I had nothing to do the other day, so I wandered over to the Westminster College gym to watch Gov. Norm Bangerter and his staff play the Legislature in a basketball game.
Obviously, I was in the mood for a good laugh.The game was scheduled for noon. When I arrived, five minutes early, there was no one in the gym except for five or six members of the governor's staff, some of them wearing T-shirts saying "Governor's Gang."
My interest was piqued. This was going to be a hot game I would never forget.
By 12:15, several other members of the governor's staff had arrived, none of them looking uniform. Even the T-shirts varied in color. I could see that this would be an old-style game of shirts vs. skins.
When the governor himself arrived, he seemed perplexed that I was there. "You're not going to cover this, are you?" he asked.
"No," I assured him. "Just looking for some good fun."
Actually, I just had a secret desire to turn the tables on the governor. A few days earlier, during his visit to our editorial board, I had been the only person in the room without a tie. Afterward, he commented on my casual appearance and said he was "envious."
Now, in the Westminster gym I was dressed in sartorial splendor while the governor was wearing an old T-shirt and some sweat pants.
Revenge is sweet. The only thing I have to admit is that in both instances it was the governor who understood the most appropriate dress for each occasion.
Lt. Gov. Val Oveson came over to tell me that he was concerned about the bias of the referee - Roger Pusey of the Deseret News. "Actually," he said, "we have a deal. I'm going to foul out real fast so I don't have to work hard the rest of the game."
I sat and watched the pregame shooting and decided that the governor was the man to watch. He easily and smoothly dropped seven shots in a row from the foul line. One of his aides said, "How many's that?" As the governor poised for an eighth shot, he said, "I don't know. I can't count that high."
By 12:30 it was evident that the legislative team would be very late. Not a single senator or representative had yet walked in with his gym bag. Bud Scruggs, the governor's chief of staff, was getting impatient. He suggested that they divide up and have a scrimmage.
They did - except that without going to shirts and skins it was impossible to know whose side anyone was on. The first three times down the floor everyone was running at breakneck speed - except for the governor who is still nursing a bad knee. He was the guard who brought the ball down the court, limping part of the time, then bursting into a short run.
Once he was poised for a three-pointer when Bud Scruggs showed his true colors by fiercely batting the ball out of the governor's hands an instant before its release.
Who said he's a yes-man?
Later, Scruggs made a three-pointer of his own and demonstrated frightening agility on the fast break.
At 12:45, without so much as an apology, the Legislature finally showed up. If it could be called a Legislature. The team was really made up almost entirely of staff people, with only a skeleton crew of actual lawmakers.
I had trouble identifying an actual Democrat in the group.
That's when it occurred to me that this was an important occasion after all. Rather than being a minor event, it was actually a microcosm of Utah politics. The symbolism was clear in every respect.
The governor and his staff showed up ready for a fight, with the governor himself clearly in charge. Occasionally the chief of staff would knock the ball out of his boss's hands, but then would lead a deadly fast-break attack.
The legislators didn't even show up - until it was almost too late - and then they didn't seem ready to play. The result was lackluster ball. Naturally, the Governor's Gang won, 48-36, and the climactic moment was a three-pointer by the governor in the final seconds.
And I thought I wasn't a sports writer.