Basketball Jones by
(353 Stories)

Prompted By First Dates

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I was hot and heavy with Bob my sophomore year, but he had a bad habit of wandering off with other girls. This did not make me happy at all! I was really into him, but would entertain offers from other guys when he misbehaved.

I loved going to our school basketball games and particularly loved watching our star ball handler; my classmate, John P. Several of my suite mates were cheerleaders and I’d sit behind them on the bleachers, cheering loudly.

One day I received a note via intra-campus mail from John. I didn’t realize he noticed me and thought his communication was quite clever, if a bit forward. The note read, “If the watch dog ever lets down his guard, look me up.”  John clearly had no idea what was going on between Bob and me; how deeply I loved him, or how much he pissed me off when he’d take up with other girls. I confess, the note got my attention.

So after dinner on the night of Sunday, January 9, 1972, I wandered over to John’s dorm room in North Quad and knocked on his door. His roommate Bill answered, gobsmacked. He couldn’t believe I was there. John was not. He was home in Arlington. Bill politely invited me in and called John. “You’ll never believe who’s in our room: Betsy Sarason!”  There was silence for a moment, then a bit of conversation; I could only hear part. Bill hung up, assured me that John would be back on campus shortly and proceeded to pleasantly entertain me until John showed up. Bill was good at conversation, a charming fellow. John showed up within the half hour, very pleased that I had taken him up on his offer.

The next night we had dinner together in one of the cafeterias. I went for a swim and he stopped by my dorm room later. I guess that was our first date, or perhaps it was the night before in his dorm room when I answered his summons. Dates at Brandeis could be difficult to define.

Tuesday, I watched John lead the charge as Brandeis lost to Harvard (125-117). I stopped by his dorm room after the game to console him. I caught the last 10 minutes of the game on Thursday night when we beat Suffolk (86-111). John took me to a party in his dorm, North C. I felt special to be there after a winning game with the star of the team.

Friday night was date night at Brandeis and John took me to dinner at The Chateau, an Italian restaurant in Waltham. After, we saw “East of Eden” on campus. He was always a gentleman with me, no pressure. Very friendly and pleasant. The next night I went to the basketball game. We lost to Tufts in a close one (82-80). But after, I went to a dance in the student union with Bob. He was back from his wanderings and I was happy to be back with him. My interlude with John was over.

I continued to go to basketball games, on and off. John and I paid little attention to one another. By senior year, I was busy student teaching first semester, then stage managed a complicated show. By this point, I was engaged to Dan, who had already graduated, worked in Waltham, technically lived with his parents in Newton, but came to my dorm room every night. I didn’t go to a single game. John was in the rear view mirror.

I started working on reunions and calling my classmates with my 15th reunion in 1989. I have worked on every one since. I always put my basketball buddies on my list of classmates to contact, so through the years, we’d talk. I learned about John’s family and his career, but five years ago, things changed. Email was the preferred way to contact and he never returned the emails I sent in February for our June reunion. Bill did, we immediately set a lunch date, laughed and talked non-stop and became fast friends after 40 years. I continued to contact John, but he didn’t return my emails or phone calls, which really bothered me after all this time. I didn’t understand the cold-shoulder. Finally, in May he said he couldn’t attend the reunion. Bill did, along with another one of the basketball buddies and both enjoyed it. We all stayed in touch.

It continued to bother me that John had blown me off. I didn’t get it. I don’t like to lose people I once considered friends. So I started a campaign for us to get together. He rebuffed my efforts. There was always some excuse. Finally, my emails became less frequent. I offered him congratulations when I learned one of his daughters had married and he sent a video of his toast. It was surprisingly nice to hear his voice after more than 40 years. I wished him birthday greetings a few years ago, but my emails tapered off.

Out of the blue, one day in December of 2017, he called me on my cellphone. I was surprised and pleased. We chatted a long time and set a lunch date for later that month. He called just before the date to postpone due to illness.

We finally met at the Chestnut Hill Seasons 52, on the afternoon of January 9, 2018; 46 years to the day since that night I’d shown up at his dorm room our sophomore year. It was wonderful to reconnect. 

We sat and chatted for hours. We had a lot of catching up to do; family, health, careers. John had no memory of our five day “romance”. As perhaps one might surmise, I keep a date book going back to college, so could provide the written account with his name in it, much to his delight. He wanted to be sure he had been a gentleman. I assured him that he had been. He is now a very sweet, kind person with an abiding love for his family and real friendship has blossomed between us. We can’t really see each other, but we can talk or text as a way to stay in touch and keep up with each other.

