Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Kirby: My brilliant ward basketball career

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Aug 09 2012 03:55 pm • Last Updated Nov 30 2012 11:31 pm

The first time I ever got beaten in church by someone other than my father was at a ward basketball game. No real surprise, I know.

The strange part came in the form of the beating’s author. It was the older sister of a kid I "accidentally" fouled.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

We were playing the 3rd Ward. When a kid tried a layup, I jumped in front of him and we collided. The rules of church ball being somewhat flexible (nonexistent) back then, it was my 14th foul of the game, but I stayed in.

The kid and I were discussing this and a pair of broken glasses when his 14-year-old lummox of a sister charged out of the sidelines, ran me down and beat on me until her mom dragged her away. A few spectators applauded.

It was embarrassing and permanently soured me on church athletics. It was the last time I actively participated in a ward ball game until I became a cop and had to arrest people at them.

I was lucky. We were only playing ward basketball. Had it been one of the church’s earlier encouraged sports, I might have had my eye poked out.

According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the LDS Church once encouraged the development of ward fencing teams. And you thought ward basketball was dangerous.

At a June 1911 conference, ward activity leaders were told to "spiritualize recreation" through ward swimming, ward gymnastics, ward jumping, ward wrestling and ward vaulting.

Conspicuously absent from my cynical point of view was ward boxing. But now that I think of it, maybe there was ward boxing and it just morphed into what we recognize today as ward basketball. It would explain a lot.

But fencing? The last thing the church’s athletics program needed was a sport that began with knives.


story continues below
story continues below

I can’t find where the church officially dropped fencing from its sports program. Probably about the time it began discouraging members from permanently marking their bodies. What are tattoos compared to dueling scars?

Ward swimming teams never really took off, either. Maybe it was a fashion thing. It’s hard to swim competitively in apparel so modest that it actually constitutes a drowning hazard. Equally risky would be ward gymnastics in long dresses.

Eventually, only basketball, baseball and softball survived as church-organized sports. By the 1960s, the church had formed the sports into all-church tournament play, complete with trophies, televised games and product endorsements.

I made up that last one. I have no idea if Postum was ever promoted by the Cramp Heights 4th Ward All-Church Championship Croquet Team.

Eventually, perhaps because of injury and steroid abuse, the church toned down its athletics program. The lesser sports — ward curling and ward badminton — were discontinued, and the three remaining sports were turned over to local management.

It was probably just in time. One look at the Olympics is proof enough that spiritualizing recreation can get out of hand. Did you know that pigeon shooting and motor boating used to be Olympic sports?

Hey, you think ward basketball is brutal? Try ward hockey.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.