You see, there was this local Guatemalan girl who…
Kidding. Though I probably raised an eyebrow or two.
I am a very competitive person. If I am challenged, I don’t usually back down. Think of Marty McFly being called ”Chicken” in Back to the Future 2 and 3 (this attribute was surprisingly absent in the first movie). That’s me. This can probably be traced back to the fact that I have five brothers who are also highly competitive. But this particular time when I was challenged, I probably should have just walked away.
I was a newly called Zone Leader in Guatemala in an area called Santa Lucia, one of my favorite areas. Among playing soccer (or papi-fut), writing letters, and taking our weekly siestas (those were the days), we of course played a bit of basketball during our P-Day’s.
The place where we played basketball was a community playground that had an indoor basketball court. As luck would have it, a few members of the Santa Lucia team of the Guatemala National Basketball League also used it to work out. These were members of the Guatemalan NBA…okay so maybe the CBA…but you get the idea.
After having been in the area for a couple of months, and playing basketball every two or three weeks, one of the Branch Presidents approached me one day as I was enjoying my customary black beans and eggs for dinner.
“Hey Hah-cobe,” he said attempting to pronounce my last name in Spanish, and doing so in a taunting manner. “You play basketball?”
“I’m a gringo, aren’t I?” Did I mention I’m competitive?
“I’ve know some guys that saw you playing at the gym. Said they could beat you.” He sounded pretty confident. Which only made it worse, of course.
“Who? Some midget Guatemalans?” Yeah, I may have gone a bit too far with that one. There was no turning back now.
As you can imagine, this conversation went on like this for a while as each of our testosterone levels rose higher than Barry Bonds’ and Floyd Landis’ at the Balco Labs Christmas party.
It just so happended that the members of the Santa Lucia national team wanted to scrimmage us. So, not only was I going to whoop up on some of my Central American paisanos, but these were professional basketball players. I gladly accepted their challenge.
After attempting to set up the scrimmage for the following Monday, we soon realized there would be two problems…
First, only two, maybe three, of the missionaries in our Zone ever played basketball on a regular basis.
Second, we found out that most of the Santa Lucia players had to work their other jobs on Monday (P-Day).
I wasn’t too worried about the first problem, it’s not like we were going to play soccer. The second problem, though, was a bit of a concern. They wanted to switch the game to the following Thursday…night.
Now, I always tried my best to follow all the mission rules and to listen to the Spirit at all times, this wasn’t one of those times. I wish I could tell you that I thought good and hard about it, but I didn’t. I wish I could tell you I ran this one by the Mission President, but I couldn’t risk it–he might have said no. Thus, I gladly accepted the challenge to play Thursday night at the local gym.
That night I went back to or apartment and began to call the missionaries in our zone for two reasons. First, I had to get their teaching numbers, and second, I had to make sure they wold be at our place Thursday at 6:00pm sharp. And thus began my slow descent towards Hell.
Thursday night came, and the team had gathered, including the two Elders from the area adjacent to the beach, two and a half hours away. One of them was 6-foot-6, so we figured we could use him.
We began our walk to the gym, to our scrimmage, to our date with destiny. We were looking forward to playing a little pick-up basketball. You know, a little four-on-four, half-court, call-your-own-fouls, take-take-the-ball-out-on-top, play-to-fifteen, have-to-win-by-two, basketball. Well, it ended up being a little bit more than that.
As we approached the gym, something told me this was not right. (Most likely the Spirit–who had been mysteriously absent just a few days prior). We got inside and what had been our quaint little concrete floor, wooden backboard gym, had now become Cameron Indoor Stadium.
That’s right, the place was packed with half the city of Santa Lucia in attendance, including just about every member from the surrounding five branches, and what’s more is…they had to pay to get in! Tithing donations would be at an all-time low the following Sunday.
Not only was there paid attendance, but the concessions were fully stocked. The game would also be refereed by official Guatemalan referees and would be played full-court, and consist of two twenty-minute halves, and yes, of course, there was an official scorekeeper manning the scoreboard. What did I get myself into–not to mention everybody else?
To make an already long story short, the game was hotly contested. I had to remind a few of our guys, as well as myself, that we were playing in front of people and we needed to be on our best behavior, (i.e. play clean, don’t whine). In other words, pretend you’re not playing church ball.
So we ended up getting absolutely killed. I think we lost by at least 15 or 20 points. I’ve got to give them credit, they were pretty good–even though they did have home court advantage.
All right. I’ve told you mine. What’s the worst thing you did on your mission? Well, that you can tell us about.