Both he and Bill had planned to come to our 45th reunion, but circumstances changed and neither did. It was John who called a few weeks ago when a classmate, another one of the basketball crew, was found dead in his bed at the age of 66. It stunned and grieved us all. It makes me cherish these friendships even more.  We are not getting younger and must hold these dear people close.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: basketball star, private note, surprise, Brandeis


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Terrific story, Betsy, and, despite the melancholy — and spot on — last paragraph, delighted that you were able to have a happy reunion with John after all these years. He sounds like he was and still is a terrific guy. (And, of course, he has a great name.)

    I have ceased being amazed by your collection of photos from Back In the Day, but your ability to not only provide exact dates but, in this story, basketball scores is off the charts. I get it that you have kept a date book for years, but this is still gobsmacking. Sorry about the Harvard game, though.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, John. This particular photograph was lifted from a yearbook, not from one of my photo albums. As I mention in my story, I keep quite an impressive date book. (John was tickled to see his name on my pages, since he didn’t remember going out with me; I thought I was more memorable than that, evidently not.) I knew you’d react to the Harvard score…LOL!

  2. Marian says:

    Great story, Betsy. Really captures all the emotions and back-and-forth. Yes, it’s amazing that you knew the dates and scores. And,iIt’s good to know that people actually dated at Brandeis! You’ll see what I mean when I post my story in a bit.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Marian. I think John thought it was pretty amazing that I kept track of the scores too. When he saw that he took me to the Chateau he said, “Wow, we went on a REAL date!” That only happened if someone had a car on campus, which was rare (some of the local guys could go home and borrow their parents’ cars).

  3. Suzy says:

    Betsy, it made me laugh to think of tiny you hanging around with basketball players – although in the Chestnut Hill picture he doesn’t tower over you as much as I would have expected. Great story, and glad you finally reconnected with John P.

    I know what you mean about dates being difficult to define. I tried to think of any first dates I had in college, other than the one I wrote about, and I couldn’t really come up with anything that I could categorize as a date.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      This was Brandeis, after all, not Duke, Suzy, so the basketball players weren’t going to the NBA! That year I was friendly with several of the guys on the team, as some lived in a suite above me. I was sort of their mascot. But yes, dates took various shapes and sizes. Sometimes, we’d just hang around in each other’s dorm rooms and talk. I liked guys who played guitar and sang and we would sing songs together and that would constitute a date. They could be pretty amorphous in those days.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Betsy, your last line says it all. We must try to hold our friendships close. I am amazed by all of the wonderful details in your dating saga from Brandeis. Your memory is remarkable. Also love the picture from your reunion with John. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Laurie. I really do feel that way about my dear old friends as my husband reminds me that I can no longer call myself “middle aged” (since I am on Medicare, so what…am I old? I refuse that designation, but maybe advanced middle aged).

      I have a pretty good memory, but having that date book helps a lot. It is not in any way a diary, no commentary, but does give me a day by day description of exactly what I did, if anything of note happened each day. I keep it up to this day with little factoids like what movie we saw, if I worked out or took a class at the gym, had a doctor appointment, went to choir practice, stuff like that.

  5. John Zussman says:

    What strikes me is not that you can still report the scores of basketball games — which I suspected you might have recorded somewhere — but that you remember so much about people and events and feelings. Your memory seems like a whole unified tapestry while mine is more of a patchwork quilt.

    Yes, too bad about that loss to Harvard (not). I suspect Patti and I were at that game since I was on the broadcast team. The Crimson were actually good that year!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      As I mentioned in my story, I’ve kept a date book with daily entries (including game scores) since my freshman year. This was not a diary, so I didn’t record how I felt, but just seeing what I did, day by day, often triggers those memories too, John. Since this game was at Brandeis, I don’t think you and Patti were there. I certainly would have recalled seeing you there. That would have made it even more fun for me (even though we lost). I went to a few away games with my suite mates on the cheerleading squad. I remember driving to Tufts with one and hearing “American Pie” on the radio for the first time. We got into the gym a little late because we wanted to hear the whole song!

      It does seem that my memories for long-ago events are more formed than what takes place these days, but I know that is not unique and is a sad reality of aging, but looking through those date books and, in some cases, at old photographs, helps my recall a lot. And perhaps my theater training, where we were taught to closely observe what is going on around us, store that away to bring it back later and use it in a character on stage.

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