A few days ago, for the first time since he joined the team, I went to one of my husband’s intramural basketball games. I walked into the building 15 minutes before the game was set to play, found a seat with a clear view of the court, and sat down. The people actually playing the game milled about, half-heartedly warming up or just shooting the shit as they casually sat by the sidelines. Before long, two refs — neither of them a day younger than 65 — walked into the area and took a seat next to me.
“So!” one ref said as he plopped down next to me, as if the impact from sitting down forced him to speak. “Which team are ya rooting for?”
“Actually, I’m not sure,” I replied. “This is my first time coming here. My husband is on one of these teams, though.”
“Your husband is playing and you don’t know which team he’s on?”
“Well, yeah,” I sheepishly admitted.
“What, do you not look at the jersey when you’re washing his clothes?”
I only shrugged in response, if only because I had two competing thoughts in my head:
1) You can kindly pound sand for assuming I do his laundry.
2) Hey, his jersey has yet to show up in the laundry! I would know if it had! …Since I’m in charge of laundry.
“Well, maybe he’s on the yellow team,” the other ref offered. “The black team seems to have all their players here already.”
“Maaaybe.” said the first ref. “And at least two more people better show up for the yellow team, or else they forfeit. I’d hate to do that, especially since we’re all here to have fun. But, you see, the yellow team has a bunch of girls on their team and…” He paused nudged an elbow at me. “…you know how women are about arriving on time!”
“I’m a woman and I arrived ten minutes early,” I respond, my eyes now on the black team shooting a few practice hoops.
Eventually four other members of the yellow team — three girls and one guy — arrived. The guy paused by the refs to put down his bag and lace up his shoes, exchanging a few brief pleasantries with the referees as he did so.
“Glad you guys got here in time!” said the first ref. “Your team was a few minutes away from forfeiture!” The ref paused and nodded his head over to the side. “I told this one over here that your team has a bunch of girls on it and — well — you know how they are about getting to things on time! And she replies, ‘Well, not all women…'”
My husband showed up a little while later and the first half of the game was more or less uneventful. It played out exactly like any intramural game plays out: a few players take the game a little too seriously, but all-in-all it’s just good fun. In between periods, my husband came over to sit next to me. The two refs quickly took their original spots as well.
“Well! Now you finally know what team you’re rooting for!” the first ref shouted with a self-satisfied smile. He leaned over towards my husband and added: “She didn’t know what team you were on! I said, ‘What? Don’t you look at his jersey when you’re washing his clothes?'”
The second half of the game proved to be just like the first: a few people showing some genuine skill, a few people showing some genuine anger management issues, and a lot of people just laughing and getting a little free exercise in. The refs continued to do their jobs exactly like referees are supposed to, but I spent the second half of the game imagining that first ref as something out of Mad Men. Gone was his whistle, replaced with a short glass of whiskey and a cigar. He didn’t run the length of the court so much as he sauntered, strutting like he owned both hoops and everything in between. In my mind, he was less about enforcing the rules and more about wondering when his secretary was going to refill his glass. He was exactly the type of person you’d expect from, say, 1965. The type of person who would hear terms like, “casual misogyny” and laugh, going: “Don’t these broads know how to take a joke? Now, kindly get me another cigar, sweetcheeks.”