Living the dream — Marriage stretches across 2 time zones

Published: Tuesday, March 30 2004 7:48 a.m. MST

Transferring to the University of Utah briefly was entertained.

Ultimately, staying at Stanford made most sense — no matter how much separation anxiety the psychology major in Susan anticipated.

"I love being at Stanford," she says of a school whose coach, Tara VanDerveer, is one of basketball's best.

Yet Susan also loves a husband whose work keeps him a constant plane-ride away.

Fortunately, he is strong enough to understand her predicament.

"He's been so helpful, so supportive," she says. "He basically said, 'I want you to do what you want to do.' "

"It's important to her," he says. "She tore her ACL her first two years (in college) — and this is a girl who was first-team All-American in high school. She wanted an opportunity to play, and see what she could do. I know what that feels like."

Does he ever.

The summer before what was to have been his first NBA season, Curtis — a 7-footer — needed pin-replacement surgery in his bad foot. He would miss all of the 2002-03 season. In training camp prior to this season, the foot was fine — but he broke a finger. Out a month. Five weeks later, in just his 16th game for the Jazz, Borchardt braced a fall to the floor. The wrist snapped, leaving his hand hanging like no one's should.

"He's had a really rough year, in a lot of respects," Susan says. "That's a hard situation to be in, so I just try to be supportive and keep him motivated."

The NBA full-access cable package Curtis bought Susan no longer gets as much use as in November, but their unlimited-minutes phone plan is a steal.

"Without her," Curtis says, "I wouldn't have a whole lot to look forward to.

"As an athlete," he adds, "you define yourself by your performance. And when you're unable to perform because of an injury, there's such a sense — especially for me, personally — of worthlessness."

Borchardt spends idle time watching his wife when she's on TV, and listening to her other games on the Internet when the Jazz aren't also playing.

"To be able to follow her, and kind of have my basketball season through her, and celebrate her successes," he says, "has been something that's invaluable for me."

That, though, needn't last long — perhaps only another year, should Susan return for a final season at Stanford. Also an option: turning pro herself this summer and trying to make it in the WNBA, whose season does not conflict with the NBA's.

Either way, stretches like the one they're enduring now — four, maybe five weeks without so much as a minute together — won't go on forever.

"I'm really looking forward," Curtis says, "to a time when she and I can live together and enjoy that."

From a distance, their thoughts separated by a few hours and many miles, Susan echoes the notion.

"Living together in a normal life," she says. "I'm looking forward to that."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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