Our date was simple. We would go to a basketball game and eat pizza afterwards.

As a senior on the basketball team, I invited Becky to watch me play. (OK, maybe not the best date for a student body president and the most beautiful girl that I had ever seen.) However, it was the opening night of Pioneer Pavilion and the Tigers of Valley Springs were playing powerful Jacksonville. It was a chance for all of the area to visit the new gym that was not completely finished on opening night. All of the bleachers were in place, but the backs were still not on any of the bleachers.

Becky would have been at the game regardless of whether I was playing or not, but at least this way I could take my parents home after the game and use the family car for a run to King’s Pizza on a hopping Friday night in Harrison.

That date led to a second date on Saturday night as we played Morrilton at Pioneer Pavilion.

Dating Becky was no easy task. She had certain strings attached to her, well just one string attached to her — a very long and frightening string.

Becky was the dream of several young men in our school, but she possessed one thing that was in common with a very feared man on our campus — the same last name.

She happened to be the much, much younger sister of our basketball coach, Jerry Thomason, who ruled his team like Mr. J.D. Barnett Jr. did the school. That was with an iron fist.

Coach Thomason and I had gotten along pretty well other than the one time that I decided I was going to walk back down the hill behind our school. He made us run the mountain to get in shape for basketball season, but I decided after beating everyone up the hill, I would walk back down. My attitude was quickly addressed and that was the last time that it flared that season.

At first, I didn’t want the coach to know that I was dating his sister. But as time wore on, I could tell that this was a pretty serious thing and I knew that he would find out sooner or later.

That sooner came at Christmas time when I showed up for the first family Christmas sporting my present for my girlfriend. I had bought something for her, but my mother made me take it back and “we” picked out a nice necklace from the jewelry department at Alco. I was also a big spender. I think that is what attracted Becky to me.

Our relationship got stronger as my senior year wore on. I even got more basketball advice from another Thomason. Becky’s father, Harley, offered me words of wisdom for breaking an opponent’s fullcourt press. One day in practice when I used that advice, I was asked by the younger Thomason what I was doing. I simply replied his father had told me to do that. After a quick smile from the coach, we resumed practice and I didn’t get in trouble.

Sports has been a very important part of my life. It has been a very important part of my family’s life. I thank God almost daily that my wife loves sports as much as I do. I also thank God that I had enough nerve to ask the most beautiful girl out on a date.

Becky is not very good with dates and I doubt that she even remembers that we went out 40 years ago today. However, we have another anniversary that falls during this time, and it is one that she remembers very well.

It was 17 years ago that our world was rocked by the diagnoses of cancer. Within five days we went from being diagnosed with the disease to having a portion of her tongue removed and a six inch scar along her neck.

Little did we know that the battle would be our first of six.

Forty years ago today, I was the answer to her prayers. Every day that I have with her and my wonderful family is an answer to my prayers.

Yes, a date to a basketball game changed my life.

Jeff Brasel is the sports editor of the Harrison Daily Times. E-mail him at jefffb@harrisdoandaily.com or follow him at twitter.com/jeffbrasel .

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