remote, and B) what the hell was going on. The beauty of all of this, of course, is two-fold. Lynnette has endured her first sports heartbreak. She’ll come back from it a better sports fan. People always do. Or they jump ship to another team. That’s not Lynnette’s style. Best of all, though, after all the stunts Lynnette pulled last night, she can never ever question my love of the Mets or Cowboys again.
Thank you, Maryknoll and Kalaheo for an instant classic.